Christian Biblical Counsel: ETHICS & INTEGRITY

Ethics & Integrity

The Same in the Dark as in the Light

by June Hunt

The CEO lines his pockets at his stockholders’ expense. The politician commits to promises he has no plans of keeping. The student “borrows” answers in order to pass the test. The minister commits adultery in the name of “unmet needs.” The driver exceeds the limit—he thinks he won’t be caught. The lawyer overbills his client in order to pad his income. And the list goes on.

If you were to ask people, “Do you consider yourself a person of integrity?” almost everyone would answer yes, including those just mentioned. Yet those with real integrity are the same in the dark as in the light. The Lord loves to honor those with a heart like His … those who are right in His sight. For He says,

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

(Luke 16:10)

I.     Definitions

A. How Can Integrity Be Identified?

•     The Greek words aletheia and alethes are translated “integrity” in the New Testament and mean “truth or the state of being true.” Jesus is referred to as a man of integrity because He lived wholly in accordance with God’s complete truth.

“They came to him and said, ‘Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.’ ” (Mark 12:14)

•     The Old Testament Hebrew word for integrity is tom, from the verb tamam, which means “to be complete, to finish.”

“Righteousness guards the man of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.” (Proverbs 13:6)

•     A person of moral integrity is the same in the dark as in the light.

—  not double-minded with contradictory thoughts, words and actions

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13)

—  not pretending to have virtues or qualities that are really not present in the heart (hypocrisy)

“In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:28)

—  not focusing on temporal gain but on growing in godly character (Psalm 15)

•     A person of moral integrity is one who …

—  does what is righteous

—  speaks the truth in love

—  does not falsely accuse another

—  does not harm a neighbor

—  does not gossip

—  despises evil men

—  honors those who love the Lord

—  keeps his or her word

—  lends money without gain

—  does not accept bribes

•     To have moral integrity is to be undivided and consistent in your mind, will and emotions regarding what is right and wrong.

—  An undivided mind … Your eyes are focused on the right values.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22)

—  An undivided will … Your actions are serving only one master.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

—  An undivided heart … Your passions are for godliness and not for worldly pleasure.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

(Proverbs 10:9)

B. How Can Ethics Be Explained?

•     Ethics (used as singular or plural) is a standard of moral principles that determine what is right or wrong for individual or group behavior.

“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8)

•     The word ethic comes from the Greek word ethikos, which at the root means “moral character.”

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” (Proverbs 12:4)

•     In philosophy, ethics is the study of various systems of right and wrong conduct. It examines good and bad motives, judgments and consequences.

“Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live.” (Psalm 119:144)

The Five Systems of Ethics

#1. Cultural ethics      Morals are determined by popular opinion.

#2. Situation ethics     Morals are determined by what appears to be most loving.

#3. Emotive ethics      Morals do not exist; judgments of right or wrong are not valid because feelings are neither right nor wrong.

#4. Behavioral ethics  Morals do not exist; all human conduct is the result of genetic makeup or environment.

#5. Biblical ethics       Morals are determined by the Bible, the unchanging Word of God.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

(Colossians 2:8)

C. The Biblical Mandate for Morality

•     The Bible indicates that everyone has moral responsibility because everyone has been created in God’s image.

“In the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

•     The Bible explains that even nonreligious people have God’s moral law written on their hearts.

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” (Romans 2:14–15)

•     The Bible describes sin as the source of moral failure.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

•     The Bible states the moral principles that God requires of everyone. (Read Exodus 20:1–17.)

•     The Bible emphasizes moral integrity over rules of conduct.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28)

•     The Bible exhorts Christians to allow God’s moral character to be displayed through them.

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:15–16)

•     The Bible shows how temporary moral decisions have eternal consequences.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

•     The Bible reveals Jesus Christ as the answer for moral failure.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24)

 

II.    Characteristics

As one predaceous animal attacks another, a ferocious battle ensues, and the territorial dispute is decided. It’s the survival of the fittest. But what about human behavior?

Are decisions based on prowess and power, or is right and wrong determined by a standard of ethical beliefs? All people conform to some theory or system of moral values, and these principles of conduct will govern their behavior. God places His highest value on human life. If you make decisions based on any other values, you are living by the law of the jungle!

A. A Picture of Ethical Principles

Many Christians consider thieves, liars and cheaters to be people who lack integrity. However, as strange as it may sound, people can lie, cheat and steal, even rape and murder, and still think they have integrity as long as they are being true to their own ethical system … being the same in the dark as they are in the light. That is why having an understanding of the five ethical systems can be invaluable in understanding human behavior.

