- Truth, Goodness, and Beauty: Kingdom Culture
- Goodness is Good for People and Nations
The Ten Commandments are a gift from the Jews to the world, a moral framework for governing our lives and a foundation for building just societies. There is a direct correlation between the moral righteousness of individuals and the well-being of society. Virtue in society is a product of virtue in the souls of its citizens. Said differently, the development of citizens’ morality precedes the social, economic, and political development of a nation. The more internal self-governance people practice, the freer, more prosperous, and more just their society will be. Conversely, the less people restrict their appetites, the more laws, courts, and jails will be required to maintain order.
God has called us to pursue virtue and to flee vice. The fact that these two words have been almost totally erased from Western life and culture is a testimony to the grip amoral atheistic culture has on our nations.
George Washington depicts how different the West is today from 250 years ago. As a young teenager Washington studied moral character and compiled a book of virtues titled Rules of Civility. Many are not only still pertinent, but their broad application would help transform any society today. Here’s a sample:
- Sleep not when others speak, sit not when others stand, speak not when you should hold your peace, walk not when others stop.
- Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
- It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves.
- Strive not with your superiors in argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.
- Wherein you reprove another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than precepts.
- Use no reproachful language against anyone, neither curse nor revile.
- In your apparel be modest and endeavor to accommodate nature.
Life or Death
When the majority of the people pursue virtue, the nation grows in social, political, and economic health. When the people follow their base instincts, the nation suffers. The Western world is focused on natural ecology and the survival of the planet. She would do well to consider the moral ecology so fundamental to the survival of a nation.
God has built a real universe based on physical, metaphysical, moral, and aesthetic laws. Observing these laws leads to life; ignoring them leads to death. God longs for people to choose life. Moses said,
I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life. Deut. 30:11, 14–20
Cause and effect in the creation
As a younger Christian I read passages like this and envisioned God zapping disobedient people. Such a picture misses the point. The universe has a natural cause-and-effect relationship. Based on the moral laws God built into creation, some actions lead to prosperity and blessings and others to destruction and curses.
Why have some historically non-Judeo-Christian nations—such as Japan and Singapore—prospered? Because moral principles and laws do not “belong” to Christians and Jews. They are transcendent creation laws that govern all humankind. When people or nations implement these laws, whether they are believers or not, they will reap positive consequences. Yet Jews and Christians, God’s covenant people, have a fundamental understanding because they have received God’s revelation in creation and in his Word.
Jesus’ commission, “Teach them to obey all that I have commanded,” includes teaching the moral vision to be good (Christian internal self-government) and to do good toward others and toward creation. We can contrast this morality with the reigning immorality in the West today. Today’s fascism—whether Antifa on the left or neo-Nazis on the right—are simply two examples of the lawlessness found in many Western cities. Such vices have largely displaced commonly held virtues of the past: family and community, thrift and saving, and respect for the law.
In a country founded on the sacredness of life, we are confronted with trends that can only be called diabolical. At the beginning of life, social Darwinism demands the death of the weakest, the unborn baby. The fact that nearly half of pregnancies in America are “unintended” reflects a casual view of sex. Instead of the beauty of sexual intimacy within marriage, sex has been reduced to recreation and entertainment.
Another decline in virtue is seen in our treatment of the earth. We have been placed on the planet to be stewards of the earth, to conserve and prosper it. Too often Americans and others have raped the land by clear-cutting forests and polluting lakes, rivers, and sky with industrial waste. In the name of efficiency we have reduced animals to machines of production rather than creatures made by God. We have viewed farming as an industrial rather than a family enterprise. Rather than leaving the land in better condition for the next generation, we often leave it poorer.
The lifestyles of many in the West reflect conspicuous consumption and a “throwaway” culture, which leads to the wasting of water, energy, land, and other precious, God-given resources. This narcissism has led to the destruction of creation.
What does goodness look like for us today as we engage the war from the East and the war in the West? Each of the preceding examples of immorality reveals opportunities to spread and embody goodness in our societies. Christians are to stand for freedom, order, and justice, for communities and families, and for the sanctity of human life from its beginning to its natural end. We are to create peace, health, and prosperity and to care for God’s creation and every individual.
- Darrow Miller
This DM&F Classic blog post is excerpted from the book Emancipating the World. For the entire text go here.