Shining in the perfection of integrity

The individual who is perfect acts with integrity in all things.

Matthew 5:48 – Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Integrity is a word in English which is associated with doing what’s right instinctively and from the heart. It implies that, when faced with moral dilemma, an individual will choose the correct path in God’s eyes.

What is wonderful about the original languages of the Bible is how rich they are in meaning. Like facets of a gem glint and sparkle in the sunlight as it is rotated before the discerning eye, the ancient words and language have folds and layers of various shades of meaning.

In Hebrew, a word that is many times translated into English as integrity is the word tom (pronounced tome). At its root, it carries the meaning of completion, or a full measure. Something that is tom cannot be added to because it is an act in its simplest and purest form. Taken in this sense, integrity is then the most pure and simple action that can be accomplished in any given situation. It cannot be improved upon.

Another layer to this Hebrew term is that it describes the inherent nature of the ancient high priest’s ephod, a type of ceremonial breastplate, that was used to divine God’s direction for his people.

Exodus 28:30 – “Place the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece for decisions, so that they will also be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before the LORD. Aaron will continually carry the means of decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

In some translations, these strange Hebrew words are translated as “lights and perfections.” While not fully understood by scholars, it is thought that whatever the Urim and Thummim actually were, they may have lit up in certain fashions to indicate God’s direction when questions were posed of him. What is interesting to me is the word Thummim is the plural of tom, which is our word for integrity. The idea of integrity and doing what’s right is bound up in the imagery of this ancient form of seeking God’s guidance.

In the passage from Matthew above, Yeshua indicates that we should be “perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.” The word for perfect here is the Greek word teleios, which means “having reached its end, complete, perfect.” I find that this admonition of Yeshua is simply carrying over this idea of integrity and doing what’s right according to God’s will into the eternal kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul corroborates this when he writes to the believers in Ephesus:

Ephesians 4:11-13 – And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

While this modern version provides a clear meaning of the passage, the KJV highlights an aspect of this maturity that can be obscured through some translations.

Ephesians 4:13 – Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

The “perfect man” is the telios man, the individual who is complete, who has reached the end or the goal of all God is wanting to accomplish within all individuals. The individual who is perfect acts with integrity in all things. Like the ancient breastplate of the high priest, the perfect individual shines with the “lights and perfections” of God’s will, and others can see and know the truth of God through observing their actions.

When we reach this level of maturity, then will be fulfilled within us the desire of God within his people.

Matthew 5:16 – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Lighting the way for others

Be shining: let your good practices be seen by all. Magnify God.

Core of the Bible Podcast #31 – Lighting the way for others

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how a life of integrity cannot help but shine brightly for God in a world filled with darkness.

Yeshua stated it this way:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

This  passage can be paraphrased as “Be shining: let your good practices be seen by all. Magnify God.”

The life of a believer is a life that is all about others. It’s not just about receiving light for your own path, but about lighting the way for those around you. As that light is received, others can recognize and honor God for who he is.

As much as we might like to believe it’s all about us, we don’t have the luxury of receiving wisdom from God simply for our own benefit and use. Unfortunately many messages from within the halls of Christendom today ring with the hollow platitudes of self-improvement for the sake of self, living your best life, getting all that God has to offer you. These are merely phantoms and shadows of the truths of the Bible, and yet their message is so seductive that many, if not most, have been led astray.

These messages of self do not align with God’s view of integrity because integrity is not only about doing the right thing, but doing the right thing in view of, and on behalf of, others. In fact, integrity doesn’t exist until it can be demonstrated to someone else, whether it be God or your neighbor.

That being said, this does not mean that we should make a point of everyone seeing how righteous we are. This is hypocrisy, the very opposite of integrity. Yeshua condemned the religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy.

Matthew 6:5, 16 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. … “Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward.

Instead, integrity is doing the right thing in the sight of others even if it is the unpopular or undesirable course of action. The motivation for this type of example is not to become the center of attention, but to simply do the right thing even if the right thing to do is sometimes messy. When others can see that someone is going beyond the minimum or is willing to step outside their comfort zone to be of assistance or to take an unpopular stance on an issue, they are more likely to be inspired and encouraged to follow suit.

