Most of my thoughts about ancient Egypt have been shaped, not by history, but by its representation on the big screen. The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra, Stargate, The Mummy Returns, X-Men: Apocalypse and an episode of G.I. Joe have done more to inform my idea of ancient Egypt than any book ever could.
So when I read the book of Exodus, I don’t really have a realistic image of what life would have been like in Egypt so long ago. I imagine the Israelites as slaves and the Egyptians living some kind of extravagant life. However, those images are always interrupted by thoughts of Yul Brenner, Brendan Fraser or giant aliens wearing giant Anubis heads. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on the story of God rescuing his people when I’m too busy thinking about Apocalypse using the Israelites to build the pyramids.
Even with all of those ridiculous images running through my head, though, I still managed to take something away from a recent reading of Exodus. The situation is pretty dire for God’s people at the beginning of Exodus. They’re forced into slavery and Pharaoh does everything he can to murder all the newborn Israelite boys.
Pharaoh’s first plan involved telling the Hebrew midwives to kill any baby boys that were born. The Bible tells us that the midwives feared God and resolved not to kill any babies. They didn’t know how Pharaoh would respond or if he would accept their excuse, but they still chose to do the right thing. The Bible also tells us that God blessed these women for their decision and they had families of their own.
When they made the decision not to kill the baby boys, though, the midwives didn’t know that God was going to bless them. They didn’t know if Pharaoh would get angry and have them killed. They didn’t know anything. Regardless, though, they did what was right just because it was the right thing to do. If I had known that Pharaoh wouldn’t kill me and that God would bless me, then I probably would have been first in line to do the right thing. Without that knowledge, though, these women did the right thing just because.
How often do we do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do? We’re trained from a young age to do the right thing because we’ll get a reward.
If we eat our vegetables then we can have dessert.
If we give the right answer in class then the teacher will commend us.
If we take our wives their lunch that they forgot they might be more willing to let us play video games.
We live in a reward-based system, from interpersonal relationships to why we go to work. God doesn’t necessarily work inside that system, though. He says that he’ll bless us if we live our lives according to his will, but sometimes that blessing isn’t as immediate as dessert. Sometimes that blessing isn’t even as immediate as what the midwives got. Sometimes the blessing from God for doing the right thing is simply knowing that we did the right thing. God encourages us to do the right thing just because, and then trust that our lives will be better for it.
Doing the right thing just because sounds like a great idea when reading the Bible or writing a blog post. When the opportunity comes, though, to do the right thing we don’t always do it. Often the temptation of what we know is wrong offers a much more immediate reward. God tells us that he’ll bless us, but doing what we know is wrong will meet some immediate need, if only momentarily.
So I want to have the same attitude as the Hebrew midwives. Even though their very lives could have been in danger, they chose to do the right thing. They didn’t know that God was going to bless them, but they did the right thing just because. We’re presented countless opportunities every day to do the right thing, hopefully we can follow their example and do the right thing just because.
What helps you choose to do the right thing?