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A young mother and her five year old son were busy one morning making their beds. After the mother had finished straightening up her room, she went to see how her son was doing in his room. She arrived in time to find him struggling violently to get a clean pillowcase over a large feather pillow.
“Here, son, this is the way to do that,” she said as she took one end of the pillow firmly in her teeth and slipped the cover on.
“Oh, mother,” he cried, “I know! I was biting on the wrong end!”
In the illustration above, it makes little difference of course, which end of the pillow one holds in his teeth while slipping on the pillowcase. However, in the daily life of the child of God many actions are justified and rationalized as being all right by “biting on the wrong end.”
The child of God as he lives from day to day faces numerous choices and must make many decisions. Sometimes these decisions are acceptable and right while at other times they are questionable and even objectionable decisions. Often questionable and objectionable decisions are made because we begin by “biting on the wrong end.”
Some examples will suffice to illustrate the point being made.
The local high school is putting on its annual play and as a high school junior or senior, you would like to attend. However, when you ask for permission from your parents, you run into a grave problem. Your parents say, “No, you may not go.” If your response is, “What’s wrong with it?” you are biting on the wrong end. If you ask, “What’s wrong with movies?” “What’s wrong with dating young people that go to other churches?” “What’s wrong with going to the Senior dance?” “What’s wrong with drugs, drinking, or smoking?” “What’s wrong with wearing short dresses or long hair?” you are biting on the wrong end. It is, of course, important that you do know what is wrong with movies, dances, drugs, etc.; but this is not your primary reason for asking the question. It is an escape technique—a means of putting your parents on the defensive. You force mother or dad to make a statement regarding the wrongness of a certain activity and then proceed to argue against it with might and main. You’ve learned that occasionally your technique is successful and permission is reluctantly given because your parents find it hard to pinpoint the wrongness of that particular activity. Your conscience is now clear because your parents have made the decision for you. But I say, you are “biting on the wrong end.”
Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with it?” it is better to ask the question, “What’s right with it?” or “What’s good about it?” Remember, moreover, that goodness is an attribute of God. If we try to judge the goodness of these activities by our own standard of goodness we will continue to do that which is questionable and objectionable. God demands that we walk uprightly before him in righteousness, holiness, and perfection. In obedience to that calling, the child of God tries to determine what is good and acceptable before God and not those things which are good in the sight of the world.
It is important that we be positive rather than negative. “What’s good about not going to movies and plays?” “What’s good about drugs or drinking?” “What’s good about short dresses and make-up?” “What’s good about television?” “What’s good about the pill?” “What’s good about motorcycling on Sunday afternoon?” “What’s good about lotteries and door prize drawings?”
Considered in this light, many of these questionable activities would become objectionable and the sincere child of God would be determined to deny himself these questionable “pleasures.” “Biting on the right end” will help us in walking a life of sanctification before the Lord our God.

Traffic accidents, homicides, and suicides are the main causes of teen-age death in the United States today. And not necessarily in the above order. Many in the medical and psychiatric fields believe suicide is the #1 killer—that a lot of accidents and homicides among the young are really suicides in disguise.

According to a Grand Rapids Press article of October 22, 1983, “Teen Suicide”, “more than 5,600 young men and women under the age of 25 took their lives in 1981, the most recent year with figures available.”

In an earlier January 1, 1979 Grand Rapids Press article, “Teen Age Suicide: In Search of an Answer”, the author Randy Shipps wrote:

– “nearly 5,000 Americans under age 24 committed suicide in 1977.”

– “An additional 100,000 tried to do so.”

– “200,000 to 300,000 more contemplated it.”

– “This means that 10 to 15% of America’s young people had contemplated it.”

“The suicide rate among the young has nearly tripled in the last two decades.”

In “A Cry for Help”, an article written for Family Circle Magazine by Dr. Mary Giffin and Carol Felsenthal, a study of 7,000 high school students showed that one in five had severe feelings of failure, alienation, loneli­ness, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts.

According to these writers an average of 18 youngsters kill themsel­ves every day and about 57 children and adolescents attempt suicide every hour.

These are sobering statistics, people. The young teenagers who commit suicide and attempt to commit suicide come from every stratum of society. They live in the rich upper classes of society, in the affluent middle classes of society and in the poverty stricken lower classes of society. The victims include girls as well as boys. Some have had religious upbringings and others have not. They include whites, blacks and people of other races.

Suicide is, of course, a violation of the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”. To kill oneself is as much a breaking of the sixth commandment as to kill someone else. Perhaps even more so. A person who murders another person is alive to be sorry for his sin and to repent of it. This is hardly possible when one takes his own life. Whether this implies that a suicide is, through this very act of self-murder, condemned to eternal destruction is best left to the Lord’s judgment. It is, however, something that anyone con­templating suicide should consider carefully before taking this final step of self-destruction.

In Scripture in the six specific instances where suicide was actually achieved, none of them were God­ fearing people. The six I have in mind are Abimelech, the son of Gideon; Saul and his armour bearer (we know little about the life of Saul’s armour bearer so it’s difficult to make a determination in this case); Ahithophel, David’s counselor; Zimri, the sixth king of the ten tribes; and Judas Iscariot. In one case we have recorded for us an attempted suicide —the Philippian jail­or. Though he was indeed a child of God, he was unconverted at the time he contemplated the taking of his own life. God powerfully prevented him from committing this rash deed.

I think it unlikely that a child of God would actually take his or her own life. But there may be extenuating circumstances in which a child of God may be mentally incompetent and irresponsible to such an extent that he or she accomplishes his or her own death. I believe, therefore, it is best to leave this matter to God.

Those who have made it their life’s work to study the problem of suicide are very much concerned about the rapid increases in the past couple of decades in teen-age suicide.

Although people have been de­stroying themselves since the beginn­ing of time, it’s the escalating fre­quency in our modern age that is causing rising concern.

Medical men and psychiatrists are searching for the reasons why teen­agers and young adults are turning more and more to suicide as a way out of difficulties.

One of the primary causes has to do with stress. In our competitive society today, young people often feel pressured to excel, to get good grades, to earn that scholarship in order to go to college.

Not only is their stress in the school situation but also in the home. “Family life also has been in disarray, with the high divorce rate and the added pressure when both parents work. Teen-agers see a situation in which roughly half of all first marriages end in divorce.’’ (U.S. News and World Report, April 2, 1984)

Sometimes it’s family problems such as parents quarreling and fight­ing, or a brother or sister who refuses to honor and respect a parent. Stress can also result when parents openly criticize those in authority.

Tension and stressful situations also occur when young people begin to date. In our modern society young people are allowed and even encour­ages to date before they are mature enough to date. They have their wild flings and disastrous break-ups and aren’t mature enough to cope. They become depressed.

The need to make career decisions can cause tension. The media is enamored with the rich in society and the possibility of getting rich. Careers for young women and executive posi­tions for young men are held before the eyes of young people in all their “dazzling brightness”. Besides this, larger numbers of young people are competing for these high paying jobs and thus, not everyone is successful. The urge, the desire, the compulsion to get ahead in the world, have real potential for stress.

Furthermore, stress can be a direct result of the death of a loved one: of a parent, a brother or sister, a girlfriend or a boyfriend.

