Living on the Third Level : Part One

Colossians 3:17

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Thus, he was telling us there are certain principles by which we should live.

Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard has led the way in research in moral education and development.  He found that a healthy mature person develops through three levels of moral thinking.

LEVEL ONE extends from birth to about age ten.  This is the totally self-centered stage.  All issues and choices are viewed in terms of personal physical or pleasurable results.  The rules of the game are:  If I am rewarded as I desire my conduct is good.  If I don’t get what I want then my actions are bad.

There are people who have not grown out of this stage.  Their motto is: “Do your own thing.”  They are totally self-centered egotists.  Interestingly psychologists have concluded there are three motivational factors in life. Which of these is yours?

Self-preservation. Self-gratification. Self-glorification.

Note, in each instance the use of the word “self.” What is in it for me?

LEVEL TWO, Dr. Kohlberg says, begins sometimes between age ten and fourteen.  At this stage persons consider others as well as self.  Choices are based on whether they please others or are they approved by others.  Peer pressure and idols exert an enormous influence.  The status quo becomes important.

There are people of all ages still hung up at this level.  “Everybody is doing it,” becomes the mandate for mediocrity.  “Chicken” is a game such a person can dare to lose even if they lose their life trying to win.

LEVEL THREE begins anytime after the late teens.  At this level one isn’t trying just to please self or others, but what matters is what is right.  Internal convictions become important.  Morality is based on principle not force as in level one or acceptance as in level two. Honesty is now based on values. 

Dr. Kohlberg estimates that only about 20% of adult Americans reach level three when a person chooses to do something because it is right in and of itself.

Living on level three is life’s most satisfying peek.

Job evidenced he lived there when in his hour of extreme pain he revealed he lived by principles when he said, “Yeah, though He slay me yet I will trust Him.”

David revealed he had moved to the third level by saying, “When I am afraid I will trust in Him.”

Joshua gave away his level of living by saying, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Martin Luther on trail for his life declared: “Here I stand, I can do nought else.”

William Penn spoke of level three when he said, “Right is right though all men be against it, and wrong it wrong though all men be for it.”

Candidly, on what level are you living consistently? Are there times you relapse into levels one or two? Our text defines level three living. “…whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus….”