“They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.”

(Psalm 95:10)

Exploring Five Ethical Systems

#1.   Cultural Ethics

 

Cultural   Relativism

 

     Highest Value:

 

The Majority   Rule

 

     What Determines Right or Wrong?

 

Moral   standards are determined by the majority of opinions within a given culture.   We are autonomous, without special revelation, which means that God has not   revealed conclusive, authoritative truth on which we should act. An   example would be the abortion issue.

 

     Basis of Belief:

 

Belief that   moral reasoning is only the result of parental training, peer pressure and   social mores.

 

     Moral Accountability:

 

People are   self-governing but morally accountable to society.

 

     Complaint about Christianity:

 

Christians are   insensitive to cross-cultural differences.

 

     Problem with the Premise:

 

No universal   moral absolutes exist. At any time, any culture can declare anything right or   wrong.

 

     Illustration:

 

Hitler’s   holocaust had official German sanction because the cultural relativists   determined what was “right for society.”

 

     Conclusion:

 

Society can be   wrong. Truth can be determined only by God’s moral laws.

 

     Scripture:

 

Romans 12:2;   Acts 5:29

“Do not   conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the   renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s   will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

“Peter and the   other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’ ” (Acts   5:29)

 

     Christian Calling:

 

Christians are   called to be instruments of change in a fallen world.

 

#2.   Situation Ethics

 

Utilitarianism

 

     Highest Value:

 

The Love   Principle

 

     What Determines Right or Wrong?

 

Moral   standards are determined by what is considered the greatest good or most   loving in a given situation.

 

     Basis of Belief:

 

Belief in the   importance of freedom for individual choices for making moral decisions.

 

     Moral Accountability:

 

People are   self-governing and morally independent.

 

    Complaint about Christianity:

 

Christians   have a blind, unthinking obedience to impersonal laws. Christians are more   concerned about the law [of God] than they are about people. Law and love are   often at odds.

 

    Problem with the Premise:

 

There are no   moral absolutes. Decisions are made on assumed consequences instead of on   eternal principles. No criteria exist to define love.

 

     Illustration:

 

To kill an   unborn child who may be deformed is acceptable.

 

     Conclusion:

 

God’s ways are   not our ways. We show love best by following God’s will.

 

     Scripture:

 

Isaiah 55:8; 1   John 5:2

“ ‘For my   thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

“This is how   we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his   commands.” (1 John 5:2)

 

     Christian Calling:

 

Christians are   called to exhibit the love of God through personal sacrifice.

 

#3.   Emotive Ethics

 

Existentialism,   Emotivism

 

     Highest Value:

 

The Focus on   Feelings

 

     What Determines Right or Wrong?

 

Actions are   determined by personal preference—whatever “feels good” is acceptable.

 

     Basis of Belief:

 

Belief that   moral decisions are simply an expression of personal feelings, which are   neither good nor bad.

 

     Moral Accountability:

 

People have   free choice because there are no standards by which to judge accountability.

 

     Complaint about Christianity:

 

Christians   cannot make moral judgments on facts because morality is based on individual   feelings.

 

•     Problem   with the Premise:

 

Human   selfishness is allowed full reign as ethical judgments become immune to   reason. No criteria exist to judge any act or fact.

 

•     Illustration:

 

To say, “Rape   is wrong,” is not a legitimate statement. All that is being said is, “I don’t   like rape.”

 

•     Conclusion:

 

Emotions are   not a dependable guide for actions. God does set limits on human behavior.

 

•     Scripture:

 

Jeremiah 17:9;   Colossians 3:8–10

“The heart is   deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah   17:9)

“But now you   must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice,   slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since   you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new   self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”   (Colossians 3:8–10)

 

•     Christian   Calling:

 

Christians are   called to maintain integrity by living according to Biblical principles.

 

#4.   Behavioral Ethics

 

Behaviorism

 

•     Highest   Value:

 

The Animal   Instinct

 

•     What   Determines Right or Wrong?

 

All behavior   is determined by heredity or environment, by whatever the genes dictate   (sociobiology).

 

•     Basis   of Belief:

 

Belief that a   human is only physical matter, lacking a spiritual dimension to choose right   or wrong. There is no God. Matter is all that exists.

