The nature versus nurture debate in psychology questions whether our behavior is inherited or learned. Do we behave the way we do because we have been wired to think and act a certain way from birth? Or is our behavior a result of a combination of learning and environment. Many feel both play a role.
Holiness is another matter. Moral ideas and some moral practices may be learned. Our nature may make us more inclined to certain kinds of responses. But true holiness only comes from a work of God. It begins with God’s declaration that those who are “in Christ” are righteous. That gift is worked into our life and behavior as we learn from God’s Word and are empowered by His Spirit.
The closing verses of Zechariah describe what life will be like during the Millennium. It is proof that a perfect environment and good teaching do not guarantee belief. During the millennial period, there will be some who will reject the Messiah’s rule (vv. 16–18). A more comprehensive transformation must still take place. It is not spoken of by Zechariah but is described in Revelation (Rev. 21–22).
The reign of Jerusalem’s Messianic king will be unlike any other period in human history. Holiness will be this kingdom’s predominant feature. Ordinary life, even down to the cooking utensils, will be lived in a way that honors God (vv. 20–21). The mention of the Canaanites at the end of verse 21 may be symbolic rather than ethnic. It could be pointing to the absence of idolatry in the kingdom. However, some scholars point out that the literal meaning of the word is “trader.” They suggest it signifies purity of life and motives. Either way, the message is the same. Holiness will be the order of the day.
How should we respond to the message of Zechariah? Its promises are for the future, but its teaching on how to live is for today. Holiness does not have to wait for the Millennium. As 2 Peter 3:14 urges, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”