Obligatory behaviour is a Christian value


WE ARE OFTEN OBLIGED TO ACT in ways which are not directly or materially beneficial, but are morally and socially desirable behaviours. Many of them can be traced to long-held values derived from a variety of sources.

One of them is derived from the notion held in European tradition that noble ancestry requires honourable behaviour; [and] privilege demands responsibility. Broadly they can be grouped as noblesse oblige. With wealth, power and prestige, come responsibilities. This is what distinguished the nobleman from the common peasants.

Another is the notion derived from Confucian teachings of the jun-zi (君子)
– the strict behaviour of the “superior man”, the “noble person”, worthy to be followed as a model of ritual propriety and appropriate conduct. The ruler is encouraged to be good and to govern properly and hence be a model for his people, yet continuing to be modest about all this.

We then come to what Scripture teaches us, when Jesus says, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48). We are thus reminded that obligatory behaviour is very much a Christian value.

Although it appears to be related to wealth and earthly goods received in abundance, hence the obligation to give more, we can also think of a person endowed with unmerited gifts not related to wealth that call for appropriate behavioural adjustment. It is possible to cite intelligence, artistic talent, physical and mental well-being as being God-given. Is there an obligation on those who enjoy these gifts to show their gratitude by serving the less well-endowed?

There is a strong case for those who are physically and mentally more generously endowed to help those who are less fortunate, although how and what help is forthcoming is a question that ought to engage us and to encourage us to think and act.

Perhaps participating in the Methodist Church’s 125th anniversary scheme to aid the chronically poor this year is the first step.