 

•     Moral   Accountability:

 

People are   programmed machines, lacking the capacity for personal reasoning.

 

•     Complaint   about Christianity:

 

Christians   demand moral accountability though people are not responsible for their   behavior. Christians are wrong to tell people to choose when they have no   ability to choose.

 

•     Problem   with the Premise:

 

Without   morality, there is no criteria to condemn cruelty. The “law of the jungle”   prevails.

 

•     Illustration:

 

Lee Harvey   Oswald was not wrong when he killed President Kennedy because he was   “programmed” to murder.

 

•     Conclusion:

 

God has   revealed His laws to all human hearts and has given us a free will to choose   our behavior.

 

•     Scripture:

 

Romans   2:14–15; Joshua 24:15

“Indeed, when   Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law,   they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since   they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their   consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even   defending them.” (Romans 2:14–15)

“If serving   the Lord seems undesirable to   you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the   gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites,   in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve   the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

 

•     Christian   Calling:

 

Christians are   called to develop integrity through their personal choices.

 

#5.   Biblical Ethics

 

Christianity

 

•     Highest   Value:

 

The Character   of God

 

•     What   Determines Right or Wrong?

 

Moral   absolutes are universal, unchangeable and determined by the revealed will of   God.

 

•     Basis   of Belief:

 

Belief that   moral reasoning should be based on God’s moral principles as revealed in   Scripture.

 

•     Moral   Accountability:

 

People are   created in the image of God and will be held morally accountable by their   Creator.

 

•     Complaint   about Christianity:

 

Because   Christianity is a perfect balance of law and love, the tendency is to get out   of balance.

 

•     Problem   with the Premise:

 

Confusion   develops over the difference between legalism and obedience. Legalism   focuses on personal effort to obey. Obedience submits to the life   of Christ within the believer as the power to live out the character   of Christ.

 

•     Illustration:

 

A Christian   refuses to lie, even it if brings personal condemnation or persecution.

 

•     Conclusion:

 

Christianity   is Christ living His life through a person to reveal God’s character and to   keep His moral laws.

 

•     Scripture:

 

Galatians   2:20; Colossians 1:27

“I have been   crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life   I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave   himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“To them God   has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this   mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

 

•     Christian   Calling:

 

Christians are   called to reflect the character of God to an unbelieving world.

 

B. A Man of Morality

Daniel 6:1–24

The Den of Integrity

Imagine being taken captive by an enemy … removed from your country and culture … pressed to compromise your convictions. What would you do if the threat of death were over your head? This was the plight of Daniel, who as a youth was separated from his family and friends in Jerusalem and sent to serve in the Babylonian court.

The story of Daniel is a testimony to integrity and to God’s supernatural protection for those who have the courage to separate from moral compromise. Daniel’s character was so exceptional that he was eventually placed in charge of the whole kingdom, even though his personal devotion to his own God was unswerving. What a compliment to Daniel’s wisdom and faithfulness!

Lurking in the shadows were jealous officials who sought to discredit Daniel, but they could find no grounds on which to condemn him because of his excellent conduct. They quickly discovered he was incorruptible, displaying only honesty and faithfulness.

These enemies eventually persuaded King Darius to issue a decree forbidding worship, knowing Daniel’s loyalty to the Lord and commitment to prayer. Against his wishes, the sorrowful King was then forced to arrest Daniel and throw him into a den of lions, thus sealing his fate. Yet, the God of Daniel proved His faithfulness. Daniel was delivered because he maintained his integrity—he trusted in God!

 

III.   Surface Causes for Lack of Integrity

A. Ethics

Can you remember taking a certain bike ride you later came to regret? Your heart began racing … beating faster and faster on the treacherous decline, picking up such speed—you couldn’t help but crash! Oh, if only there had been a warning sign. Your first sign of moral decline is when you fail to yield to the warning signs in the Word of God. If your moral decisions are based only on human reasoning … inevitably you will crash. God generously gives you freedom to make decisions, and His heart’s desire is that you choose the higher road to moral virtue.

“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”

(Psalm 119:104)

Cultural Ethics

•     Making decisions based on popular opinion

—  Have your values been swayed because of the belief that “everyone is doing it”?

Example:

Engaging in sexual immorality

—  Have you gone along with the crowd, doing something against your conscience that you would never do on your own?

Example:

Discriminating against someone who is socially different

—  Have you looked for loopholes in the law or workplace to justify financial gain?

