How To Make Ethical Decisions

Hope for Today (English)
Hope for Today (English)
How To Make Ethical Decisions
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1 Corinthians 10:23-33

One of man’s most outstanding gifts is reason, intelligence. No other creature has this capability. Some can be trained, but they lack initiative.

This ability makes us vulnerable because we can make wrong decisions. We need directives. We need help. By our very nature, every decision is couched with moral consequences. From this, there is no escape. I insist, my friend, that we are moral creatures all the time.

Therefore, we need help. Where do you turn when you need help? To the social environment? Do you get your directives from the way people around you answer your questions? Where do you go?

To make proper decisions we need an inflexible standard. We have it, the Holy Bible. You see, the Bible never changes. The Bible is the same. I have essentially the same Bible my grandfather had.

The problem is many people do not know what the Bible says. They don’t read it. If they do know, they often choose to ignore it, or they choose to reinterpret it to find approval for their conduct, which in reality flies into the face of the Bible’s words.

So I wish to talk with you about HOW TO MAKE ETHICAL DECISIONS, from the apostle Paul’s counsel in I Corinthians 10:23-33:

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.

27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

33 Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.

There can be no doubt that Paul lays down several sound BASES to show us How to Make Ethical Decisions.

The first is:

THE BASIS OF CONVENIENCE

23 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.

The meaning of expedient is “suitable,” “feasible.” That is why I chose the word convenience. Convenience is the first basis of making Ethical Decisions. The apostle implies that just because something is lawful does not mean it is appropriate, expedient, or convenient. And of course, lawful does not mean morally right. Some actions are legally right but not morally right. For example, the government runs hard liquor stores all across the country, but that does not make drinking alcohol right.

Well, I have another question. Is it ever wrong to do right? One thing is for sure, we don’t need to do everything we can do. For example, when the devil took Jesus to the top turret of the temple, he said to Him, “God has given His angels charge over you so that you will not hurt yourself. Jump off.” But Jesus did not jump. He could have and He would have been protected.

Jesus walked on water. So He did not do what He could have done. That is the way with us. We don’t have to do what we might be able to do.

Instead, turn your concern to helping someone else. At least do not tear down his character. Paul says in verse 24, “Let no man seek his own but another man’s wealth or another man’s good.” And then, remember the Lord is Lord of all! “For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (verse 26). Therefore, the first basis on which we make Ethical Decisions is convenience, but convenience must be curtailed to do good.

Observe what Barnes writes about this:

If a man has his heart on the conversion of men and the salvation of the world, it will go far to regulate his conduct in reference to many things concerning which there may be no exact and positive law. It will do much to regulate his dress; his style of living; his expenses; his entertainments; his mode of intercourse with the world. He may not be able to fix his finger on any positive law, and to say that this or that article of dress is improper; that this or that piece of furniture is absolutely forbidden; or that this or that manner of life is contrary to any explicit law of JEHOVAH; but he may see that it will interfere with his great and main purpose, to do good on the widest scale possible; and therefore to him, it will be inexpedient and improper.

The second basis for Making Ethical Decisions is:

THE BASIS OF CONSCIENCE

25 Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:

26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.

27 If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.

28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:

29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?

30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?

We all have a conscience. It is a part of our divine endowment. God made us that way. We were born with a conscience. Furthermore, we can educate our conscience. We can inform it. And it will speak to us then on various subjects. But we need a standard, a guide. Paul’s example was the meat market. He said, “If you go to market and buy something, well then eat it. However, if any man says to you, ‘This is offered in sacrifice unto idols,’ eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake.’” That is the meat market.

In the 1960s we had a definite shift in moral concepts in the United States. The “Me Generation” arose. Oh, how often we heard it! I was teaching on a college campus at that time and often heard, “I’ve got to be me. I have to live my own life. I have my standards.” But what a price was paid for that! Because the standards of conscience were released, everything was looked upon with an open end. We have suffered severely from this situation.

