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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, May 09 2024

Seven counterfeit values ensnaring society

The Christian calling involves learning to value what God values—His truths, character, standards and way of life, as outlined in the Bible. If we have children, there is the added responsibility of teaching them about godly values in a challenging environment.

Many ideas dominating society are in direct opposition to biblical teachings, and are ultimately worthless and harmful. Parents should make sure they are aware of the “values” their children are exposed to. Media outlets idolize entertainers, sports figures and corporate leaders who often set the wrong example, and some lead very immoral lives. Many movies and television also promote unbiblical lifestyles and sinful behavior.

Ultimately, the one behind these counterfeit values is Satan the devil. The Bible tells us he is the current ruler of this world, with the goal of deceiving and harming humanity (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows how to sway people and make his false values look appealing or even good, when they are in fact very destructive (John 8:44). It’s vital to recognize his counterfeit values in our lives and also to explain to our children how these clash with biblical standards. What our children learn to prioritize when they’re young will largely determine their adult behavior.

Following are seven insidious counterfeit values permeating today’s society:

Tolerance

So-called “tolerance” is widely promoted today, stemming from the assertion that all belief systems and lifestyles have equal merit. Often a biblical worldview is viewed as an exception to this approach, and is increasingly disdained and even scorned. Those professing tolerance generally promote a secular worldview, rejecting belief in God, and denying biblical “sin.” They promote the idea that people are free to decide what is acceptable behavior for themselves, and endorse public acceptance of all behavior and lifestyle choices without judgment. This approach can appear very reasonable and exemplary, especially to children, who might not understand the false definition of tolerance allows for behavior that leads to sin.

Genuine tolerance, however, is a biblical virtue, and the Bible exhorts us to “make allowance for each other’s faults(Colossians 3:13) and to bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). To be tolerant is to be longsuffering towards others, showing genuine concern and letting go of anger or resentment, when they rub us the wrong way. Biblical tolerance is not about accepting everything so people can feel free to do whatever they want.

Social justice

We also often hear the rallying cry for social justice. Many mistakenly think this is about righting the wrongs in society, defending helpless people or accomplishing lofty goals like ending racism or poverty. But the “social justice” we hear about constantly in the media is not really about these things.

In his book Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, Scott Allen explains social justice is a political movement bent on dismantling or reordering societies with the goal of transferring power from those labeled “oppressors” to the “oppressed” or “victim classes.” Allen explains advocates of social justice “don’t demand power for victims so that justice might be addressed and other people served. They seek it so that the tables can be turned on the oppressors” (2020, p. 93).

Like the tolerance movement, social justice proponents generally have a secular worldview and espouse moral relativism, paving the way for the support of unbiblical causes. True justice is based on the law of God and is accomplished by living justly and rejecting what the Bible defines as evil. Rather than harboring grievances in order to claim victim status, we are to keep “no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5) and to love and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).

Human wisdom

Human wisdom or reasoning apart from God proliferates our society, popularized by secularist leaders seeking to solve humanity’s problems without God or the Bible. It seeks to understand our world, discover the meaning of existence and figure out how we should live, often only using information we can detect with our physical senses, and without acknowledging God and biblical truth.

Many of the ideas and values contemporary society accepts as truth and even venerates are not based on the proper fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; and 9:10). Our children will likely encounter this godless approach to reasoning at school in various classes, such as science or philosophy. We need to teach them how to detect and refute it.

Self-assertiveness

We live in a society that encourages people to “speak your mind.” People pride themselves on being bold, forthright and outspoken. For example: If someone says something on social media we don’t like, some believe it’s their prerogative to blast the person online. The basic motivation is to prove we’re right. The term often used to describe this behavior is self-assertiveness.

This wrong approach to self-assertiveness can lead to misunderstanding, strife, hurt feelings and even fear and intimidation for those on the receiving end. There is a right kind of assertiveness endorsed in the Bible which, rather than seeking to exalt oneself by putting others down, is a matter of having the courage to speak up to correct a lie or remedy a wrong in a respectful manner. It includes knowing when it’s appropriate to speak up and when it isn’t (Proverbs 26:4-5).

Ambition

There are also different types of ambition. The kind we often see in contemporary society is called ‘selfish ambition’ in the Bible. This is the desire for and pursuit of power and prestige for oneself at any cost, which can involve dishonesty, cheating, manipulation, backstabbing or ruthless competition. The goal is to be the smartest, best or most dominant.

Our children quickly pick up on this wrong approach and parents need to point it out to them. Many Bible passages warn against selfish ambition. It’s grouped with other works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20 and 2 Corinthians 12:20. In Philippians 2:3 we’re told to “let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.” Selfish ambition can cause us to sabotage our relationships, if we become discontent and unable to see what we have to be thankful for. We might also become threatened by the success of others, believing we appear as failures in comparison.

Godly ambition is an opposite mindset. It still involves a strong desire for achievement, but the aim is what God wants for us—to grow in character and biblical understanding and use the talents we’ve developed and any position we may have to serve Him and others. The intent is never to gratify ourselves or show we are better than someone else. Godly ambition recognizes character development. Overcoming and functioning by godly principles is more important than winning or being the best—unlike selfish ambition, where all that matters is being on top.

Materialism

Many believe the desire for material possessions has reached epidemic proportions in Western society. Advertising promotes the concept that having “more” or “what’s new” is the key to happiness. This constant message has a huge influence on young people in particular. Numerous studies have shown that for the majority of adolescents, getting rich is a major goal.

Excessive materialism also has a negative effect on families. Parents can get so busy making money to maintain their lifestyles that they sacrifice meaningful time with their children, who then absorb the distorted lesson that attaining wealth and material possessions is more important than relationships. While it’s nice to enjoy physical possessions, they are never more important than the “treasures in heaven” we should strive to store up (Matthew 6:20). Our relationship with God, learning about His way of life and building godly character, has eternal value.

Externalism

God is far more concerned with what’s in our hearts than our physical appearance. The Apostle Peter exhorts us, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Our modern society emphasizes just the opposite. Websites, TV, magazines, movies and television programs bombard us with images of models and entertainers with seemingly perfect faces and physiques. Even our children are aware the more attractive ones tend to be the most popular. The word for this is externalism, which is an excessive focus on, or even worship of, outward attractiveness.

Sometimes parents can inadvertently reinforce externalism. One mother admitted: “I was always complimenting my daughter for how pretty she looked, and then one day it dawned on me that I was hardly ever complimenting her for her good attitudes or behavior. I was actually teaching her that physical beauty, which she has no control over, was more important than moral choices, which she does have control over.”

Satan’s counterfeit values permeate, not only our world, but that of our children. We need to be aware of what they are exposed to—at school, in the media and in the books and magazines they read—so we can regularly talk with them about what they’re “learning.” As long as we remain aware of what’s going on in the world, we can help our children see the flaw in many societal values and steer them towards the true teachings and principles of God.