April 28, 2016

What is Right and Wrong

Passage: Judges 17:6

Bible Text: Judges 17:6 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6

A young woman wrote to a newspaper columnist asking for advice, saying, “I am a nineteen-year-old girl who is getting more and more confused about the word ‘morality.’ Who decides what is morally right? My parents? Society? The law? Or should I make the decision myself?”

The young woman went on to tell how her parents are divorced and that her mother sleeps with a man who is not her husband, yet her mother does not want her to do the same things with her boyfriend. The girl signed her letter, PUZZLED.

There are a lot of thinking young people today who are just as puzzled as this college student who asked, “Who decides what is morally right? My parents? Society? The law? Or should I make the decision myself?” If your son or daughter asked you the same question, how would you answer it?

The first guidelines coming to a child are given by parents, who say, “Do this or do that.” But more often, it is “Don’t do this, or don’t do that.” In a very real sense, parents represent the standard of morality, or, in a sense, the image of God in the early childhood. But as a son or daughter grows older, they, like the young woman who wrote, see inconsistencies between the conduct and the rules laid down by their parents. In other words, parents often say one thing and do another.

By the same token, laws formulate standards of morality which usually are a reflection of what society believes is right, although that has been rapidly changing. Society, as the communal opinion of the average person, does dictate acceptable standards of morality; and usually laws reflect them. Yet we realize that those standards are often winked at by large segments of people who choose what laws they will keep and what they will ignore.

Does this mean every person sets his own standard for morality and does whatever he thinks is right? If you answer in the positive, you believe in a moral relativism that means something may be right for you but not for your neighbor. There is one problem in a fluctuating standard of morality. If God has spoken, and if He has given direction regarding right and wrong, then the opinion of society, or even what you think is right or wrong, may be in violation of God’s standard for our lives. While it is true that “Everybody is doing it…” to use a commonly accepted rationale of behavior, it may well be that God says your behavior is wrong.

Almost four thousand years ago, there was a period of time described by the book of Judges in the Bible when there was no law, and everybody did that which was right in his own eyes. It resulted in spiritual and moral collapse. If history repeats itself, it seems that we are headed that way today. Arnold Toynbee, the eminent British historian, has pointed out that of the last twentyone great civilizations, nineteen collapsed from within as the result of spiritual and moral decay.

To the college student who calls herself “Puzzled,” I would like to say, “Yes, there is a standard of right and wrong laid down not by parents, society, or even the law, but by God Himself in the pages of His Word, the Bible. God did not give us His standard to make us miserable or to keep us from having fun, but to show us how we can be the happiest people in life by living free from guilt and distress. It’s still the only real path to happiness and fulfillment.

Resource reading: Judges 17