Example:

Charging a dinner, at which you mention your work, to your expense account, yet the real reason for getting together is clearly personal

—  Have you spent excessive money or time in an attempt to gain recognition and acceptance?

Example:

Depriving your loved ones by spending excessive time at work and excessive money on status symbols

Situation Ethics

•     Making decisions based on what seems good for the moment

—  Have you lied to protect another person’s feelings or desires?

Example:

Answering the phone and saying he or she is not home when in reality that person is there

—  Have you permitted a bad situation to continue because you didn’t want someone overbearing or irresponsible to get upset?

Example:

Failing to confront a friend who is dishonest for fear of angry retaliation

—  Have you felt justified taking items without asking permission because you felt you really needed them?

Example:

Taking stamps and supplies from work or food from your parent’s home

—  Have you encouraged someone to do something that violates the Word of God because it seemed the most loving thing to do?

Example:

Encouraging revenge, abortion, euthanasia or divorce where no Biblical grounds exist

Emotive Ethics

•     Making decisions based solely on your feelings

—  Have you thought, This can’t be wrong because it feels so right?

Example:

Compromising yourself sexually because your desire was too strong to stop

—  Have you felt it was necessary to vent all your feelings?

Example:

Justifying, spewing anger on others because it felt good to get it out

—  Have you indulged your desires to your own detriment?

Example:

Buying more luxury items than your budget could afford

—  Have you felt you could say anything you wanted, no matter how your words hurt others?

Example:

Telling people you don’t like them—explaining you are just being true to your feelings

Behavioral Ethics

•     Making decisions based solely on natural inclination

—  Have you justified your negative behavior saying, “I just can’t help it”?

Example:

Not making an effort to stop a negative habit like smoking or stealing

—  Have you blamed your negative responses on your family upbringing?

Example:

Blaming your abusive talk and actions on your parents

—  Have you defended your inappropriate actions, thinking, I was born that way?

Example:

Assuming that you can’t change from being homosexual or alcoholic

—  Have you made excuses for hurting others in order to get ahead by rationalizing that it’s the survival of the fittest?

Example:

Justifying sarcastic put-downs and slander

In the Book of Judges, the people of Israel fell into seven cycles of sin because, as the last verse says,

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

(Judges 21:25)

B. Root Cause

Every individual is born with God-given inner needs for love, for significance and for security. Immoral behavior results when we seek to get these needs met in illegitimate ways. Trusting in your own premise rather than in God’s promise to provide your needs is embracing a false ethical system and compromising your integrity.

Wrong Belief:

“Following an ancient book of laws is not intellectually honest. God has given me a mind, and He expects me to use it for making my own decisions about right and wrong.”

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Right Belief:

God established the world with scientific and moral laws. Adopting an alternative set of morals through which I can rationalize sin is not intellectually honest. God has given me His Spirit that I might know what is wrong and do what is right based on His eternal principles.

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.” (Psalm 119:89–93)

 

IV.  Steps to Solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

(Psalm 119:11)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Psalm 101

The Walk of Integrity

•     Integrity loves the Lord and His   justice.

 

            v. 1

 

•     Integrity lives a blameless life.

 

            v. 2

 

•     Integrity keeps its eyes from   evil.

 

            v. 3

 

•     Integrity protects itself from the   perverse.

 

            v. 4

 

•     Integrity silences gossip and   slander.

 

            v. 5

 

•     Integrity seeks fellowship with   God’s faithful and wisdom from the wise.

 

            v. 6

 

•     Integrity denounces deceit and   dishonesty.

 

            v. 7

 

•     Integrity confronts those who   compromise.

 

            v. 8

 

C. Arguments and Answers on Ethics

Depending on the position of your body while sleeping, you might awaken with a hand that’s asleep … numb and insensitive to touch. If the supply of blood is restricted, your hand is physically numb. In the same way, when the supply of truth is restricted, your conscience becomes spiritually numb … asleep … or dead! The world and those who are acting on a system of ethics apart from God’s moral laws have put their consciences to sleep. They consider themselves wise and more knowledgeable than Christians. They have become insensitive to the touch of God!

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

(1 Corinthians 1:20)

(Also Read 1 Corinthians 1:18–19.)

Argument:

“People have integrity as long as they are true to their system of ethics.”