Another factor that often leads to suicide is the increased “incidence of drugs and alcohol abuse and promis­cuity in schools which adds to the confusion and chaos of young people and hurts their self-esteem.” (U.S. News, April 2, 1984)

Stress and tension are realities for everyone. Yet it’s something one learns to accept and deal with as he/she becomes older and more experienced. This age and experience teen-agers just don’t have. Anxiety builds up and suicide begins to appeal more and more as the way out.

Stress is, no doubt, a contributing factor to many suicides. However, let us recognize that most, if not all, stress and anxiety is a result of sin. As parents it’s important that we recog­nize this.

What’s needed to avert suicidal tendencies in our children and young people are a strong commitment to the Reformed faith and strong, caring and loving families.

Sociologist Steven Stack of Penn State University hits the nail right on the head. He says that “a decline in religious values among the young makes them less resilient in facing life’s difficulties. Religious activities clearly help to prevent suicide, yet this is a period in which it is harder to be religious.”

Young people, “commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass”. Psalm 37:5. Pray when you are anxious and when you despair for your Father in heaven is ever ready to hear and answer your prayers. Don’t be surprised when you face stressful situations —rather expect them. Paul understands stress when he writes in II Corinthians 4:8-10, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our lives.” Stress is common to everyone. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are the only one in the whole world with problems. One of the common denominators of all mankind is that each experience stress.

Face your difficulties head on with the Bible in your hand. Suicide is not an option for a child of God.

Parents, make yourself available to your teen-agers. Learn to become good listeners. Hear out your teen-age sons and daughters. Oftentimes we are impatient with them and not very understanding. The obvious result is that our young people have, in many instances, developed a lack of trust. They are afraid to discuss their problems with us because they are afraid of an outburst from us. We need to be more caring and more loving. We have to be careful not to play down what are to the developing teen-ager most serious problems. With an im­patient wave of the hand we can so easily discourage needful and healthy communication. We have a tendency to make ourselves so busy that we don’t have time for the precious gift that God has given us—our families. Fellow parents, let us be constant in prayer beseeching our Father in heaven for an abundance of wisdom and grace.

Stress, young people, is common in the world of men since the day Adam fell. Adam never once experienced stress in the state of rectitude. But the instant he ate of the forbidden fruit he found out what stress was all about. He and Eve, his wife, no longer looked forward to walking and talking with the Lord in the garden. They tried to hide from Him instead. Since that day, sinful man has had to experience the stress brought about by sinful thoughts and actions.

Suicide should not be once named among us. Young people, or anyone for that matter who might be considering this final step, suicide is not the solution.

Live each day as unto the Lord. Strengthen yourself in the Lord when troubles overwhelm you. Be spiritually minded and mindless about the mater­ial things of the earth that moth and rust corrupt and thieves break through to steal. Remember that God is always in the midst of His people and ever ready to help in time of trouble. That is His promise to you. Take Him at His Word.

As the day of the Lord draws nearer there appears to be an obvious increase in wickedness and sin in the world. Sins once committed in secret are now blatantly committed in the open. Sins which once were openly and forcefully disapproved of and condemned by governments and churches are now legalized and promoted by them. Sin today is no longer categor­ized as sin—that has an odious ring to it— but rather the world uses all of its resources to convince themselves that these sins are sicknesses.

Young people, you live in a topsy-­turvy world. The distinctions between right and wrong are being obliterated. Old values are disappearing as a new morality is being forced upon you in many insidious ways—ways designed to lull your senses and catch you unawares. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, billboards, books, music, art are all being used today by the prince of the devils, old Lucifer himself, to deceive you as he did our first parents some six millenia ago.

Satan and his ally, the world, tell you and me that what God says to us in His Word is not good but rather the things of this world are desirable and good for you. It’s the same old lie that deceived our first parents. Be on your guard! They fell for it when they were yet perfect. You and I are corrupt sinners, prone to sin, and every evil way, how much easier it is for him to deceive us.

The particular sin that disturbs me today is that of gambling. One who gambles plays games of chance for money or other valuable possessions. He willingly risks losing those possessions that God has graciously given him to be used to His glory. He squanders recklessly posses­sions which really do not belong to him at all but to God.

Gambling takes on many different forms. Betting on dog and horse races, betting on major sport events, betting on cards, bingo, betting in the casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Atlantic City, New Jersey; flipping pennies, raffles, lotteries, sweepstakes, slot machines, to name a few.

The gambling craze is sweeping over our country. According to a recent feature article in the U.S. News and World Report (May 30, 1983) “Never before have so many people used so many ways to bet”. One authority on the subject of gambling estimates “… the total volume of bets . . . at about one third of the gross national product. That would represent more than one trillion dollars annually— nearly $4,500 for every man, woman, and child.” We are bombarded on every hand by the prospect of the get-rich-quick philosophy of the world. The appeal to gain much by contributing little is pressed upon us.

Las Vegas and Atlantic City, two of the gambling capitals in our country, are miles away and probably pose little serious threat to your spiritual wellbeing. The temptation to spend a week in either place is, no doubt, remote and far from your mind. But, young people, many of you make automobile trips to California and the highway you take goes right through Las Vegas, only a block or two from “Sunset Strip”. Were you able to resist the temptation to turn aside and see how the so-called “other half” lives? Or did you turn off to take in Caesar’s Palace, Circus Circus, Star Dust or one of the other ninety casinos? And then, just for fun, did you try a slot machine or two or three or more? And then—then what? Since no one was there to hold you back what more did you do? And those of you perhaps planning a trip to California, are you spiritual enough to “resist the devil” (James 2:7) and refrain from such an excursion?

Although the gambling casinos are far away, other gambling opportunities are very close at hand for most of you. Nineteen of our fifty states promote lotteries. Those of you who live in Michigan, Illinois, Colorado and New Jersey are able to buy lottery tickets at many stores. You don’t even have to ask, they ask you, “Would you like to buy a lottery ticket today?”  On the daily newscast they repeatedly announce the winner of the daily card game and winning lottery ticket number. It’s so easy to spend a buck or two and who will ever find out. And just maybe you’ll buy a winning ticket. Yet, lotteries are gambling. They are a game of chance. You do have to spend money that really isn’t yours to waste. And according to the U.S. News article, lottery tickets have “legal gambl­ing’s worst odds”, If winning could possibly make the buying of a lottery ticket right (and don’t fool yourself, it doesn’t) your chances of winning are infinitesimally small.

Not only are lotteries a close-to-home temptation but so are the many sweep­stakes opportunities that come to our homes through the mail and through magazines. I suspect that more than half the people in our country have received the Readers Digest Sweepstakes with its tantalizing bait of $250,000 grand prize or so much per year for life. Those of you who watch television have, no doubt, seen the advertisements promoting certain sweepstakes. How they try to encourage you to fill in your name and address and send it in. You might become an instant winner. Although one does not squander money or other valuable possessions to enter a sweepstakes, the fact remains that it is a game of chance and the motive for entering is crass covetousness. It’s the same get-rich-quick sham. And is it possible that there might be just a little bit of discontent with one’s present standard of living? Are we not telling God, when we submit to the temptation to send in our sweepstake tickets, that we are just a little dissatisfied with His way for our life?