And isn’t this why integrity is more rare than it should be? Acts of integrity typically come at a personal cost to the individual, and most people do not feel that they are willing to come out of their own safety zone to do the right thing, even if they know what the right thing to do is. It is easier to simply go along with the crowd.

The answer to increasing integrity in our society is realigning peoples’ motivation to do the right thing. If people are unwilling to act with integrity, it is because they have no motivation to do so, and would prefer to guard their own interests. This is just human nature.

Motivation for actions of integrity will come from one of two places: a motivation to please the desires or opinions of men, or the motivation to please the desires of God. Whomever you are seeking praise from is whom you will serve. If you seek the praise of men, you will do just enough to receive their praise, and do nothing more. However, if you seek the praise of God, you will serve him BY serving others AS IF you were serving God directly.

As for believers, we don’t need the praise of men when the things that we do are done for God. Our motivation is to please God, not the opinions or desires of men. Operating in this perspective typically means we are willing to go well above and beyond the minimum requirement of the needs of others. This is because we have the awareness that God is ultimately the one who is receiving the benefit of our efforts.

Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people…

When you serve others as if you are serving God, notice is taken by everyone else who is merely doing the minimum, and God is honored in this world. Those acts of integrity then become a light for others who see the consistency of your beliefs and your actions. When that happens, God is magnified. Just like the principle of a magnifying glass, to magnify God is to make him appear larger, that is, he is brought closer in reality to others.

Psalm 34:3 O magnify Yahweh with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

The reality is that the truth of God can’t be contained when you are operating with integrity. As you do so, your good works make a real difference as they shine into the lives around you.

On the subject of shining, in our passage today Yeshua says to his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” While this is one of the most popular and familiar sayings of Yeshua, if we step back and take a look at this passage from a cultural and historical context, this well-known saying actually takes on some new and distinct characteristics. Quoting Talumudic sources (that is, the oral traditions of the Jews that were were written down and compiled in the first and second centuries AD), John Gill, in his exposition of the Bible, says that great leaders and rabbis within Judaism have  been viewed as “the light of the world.”

So. R. Meir, R. Akiba his disciple, and R. Judah the prince, are each of them called , “the light of the world”; as R. Jochanan ben Zaccai is by his disciples, “the lamp of the world”: and it was usual for the head of a school, or of an university to be styled, “the light of the world.”

This metaphor of light, Gill describes, has been picked up from Daniel 12:3.

Then the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever and ever.

If all of this is the true context, then this greatly amplifies Yeshua telling his disciples that “you are the light of the world.” He was intimating that they were to be the teachers and leaders of that generation of believers.

This is borne out as we view how the religious leaders of the day were viewing Yeshua and his disciples.

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Yeshua himself was accused of the same thing.

John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”

It was mind-boggling to the Jews as to how men who were not steeped in the traditions and schooling within the Jewish traditions could have such wide ranging and authoritative spiritual influence among the people.

That the rabbis considered themselves to be the light of the world is also intimated by Paul when he writes

Romans 2:17-21 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?

Paul was sarcastically poking at the hypocrisy of the Jews who considered themselves to have the light of torah and instruction, and yet continued to violate the requirements of torah themselves. The louder someone shouts they have the light, the less light they actually convey, especially if they don’t even abide by the light they say they have.

True acts of integrity don’t need to be announced, they are simply done, quietly and effectively, because they are the right thing to do.

And the analogy to a brightly lit city on a hill also cannot go overlooked. John Gill continues:

The land of Israel, the Jews say, was higher than all other lands; and the temple at Jerusalem was higher than any other part of the land of Israel. And as a city cannot be hid which is built on a high place, so neither could, nor ought the doctrines which the apostles were commissioned to preach, be hid, or concealed from men…”

If we take Yeshua’s analogous city on a hill to mean not just any generic city, but Jerusalem itself, as Gill does, then it takes on even more meaning. The city of believers, as the New Jerusalem, is not a city that can be hidden or missed. Just as a high city at night draws all attention to itself, so the people of God cannot help but be noticed and seen by our very presence among the societies of this world.

On the topic of the city on the hill, John Ellicott writes:

“The imagery might, however, come from the prophetic visions of the Zion of the future, idealising the position of the actual Zion (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). No image could so vividly set forth the calling of the Church of Christ as a visible society. For good or for evil, it could not fail to be prominent in the world’s history, a city of refuge for the weary, or open to the attacks of the invader.”

