Christian Ethics in the Ancient Marketplace

There has been much dialogue as of late concerning the rights and privileges of individuals to receive products and services without undo discrimination and the right for businesses to withhold products and services with warranted concern on the usage of said merchandise. It contorts the adage, “the customer is always right.”

We are not always in control of how our products are used and any crafty person would know that Pinterest offers a wide variety of DIY projects repurposing things clearly intended for an entirely other use. Nor are we in control of who may have been used in the process of a product we receive and wether or not all those involved share our standards and beliefs.

There is also a protocol of discrimination not based on ethics as much as courtesy often found in the signs posted on storefront doors requiring the patrons to don shirts and shoes. It is found in the wallets of those behind the wheel who have passed the requirements to reduce the amount of risk and recklessness on the roads. Banks discriminate how much they will lend and at what percentage due to the assets and liabilities of their clients. Et cetera.

Currently some businesses in America are under attack because their personal convictions dictate their discriminations of those receiving their goods and services. We are outraged on both sides of the argument because those who are being judged as unacceptable for certain products and those who are being judged as too discriminatory in their practices.

Let us think of this from a time period where the Christian businessman was a minority. Let us ponder their response on the other side of the coin.

In the ancient heathen world much of society was not atheist but polytheistic. And much of the political and social world revolved around pagan worship and festivals. Imagine the most lucrative job options at the time. The money was in temples and the politicians knew they could take advantage of this as a profitable tax option with little backlash from the loyal temple worshippers. Government grants and private monies funded elaborate temple construction and on going uses. Perfumers, tailors, masons, oil makers and small flock herdsmen could find ample work and a steady income to supply incense, vestments, construction, lighting and sacrificial animals.

A tailor for a priest would have a tedious but well paid job in vestment work over the simple frocks for peasants. You may buy your wife a small vile of fragrance, but the temple would buy it by the vat. You could build a toll booth and be done in a week or work on a massive temple and be employed for years.

So you are a perfumer, tailor, mason, oil maker, or herdsman for instance. You become a follow of Jesus the Son of God and believe in the One True God and Father Almighty. Maybe you are a most talented tailor and have previously been employed to make luxurious garments for the temple staff. Now what are you to do? You belong to the local mason guild (the ancient union) and are contracted to build a temple to a pagan god. What if you refuse and lose your license? There is no social welfare programs and your family survives on your choices. There are not secular choices that are not sacred at the same time.

How many honorable people left their professions for the greater glory of following their Lord, Jesus? How many were scorned for their odd choice to only worship one god? How many had to take lower paying opportunities and immediate change in their revenues from loss of clientele and the chain reaction of other lost opportunities because all of a sudden you became a nice guy that was too hard to work with.

Socially, you couldn’t go to a wedding of a family member because it was in the temple or the banquet was in the temple with meat sacrificed to that god. How do you save face among friends and family? If you want to have a public gathering you cannot rent the local hall or attend college enrichment courses in your trade because the only halls for that were in temple complexes and the dues and anything used in the facility went to their coffers. The local gym was off limits and so was much of the available public entertainment.

To be a Christian was a lonely enterprise. Today we speak of such a small discrimination in comparison to our early brethren. To take a stand with convictions demands perseverance. Those who were on the fringes became center stage. But now it seems the bottom of the wheel is making its way to the top. Remember the revolution of life and in it find compassion and conviction using discrimination wisely even if you find discrimination used against you wickedly.

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