Then there is betting, making wag­ers. How often do we flippantly say, “you betcha” or “I’ll bet you this or that”? How frequently do you actually make so called innocent little bets just for fun? How often have you justified these little excursions into the world of gambling with the lame excuse that “everyone does it’’? Do you crave excitement and eagerly look forward to betting on cards, each laying down a five dollar bill on the draw of a card—high card wins? Small beginnings grow into addicting habits. At the beginning the web of sin is light and airy to the touch and the strands may be as easily broken as a spider’s web, but as the sin develops the light thin strands turn into tough and heavy cords of steel from which escape becomes well nigh impossi­ble. Young people, let me caution you about taking a casual attitude toward betting.

Big time gambling, lotteries, sweep­stakes and betting all are fueled by the sin of coveteousness. One who participates in these worldly activities violates the tenth commandment. However innocent these activities may appear, be careful that you are not led into temptation. The wicked have convinced themselves that there is nothing wrong with having fun at the gaming table; beware that they would like nothing better than to convince you of that also.

Furthermore, one who squanders the precious goods that God gives to him to use, violates the stewardship that God has given him. Such an one is much worse even than the servant who hid his master’s precious talent in the soil until his master returned.

Finally, gambling, in all of its many forms, is often referred to by the world as a game of chance or luck. They talk about lucky winners and unlucky losers. Such expressions are devilish and dishonoring to God. They deny, in the use of these expressions, the very providence of God to control and direct all things. God is nowhere in their thoughts. To consider that God might possibly control the rolling dice, the spinning of the slot machine, the fall of the cards is ridiculous to the extreme in their thinking. Ultimately, of course, they even deny the sovereignty of God. Young people, really (and you know this also) there is no such thing as chance or luck. Do you dare participate in so called games of chance and see what kind of reaction your God, who is a jealous God, will have toward you?

The gambling craze will continue to grow until the world’s cup of iniquity is filled. Let’s not add even a small drop to the bitter dregs that that terrible cup contains. For, if we do, God will not account us guiltless in that great and terrible day of judgment.

Be on your guard over against all forms of gambling. They are all repulsive in the eyes of the Lord. “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.’’ Romans 12:2

In 1932, Aldous Huxley published a novel called Brave New World. In the early chapters of the bock he describes the baby hatchery of this brave new world.

“Next to the Liners stood the Matriculators. The procession advanced; one by one the eggs were transferred from their test tubes to the larger containers, deftly the peritoneal lining was slit, the morula dropped into place, the saline solution poured in . . .and already the bottle has passed and it was the turn of the labelers. Heredity, date of fertiliza­tion, membership of Bokanovsky Group— details were transferred from test tube to bottle.”

“On Rack 10 rows of next genera­tion’s chemical workers were being trained in the toleration of lead, caustic soda, tar, chlorine. The first of a batch of two hundred and fifty embryonic rocket-plane engineers was just passing the eleven hundred meter mark on Rack 3. A special mechanism kept their containers in constant rotation: ‘To improve their sense of balance,’ Mr. Foster explained. ‘Doing repairs on the outside of a rocket in mid-air is a ticklish job. We slacken off the circulation when they’re right way up so that they’re half-starved and. . .learn to associate topsy turvydom with well-being; in fact, they’re only truly happy when they’re standing on their heads.’ ”

When Huxley wrote this back in 1932, it was science fiction about 400 years in the future. Later, in another book Brave New World Revisited, his prediction was only a hundred years in the future. As events have proved he was still off about 50 years. Many of the science fiction ideas expressed in his book are no longer science fiction but reality. They have already happened.

The geneticist is not attracting a great deal of attention as yet but he is taking prodigious leaps in the area of biochemis­try (living chemistry) or genetics. Things are happening so fast that in 1975 geneticists called a stop to their work to have a moratorium or discussion on how to regulate their work and safeguard human­ity. Never before had scientists agreed to do something like that. They have, to a large extent, discovered in the genes and in the substance called D.N.A. (for deoxyribonucleic acid) the very key to life. They practically hold the power of God over life in their own hands. Dr. Robert Sinsheimer, professor at Cal. Tech, in California has said, “For the first time in all a living creature understands its origin and can undertake to design its future.” He continued by adding “Who can know what man may become as we choose our way across the endless future? The next step for evolution is ours.” p. 350 Ethical Issues in Human Genetics.

The work of geneticists today covers the broad field of research known as and called “genetic engineering”. According to the Oct. 22, 1979 issue of “The Business News”; “The most potent tool in genetic engineering is recombinant D.N.A. By itself D.N.A. stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, the family of im­mensely complex molecules that carry the genetic code common to all life forms. Recombinant D.N.A. is produced when genetic material from one living organism is combined with that of another. The ability to move genes from one organism to another, allows biotechnologists to give organisms. . .capabilities that they do not have in nature.”

Genetic engineering has moved ahead so fast that there isn’t a book printed about it that is current. (The books that I’ve been able to find, copyrighted as late as 1977, are outdated). What the most recent of these books in substance have predicted has already come to pass. This becomes abundantly clear when one reads recently printed periodical articles.

By using recombinant D.N.A., scien­tists have “already accomplished some startling feats and accomplished them much sooner than even the most optimis­tic predictions of a few years ago. Bacteria have been induced to make for us two human hormones we have not heretofore been able to synthesize: human growth hormone and insulin.” (The Nation, Oct. 13, 1979, p. 326) Geneticists predict that in the near future they will be able to produce plants that will fertilize them­selves, eradicate genetic defects and disease from human fetuses and a host of other unbelievable wonders.

Through the manipulation of genes by the recombinant D.N.A. method, scien­tists have produced a multicolored mouse that has six parents; a mouse with three parents— a father, a mother, and a cancer; seven mice with only one parent, conceived without a father; a cloned frog and who knows what else by now. Dr. Robert Sinsheimer has said, “that a human clone will be produced by 1980.” (Genetic Revolution: Shaping Life for Tomorrow, D.S. Halacy Jr. p. 164). I don’t believe this prediction has come true.

The whole field of genetic engineer­ing is extremely broad and complicated and has many ethical implications. My chief concern is the field of Human Engineering. This is but one facet of the whole and of tremendous importance to us as Christians.

Scientists are quick to point out the ‘blessings’ of human engineering.

By using a recently developed tech­nology called amniocentesis, doctors are able to test a fourteen to sixteen week old fetus for genetic diseases. This test can conclusively spot quite a large number of genetic defects including Mongoloidism. When these tests prove positive, the mother and father will be advised to abort the fetus. They will also be advised to submit to a tubal ligation to prevent the birth of any other defective children. Theologian Ramsey says that anyone who would opt to have such defective children are “genetically imprudent and that such imprudence is immoral.” Obviously, the so-called ‘blessing’ of this advance, is enjoyed by the parents and the world community. It’s also a ‘blessing’ for the unborn aborted fetus. Apparently one of the geneticist’s chief concerns is to do away with the effects of the curse and produce the perfect human being. To me such information is a curse because it would bring with it the very real temptation to rationalize the way the scientist does and permit an abortion. What a terrible decision to have to make and then under extreme social pressure.