Albert Barnes contributes:

“Jesus…told his disciples that they were like [a city on a hill]. Their actions could not be hid. The eyes of the world were upon them. They must be seen; and as this was the case, they ought to be holy, harmless, and undefiled.”

Because believers in this world are motivated by pleasing God and not men, our actions stand out in stark relief to the corruption and darkness all around us. The message of Yeshua’s analogy to a city on a hill is captured in the popular proverb, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

Paul’s desire was for believers to continue this legacy of light.

Romans 13:12-13 The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daytime…

Philippians 2:15-16 that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life…

Put your lamp on the lampstand where it belongs. The integrity of your actions fuel the lamp that shines into the night. Together, our collective lights become a city of righteousness on a high mountain that is visible to all, magnifying and broadcasting a beacon of God’s truths to our world. In this way, a generation of those living in the darkness can be drawn to him.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

God evaluates the heart, but our deeds broadcast what’s in there

The deeds reveal what is truly in the heart.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Yahweh weighs the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

Most people in our Western culture who have any ideas about God will typically have the understanding that God knows everything about everybody, including internal thoughts. According to popular perception, the God of the Bible is all about judgment and motives.

This kind of understanding in Western culture is driven by the way God is depicted in the Bible, and Proverbs 21:2 is one of those that highlights that characteristic of God. A parallel passage in the Proverbs is consistent with this as well.

All a man’s ways are pure in his own eyes, but his motives are weighed out by the LORD.

Proverbs 16:2

But what is less recognized by the general population is the connection between the heart and actions. While most people are of the opinion that God is some sort of cosmic Santa Claus, just knowing good people from bad people, he really doesn’t have to go that far into an individual’s psyche to know what they think, because their actions bear out what’s in their heart.

For example, when Yeshua was confronting the Pharisees regarding their love of money and earthly wealth, he let them know how God’s perspective varied greatly from their own.

So He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is prized among men is detestable before God.

Luke 16:15

God (or anyone, for that matter) can know what’s in someone’s heart because of what they value. What the Pharisees prized (wealth) was detestable to God, especially in light of the fact that they were supposed to be the shepherds of his people. It’s not that God hates money, it’s just that he has revealed that when money is valued above one’s dedication to God, it has become an idol, and he detests idolatry in any form.

But the key takeaway was that their hearts were revealed by their actions.

If you say, “Behold, we did not know about this,” does not He who weighs hearts consider it? Does not the One who guards your life know? Will He not repay a man according to his deeds?

Proverbs 24:12

Even back here in Proverbs, we can see how the weighing of hearts is connected to an evaluation of someone’s deeds. The deeds reveal what is truly in the heart. This is also evident in the prophecies of Jeremiah.

I, Yahweh, search minds and test hearts. I will reward each person for what he has done. I will reward him for the results of his actions.

Jeremiah 17:10

While God can certainly know what’s in our hearts, he typically does not need to look much further than our actions to know what resides there. Unless what we believe lines up with what he teaches us through his Word, our lives will likely bear out the errors of our own thinking, what we think is “right in our own eyes.” Integrity is ensuring that our hearts and our actions are working together to fulfill the righteous purposes and will of God.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

The holiness of shining with the simplicity of God’s wisdom

When we apply the wisdom of God with confidence, we will appear to shine amidst the darkness of this world.

Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.

Ecclesiastes 8:1

Wisdom in interpretation can provide great strength. That which we know and understand and apply in our lives is that which provides confidence and direction that emboldens us to act in right ways. Our stern attitude can appear to be changed when we act with simplicity in confidence. It is as if we are shining, radiating that wisdom out to others.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness, how deep is that darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23

Yeshua speaks about the singleness of the eye. The word means to be simple; literally, “unfolded.” If something is unfolded, it is simple, no wrinkles or creases to distract from the simplicity of what it is. This condition is contrasted with that which is wicked or bad; this “badness” also contains meanings of distractedness and annoyance; that which causes pain and trouble.

The analogy of the eye represents what we focus on; what we spend our time paying attention to. If we choose to keep things simple by remaining focused on the kingdom, we will not allow the distractions of this life to pull us away from that objective. We can apply the wisdom of God with confidence, and in so doing we will appear to shine amidst the darkness of this world.

