Beware Moralism in Your Teaching and Counsel

A Tendency Toward Pragmatism
There is an obvious tendency toward using what works. However, this is not necessarily a healthy outlook in relationship, including our spiritual journey. For example, maybe I am struggling in my engagement with the word – its dry, its lifeless, my heart feels unpliable. We often seek a method to re-light the fire, so to speak. What will make the word come alive? Maybe I should try that study my friend was speaking about….That is pragmatism in action: “What can I do to make my life work?”

Moralism in the Pulpit
It is a rarity for me to leave a Sunday service without having heard an exhortation to go out and do something. I just need to be more focused, more determined, try harder next time. And so I ask God for his help and go back at it again. This sort of moralistic thinking is rampid in the evangelical world. Yes, there are imperatives in our faith journey – obedience, love, service, etc. But those imperatives are a natural overflow of a vibrant love-relationship. Self-determination does not bring life change beyond mere behavioralism.

Pragmatic moralism is a real killer. Avoid it like the plague that it is.

Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
God is not pensively waiting for us to do life better with more focus and determination. This is not his greatest desire for us. It is not what he is inviting us to. What is our God’s greater invitation?

He is always wooing us, inviting us, drawing us deeper into himself. His greatest desire is that we are hearing and receptive to his invitation deeper into communion.

As I said, determination does not lead to life change. Love transforms. Love is a Person. Grace is not an objective commodity that is passed around. We do not “plug into” God so we can do more stuff for him. Grace is a Person. We are invited deeper into Jesus. His life will overflow in ours. We will experience a growing desire to obey him and serve others – not out of trying harder, but rather as a Jesus-sourced desire.

It’s all about relationship.

My Life First, My Shepherding Second
As I am responsive to the Spirit’s constant invitation to enter into the eternal communion of the Father and the Son, that reality will cascade out of my life to others. My teaching will shift from emphasizing how hard we must work at our spiritual life (moralism) toward emphasizing a relational responsiveness to God who will bring the changes in our lives in time (relational-transformation).

So how is God inviting you deeper into abiding communion with Christ? How is He overflowing in your life? Where is the Spirit inviting you to grow in faith, hope and love? How are you responding to him to allow him to shape as he likes, when he likes? Relationship is the bedrock of each of these questions. Focus on Jesus. He is our Life, our ministry to others, our all.

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2 Responses to Beware Moralism in Your Teaching and Counsel

  1. Alex Araujo says:

    Hi Scott, thank you for this alert concerning “what works”. I too live under this pressure. One thought that offers promise to me is that we are members of God’s household (Eph.2). Can that mean that I can find help to seek relationship with God in my faith community? (I don’t mean the gathering of people on Sunday morning to do “church”, but the people with whom I share life as Christ follower). It comes to mind what John says in 1 John 1:1-3: that we may have fellowship with one another and with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Just as in a healthy family, Father and his children share life in the household. The challenge often comes when the family culture is that of pragmatism, so that instead of helping me to fellowship with the Father and Son, it places barriers to it. Perhaps the call to me as an individual needs to be teamed up with the call to my community of faith as well?


    • Scott S says:


      You have stated this wonderfully. Not only are we invited into fellowship with the Father and Son by the Spirit, we are invited into fellowship (community) with one another by that same Spirit.

      And yes, it can be a little frustrating when others speak a pragmatic vocabulary. Yet, we can lean in and be present to God and them.

      Well said and thanks for the comment.



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