Answer:

From a human point of view, you have integrity if you are completely true to your system of ethics. However, since God created the universe and established His laws for all people, if your ethical system violates His system of right and wrong, then from God’s point of view your system is flawed … you cannot be a person of true integrity.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (Psalm 24:1–4)

Argument:

“There are no moral absolutes—the issue of right and wrong varies from person to person and culture to culture.”

Answer:

Moral absolutes are both transcultural and transhistorical. In one country it may be right to drive your car on the right side of the road, yet it may be wrong in another country. However, in every country it’s always wrong to intentionally drive into a crowd of children, killing innocent lives. While many laws are based on a country’s changing wants, God’s moral laws are based on His unchanging Word.

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89)

Argument:

“The wide diversity of opinions regarding what is right or wrong proves that there are no moral absolutes.”

Answer:

No, just because a test has multiple choice answers does not mean that all the answers are correct. Most often only one is correct. Likewise, just because a culture accepts an immoral custom doesn’t make that practice moral.

“Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.” (Psalm 119:137–138)

Argument:

“A democratic culture that protects freedom of speech and religion must also accept freedom of morality and reject moral absolutes.”

Answer:

No, in a free society, you can hold to moral absolutes. Freedom of speech simply guarantees your right to speak—it doesn’t guarantee that what you speak is right. Often through open dialogue people are able to see the fallacy of their thinking. A democracy simply guarantees both your right to be right and your right to be wrong.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.” (Psalm 19:7–9)

Argument:

“Morality cannot be legislated.”

Answer:

God’s commandments regarding morality are the foundation for all civil law. Interestingly, some of these ethical standards are not only legislated but consistently appear in every culture. For example, vengeful, premeditated murder is illegal in every society, as is stealing another man’s wife.

“You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:13–17)

Argument:

“Christians should not impose their morality on others.”

Answer:

Understand the difference between personal ethics and social ethics. Personal ethics are beliefs about the way you should or shouldn’t dress, talk, parent, spend money and express your sexuality, etc. For example, you have a right to wear your hair whatever length you choose.

Social ethics apply to what is right or wrong for a society—the belief that a man has the right to express his sexuality by raping his neighbor, even his wife, clearly violates the rights of another. Therefore, personal rights end when your actions threaten or damage another’s life, liberty or property.

Christians should not impose their morality on others, but they can impress others with their Christlike attitudes and actions. They should become educated on effectively speaking out, as well as campaigning, voting and electing candidates who represent godly values.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16)

Argument:

“In a free society a pro-choice position on abortion should be honored as an issue of personal ethics.”

Answer:

In a free society a woman should have personal choice over her own life, but not the right to take someone else’s life—that of the unborn child who has a separate heartbeat, a unique DNA (genetic code) and often a different sex and blood type.

Those who actively oppose abortion believe it is not a matter of personal ethics, but rather a threat to the lives of others in society.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Proverbs 24:11–12)

D. Truth Tests

The Ethics Exam

Before you make a decision over an ethical issue of right or wrong, ask yourself these questions.

•     Is there a principle about it in God’s   Word?

 

            2 Corinthians 4:1–2

 

•     Is it beneficial?

 

            1 Corinthians 10:23

 

•     Is it self-serving at someone else’s   expense?

 

            1 Corinthians 10:24

 

•     Is it setting an example you would want   everyone else to follow?

 

            1 Corinthians 11:1

 

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.”

(2 Corinthians 13:5)

The Integrity Interrogation

Before you act on your decisions, check your motives by asking yourself these questions.

•     Am I choosing to do this in order to look   good in the eyes of others?

 

            Galatians 1:10

 

•     Am I doing this only to receive financial   gain?

 

            Proverbs 15:16

 

•     Am I willing to do this even if I don’t   get the credit?

 

            Luke 14:11

 

•     Am I doing something unethical because I   know I will not be found out?

 

            Hebrews 4:13

 

“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

(Proverbs 16:2)

E. Speak the Truth in Love

Some play the game of life with one primary rule: “Win no matter the cost!” However, if “winning” means compromising your convictions, whether you are asked to lie out of loyalty or kill for a cause, don’t deny your integrity. Give your life wholly to the Lord.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

(2 Chronicles 16:9)

W       Speak positively about the worth of the person or organization.

I           Explain why you are committed to integrity and what you will or will not do.

N         Use encouraging words to nurture the other person.

Dilemma #1 Cultural Ethics

You feel pressure at work to pad an expense account because that is what other coworkers typically do.