Joseph Fletcher—a Massachusetts moral philosopher— at a recent National Symposium on Law and Genetics said, “The right to reproduce is a privilege. Our gonads and gametes are not private possessions.” (Science News, “Question­ing the New Genetics” by Joan Arehart Treichel) He also “flatly asserted. . .that those of us with genetically defective pedigrees do not have the right to reproduce.” Under such conditions of pressure should we allow our wives to submit to amniocentesis?

A couple of years ago I read, for the first time in my life, the word “clone”. I didn’t know what it meant. I discovered that to clone means to reproduce genetic­ally an exact replica of another organism. In the magazines and books I’ve read in regard to this subject, most scientists are convinced that they will be able to clone humans. They’ve already done so with frogs and bacteria. Dr. Robert Sinsheimer, as I quoted earlier, said that a human clone will be produced by 1980. His colleague, Dr. James F. Boemer predicted in 1971 that “human mass production would be possible within fifteen years’”. (Genetic Revolution p. 163) That gives us until 1986. Lord Louis Rothschild, an English scientist, says, “The cloning of humans is a near possibility soon to be realized.” (Genetic Revolution, p. 163) The process is a fairly complicated one but most of the needed technology is already available. Apparently all that would be necessary is to transplant the nucleus of a body cell of the person to be cloned into a newly fertilized egg cell after removing its nucleus and before the egg cell begins to divide.

We should face squarely, in this regard, the question: is cloning ethical? What about the soul? Would such a cloned creature share the soul of the person he cloned? I’m assuming that cloning will become an eventuality soon but maybe it really isn’t possible. Will God really permit man to go this far? Another question we could face is—What does it mean to be created in God’s image if man selects and shapes human intelligence and personality?

Finally, I’d like to consider the idea of in vitro fertilization. This means fertiliza­tion that takes place in glass test tubes. We already have a number of test tube babies in this world. There are at least ten hospitals or university facilities in the U.S. that could carry out in vitro fertilization and are anxious to begin. So far they do not have the technology to raise the fetus for nine months in a glass jar but some scientists are confident that these prob­lems will be solved in the near future. An Italian scientist kept a human embryo alive for fifty-nine days outside the womb and the Russians have claimed to have kept a fetus alive for six months.

In the book Genetic Revolution: Shaping Life for Tomorrow, Mr. Halary Jr. says “The artificial womb is a reality. . .a chamber filled with synthetic amniotic fluid. . .has kept lamb fetuses alive for two days. . .An enlightened female should not put up with nine months of physical suffering to produce a child, one argu­ment, goes. . . . Procreation. . .would be replaced by clinical techniques for joining sperm and egg in an artificial womb and would take place where it could be scientifically nourished and carefully monitored to guarantee a perfect pro­duct.” (p. 154) Women would now be saved not “in child bearing” but by the mighty god Science. Again we see an obvious attempt and effort on the part of man to do away with God’s curse.

What do we as God’s people say about all this? Do we close our eyes, ignore what’s going on and try to convince ourselves that these things will never happen?

As children of God we must certainly marvel, as we alone can, at the mighty creative work of God. As each new mystery about life is unraveled before our eyes we bow in humble reverence and awe before Him.

We are going to have to take a stand either for or against the various advances that are being made. We had better be knowledgeable on the subject. I predict that if God allows man to proceed and to accomplish what man has set out to do, that in the near future our consistories, classis and Synod will be forced to grapple with the moral, ethical, spiritual issues that these advances force upon us.

“Thou shalt not kill.” Ex. 20:13

“Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Gen. 9:6

“And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.” Lev. 24:17

“Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover, ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.” Num. 33:30-31

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Rom. 13:3-4

 

The cover story of the January 24, 1983 Time magazine is an in depth study of the Death Penalty question.

On both sides of the question emotions peak and tempers spark and flare. Rational arguments are marshalled in support of the Death Penalty and against it.

For years the pendulum of justice has been swinging away from the execution of the murderer but today it seems like it’s reached its apogee and is starting to swing the other way.

It’s no wonder that the death penalty is opposed. Godless man in his struggle against God and God’s law would also oppose the Scriptural principles laid down in regard to the murderer. To execute a murderer is, in their words, just another murder. It’s an exercise in barbarianism and not an acceptable measure in a civilized society.

With their approach to the death penalty question they take the sword power of justice out of the hand of those in authority. They can do this because they do not recognize that authority to exist. Furthermore, those who oppose the death penalty are in principle opposed to justice. They are not at all concerned that the penalty fit the crime nor are they led by Scriptural principles. The Bible, they say, does not speak to today’s world and to today’s situation. The directive that “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man’’ is to them some literary relic of the distant and foggy past.

It’s not important to them that man, the creature who was created in the image of God, is murdered and that God is thus dishonored by that vile deed. Although God, (God’s honor, God’s word, God’s law, and God’s justice) demands that the murderer be put to death, they refuse to submit to the divine directive and ordinance. Instead they ridicule, mock, scoff, and the murderer lives, often to be freed by sympathetic juries and judges.

That governments were instituted by God to bear the sword power and to execute vengeance on the evil doer is but another ridiculous notion that arises out of the distant eons. What does God have to do with government anyway? Government is rather of the people, by the people and for the people in our democratic system. God has no part in it and thus His directives, if indeed He does exist, should be ignored.

And so, wicked man in the corruption of his depravity and sin destroys the very foundation of all society. The fear of authority has been obliterated. The fear of justice and the death penalty is no longer a deterrent and the U.S. homicide rate has more than doubled in the last twenty years.

God’s authority is despised and society suffers the anguish of more and more murder. God is not mocked. God punishes sin with more sin.

This increase in the homicide rate has not gone unnoticed. The news media religiously describes in graphic language the latest homicides. The court trials become spectacles of interest that create headlines and sell newspapers. Fear is now a preeminent emotion that controls our actions as never before. No one in his right mind, especially if he were white, would be foolish enough to drive through a black ghetto during the night. That would be like taking your life in your hands. Hardened criminals are gently tapped on the knuckles and released back into society or else freed because of a technicality. And the crime rates keep going up.

Our criminal justice system is on the rocks of anarchy and the shoals of chaos and suddenly people are becoming concerned—even alarmed.

That concern is a purely selfish and self-centered concern. We might be next. Before that happens let’s demonstrate our resolve and execute a few on Death Row. So a Gallup poll taken last fall indicated that 72% of Americans now favor capital punishment. According to William Bailey, a Cleveland State University sociologist as quoted by Time magazine, “People are frightened and upset by crime in the street. Nothing seems to be done to solve the problem, so the feeling grows that if we can’t cure murderers, something we can do is kill them.’’

As the pendulum begins its downward swing again, the number of executions will probably grow.

The desire for the death penalty, however, is not properly motivated. It is not rooted in a desire that God’s name is vindicated and that His law was correct all along. God is not in their thoughts. The arguments given in favor of the death penalty are not based on Scriptural principles. They are instead rationalistic and humanistic in nature. Man’s wisdom is sought while true Godly wisdom is ignored.

Polls are conducted to discover the feelings of the people. Psychologists and sociologists are consulted and statistics are generated to show the dire need to execute killers again. But Peter describes them as “. . .wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.’’ II Peter 2:17

They have forsaken God’s law. They despise His Word. Their efforts to control the murderer apart from Godly principles is and will be an effort in futility. They are unable to escape from the morass they themselves have created.