Daniel 12:3 Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Matthew 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Let anyone who has ears listen.
Philippians 2:15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world,

This shining sets us apart from the rest of the world. This is what holiness is: it’s being set apart, and typically set apart for God’s purposes, not our own. When we radiate with the wisdom of God and our simple focus on the kingdom, we cannot help but shine upon the darkness of this generation for God to draw them to himself.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

The integrity of walking in obedience to God’s commands

Righteousness today is still based on obedience to God’s torah, his instruction.

They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

Luke 1:6

Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the baptizer, are described as being a couple with incredible integrity. From the narrative in the gospel of Luke, it appears this is why they were chosen to be the recipients of such a great honor as being the parents of one of the most influential prophets. In fact, Yeshua would go on to describe John as being “the greatest of those born among women,” (Matt. 11:11, Lk. 7:28).

This righteousness, or integrity, was based on their keeping of the commandments. This is what being righteous means: doing what’s right. What’s right in God’s eyes is what he has revealed to us as his torah, his instruction. Those who are faithful in living in accordance with his instruction are considered righteous. This hyper-obedient type of integrity is what Yeshua taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. … In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. … So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:6, 16, 19-20

This righteousness, or obedience to the commands, is considered a standard of the those who would be participants in the kingdom of God. The apostle John also makes this abundantly clear.

1 John 2:3-4 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.
1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down…

There is no difference between the righteousness of Zechariah and Elizabeth and the righteousness of believers today; righteousness is still based on obedience to God’s torah, his instruction. While their obedience was a hopeful, forward-looking faith toward the coming of God’s Messianic kingdom, our obedience is based on a faith that looks back to the establishment of that kingdom. Yeshua was going to fulfill the prophetic expectation of their day; we are now looking back at the completed picture of how that has been fulfilled.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the ruling leader and completer of the faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Our common faith with Zechariah and Elizabeth is based on walking in the same integrity and righteousness of obedience that allows all of us to be participants in the kingdom. They are the witnesses that have gone before, we are the witnesses that come behind, continuing the glory of the everlasting kingdom that has been completed and established by Messiah.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness is basically another way of saying that we should have a constant longing to do what’s right in God’s eyes in any situation. This requires us to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word and to be thoughtfully prepared within our cultural context.

Core of the Bible podcast#17 – Overcoming relative morality by hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how the desire for righteousness should drive our every action, just like hunger or thirst.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I’ve stated it as “Crave that which God approves; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.”

A craving is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible.

While genuine poverty and hunger are present in our current American culture, the majority of the population doesn’t know what it means to really be hungry or thirsty. Most of us have access to clean water and basic food services and can afford to at least remain fed and hydrated.

However, in Yeshua’s day, this was not always the case. When we look at modern paintings of people following Yeshua as he traveled around from town to town, or taught by the Lake of Galilee; they are well-dressed and clean and the kids are playing nearby, like they are simply on a church family picnic. This image obscures the reality that living in Israel in the first century was a hard-scrape existence. It was an agrarian society that was dependent on local crops and the beneficence of an oppressive foreign military presence. Many people never knew where their next meal was coming from. This is evidenced by the large crowds that followed Messiah when he graciously and miraculously provided them bread and fish. And yet he recognized that the majority of them were only there for the food, not for his teaching.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.

Real hunger will drive you to do things you might not normally do, perhaps even unlawful things like stealing:

Proverbs 6:30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

Additionally, bread/food can be used to entice people to sin:

Proverbs 28:21 – To show partiality [is] not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

Food is a compelling motivator for those who have none.

It’s that motivating factor that Yeshua seizes upon to drive home the urgency with which he encourages his listeners to seek righteousness. They should hunger and thirst for it.

So what is the righteous action in any given situation? In order to do what’s right, one must have some sort of “ideal of rightness” to reference.


In the case of the world at large, people tend to choose whatever seems good to them, or to ideals they have been brought up to believe, or what is culturally relevant or currently popular. While these are certainly significant considerations, one can readily see that these standards will not be the same in every instance and can obviously lead to differing ideas of what is right and wrong.

While ethical morality is a complex subject, it can be broken down into three major groupings or perspectives:

Relative morality: The idea that morality is relative to the culture in which it is expressed, and is not universal to all cultures everywhere.