•     Speak the Truth in Love

Worth                  “I really admire this organization, and I want to help it be successful in every way possible.”

Integrity                “However, I have made a commitment to Christ to be a person of integrity. Therefore, I must not misrepresent the truth.”

Nurture                “I hope that you will know you can count on me to be honest with you at all times.”

Dilemma #2 Situation Ethics

You feel pressure to lie on the telephone for another person at work—to say that he or she isn’t there … thinking you are being loyal.

•     Speak the Truth in Love

Worth                  “I sincerely care about your feelings and want to help you in every way possible.”

Integrity                “However, I have made a commitment to Christ to be a person of integrity. Therefore, I can’t lie and say that you are not here.”

Nurture                “But I can say that you are unavailable and then take a message.”

Dilemma #3 Emotive Ethics

You feel pressure to engage in immoral sex because another person says, “We all have natural desires that need to be satisfied.”

•     Speak the Truth in Love

Worth                  “I really do think a lot of you.”

Integrity                “However, I have made a commitment to Christ to be a person of integrity and to be morally pure.”

Nurture                “Since you can’t do a wrong thing the right way, I hope this will save both you and me from feelings of guilt that neither of us needs.”

Dilemma #4 Behavioral Ethics

You feel pressure to continue in a homosexual relationship with someone whom you love because the other person says you both were born homosexuals.

•     Speak the Truth in Love

Worth                  “I do love you very much and always will.”

Integrity                “However, I have made a commitment to Christ to be a person of integrity. Therefore, since God’s Word says homosexuality is a sin, I must choose to end this relationship.”

Nurture                “God did not make you a homosexual. He would not condemn homosexuality if He knew you could not change. I am choosing to change my behavior and hope that you will choose to do the same along with me.”

No matter the dilemma, don’t deny your   integrity.

In the end … you will WIN!

 

“I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.”

(Job 27:5–6)

F.  Virtue (The Power for Change)

Virtue is “moral excellence,” but it is also defined as “beneficial power” or the “capacity to act.” Just as fuel in your car engine produces power for movement, the virtue of Jesus Christ in the believer produces power for a changed life. The more you grow in Christ, the more strength you will have to make the right choices and stand against wrong.

(Read 2 Peter 1:3–10.)

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

(2 Peter 1:3)

VIRTUE

Value the importance of moral purity

•     As a child of God, you are called to live a holy life.

“God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

•     As a child of God, you are called to exemplify what is good.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16)

•     As a child of God, you are to separate from evil.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–18)

“Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ”

(1 Peter 1:15–16)

Implant God’s Word in your heart

•     The Word of God transforms your mind.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

•     The Word of God makes you rich in wisdom.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

•     The Word of God will keep your thoughts and actions pure.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9)

“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”

(Psalm 119:15–16)

Recognize your dependence on God’s grace

•     Pray for God’s Spirit to reveal wrong thinking patterns and actions.

“Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” (Psalm 26:2–3)

•     Pray for a desire to change immoral habits.

“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

•     Pray for a change of attitude toward God and others.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:16)

Trust in Christ for your identity

•     In Christ you are a new creation.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

•     In Christ you are free from sin.

“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)

•     In Christ you are holy and blameless.

“Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22)

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Galatians 2:20)

Understand that your strength is in Christ

•     The Lord will be your confidence.

“The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.” (Proverbs 3:26)

•     The Lord will be your wisdom for discernment.

“For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6)

•     The Lord will be your power.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

(Philippians 4:13)

Expect testing and temptation

•     Know that you will be going against majority opinions.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18–19)

•     Know the danger of immoral friendships.

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

•     Know that suffering produces godly character.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3–4)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

(James 1:2)

“He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

(2 Peter 1:4)

 

Five Systems of Ethics

 

 

Cultural   Ethics

Cultural   Relativism

 

Situation   Ethics

Utilitarianism

 

Emotive Ethics

Existentialism

Emotivism

 

Behavioral   Ethics

Behaviorism

 

Biblical   Ethics

Christianity

 

Highest Value

 

The   Majority Rule

 

The   Love Principle

 

The   Focus on Feelings

 

The   Animal Instinct

 

The   Character of God

 

What   Determines Right or Wrong?

 

Moral   standards are determined by the majority of opinions within a given culture.

 

Moral   standards are determined by what is considered the greatest good in a given   situation.

 

Moral   standards do not exist. Actions are determined by personal preference.   Whatever “feels good” is acceptable.

