The adult Sunday School lesson for —
December 9, 1928
The Social Teachings of Jesus as Applied Today
“Cultivation of good will toward fellowmen, accompanied by intelligent effort to secure social justice and otherwise to be of greatest service to immediate associates, community, and humanity, is descriptive of the moral duty of men and women today.
“That devout religious spirit which, in New Testament times, prompted its possessors to give to the begging leper by the wayside now prompts citizens by cooperative action to build leper hospitals where these unfortunates may be comfortable for the remainder of their lives, while every effort is also made to discover a cure for the hitherto incurable. It has also become a prime moral and civic duty of modern men to cultivate and, if necessary, enforce by law, such a spirit of justice and tolerance that innocent persons will not be in prisoners, and even guilty ones will have humane treatment and opportunity for restoration to normal social life. There is likewise the civic duty of providing industrial or social insurance, widows’ pensions, free public education, and other similar measures in justice to all. Were such provision made, the widow and the fatherless would have less need of that charity which is manifest in providing material aid to the destitute.” – Milton Bennion, Moral Teachings of the New Testament, pp. 223-224.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.– James 3:17-18
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. – James 4:17
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:9-21
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? he said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. and on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto hm, Go, and do thou likewise. – Luke 10:25-37
1. (a) What are some of the striking differences between the civic ideals and practices of our own time and country and those of New Testament times in Palestine?
(b) What differences do these facts make in the manner of applying the moral teaching of the New Testament?
2. Describe some modern community practices that illustrate in a large way the moral principle taught in the parable of the good Samaritan.
3. In what particular ways do you now see the Golden rule applied?
4. (a) Why are the rich criticised severely by Jesus and by his Apostles, especially by James in his epistle?
(b) May this criticism be applied to many of the rich of today?
(c) To what conditions must a rich man conform in order to justify his possession of riches?
(d) How are these conditions related to the principles set forth in the basal readings?
(e) Is poverty in itself a guarantee of Christ-like character? If not, why not?
5. Enumerate some ways by which all the members of a modern community may share in the use of the natural resources of the earth and the goods of civilization.
M. Bennion, Citizenship, Chaps. 9-15.
M. Bennion, Moral Teachings of the New Testament, Conclusion.
High School and College textbooks on Social Ethics, Sociology, Economics, Problems of Democracy, American Problems, Social Problems, Community Civics, American Government, etc.
The abstract principles of right and wrong are rather easily formulated and learned. it is not so easy to know with certainty exactly how best to apply them in some of the complex situations of modern life; it cannot be done instinctively, and inspiration does not usually come to those who do not exert themselves to find out the truth and to determine what is right in any circumstance that calls for such determination. The apostle James’ axiom that “faith without works is dead” applies here as elsewhere. This is an age of study, of enlightenment, of social progress. Vast changes have taken place since the New Testament was written. Some of the customs of that time, such as those relating to the place of woman in society as portrayed by St. Paul, have, in large measure, passed away. Cases of poverty, sickness, and social injustice are now cared for by social rather than by individual means. this is illustrated in the charity departments of governments, family service societies, relief societies, and other such charity organizations; in public and semi-public hospitals; in industrial insurance, widows’ pensions, public parks and play grounds, free public libraries, public schools, and other such institutions financed by income from the wealth of the community.
All of these are modern ways of applying, in some degree, the social teachings of Jesus. It is unfortunate that some who profess his name are opposed to taking the wealth of the community for the support of such agencies of Christian service. Any thorough-going application of the teachings of Jesus would go much farther in the consecration of the wealth of the community to the common good of all. The tendency to move in this direction is generally best represented in our time by enlightened social workers. As of old, this social tendency is opposed chiefly by some of the representatives of great wealth privately owned. The moral battle is between social enlightenment and human sympathy on the one hand; and social ignorance, or individual selfishness or both, on the other.
If you are to be a disciple of Jesus, on which side must you take your stand in this moral battle?