Hello reader! This post is the second in our series from the characteristics of Christians in II Peter 1:5-7. The first element given in this list in faith (you can read that post here). Faith is the foundation from which we build everything. Once we have the knowledge of God and trust in it, the next logical step is to act on it. That is where virtue comes in.
What it Is
Virtue has several synonyms given in Strong’s concordance: moral excellence, perfection, a gracious act, uprightness. The word virtue is found very few times in the Bible, but there is substantial discussion about this trait.
Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his deeds, Whether what he does is pure and right.” Virtue is basically doing the right thing. There is a little more to it than that, though. It is doing the right thing because it is right, whether anyone will know or not. We learn in Ecclesiastes 12:14 “For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” God doesn’t just care about what we do in front of people. He cares about who we are when it is just us and Him.
Take the classic example of finding a hundred dollar bill in the parking lot of the grocery store. There isn’t anybody around, so you can’t easily find the owner. What do you do? You could keep it, or you could take it inside the store and turn it in so that the rightful owner has a chance to get it back.
Here’s another one. You’re home alone wrangling your dog and four cats. (Okay, maybe not all of you have this situation, but take it from somebody who does, it can sure test your faith.) Let’s say Cat 1 and Cat 2 are chasing each other wildly around the living room and knock over a glass of chocolate milk. Dog gets excited and starts to drink it, but because he isn’t supposed to consume chocolate, you are trying to keep him out of it and clean it up at the same time.
In your haste to get the kitchen towel, you meet the corner of the end table between the third and fourth toes of your left foot. Now, you have a couple choices. You can hold your foot, hop up and down in circles, and tell your animals how much you love them, or you can release that string of questionable language you heard the other day when you were standing in the parking lot deciding to take the hundred dollar bill to the service desk. Human nature would be to let the language fly. Virtue would be to not think it and to certainly not speak it.
What it Does
So, as we just talked about, virtue means you do what is good and avoid what is bad. What else does it do? Glad you asked. Proverbs 16:17 says, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who keeps his way preserves his soul.” Part of having virtue is actively choosing the road that will keep you away from sin. If there are people or situations in your life that are causing you to slip, then avoid them when you can.
Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.” Not only does virtue keep us from sinning, it can help us to know what to do. During school for physical therapy, one of our classes dealt with ethics. A couple of the ways they gave us to know whether something is right or not is if we would want it on the front page of the newspaper and whether we would want our mother to know. Virtue in practice will tell you whether something is right or not.
How we Get It
To have virtue is to practice it. One example is in Job 1:1: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Having fear and respect for God helps keep us from sin. I Kings 9:4 says, “Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments.”
Seeking God and pursuing a life that will please him will help us to avoid sin. Think of the people you would classify as virtuous or upright. There are certain things you expect them to do just as there are things you would be shocked by them doing. That’s the kind of person a Christian should be: one who is recognized as being morally excellent in a crowd or at home alone with a dog and four cats.
May the Lord bless and keep you,