Virtue and the Ragamuffin Man

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What motivated this essay was this: this very website contains the word “Virtue” in its name. To me, the classic virtues are incredibly important standards to live by. They make our world better, and to the extent that people are evil to one another, it is often because they lack these virtues. Here’s how Wikipedia lists them (CLICK HERE TO VIEW PAGE):

Virtues of self control

  • Temperance - self-control regarding pleasure

  • Good temper - self-control regarding anger

  • Ambition - self-control regarding one's goals

  • Curiosity - self-control regarding knowledge

  • Frugality (also Thrift) - self-control regarding the material lifestyle

  • Industry - self-control regarding play, recreation and entertainment

  • Contentment - self-control regarding one's possessions and the possessions of others; acknowledgement and satisfaction of reaching capacity

  • Continence - self-control regarding bodily functions

Virtues of self-efficacy

  • Courage - willingness to do the right thing in the face of danger, pain, significant harm or risk

  • Patience - ability to delay or wait for what is desired

  • Perseverance - courageous patience, integrity

  • Persistence -

Virtues of regard

  • Fair-mindedness - concern that all get their due (including oneself) in cooperative arrangements of mutual benefit

  • Tolerance - willingness to allow others to lead a life based on a certain set of beliefs differing from ones own

  • Truthfulness/Honesty - telling someone what you know to be true in the context of a direct inquiry

Virtues of respect

  • Respect - regard for the worth of others

  • Self respect - regard for the worth of oneself

  • Humility - respect for one's limitations

  • Social virtues: Politeness, Charisma, Unpretentiousness, Friendliness, Sportsmanship, Cleanliness

Virtues of kindness

  • Kindness - regard for those who are within an individual's ability to help

  • Generosity - giving to those in need

  • Forgiveness - willingness to overlook transgressions made against you

  • Compassion - empathy and understanding for the suffering of others

But as it turns out, the common virtues, while being very Biblical, aren’t enough for me….and I suspect they are not enough for God. If all we ever do is practice these virtues, our earthly lives will be better for it; our world will be better for it; we will be a balm to those around us; but, we will not go to heaven. The virtues by themselves are pure legalism. The virtues, practiced in the name of Jesus, are a step in the right direction. But confessing that we are unable to practice them effectively until we become absolutely dependent on God, in body, mind, and spirit…..THAT is what will save us. God responds to that, and he empowers us then to do the rest. And wherever and whenever we fail at the virtues, we are covered by God’s grace.

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