“I decide what is right and what is wrong!” he said. “But what if you’re wrong?” I answered. Individualism is the new standard in our world. “What’s true for you may not be true for me,” he continued. Black and white is descending into shades of grey. What once was a perversion is now merely a preference. Conscience has been replaced by convenience. However, it’s not a modern problem. Consider these Scriptures:
- “You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 12:8 – 9).
- “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6)
- The book of Judges concludes: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes “(Judges 21:25).
- “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).
- “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:21)
But isn’t that painful? Yes, it can be, but it is time for us to “Do the right thing.” Abraham Lincoln once pointed out, “When forced to choose between two evils – choose neither!” There is always a choice.
“Aren’t there circumstances when doing the right thing comes into conflict with another right thing?” Yes, for example, suppose the Nazis come to the door and ask if you are hiding any Jews in the attic. What would you do? If you tell the truth (and that’s the right thing to do), the Jews will die (and murder is a bad thing).
Fortunately, most of us will never have to make such a terrible choice, but how would you make such a decision? You could play Abe Lincoln and refuse to answer. Do nothing. Some people believe there is only one truly good thing. (Most often, they teach, “Do the loving thing.”) Still, others wear wristbands with the initials “WWJD?” (“What Would Jesus Do?”) I think that is the right direction, but I wonder if I am qualified to make that decision. Do I know Jesus well enough to answer, “What would Jesus do?” Do you remember this story?
At that time, Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? (Matthew 12:1 – 4)
Most teachers would excuse the disciples with some reference to the Jewish interpretations of the Law. They say Jesus was teaching the Pharisees a lesson, which may be true, but how do we know?
Some Christian ethicists point out, it’s a fallen world, and everything is hopelessly complicated. It’s impossible to keep the Law. After all, they conclude, “We are saved by grace.” Just do the best you can.
However, I believe we can do better! We need to recognize sin is sin. It not only alienates us from God; it is harmful to us and those around us. The Apostle John wrote: “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1b) – Praise God! – but don’t forget the first half of 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.”