As the day of the man of sin approaches, iniquity shall more and more abound and the foolishness of human wisdom will become more and more evident.

The death penalty should be used to execute murderers because God says “he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.’’ Lev. 24:17. Whether the death penalty is a deterrent to other would-be murderers is a moot question. God says “by man shall his blood be shed.’’ Execution of murderers in obedience to God ordained ordinances in honor of His Sovereign Majesty will have the desired effect.

God ordained governments need not fear to use the sword power they have been given. When they use the death penalty, no matter what form is used, they are “. . .the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.’’ Rom. 13:4 When they refuse to use the sword power given to them they will be accountable before the Judge of judges, the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth.

As lawlessness and injustice increases in the world around us and its cup of iniquity is filled let us look to the hills from whence cometh our help. Let us cast our longing eyes on high to our eternal home and pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will return quickly on the clouds of heaven to deliver us from this sinful chaotic world in which we live.

It seems that my article on “Our Calling to Give as We are Blessed” has generated some negative reactions. In the hopes that we can arrive at a better understanding of this important matter, I will do my best to clarify my position and answer the objections raised.

The first item that is of concern deals with my statements regarding the practice of writing checks for the church budget. Let me quote from the brother’s letter:

“First of all, Mr. Kalsbeek stated his disapproval of the practice of writing checks for the church budget. However, if we condemn this practice, we should also object to the use of numbered budget envelopes by some of our churches and schools. Since the organization involved obviously has a record of the numbers and the people to which they are assigned and also keeps a yearly total of the amounts given by each, this is just as questionable as writing a check every week.”

It’s true that I have serious reservations about the whole matter of the envelope system as it is presently used in some of our churches and schools. I think it can be coercive and that it does  not develop a Godly attitude toward giving.

As far as the matter of writing checks for the church budget is concerned, I personally have changed my own giving habits as a result of my thoughts as expressed in this article. I used to write checks each month for the budget and often also for some of the special collections. I do not do that anymore. I think the change has been a good one for me, but especially for my children. My children now are given an opportunity to give each week and not just once a month. Furthermore, they are putting money in the collection plate and not a piece of paper called a check which is certainly meaningless to younger children.

If any of you who read this article is comfortable with writing checks and using the envelope system, I certainly respect your right to your opinion. I, however, upon thoughtful consideration, have had to change my method of giving.

In the second place, the brother objected to the last three paragraphs of my article. Again let me quote this section of his letter.

“We have the greatest objection, however, to the final 3 paragraphs of the article. One of the points made by Mr. Kalsbeek is that our giving must be done in secret, that we must not even let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Even though this is a very good point, he completely contradicts himself by revealing the amount given to our schools by 2 families while he was on a drive. He mentions no names, but gives graphic descriptions of each, which could give many people a pretty good idea whom he is writing about. He then calls upon us to judge which family was blessed in its giving. It is not the business of Mr. Kalsbeek nor anyone else how much these people could or did give. Neither is it our place to judge on the matter. God alone can do that and those who do not give as they should will answer to Him.

“Doesn’t this raise serious doubts in your mind about the use of drives in our churches? Can we honestly say we are following the command of God to give in secret when we conduct a drive? Will each man who collected for a drive this year print in future issues of the Beacon Lights how much money a particular family gives? Each one of us must consider our own motives, not those of others and with true love give as we are blessed.”

I really believe in this regard that the brother has entirely missed the point that I was trying to make in this illustration.

It was not my intent to stir up endless speculation as to who each of these families were. That would certainly be uncalled for and unprofitable to say the least. Besides, the exact size of the families and the exact amounts given, I have long forgotten. The point that did stick with me was the large contrast concerning giving as the families were blessed. I took the liberty to use this illustration because I’m sure no one would know who was whom.

The whole purpose of the illustration was obviously designed to reinforce the point I was trying to make: that we should give as we are blessed. The one was blessed with much materially and gave little. The other, though struggling at a subsistence level just trying to supply the needs of his family, the blessed heritage of the Lord, gave with a liberal hand. The one obviously gave grudgingly, while the other gave gladly.

I would like to know how it is possible not to judge? I certainly believe we have to judge. Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, asks at the conclusion, “Which now of these, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves?’’ Luke 10:36. Just as the lawyer was asked to judge in this matter and also judged correctly when he answered, “He that sheweth mercy,” so also we can and must judge in this case. The judgment is not as to the eternal destiny of each, but rather as to which was blessed in his giving and which was not blessed in his giving. It certainly was not my intention to judge the one to eternal bliss in heaven and the other to everlasting torment in hell. God alone can and does judge in that way.

I, for one, would hesitate to say that financial drives are wrong. I do question, however, the way in which drives are conducted. If we weren’t so concerned with keeping a record of our giving for internal revenue purposes, and instead each put in a sealed envelope the amount of money that we felt we could contribute, we would be giving in secret and no one but God would know what we gave.

Certainly we must consider our own motives when we give. But then let us also consider giving as we are blessed.

Last month we considered the importance of personal giving. We emphasized the idea that proper giving is rooted in the love of God. When that love is in our hearts we then feel the desire to give liberally as we have been blessed. The burden of this present article is to consider the methods used in our churches to encourage Christian giving.

In article 11 of our church order we read that “the consistory, as representing the congregation, shall also be bound to provide for the proper support of its Ministers. . . .” Years ago, one method used to collect the needed funds was to divide the church into a number of various sections and to charge a certain amount of those who sat in those sections. Thus, the more desirable seats were purchased by the rich for the larger sums of money. Another method used by some churches to collect some of these necessary funds was and is by church sponsored bazaars, lotteries, soup suppers and auctions. It seems like some people need earthly stimulants to help them loosen the strings of their purses. Thankfully, none of these methods are practiced in our churches.

How then can the church through its consistory encourage the congregation to give as they should for the support of the minister?

The method most often used today is that of the budget. Churches who use the budget system try to estimate their yearly expenses. They add up the minister’s salary, the Synodical assessments, and the various anticipated expenses and divide the total by the number of families in the church. This amount is then divided by the number of weeks in the year to determine the amount each person is obligated to pay per week to meet the running expenses of the congregation. Such a budget is indeed needed in order that the church be able to meet its obligations. A budget system presented by the consistory, approved by the congregation, and rigorously followed throughout the year provides system and order in the Church of Jesus Christ. It’s wise and orderly for a country, a business, a family to make periodic budgets and to try to live within such a budget. A country so foolish to repeatedly ignore such budget restrictions finds itself in a bankrupt situation such as our country faces today. So also with the church. God is a God of order and He demands order in His church.

Some who object to a budget system argue char it is nothing more than a tax system. Rich and poor alike are required to pay the same amount. Such a system is unfair. It destroys, so they say, responsible giving because the rich pay the budget and often refuse to pay more. And the poor are required to pay more than they can afford.

It must be remembered that a budget system has one and only one purpose and that is to bring order to the church in its financial affair. A budget is not designed to force people to give. If that were so why do our deacons so often have to admonish individual members of the congregation to meet their financial obligations?

(In Volumes IX and X of the Standard Bearer, Rev. Ophoff carries on a rather lengthy debate with a Mr. Hoekstra on the budget question. Some interesting arguments are presented in support of the budget and also against the budget system.)