Absolute morality: The idea that there are universal principles of morality that apply across all cultures.

Moral pluralism: The idea that there can be conflicting moral values that are both worthy of tolerance and respect.

Understanding these basic categories does not give us rigid boundaries, it is most likely that within these three major views, an individual may fall somewhere within the spectrum of all of them, and their spectrum location may vary depending on the topic at hand.

For example, someone may be an absolute moralist on the topic of murder, saying that outright killing someone else is wrong no matter what culture you’re in. But how does one’s absolute opinion translate on topics of accidental killing, or assisted suicide, or war? Then an individual needs to confront the issues of morality within the context of those situations. So whatever standard they are using for the basis of their absolute morality has to be evaluated in the light of these additional considerations. Hence, people’s opinions are all over the map when it comes to issues of ethical morality; there are innumerable ways of concluding what’s right in any given situation.

However, for the believer, the field of ethical options is narrowed down considerably because we are constrained to abide by how God defines righteousness, and what God’s word may say on any given topic. If we are truly hungering and thirsting to be righteous in his eyes, then we should know how he defines righteousness. After all, it is originally his concept anyway, and he can choose to define it any way that he desires.


In the Bible, the word righteousness comes from several layers of the the original Greek wording which means to show rightness (as something that is self-evident); it is action that is innocent or holy that is, set apart. In the Hebrew the word is associated with justice (of kings or judges), fairness, and ethical purity.

Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne…

God’s throne, from where he rules his kingdom, is based on righteousness (ethical “rightness”) and justice (correct judgment). As believers, we believe God’s judgment is trustworthy and reliable, and we should be hungering and thirsting to understand righteousness from his perspective. Let’s look at some practical ways that we can learn to apply principles of righteousness from God’s word in our lives.


If the Bible is to be our ideal of righteousness, then we should understand how to view and interpret this information so we can apply it correctly. Unfortunately, methods of interpretation vary greatly; hence the disagreements of even Bible believers over a standard approach to a rigid definition of morality.

However, there are some general principles we can learn that can help even out some of these variations. The instruction, insights, or commands that God provides within his word can be grouped into three major categories: they may be specific, general, or implied depending on the topic or situation.

For example, a specific command relates to stealing: You shall not steal.

It’s pretty obvious that God specifically intends for us not to take for ourselves anything that does not belong to us. While there may be some die-hards who quibble over definitions, it is reasonable to infer that God does not want us to steal from others.

A general insight might be represented by a command on how Israel was to treat immigrants and foreigners in the land:

Exodus 22:21 “You shall not wrong a foreigner, neither shall you oppress him, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

There are no specific examples what types of wrongs should be avoided here, but just the general idea that foreigners should be treated fairly, and not be oppressed. Based on their unfair treatment while they were in Egypt, they should remember how that felt and not repeat it with those who would be foreigners in their newly established land.

Another general command might also be highlighted by the admonition to love our neighbor. While there are many specific examples throughout the Bible (like the parable of the good Samaritan), one general gauge of what loving our neighbor looks like would be the Golden Rule. Our love for others should be dependent on how we would want to be treated if we were in their place. The specifics would vary from situation to situation, but the general principle would still be valid.

An implied insight might be gained from reading a specific command to ancient Israel regarding real estate conflict.

Deuteronomy 19:14 Never move your neighbor’s original boundary marker on any property in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Apparently there was a huge potential for falsifying property boundaries before official surveying and plat recordings of real estate. While that is a specific command for a specific time, we can draw an implied principle from this command which would mean that we should deal fairly with our neighbors and not try to cheat anyone out of what is rightfully theirs.

Another implied insight might be gained from reading the book of Jonah. In the story, Jonah tries to run away from what God had instructed him to do, and yet God brings him back in a dramatic way to finish what he originally intended. From this, we can receive an implied lesson that we should not avoid what God would have us do in a given situation, or he may bring it back around in an unexpected way and we will still be expected to see it through to completion.

So these are just a few examples of how specific, general, and implied commands can be encountered and applied in our lives today.

Taking this information forward, we can then begin to formulate righteous actions to modern situations by applying these various directives in their intended ways.

To formulate a worldview that is consistent takes time and thought about many difficult topics and current events and dynamic relationships. This is where the hungering and thirsting comes in. If we are to be genuine, we must know what we believe and why, and this longing must consume us.

