The Essence of Christian Ethics- Moral Responsibility, Human Rights and Justice for the Poor

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The short book of James is a morally ethical, literary and doctrinal work of art. Its emphasis is on living according to the perfect law, the royal law and the law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:8) or what we now refer to as Christian ethics. James advocates f


Christians have a moral obligation to help the poor and destitute, and many Christians argue that we must exercise our moral obligation by, for example, redistributing income or by enacting price controls and minimum wages.

Colossians 3:1-6: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry? Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.”

The Bible is more than a list of the things we should do and the things we shouldn’t. The Bible gives us detailed instructions based on Christian ethics on how to live our lives in harmony with others and through its teaching. Christians can use these ethics to determine the course or path of any given situation.

The essence of Christian ethic is based on the relationship that individuals share with God as their personal Savior. The essence of Christian ethics is that for an individual to live a life that meets the standards of behavior and conduct required by God, is only possible because of what Jesus Christ has done for the individual at Calvary and the relationship that is gained by that act.

God desires us to be worried about the plight of the poor. The essence of the practical Christian ethic, according to James, includes care for the poor.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

 “For I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality.” 2 Corinthians 8:13

Another apostle that quotes the Christian ethics in terms of moral responsibility is Paul. An important element of Paul’s apostolic ministry consisted in the fund rising, with the intention of providing for drought relief.  He also advocated for the care of the poor within any given society. Paul's objective was the liberation from want, not a simulated equalization of assets, also quoting Exodus 16:20, that wealth that is hoarded, will have no meaning after death (Clarke 349). The writings of Paul were radical, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. . ." (Galatians 3:28), as he advocated for pure equality devoid of race, gender and wealth.

However, modern day philosophers have disputed the use of Christian ethics to advocate for the care of the poor. They have involved the question of motive in human nature. Religion is made to prey on the weak. Control and submission is how it works, and through the indoctrination to children as the absolute inerrant truth it survives the trial of time.

“It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God's will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you - try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will yourself!”.

 By and large, humanistic ethical theories see man's will as being firm or fashioned solely by his genetic inheritance and/or by his surroundings, in short, all external factors.. It is claimed that religion is thought to play a role in creating economic inequality by either encouraging or discouraging wealth-acquiring behavior, and by providing a basis for discrimination.

There seems to be an incompatibility with loving God and money and the accumulation of riches is seen as fundamentally wrong. It is also viewed that Christianity, through the scripture propagates that the poor should hand over their hard earned money to the church thus making them stagnate in their economic level.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” Proverbs 3:9-10

From scripture such as the one cited above, atheists interpret it to mean that it is a plot of the rich to gain from the poor’s hard earned labor with the promise of wealth later on in life here on earth or in the after-life in heaven.

Another theory passed on is that of the desperation of the people who live in conditions close to or under the poverty line. Some families may not have a shelter, or access to clean drinking water. These people depend and acknowledge basic needs at a higher level then established families do. These people find comfort in God because he is believed to be the one who promotes ideas such as a flawless afterlife and who will favor blessings on them. These people need a concept of an all loving god as an escape from their impoverished lives located in the realms of reality. Desperate people are more likely to heed the good news simply because they have nothing to lose, even if it were wrong.

Based on the principle based in Christian ethics, they claim that these same principles cause the poor and underprivileged to be content with whatever they have in this world as they wait for their riches in heaven.

The short book of James is a morally ethical, literary and doctrinal work of art. Its emphasis is on living according to the perfect law, the royal law and the law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:8) or what we now refer to as Christian ethics. James advocates for the integral human right of self respect and to be respected by others.

First, the apostle James writes that favoring one person over another according to his or her riches and rank or class has no position in the “godly value system” and notes that is the rich who most frequently exploit and disadvantage the poor. He asks for the poor to be accorded respect using an example of a rich, well clad man and a poor man in tattered clothes attending the same meeting for the followers of Jesus’ teachings. He states that it is unchristian to judge people purely based on their appearance and amount of wealth and discriminate upon them. He further asserts that God does not use this type of judgment stating that God has chosen the very poor to inherit his magnificent kingdom in heaven (James 2:1-9).

In the same way, rich people are cautioned to get their priorities in order. Silver and gold will eventually become worthless, for the reason that the end days of human civilization are imminent. It can be then assumed that all of the worldly goods will be of no profit. He also mentions that he too has noted that more often than not, this wealth has been gained at the expense of hired workers.

Jesus’ ministry, although came to seek all people from all walks of life, had a great impact on the lives and beliefs of the poor (Matthew 11:5). Proof that Jesus was concerned with the well-being of the poor was demonstrated by the feeding of the four and five thousands through a miracle. This showed that Jesus was concerned with both the spiritual, physical and economic relief of the poor.

The pattern of Christian life as presented in the Gospel of Luke has special relevance today. In her Magnificent, Mary rejoices in a God who scatters the proud, brings down the mighty, and rises up the poor and lowly (Luke 1:51-53).


In Christian Economics, Christians have diverse opinions about which economic system is most in accordance with biblical instruction. Some hold the belief that the Bible asserts that a system of personal property and individual responsibilities and initiatives, citing Isaiah 65:21–2; Jeremiah 32:43–4; Acts 5:1–4 and Ephesians 4:28). Others maintain a socialist financial system, citing Acts 2:44–45. Still others, also known as liberation theologians, suppose the Bible teaches a form of Marxism and that the kingdom of God will be ushered in by some sort of socialism.

Christians who advocate for socialism as a more attractive system than capitalism, trust that the creation of a more just way of sharing few resources will be done by a centralized command economy based on the principles set forth in the Bible and Christian ethics on the basis of Acts 2:44–45 that describes Christians in the early church’s division on all things in common. The Bible as a whole supports an economic system that respects private property and the work ethic. (Proverbs 31, Isaiah 65:21–22, Jeremiah 32:43–44, Acts 5:1–4 and Ephesians 8.)

They argue that public ownership of property helps in the avoiding of the feeling of jealousy and greed that private ownership, which more commonly arises in poor people. 

1 comment

Judith Barton
Posted on Mar 15, 2012