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The Wisdom of the New Testament

In an earlier entry, I briefly described my philosophy of life. The third principle of that philosophy was to follow the wisdom of the New Testament.

I want to unpack what I mean by that statement. In the tradition of late-night television, I have put together a top-ten list of wise advice taken from the pages of the New Testament. This list, of course, is representative but not comprehensive.

10.Owe no one anything except love (Romans 13:8)

I remember being startled as a teenager at the realization my parents were not obeying this direct biblical command. They owed money for many things. In fact, I think most American Christians are in debt. Debt is what has made America great, right?

Well, Paul’s advice is still good. Stay out of debt. Don’t borrow money for anything that does not appreciate in value. That way, you will escape a myriad of temptations and the distinct possibility of financial bondage.

9.Remember that bad friends corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Choose your friends carefully. The people you associate with will shape your character and your behavior. In a real sense, over time, you are only as good as the company you keep.

In the context, Paul is advising Christians to avoid the “eat, drink, and be merry” crowd. Their definition of substance abuse as fun is shallow and self-destructive. Find friends who have a more serious purpose in life, and they will help you find genuine happiness.

8.Don’t let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Don’t let your feelings fester. Don’t harbor resentment. Advice columnists often encourage married couples to kiss and make up before they go to sleep at night. This advice, I believe, comes indirectly from this passage, and it has been one principle on which many successful marriages have been founded.

James says, “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Avoid letting anger gain a foothold in your life.

7.Look out for the interests of others and not just your own (Philippians 2:4).

Deuteronomy 16:20 records Moses are saying to the people of Israel, “Justice and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land.” The point is this: Never exploit or manipulate other people. Act in their best interest even when it is not always in your own.

To the extent that a nation’s foreign policy is guided only by self-interest and not by justice, that nation is not Christian.

6.Never take vengeance (Romans 12:19).

Vengeance is destructive whether it takes place on a personal, national, or international scale. The current war in Iraq is, in some sense, an act of vengeance for the 9-11 bombing. World War II resulted, to a large extent, because the victorious powers in World War I took vengeance on their enemies and imposed burdens too heavy to bear.

Good Christians do not seek vengeance and neither do Christian nations.

5.Examine yourself carefully before you criticize others (Matthew 7:1-5)

It is absolutely essential to judge others in order to choose good friends or a good marriage partner. The context of this passage makes it clear that Jesus is talking about self-awareness and self-examination, not about some absolute refusal to make judgments.

The wisdom of ancient Greece is sometimes summed up in the phrase “Know thyself.” Jesus is saying we should assess our own lives lucidly before we attempt to criticize or correct others. The wisdom of the New Testament says, “Keep your own doorstep clean.”

4.Seek peace and pursue it (Hebrews 12:14).

Jesus is not known as the Prince of Peace for nothing. The theme of peace pervades Christianity: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

One scripture I have committed to memory is James 3:17-18. The wisdom from above is first pure then peaceable, and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. In Romans 12:18, Paul says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Those who want to live happy lives and promote the common welfare should make peace a priority.

3.Do honest work so you may have something to give (Ephesians 4:28).

Honest work is a good thing. Its purpose is not fame and fortune but the ability to support yourself, your family, and your generosity to others in need. The so-called “Protestant Work Ethic” is not so much Protestant as biblical. As Max Weber noted, its original intent was not to create a capitalistic economy but to do the right thing, that is, to help others.

2.Overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21)

Life is a struggle. For some, it is more of a struggle than for others. Although evil can gain the upper hand, history also shows that evil can be overcome by good. Doing right is always right, and doing wrong is always wrong. If we consistently try to do the right thing, the Bible says we will find strength to endure the troubles of life and often strength to overcome them.

1.Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33)

Living a good life is about setting priorities. Sacrifice to set the right priorities and, in the long run, you will never regret it. Money will not seem important on your death bed. Being surrounded by loved ones who love you and looking back on a life well-lived will allow you to die in peace. Follow the wisdom of the New Testament and, in all likelihood, you will die at peace amid the praise of those who follow after.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 25, 2007 11:22 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Flavors of Christianity.

The next post in this blog is How to Explain Away the Bible.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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