1 Peter 3:14-17 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them [those who would cause you evil], nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter mentions that we should be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us about the hope that we have, and the reasons we take the actions and stances we do. To be prepared is to take the time to look at the specific, general, and implied directives within God’s word and make consistent choices based on this understanding.

Peter here also emphasizes “good behavior,” or manner of life and conduct, as being a defining factor of righteousness. What we believe about these things will be evident in our actions, and these actions will then speak to our righteousness.

This is important because others who may not agree with your reasoning should not be able to fault you for being inconsistent. Hypocrisy is a universal deterrent to trust and open dialogue. Consistency, on the other hand, garners trust because it is recognized as being thoughtful and intentional, and your righteous actions will many times simply speak for themselves. Even the most hardened cynic would agree that having a consistent worldview is the most honest thing that any person can do.

To that end, the best I can do is determine my views on my interpretation of Biblical values, and live as consistently as possible within that framework. And you should, too. Believers who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the types of followers Yeshua is seeking out for his Father, because these are the types of worshipers the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 But the time is coming–indeed it’s here now–when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Those who worship in spirit and truth do so because they are truly hungry and thirsty to do what’s right in God’s eyes, not just seeking to find a religious experience or to fit in with a specific crowd. Yeshua promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, who seek it at every turn in their lives, will be satisfied. They will have those longings fulfilled. Just as a long, cool drink on a hot day quenches our thirst, or a hearty meal after a hard day of work satisfies a deep hunger, the blessing of those who are seeking these ideals of righteousness is that they will receive what they long for. And because they are seeking righteousness, righteousness will be dealt to them.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that hungering and thirsting after righteousness is basically another way of saying that we should have a constant longing to do what’s right in God’s eyes in any situation. This requires us to be thoroughly familiar with God’s word and to be thoughtfully prepared within our cultural context. This preparation will then allow us to take actions that honor God and demonstrate a consistent worldview in our understanding of the Bible.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

How to improve our spiritual reflexes

Positive heart habits produce a life of integrity that honors God.

I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

In Matthew 5, Yeshua encourages believers to exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders by being sincere and genuine. The hypocrisy of the leadership was evident in all of their public actions, and Yeshua was constantly confronting them on their hypocrisy.

But Yeshua always focused on his followers doing the right thing from the heart, not just following a set of rules. He said that what was in the heart would overflow into actions that reveal the true intent of the heart.

Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:45

This is a challenging principle, but one that also helps us gauge where we are in our spiritual journey. How?

By reviewing our reflexive interactions with others, we can see how “changed” our heart is. When we say the wrong things and then realize it later, we know that our immediate heart response, like a reflex, responds with what it’s full of. If it’s full of bitterness or frustration, it will lash out in anger. If it’s full of peacemaking and reconciliation, it will seek to reach out in love and sacrificial effort for the sake of another. By self-reviewing our conversations with others, we can get an idea of how positive or negative our spiritual reflexes may be.

This is why, when we become angry or frustrated, it is recommended we wait until we have a chance to “cool down” before providing a response to a particular situation. Then we allow the negative emotion to pass where we can think more clearly of an appropriate response. Likewise, if we have a caring or willing heart impulse to help someone who comes across our path, we shouldn’t stifle that feeling and allow the moment to pass without acting on it.

This is a challenging dynamic process that requires maturity to navigate. If we constantly fill our hearts with the bitterness and strife we may encounter in our families, work places and social media interactions, then we are sure to outwardly act on those heart responses. But, if we keep our hearts filled with the positive aspects of our spiritual heritage of finding ways we care for others, healing the hurts around us, and going above and beyond for those who are antagonistic towards us, we will be more likely to  respond reflexively, in the moment, in a way that honors God.

Some of the practical ways we can do this is through memorizing helpful Bible verses, having hymns or spiritual songs that are meaningful to us in our daily routine, and by choosing to privately and sincerely pray throughout the day for our own responses and to overcome the actions of others. These habits produce a life of integrity, a life that honors God, because it is a life of refusing to succumb to the culture around us, and to maintain a righteous attitude in the face of adversity.

When we can train our reflexes to operate in this way, we are then able to magnify God to those around us just as he intends us to.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at