A Question of Ethics

The year was 1860 and a giant crowd was watching the famous tightrope
artist, Blondin, cross Niagara Falls. A thick, 1000 foot long cable had
been stretched from one side to the other, almost 200 feet above the
raging waters. One misstep meant certain death. Blondin had crossed it
many times; he had also pushed a wheelbarrow across it.

One day, a young lad stood at the front of the crowd, gazing in wide-
eyed amazement at the man who had just completed a crossing. Looking at
the lad, Blondin asked, “Son, do you believe I could take a person
across in this here wheelbarrow without falling?” “Yes, sir, I really
do,” replied the boy. To which Blondin responded, “Well, then, get in,

It is important that we ask not only, what do we believe' but also,how strongly do we believe it?’ I’m not so much talking about what you
think or feel. I’m talking about `ultimate truth,’ the kind of truth
that can change a life and cause people to risk their lives for
something greater than themselves. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth
and the truth shall set you free.” Yet today, on every hand we see
people bound by sin and perversion. As you look into the eyes of the
drunkard who has wasted their life or adulterer who has lost his
family, you see a heart without hope. They are anything but free. Sin
has exacted a heavy toll.

Today people resist the idea of `ultimate truth.’ They question the
validity of the Word of God and ridicule those who embrace its
teachings. According to a recent poll by researcher George Barna, 60%
of Americans believe the devil is only a symbol for evil, not a living
being; and only 42 % believe in a literal hell. Yet during His earthly
ministry Jesus spoke more of hell than he did of heaven and taught more
about the devil than he did of angels.

Several years ago, Forbes magazine printed an article in which they
tried to, look behind the sour moroseness of the media and seek a more
profound explanation for the prevailing angst.' They asked eleven top
scholars to write a short essay on the question,
Why do Americans feel
so bad when they’ve got it so good?’

Although the answers were varied, most came to a common conclusion.
America’s depression lay not with unemployment or the national debt or
escalating crime. But the root of their angst could be found in the
moral and cultural bankruptcy into which society has fallen. One of the
writers, historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, put it this way: “I am not
talking about psychobabble. I’m talking of the justified discontent of
the responsible citizen who discovers that economic and material goods
are no compensation for the social and moral ills of today.” In other
words, we have a bankruptcy of ethics.

America has lost track of who they are and what they believe in. Ethics
are necessary for our self-identify. If our only purpose is self-
gratification and material gain, than who I am becomes less important
than `what I have and what I feel.’

Ethics can be defined as, `the study of moral standards and how they
effect human conduct.’ It explains why we believe something is right or

To understand Christian ethics and its importance to our spiritual
walk, we must understand that there are two views of ethics, both
diametrically opposed to each other. One is called `ethical and moral
relativism.’ It teaches that right and wrong changes according to one’s
circumstances; that for every rule there are exceptions to the rule.
Everything is relative, and since there is no way to prove whether
something is always right or wrong, it is best not to judge. The
foundation of this view lies in Hedonism, which is also the foundation
of Secular Humanism. Good is defined as whatever provides the greatest
amount of pleasure and happiness for the greatest number of people.

The second view is called ethical and moral absolutism.' This view
holds that there are eternal moral values and principles that can be
applied to everyone everywhere. There is an
ultimate truth’ that never
changes. It is the view of those who believe in the Word of God. Right
and wrong are defined by the Bible, which is God’s standard of ultimate

Christian ethics is more than just a list of do’s and don’ts. Jesus
taught that morality extends beyond the rules of the Levitical law. He
taught that not only is it wrong to murder your brother, but that
hating your brother is wrong as well, not merely adultery, but thoughts
of adultery are wrong too. God’s Word goes on to define moral absolutes
for various conditions of the heart, including love, mercy, honesty,
unity, justice, integrity, honor, humility, compassion, and many

Every day we are faced with ethical and moral choices. Every time we
pick up a magazine or newspaper we read of another attack on God’s
moral values. And not just in the secular world, but ethical relativism
is finding its way into the church as well.

Recently we have read of a prominent Christian leader that was exposed
as a crook and an adulterer, a major Christian denomination goes on
record supporting the election of a gay bishop, a well known Christian
leader declares his support of a woman’s right to abortion, and even
more shocking: a popular Christian writer and pastor leaves his wife
and children and runs off with another woman. He then has the audacity
to write a book to justify it.

On the broader front, we see nearly as many marriages of Christians end
in divorce as those of non Christians, and sadly, most Christian
denominations today permit divorce for reasons other than adultery when
Jesus clearly taught against it. Why is this happening? Moral
relativism. Of course, Christians have always been subject to the same
sins and vices as the world. But we have always known these sins were
wrong. It’s different today. Now we see many who no longer seem to know
what is right and wrong or even how to tell the difference.

Paul warned the Colossians, “Beware lest any man spoil you through
philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the
rudiments of the world and not after Christ (2:8).

Today we see happening, the deceitful, vain (appealing to the flesh)
philosophy of your okay, m okay’ relativism is destroying our ability
to see what is clearly spelled out in God’s Word. They attempt to twist
or `wrest … the scriptures unto their own destruction’ (2 Pet. 3:16)

Several years ago a survey was conducted to determine what people most
wanted out of life. There were six things that stood far above the
rest: health, integrity, one marriage, a clear life purpose, a
satisfying sex life, and close friends. I find it interesting that
everything listed can be provided by applying the basic ethics and
values of God’s Word. It is also abundantly clear that the moral
relativism of `if it feels good, do it’ will lead ultimately to the
destruction of the entire list.

Solomon said in Proverbs 10:9, “He that walketh uprightly (ie: with
integrity) walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be
known (ie: be found out). Christian ethics is about integrating God’s
values into the way we live our everyday lives. You see, integrity
matters; honesty matters; the truth matters. God expects us to keep our
promises. He expects our conduct to be consistent with our convictions.

The psalmist David wrote, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who
shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh
righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth
not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a
reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is
condemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to
his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to
usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these
things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15)

So how about you? Are you a person of integrity? Do you ever hedge the
truth? Do you find yourself occasionally telling little white lies?'
How about your taxes? Are you honest in all aspects? Or how about,
sorry; I can’t come to work today. I’m not feeling well.’ Or `Sure
they’re under eleven. We get the kids price don’t we?’

We must be constantly vigilant to live our lives in an ethical, moral
way. Do you strive to walk blameless? Or do you sometimes catch
yourself stretching the truth; cutting corners on your expense report;
reporting more hours than you actually worked? Do you pay your debts?
Can you be trusted? Is your conversation clean? Do you make promises
you can’t keep? Are you honest? Do you walk in holiness?

The list can go on. Abraham Lincoln said, “Integrity is what you are
when no one is looking.” We must continually remind ourselves that God
is always looking.

The good news is that God desires to renew our hearts, restore our
souls and forgive us our shortcomings. If we have lived less than
uprightly before God, He stands ready to forgive us and restore us to a
place of moral and ethical purity. Jesus speaks to us all when he said,
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John
8:33). Why Christian ethics? Because freedom is worth everything.