Approximately seven years ago I happened to be in a church of another denomination for a wedding service. In the songbook rack in front of me I found a mimeographed sheet with the envelope numbers for the church budget. Behind each number was a column containing the amount of money given by the person who had that particular number. Of course, the names of the people were not included on the sheet. A second column contained the amount that particular account was behind or ahead. Thus, #47 had so far given $125 and was behind $500. And #83 had given $500 which was more than the budget called for and so on.

This example was cited in order to turn our attention to the envelope system. This system is a method that is used in many churches to collect the budget. Each member is given a box of envelopes that has a given number. Each Sunday the budget payment or donation is inserted into one of the envelopes and deposited in the collection plate. The deacons then keep a careful record of the amount each member has paid throughout the year.

What was done above; is an obvious misuse of the envelope system. What right does a consistory have to make public the giving habits of individual congregational members? Many of them were below the amount expected for that time of the year. Apparently it was an attempt to shame the poor giver to meet his budget obligation and to encourage the more prosperous to try to outdo each other and to see who could give the most. I personally hope that none of our own congregations have had to resort to such tactics. Such action is coercive and does not promote giving out of love for God.

This is one of the dangers that can easily result in the use of the envelope system. The question that comes to mind is “Why did the church begin using such a system?” Did it originate because the members refused to meet their budget responsibilities? Or was the envelope system adopted in order that the deacons could in this way find out who the poor were so that they could go to them to give them the mercies of Christ? If the first answer is true then the envelope system is nothing more than a means to force church members to meet their obligations. Is force a proper means for the church of Christ to use

in this instance? Oh, it’ll probably work. God’s people will give regardless but those who lack the love of Christ in their hearts will now give just to keep up appearances. If the envelope system was adopted in order to find out who the poor are then the deacons must have been blind. Surely there are other better ways in which to seek out and find the poor. Personal visits by elders and deacons alike often help them to see who are the poor and needy.

On the other hand, I have heard of a congregation who gave up the envelope system just because the deacons had become weary in the work of visiting delinquent members and admonishing them. By disregarding the envelope system, they no longer knew which members were falling behind in their budget responsibilities and didn’t have to visit them anymore.

I personally wonder if Christ would put His divine stamp of approval on the envelope system? With the inherant dangers of misusing such a system a congregation would be wise to forgo the use of the envelope system. It’s a shame that an envelope system has to be used to extort the budget when giving should be a happy exercise of faith.

Why not then use the tithe? There is no doubt at all in my mind that were each individual child of God to give to the church a tenth of all he made the congregations would have a surplus. The tithe was an Old Testament practice, and part of Israel’s ceremonial law. Since it was the law Israel was obligated to pay it faithfully. The tithe amounted to one-tenth of a person’s crops, herds, and/or wages. In Israel, the tithe was to be used to take care of the needs of the Levites and priests. Even before Israel developed into the nation, the patriarch Abraham paid a tenth of the spoil of his victory over Chadorlaomer to Melchizedek, king of Salem.

Many arguments may be advanced in favor of the tithe bur such a system is not one the New Testament church should use. Tithing is certainly a systematic way of giving yet it violates the exhortation of Paul to the Corinthians, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by himself in store, as God has prospered him.” (I Cor. 16:l-2) We must give in the New Testament church “as God has prospered” us. For many the tithe would then be an easy. cheap way out of paying what he should. For others the tithe might be an extreme and unfair burden. (For more information on tithing read Rev. G. Ophoff s three articles in Vol. 17 of the Standard Bearer, pp. 358. 383, and 430).

I believe the same objection can also be directed at our budget system. For some the budget is an easy way out and for others it may be an extreme and unfair burden. Financial inequities are found also among God’s people. There are rich and poor alike in the Church of God here on this earth. For this very reason our churches have set up benevolent funds and take poor collections every Sunday. The wealthy members use this means to help the poor. They pay their budget faithfully and fulfill the calling to lay in store as God has prospered them by giving liberally to this fund. And the poor who are unable to pay their budget must go to the deacons with their need and receive the mercies of Christ so that they can meet their budget obligations. Such is the God ordained way. The problem many of our deaconates face is that our poor often find it far easier and less embarrassing to receive help from the government forgetting that the mercies of the wicked are cruel. Perhaps the deacons sometimes find it less work to allow individuals to do this also.

Giving in God’s house demands of us certain obligations. Rich and poor alike need to pay their budgets-no more add no less. In the way of giving and receiving alms the wealthy member humbly gives as he is blessed and the poor humbly receive in his need. This system obviously is grounded in the love of God. Only where that love is in existence will it work. Then there will be no need for an envelope system and no need for repeated admonitions from the pulpit. Scripture clearly tells us that it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. Let’s remember this and give as we are prospered.

John Kalsbeek is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Redlands, California. He will deal with the subject of Christian giving in two articles. The first treating the importance of personal giving and the second will deal with the methods used in our churches.

 

Some time ago when I was asked to write an article for the Beacon Lights, the staff suggested I address the question “Is our method of taking church collections proper? This is a legitimate concern and one that should be considered. However, before I become involved in this question I will first of all consider the idea of personal giving.

Giving is a personal matter. Every one of us has an attitude about giving. Either we are happy to give in order to help others or we find that parting with our hard-earned money is a burden.

Giving has always been a very important part of a Christian’s life and worship. When we as children of God give we do so and must do so out of love for God and His kingdom. Giving gifts is proper, good, and pleasing to God. Let’s consider together the question “Are our own personal giving habits and attitudes proper, good, and pleasing before God?”

Christ commanded us in Matthew 6:3-4, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret. . . .” A quick glance at the first two verses of this chapter tells us how not to give. Here we find that we must be careful that in our giving our chief desire and concern is not the praise of men. Many well-known philanthropists of our day leave large legacies to hospitals, universities, libraries and other charitable institutions in order to gain the praise of men. Such giving is condemned. Such giving receives no spiritual reward. It’s obvious that the motivation for such giving is wrong. We may not with a lot of fanfare announce our intention of giving alms before others. Further, it is equally important that we must not announce our giving even to ourselves. Christ says, “let not your left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” We must not keep spiritual accounts of credits and debits, of profits and losses. Give out of love for God and forget what you have given. So often we tend to pride ourselves in the amounts we give and the consistency of our giving. We take pleasure in the thought that we have given more than others and more even than the budget calls for. Christ says to give and to forget. Rev. Ophoff in a Standard Bearer article writes, “We certainly must give in secret if there is not cogent reason for making our gifts before the eyes of men.” Vol. IX pp. 37.

With the above as a basis let’s scrutinize our own personal giving habits. Many of us write out checks for the weekly budget and possibly for some of the special collections as well. I’m sure that the reasons for this are many and most of them are probably legitimate. It’s convenient to write out a check. One doesn’t have to carry with him large amounts of cash. It’s a good record for income tax deductions. It makes it easier for the deacons to count. Whether these reasons are proper or not the fact remains that we really are not following the principle laid down by Christ Himself in Matthew 6. By writing out a check we make a permanent record of our giving. A record chat not only the deacons see and know but also one of the bank officials can see and know. And when the bank statement arrives each month with our cancelled checks we are reminded, whether we want to be reminded or not, of the amount we gave last month. At the end of the year we are again reminded when we total up our contributions in order to gain the biggest deduction we can, hoping for that elusive refund. Obviously, we are not giving in secret-our names are attached to our gifts.

