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April 29, 1992

The Power of Personal Ethic

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Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. JAMES 3:13
The power of one good deed is hard to measure.
Jesus explored this idea in what we have come to know as the Sermon on the Mount. He urged his followers to spread their influence by serving as “salt” and “light” in a dark world. “In the same way,” He told them, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
We must be careful not to misinterpret Jesus’ words as “works theology” or a “social gospel.” It is neither. He is discussing influence, not salvation; and He is making the point that the greatest instrument of influence to another individual is personal, ethical behavior.
In the Greek language, there are two words for good. Agathos denotes high quality, and kalas means that something is not only good in quality, but also is winsome, beautiful, and attractive. This goodness has a magnetic appeal to it. It invites people to participate. That is what a good life does.
All of us, no matter our age, spiritual maturity, or situation in life, continually stand at the intersection of right and wrong. Sometimes our decisions are private; sometimes they are public. But they are always individual choices. Choosing the right thing, over and over, results in the power of one—one individual demonstrating good deeds and personal ethic to a dark and questioning world.
The marketplace is an ideal place for followers of Christ to use their personal ethic to spread godly influence. When one employee continually makes ethically correct decisions at work, it isn’t going to automatically triple the value of his company’s stock, nor is it going to turn the workweek into a pleasure cruise. But over time, the practice of individual ethics will have an impact. It will make a difference. It will provide salt to create thirst in unbelievers and release light to a paralyzed, dark world. Doing the right thing is a raw demonstration of goodness.

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