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Ethical Principles from the Bible
We should resist the temptation to construct a pharisaical list of do's and don't's but rather look for biblical ethical principles to guide our decision making. These can be summed up in the commandments to 'love God with all our heart, soul and mind' and 'to love our neighbour as ourselves' (Matthew 22:37-40). While respecting the ten commandments, we should recognise that true Christian morality involves going beyond the mere letter of the law (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28) to the very spirit of love on which it is based (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The following principles are based on the ten commandments.
1. The Sovereignty of God
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3)
God is the Creator (Genesis 1:1), the Sustainer (Hebrews 1:3) and the Lord of all life. He is also absolute arbiter of right and wrong and has spoken clearly in history through his word and through his Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2), in whom all his fullness dwells (Colossians 1:19). We must always put him first.
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image..." (Exodus 20:4-6)
God has made us stewards of his creation and guardians of the planet (Genesis 1:26,28). This validates scientific enquiry and application but is not a license for exploitation, nor for seeing medicine rather than God as mankind's saviour. We must always exercise our delegated authority for good, especially for the good of individual human beings. Furthermore we should do it according to God's revealed standards of right and wrong. The end does not justify the means.
3. Honouring God's character
"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain..." (Exodus 20:7)
We must recognise and acknowledge God as the real source of all good gifts (James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 4:7) upholding his compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice (Exodus 34:6,7); and not bringing dishonour to his name in our words or actions; nor should we seek glory for ourselves.
4.Work and Rest
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11)
We have an obligation to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13), to serve others in order to provide for our own needs and those of our family (1 Timothy 5:8) and to imitate God who is himself a worker. But we must also honour and recommend the Creator's rule of one day's rest in seven, recognising that it was made for our pleasure and benefit (Isaiah 58:13-14; Mark 2:27) and as a sign of the rest to come (Hebrews 4:9-11).
5. Authority and the Family
"Honour thy father and thy mother..." (Exodus 20:12)
God has established human authorities as his agents to serve and protect us and we should submit to them and not rebel against their authority (Romans 13:1-7). Most important among these is the family which is God's provision for the protection, nurture and discipline of children (Deuteronomy 6:6,7; Ephesians 6:1-4) and the stability of society as a whole.
6. The Sanctity of Life
"Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20:13)
All human life is made in God's image (Genesis 9:6,7) and is worthy of the utmost respect from its beginning to end. This includes the unborn (Psalms 139:13-16; Isaiah 49:1; Job 10:8-9), the handicapped (Leviticus 19:14), the vulnerable (Exodus 22:21-24) and the advanced in age (Leviticus 19:32). The heart of Christianity is that we must love as Christ himself loved (John 13:34), that the strong should lay down their lives for the weak (Philippians 2:5-8, Romans 5:6-8).
7. Sexuality and Marriage
"Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)
Marriage is a life-long, publicly recognised, heterosexual, monogamous relationship (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:31-33) and is representative of Christ's own relationship with the church. Sex is God's good gift for intimacy (Matthew 19:4), pleasure (Proverbs 5:18,19) and procreation (Genesis 1:28) but must only take place within the marriage relationship.
8. Respect for property
"Thou shalt not steal." (Exodus 20:15)
God has blessed human beings materially in order that they may provide for their own needs and those of others (2 Corinthians 9:8). We should show respect for the property of others and seek to use what he has given us in accordance with his revealed will.
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." (Exodus 20:16)
We should 'speak the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15) at all times, using our words to build others up rather than tearing them down. Lying through commission or omission runs counter to the nature of God himself (Numbers 23:19) and leads to injustice. We should be people of our word (James 5:12).
"Thou shalt not covet..." (Exodus 20:17)
We should be grateful and content with what God gives us (Philippians 4:11-12), not being driven by jealousy or desire for the possessions, relationships, gifts or honour of others. Rather we should desire to do his will, to have his gifts to serve others (1 Corinthians 12:31) and most of all to desire God himself (Psalm 37:4), knowing that he will provide us with what we need.
Article by: CMF