Along these same lines we often find it appropriate to give to worthy causes as a year comes to its end in order to avoid paying additional income taxes. These contributions are certainly welcome and appreciated but again is that really the proper, the Godly motivation for giving? Christ says to give secretly. Wouldn’t it be far better to give cash anonymously instead of writing out a personal check? Should we keep a record just to avoid paying Caesar what belongs to Caesar? Are we letting our government influence us to use questionable methods of giving in order for personal gain?

Do we in our personal giving follow the principle laid down by the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 16: l-2 “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him. . . .” Do we give as He has given us? Or are we holding back in order that we might save up for a more expensive car or home that we really don’t need? Or have we gone so far into debt that we have to hold back on our budget responsibilities in order to meet our financial obligations? Can anyone of us really say we have given the last farthing? Would Jesus be able to say of our giving “Verily I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living”? Now Jesus certainly doesn’t tell us we must give all of our earnings to the neglect of our families, but He does insist that we give in proportion to now He has prospered us.

How do you react when the new church budget is proposed each year? And what is your reaction to the yearly increase in the Synodical assessments? The typical reaction is that we complain about it. But are we being fair about this. Fifteen years ago the budget amounted to a little more than a tenth of my wages. Today the budget I pay isn’t even double what I paid then but my wages are at least four times greater. I suspect this is true in many more cases than my own. Do we really have a right to complain about budget increases and increases in Synodical assessments? Such complaining is indicative of our attitude toward giving and certainly mars in God’s eyes our gift giving to kingdom causes. I personally believe that if we all gave as God blessed us we would have a surplus in our general funds and our mission efforts could be greatly increased.

Consider carefully your giving habits and your motivations for giving. Think about these things. Discuss this together as the members of the same household of faith. Make personal giving to kingdom causes your number one priority. God knows our attitudes towards giving. Is He pleased with what He sees? The angel came to Cornelius and told him “Thy prayers and thy alms are come up for a memorial before God.” Could this same angel say the same to you?

Many years ago, when I was still in high school I had the opportunity to go on a drive for our Christian school with one of the older men of the school society. Our first stop was at the home of a family with but one child. He was probably a fifth or sixth grader. In the driveway stood a fancy boat. In the back yard was a brand-new camper-a luxury in those days. A late model car rested in the garage. The home was richly furnished. It soon became evident that the father resented our presence at his door. Hurriedly he pulled out his wallet and handed us a ten dollar bill. Later that same evening we went to the home of a man with seven or eight children. Five or six of them were in grade school or high school. He welcomed us and expressed a Godly concern for the financial needs of our school. He wanted us to know how much he appreciated the covenant instruction His children were receiving there. We left that home with two hundred dollars-two hundred dollars I’ve always suspected he had to borrow from the bank.

To the one giving had become a burden-a rather disagreeable part of a self-centered life. To the other giving was a joy and a privilege. Judge for yourself which one was blessed in his giving.

Personal giving must be our prayerful concern. It must be spiritually motivated. Only when we give out of love for God and His kingdom will we give as we are blessed.

At this time of the year it is customary throughout our country to observe a National Thanksgiving Day. Since 1941, Thanksgiving Day has been set by an act of Congress as the fourth Thursday of November. It’s a day in which we are to give thanks for National Prosperity, for the “perfect union” of our states, the “established justice” guaran­teed by our constitution, the “domestic tranquility” to which we all have a right and for the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” It’s also a day set aside for feasting and rejoicing for the individual prosperity enjoyed through­out the country. Tables groan with the weight of luxurious foods while afterwards garbage cans bulge with exotic wastes. It’s a day of reflection: people sit down with their tally sheets, count up their blessing on one side and their misfortunes on the other, like credits and debits, and hopefully end up with something for which to be thankful. So the world eats, drinks, is merry, and tries to be thankful for tomorrow they may die.

In Article 67 of our church order we read, “The churches shall observe, in addition to the Sunday…The National Thanksgiving Day…” This was not in the original church order adopted by the Reformed Churches in the 1500’s but was added to this article in 1914. Since then, its been the practice of Reformed churches in general and our own Protes­tant Reformed Churches in particular, to observe this special day as a day for thanksgiving. This is well and good. However, the church and the child of God will have a different motivation and goal as they celebrate this special day. Our celebration is a call to worship in order to show forth thankful praise to our gracious Father in heaven for His care over us. We are called upon to emphasize the spiritual nature of thanksgiving. Such a special day has a proper and rightful place once a year in our lives. But for the child of God it must not be the extent of our thanksgiving. Rather, thanksgiving must be an everyday response of gratitude. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Since the world also talks about Thanksgiving and claims it can be thankful, we must, first of all, consider the idea of Christian thanksgiving. Thanks­giving is exclusively a Christian response and virtue. It is foreign to the nature of sinful man to be thankful in any way for anything. How can a man destined for everlasting hell fire be thankful? How can wicked man living in enmity with God be thankful in any but a superficial way? He may outwardly pretend to be thankful and even be very convincing to himself and before others yet it is truly impossible for him to show thanksgiving. Only a child of God who knows that he is saved by grace through the work of Christ the Lord, can be thankful. With the child of God it is the spiritual reality of salvation from the misery of one’s sins that prompts the response of thanksgiving. It is not based upon or determined by physical well-being or material prosperity. He can and must be thankful when these are given him in this life but they are not the basis of his thanksgiving and gratitude. A child of God gives thanks always because he is a regenerated, sanctified through the blood of Christ, child of God.

Furthermore, thanksgiving depends upon contentment. Someone who is not content with his lot in life will not be and cannot be thankful. If you, as a young man, desire a newer model Corvette and Dad instead buys a rather ordinary looking, older model Chevrolet Biscayne, do you think you could or would be thankful? Outwardly you feel you should thank your father-so you do-but inside you are seeth­ing with indignation and disappointment. You are not content with your gift and therefore not at all thankful even though you said “Thank you.”

This is also true when trials come your way and you question God’s wisdom in afflicting you. Can anyone possibly be thankful when he is dissatisfied with God’s dealings with him? Of course not. Again, only a child of God who is assured that God is good when He sends trials, disappointments, afflictions and even death, can be content and therefore, thankful.

In all things we must give thanks, this is a requirement we are required by God to do. “All things” includes poverty and riches, sickness and health, war and peace, sadness and joy, failure and success, life and death. Imagine being thankful when a young father or mother is struck down with a terminal illness and the children will be left behind fatherless or motherless; when war ravages the land, bombs destroy your home and bullets kill your sons; when poverty, want and starvation is your lot and empty stomachs of crying, hungry children your constant care and concern. Yet that is the calling of every child of God. Thanksgiving is an amazing work of God’s grace. It is so unexpected and unnatural that the world is stunned when it observes thanksgiving at times such as these. The triumphant thanksgiving of the child of God is that “in all things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers nor things present nor things to come, not height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39. Thanksgiving, impossible by nature yet possible by grace every day of our life.