The apostle Paul tells us we are controlled by another person’s conscience. If you are eating and someone should say, “This is offered to idols,” then you should not eat because that person has a conscience on this. While that may not be our situation, we must exercise care to respect the consciences of others.

For a number of years, Mrs. Yoder and I conducted seminars to Bible lands, usually lasting fifteen days. So we were there over Sunday. Each day was a day of Bible study, whether it was Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday didn’t matter. We were at the place where biblical experiences happened. And I took special care to relate the experience to the biblical text. As a result, we were often in Jerusalem over the Jewish Sabbath and on Sunday. On different occasions, we walked through the East Jerusalem Market on Sunday. Now, what should we do? Probably this would be the only time we would be in that area, and of course, people wanted to purchase their souvenirs in those likely places. So I would say in the morning, “Let your conscience be your guide. You will be in this market only today, and if you feel you cannot purchase on Sunday, let your conscience be your guide.” That is the way we operated.

According to Paul’s counsel, we will be judged by the violation of our consciences and God’s Word. Life is not a straight jacket. On the other hand, it is not open-ended either. We are obligated to make Ethical Decisions on the basis of our consciences.

Alexander McClaren, the great English preacher, concluded his sermon on this text with this paragraph:

A Christian man is bound to shape his life so that no man shall be able to say of him that he was the occasion of that one’s fall. He is so bound because every man is his neighbor. He is so bound because he is bound to live to the glory of God, which can never be advanced by laying stumbling blocks in the way for feeble feet. He is so bound because, unless Christ had limited Himself within the bound of manhood, and had sought not His own profit or pleasure, we should have had neither life nor hope. For all these reasons, the duty of thinking of others, and of abstaining, for their sakes, from what one might do, is laid on all Christians.

The third basis for making Ethical Decisions is:

THE BASIS OF COMMITMENT

31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

32 Give none offense, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

33 Even as I please all [men] in all [things], not seeking mine own profit, but the [profit] of many, that they may be saved.

My friend, we must realize that whether we are Christians or not, our lives are related to God. He is in control. How often has Christianity been rejected because someone who professed to be a Christian went wrong? I can hear you say, “You mean I am to be hemmed in like that?” Well, that all depends on how you look at it. Once you realize what happened when you became a Christian, your chief aim will be to please the Lord! So what I am talking about will be your joy, not your chain.

Be careful to walk inoffensively to Jews, Greeks, and the church of God. That means we must walk “circumspectly,” that is, looking around carefully, as the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:15. Following Jesus is the secret to walking without offense, or circumspectly. Keep focused on the central purpose, which is TO SAVE MANY! Notice that in the last verse of our text: “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” Of course, the apostle Paul is talking about salvation in Christ.

So the basis of commitment will direct the decisions into proper channels, the channels that will profit most.

J. Waite, in The Pulpit Commentary, closes his discussion with some pertinent words:

So may the grand motives of reverence for God and love to the Saviour give shape and beauty, consistency and harmony, to everything we do. And then, he who “seeth not as man seeth,” who recognizes none of our distinctions of great and small, will accept it as a welcome tribute to his praise. The poor widow’s consecration of her “two mites” to the Lord’s treasury, the “cup of cold water” given to the disciple in the name of the disciple, the simplest act of real Christian service and self-sacrificing love,–these are as pleasing to him as the heroism of a Paul compassing sea and land with painful toil and travail that he may win souls, or a Luther daring the dark powers of earth and hell in his brave witness for the truth. Learn to fill your common everyday life with the inspiration of a high and holy purpose.

Remember, we are moral creatures all the time. Therefore, to make wise Ethical Decisions we must consider:

THE BASIS OF CONVENIENCE

Expediency controlled by morality

THE BASIS OF CONSCIENCE

Not only ours but others also

BASIS OF COMMITMENT

That many may be saved.

And to God will be the glory. Amen!