 

Moral   standards do not exist. All behavior is determined by heredity or   environment.

 

Moral   standards are universal, unchangeable and determined by the revealed will of   God.

 

Basis   of Belief

 

Belief that   moral reasoning is only the result of parental training, peer pressure and   social mores.

 

Belief in the   importance of individual choice for making moral decisions.

 

Belief that   personal desire is the priority—what feels satisfying is neither good nor   bad.

 

Belief that a   person is only physical matter without a spirit and with no ability to choose   right or wrong.

 

Belief that   moral reasoning should be based on God’s moral standards revealed in Scripture.

 

Moral   Accountability

 

People are   self-governing

but morally   accountable to society.

 

People are   self-governing and morally independent.

 

People have   free choice because there are no standards by which to judge accountability.

 

People are   like programmed machines with no capacity for personal accountability.

 

People are   created in the image of God and will be held morally accountable by their   Creator.

 

Complaint   about Christianity

 

Christians are   insensitive to cross-cultural

differences.

 

Christians   have a blind, unthinking obedience to impersonal laws.

 

Christians   cannot make moral judgments on facts because morality is based on feelings.

 

Christians   demand moral accountability when people are not responsible for their   behavior.

 

Since   Christianity is a perfect balance of law and love, the tendency is to get out   of balance.

 

Problem   with the Premise

 

At any time,   any culture can make anything right or wrong. No criteria exist to accept   reformers like Christ.

 

Decisions are   made on assumed consequences instead of eternal principles. No criteria exist   to define love.

 

Human   selfishness is allowed full reign as ethical judgments become immune to   reason. No criteria exist to judge any act or fact.

 

Without   morality, the “law of the jungle” prevails. No criteria exist to condemn   cruelty.

 

There is no   problem. God revealed His moral laws and has provided Christ as the means to   obey His laws.

 

Illustration

 

Hitler’s   Holocaust was not wrong because the German culture accepted Nazism.

 

Killing their   disabled boy was not wrong because the parents sought to save their son from   ridicule.

 

The rape was   not wrong because the perpetrator’s sexual desires were fulfilled.

 

Lee Harvey   Oswald was not wrong when he killed President Kennedy because he was   “programmed” to murder.

 

Any violation   of God’s law is wrong. The law is given out of love for protection and   provision.

 

Conclusion

 

Society can be   wrong. Truth is determined only by God’s moral laws.

 

God’s ways are   not our ways. We show love best by fulfilling God’s will.

 

Emotions are   not a dependable guide for actions. God does set limits on human behavior.

 

God has   revealed His laws to all human hearts and has given us a free will to choose   our behavior

 

Christianity   is Christ living His life through a person to reveal God’s character and to   keep His moral laws.

 

Scripture

 

Romans   12:2

Acts   5:29

 

Isaiah   55:8

1   John 5:2

 

Jeremiah   17:9

Colossians   3:8–10

 

Romans   2:14–15

Joshua   24:15

 

Galatians   2:20

Colossians   1:27

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, J. Kerby, ed. Living Ethically in the ‘90s. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Anderson, J. Kerby. Moral Dilemmas: Biblical Perspectives on Contemporary Ethical Issues. Nashville: Word, 1998.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Dyer, Charles. The Power of Personal Integrity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1997.

Farris, Michael P. Where Do I Draw the Line? Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1992.

Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. Ethics for a Brave New World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1993.

Geisler, Norman L. Christian Ethics: Options and Issues. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989.

Harrison, R. K.,ed. Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1987.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

Hybels, Bill. Character: Who You Are When No One’s Looking: 6 Studies for Individuals or Groups. Christian Basics Bible Studies. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.

Hybels, Bill. Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1987.

Kirk, Jerry R. The Mind Polluters. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.

Lutzer, Erwin W. Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems. Dallas: Probe, 1989.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

McQuilkin, Robertson. An Introduction to Biblical and Christian Ethics. Rev. and updated ed. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1995.

Sherman, Doug, and William Hendricks. Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp: How to Cultivate a Personal Character that is Honest, Faithful, Just, and Morally Clean. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1990.

Swindoll, Charles R. The Quest for Character. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1987.

Trent, John T., and Rick Hicks. Seeking Solid Ground: Anchoring Your Life in Godly Character. Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family, 1995.

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Integrity Crisis. Nashville: Oliver-Nelson, 1988.[1]

 


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Ethics & Integrity: The Same in the Dark as in the Light (1–25). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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