An Answer by D. Thomas Porter

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Of course the question is to challenge the perfection of the Lord God, in this case Jesus the Christ. But this incident tells us so much more about the nature of the Lord God.

My take on the question? Whenever Trinity gets an opportunity to bless/glorify/praise another One within Trinity, he/she does so. Jesus the Christ was deferring praise and pointing to the Father as Good. His motive was to glorify the Lord God the Father, and the results were to teach the nature of goodness lies not in just "doing."  Motive and results must always be ascertained to estimate the goodness, morality, ethicality or righteousness of a given act.

In my case, I viewed this question as an example of ethical assessment without examining motive, context, or the person(s) in question. We love to say something is "good" or "bad" too often too easily. Consider for example:

  1. Pre-marital sex is sinful. Consider any unmarried woman, or child, who's been raped. It was pre-marital. It was sex (assault of course), but it was nonetheless "pre-marital."  Ironically, even to this day, we attribute such an act as "spoiling" the victim. We do not cast negative attributions to victims of muggings, theft or murder. Is it because down deep we blame the victim, especially when it comes to sexual assault? We human beings are an odd species.
  2. Giving to a holy cause is good. If the motive is to engender the appreciation of others rather than the Holy One, it is not only not automatically righteous, one could argue the act is evil. The Christ declared such a person "already has their reward."  Yet we persist to give too often for the wrong motives--IRS, guilt reduction, praise. We human beings are an odd species.
  3. Drinking alcohol is always wrong. Yet, we're taught to cause someone to "go astray" because they associate alcohol consumption with unrighteousness makes drinking alcohol, especially publicly, wrong/sinful/unethical/evil.  And what about getting drunk? Even when you've lost Mary Ellen? Or, finally got out of the ark?  Escaping reality is a common human tendency, especially death. Even the Christ was led into the wilderness to escape reality--40 days of health harming isolation. We human beings are an odd species.
  4. Lying is always sinful. In this case, the Christ sought to glorify the Father rather than Himself. Lying to glorify the Lord God is not wrong/sinful/unethical/evil. The misdirection of God's armies in the promised land was righteous. The lying by members of the CIA to protect us, the constitution, and our families is not wrong/sinful/unethical/evil. Like all acts, one must ascertain a righteous motive, righteous behavior, and a righteous outcome to call said act good/righteous/ethical/moral.  The problem we humans have is that we want to lie, not for good/righteous/ethical/moral reasons, but to protect ourselves from blame. Not for good/righteous/ethical/moral reasons, but to cast guilt to others. Not for good/righteous/ethical/moral reasons, but to obtain a result that benefits us or our "righteous" cause (capitalism, liberalism, justice, etc.). Yet, our propensity to lie is one of the first signs of sentience. We human beings are an odd species.
  5. Attributing an act as possessing inherent goodness/righteousness/ethicality/morality is idolatry.  When we believe we fully understand motive, even within ourselves, we can easily judge acts as immoral or moral. When we believe we fully understand an act's results, we can easily judge acts as immoral or moral.  Yet, knowing the motive and results (along with the behavior of the act) is absolutely critical in assessing whether a given act is good/righteous/ethical/moral. 

    But idolatry, you ask? James said it well (James 4:12) "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?" 

    I can think of no greater harm to the cause of the Christ than for us to pretend we are the Judge, that we fully understand the spiritual inner workings of "motive," or the omniscient impact of "results." He is Judge, and He alone. We human beings are indeed an odd species.

Remember: We don't promise an answer, but we'll try our best to give you our best shot. Sometimes, the best questions are those which raise doubt or leave us wondering even more.