Finally, the response of the child of God is that he continually offers to the Lord the sacrifices of thanksgiving. These sacrifices are rendered to God in many different ways. Some examples of Biblical heroes of faith will help to make clear the meaning here. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his very own brothers, lived a life of thanksgiving in the house of Potiphar and in prison. He refused to turn in sin against God and give in to temptation. He was diligent and honest in his dealings with his master and the head of the prison. Paul and Silas, though unjustly beaten with whips, bound in stocks and cast into the inner most dungeon of a Philippian prison, sang songs of praise and thanksgiving to the wonderment of their fellow prisoners. Daniel was cast into the lion’s den and his three friends into the burning fiery furnace because of their thankful walk in a world of sin. David, in Psalm 51, confesses his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and asks God to clean him of this sin because he is thankful that God, through the prophet Nathan, pointed out to him his sin.

Covenant Young People of God, you have a responsibility before God to be thankful everyday of your life. Show your thanksgiving in the way you honor your father and your mother. Sarcasm, ridicule and disobedience towards parents in the home is condemned by the fifth com­mandment. Show your thanksgiving by being courteous to your elders at all times. Refrain from walking in the way of the world and pray often to God for spiritual stamina to withstand the pressures of friends who would lead you astray into sin. Be careful that you do not lead others into sin. The thankful child of God makes a conscious effort to stay away from even the appearance of evil. May God bless you with a life of thanksgiving.

It is evident wherever one looks today that there is a blatant disregard and lack of the most elementary forms of courtesy and good manners in the world around us.

Teenagers sass their parents, disrespect lawful authority, exhibit filthy language and hand-signs to passers-by. Only yester­day my little ones saw some of this crude behavior and wanted to know why those boys acted that way. They stand on the sidewalks and even in the streets and re­fuse to let pedestrians and automobiles pass. They are out to give anybody and every­body a difficult time. Every one of you, I’m sure, could give many examples of similar incidents that have occurred in your own lives.

Even younger children today are just as discourteous as their older brothers and sisters. They have vile tongues spewing out all forms of wickedness and corruption. Their actions are impolite and inconsiderate. They demand the whole world but deserve a slap in the face or a warm behind. They pretend that the whole world owes them a living. “Thank you,” “Pardon me,” “ex­cuse me,” “please,” never grace their tender — not so tender? — lips.

Finally, even grown-ups, who should be examples, are not the least inclined to be courteous. They openly backbite and gos­sip about others in front of their children — as if backbiting and gossiping aren’t bad enough in themselves. They talk disparag­ingly about law officers, the President, con­gressmen, ministers, and teachers. They openly disrespect speed laws and civil laws showing no respect or courtesy to authority.

In the world, this lack of courtesy is due to the depravity and selfishness of man. They run their life on the theory that you don’t need road manners if you drive a five ton truck.

Wicked man is completely “I” centered. “I need this,” “I want that,” “I’m going to get this,” “I’m going to do that.” They have no thought for the feelings or possessions of others and if these get in the way — too bad. They render evil for evil not only, but also evil for good. They cheat, they lie, they steal, they violate all the com­mandments to attain their goals and ob­jectives. One prime example of this is seen in the unreasonable law suits that are brought against individuals and companies in our civil courts. They experience no shame, remorse, or compassion as they push their weight around and make themselves heard.

Man lost the ability to be “God centered.” In all of his life he is at enmity with God and with his neighbor. Since there is no love for God in him, neither does he have any love towards his neighbor. His hatred towards others is revealed in his disrespect towards them.

This is the world in which we live. Much, much more could be written and said. We must be careful that we are not carried along with the basic philosophy of the world in its headlong dash to destruction.

The apostle Peter writes, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of an­other, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise, blessing, knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8-9). We must be “. . . holy in all manner of conversation (life) because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy” (I Peter 1:15-16). Paul in Romans 15:2 admonishes, “Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.”

Courtesy is the desire and attempt to be thoughtful, polite, good mannered, consid­erate for the feelings, persons, and property of others and is rooted in love. “Charity suffereth long and is kinde, charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (I Cor. 13:4-5). When we love one another for Christ’s sake, we show courtesy and respect toward each other. True righteous courtesy implies that we give of ourselves for the welfare and respect of others.

True courtesy can only result when pride and love for oneself is rooted out and replaced by a humble attitude and love for others. Thus, only a child of God can, in the ultimate sense of courtesy, be courteous.

We by nature are, however, no better than the world. We also have the “I” com­plex. Our teenagers, youngsters, and we as adults are no different than the world. We are, on occasion, not only inclined to show this disrespect towards each other and our neighbors on the street, but also towards God and towards His house. When we irreverently sleep during the service, let our minds wander off during the preaching of His Holy Word, think of material pos­sessions and covet them during our prayers, unrighteously judge our brothers in the pews, our love for God comes into ques­tion.

If we truly loved one another for Christ’s sake, we would have no gossiping and backbiting in our churches. If we truly loved our parents for Christ’s sake, we would respect their authority and treat them courteously. When we walk a life of love we “guard our lips from speaking guile” and our tongue from strife. We “follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).

We must be courteous for Christ’s sake. He came down to earth and revealed to us the greatest act of love and courtesy this world has ever known by giving Him­self for our redemption. He became like us in all things, sin excepted. He ex­perienced our frailties and infirmities, our trials and temptations, our anxieties and fears. He lived with our hatred and spite, our contempt and scorn, our thoughtless­ness and disrespect. Yet His “courtesy” (love) toward us is everlasting, totally of grace. His kindness is more infinite than the universe. His thoughtfulness (for we are ever in His thoughts) toward us is greater than the deepest oceans. His gift of in­finite mercy and salvation is beyond our comprehension.

An Englishman, Hilaire Belloc, contem­plating the sublime value of courtesy once wrote:

“Of courtesy — it is much less

Than courage of heart or holiness.

Yet in my walks it seems to me

That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.”

 

The book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon to his young adult son. Solomon’s purpose in writing Proverbs was “that the generation to come might know them [God’s wonderful works]…that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (Ps. 78:6–7). Throughout the book, Solomon […]

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Jael: An Example of Christian Warfare

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021. Jael lived during the era of the judges. Deborah the prophetess was the judge who served Israel at the time of Jael. During this time, the Canaanites under the rule of king Jabin […]

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Indiana Mini Convention Review 2021

One of this year’s “mini conventions” was hosted by Grace and Grandville Protestant Reformed Churches at Quaker Haven Camp. Located just over two hours away in northern Indiana, the camp was a perfect fit for the 120 kids and 15 chaperones who attended. A total of twelve different churches were represented: Byron Center, Faith, First […]

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Editorial, November 2021: Catechism Season

At the point that this edition of Beacon Lights arrives in the homes of our subscribers, most young people in the Protestant Reformed Churches will have been sitting under the catechism instruction of their pastor or elders for more than a month. If our readers are honest, that observation probably comes with a (quiet) sigh […]

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Tennessee Young People’s Retreat 2021

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Judah: A Story of Redemption

This article was originally presented as a speech at a Protestant Reformed mini convention held at Quaker Haven Camp in August 2021.   The story of Judah is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. We often overlook this history because it is nestled in the middle of the story of Joseph. All the […]

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