Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK FOURTEEN
ORBIT – DAY SIXTY-FIVE
Hello and welcome to another Orbit. If you’re just joining us for the first time, Orbit is a daily Bible reading, with some thoughts to help you put it into practice in your life. At the moment we’re looking at the life and letters of Paul, because he was someone who knew what it looked like to follow Jesus in difficult times and situations. He seems like a good example to follow right now.
In yesterday’s Orbit we saw Paul passionately defending the controversial idea of Resurrection – not just for Jesus, but ultimately for us. Today he continues the thought.
BIBLE READING – 1 Corinthians 15: 30-34
And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
A few years ago I heard a phrase and a concept with which I have been fascinated ever since – ‘Moral licensing’. It’s the idea that we find ways to justify our bad behaviours through something good. I’ll eat that doughnut because I’ve just been for a run; I’ll buy that new outfit because I gave some clothes to the charity shop. The logic doesn’t always add up – the doughnut puts in more calories than the run burned off – but you feel a sense of justification anyway.
Perhaps that concept is familiar to you. Perhaps you also recognise it in the phrase that Paul quotes in this passage: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” The origins of this bit of moral licensing aren’t entirely clear; it’s sort of similar to a quote from Ecclesiastes, but it’s more likely that this was just a popular phrase of the time – the first century equivalent of “YOLO” (that’s You Only Live Once, for anyone too old to have an instagram account).
By referring to this phrase, Paul is again reminding them that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then their faith is effectively pointless. They may as well give up on all the evangelism and justice seeking, stop sharing their possessions, and throw themselves into a metaphorical pit of food, drink and excess. If this life is all there is, they may as well balance the punishment of death with the reward of Earthly pleasure.
Of course, Paul’s point is that this is completely wrong – that the idiom and the moral licensing are completely misplaced. We do have a hope which lasts long beyond this life, and so instead of justifying bad behaviour, we should be living lives that are fitting of that hope.
By mentioning bad company, and how it corrupts good character (another well-worn phrase of the time), Paul is reminding the Corinthians not to be misled by people who live their lives for the moment. We live in a world today where the majority of people do just that; it’s easy to get sucked into that way of looking at the world, because the moral licensing that it offers is seductive. But as Christians, that just isn’t how we should live. We have been offered eternal life with God, and the chance to know him in the here and now; our lives must look different to those of people who have no such hope.
Paul tells the church at Corinth to “come back to your senses”, and that is something that we frequently have to remind ourselves to do. Our culture is always trying to get us to live for today, to spend what we have on ourselves, and to live for our own pleasure. Paul says that tomorrow we don’t die – but begin eternal life: so let’s live the sort of life that recognises that incredible truth.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
Father God, I am sorry for the times when I have tried to justify my bad behaviour. I ask that you would forgive me and cleanse me from all my sin. Restore in me the hope of eternal life with you, and help me to live a life that points others towards that hope. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
I wonder how the idea of moral licensing helps you to reflect on your own life? It is probably something that is easier to spot in others – but we all do it. Today, try to identify one way in which you tend to make a sort of bargain with yourself, where you justify your own bad behaviour. Ask God to give you a practical way to stop doing that – and perhaps as an act of accountability, tell someone else about it.
If you want to get in touch, you can always email email@example.com, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!