The Biblical Nature of Ethics

I’ve always been one to see the Bible as defining my ethics. If I can justify my actions biblically, I can then justify them ethically. I’ve been challenged on that recently by folks who have no idea they’ve challenged me on that. It’s been a humbling process, but one that has needed to happen.

Practically speaking, I’ll begin with my CD mixing and sharing. I’ve been pretty liberal with passing out my favorite song collections – for party favors, baby showers, Christmas gifts, etc. I never considered that this was wrong. I don’t think I was necessarily sticking my head in the sand, but I simply didn’t think about it too much at all. I sort of viewed myself as a self-appointed Paste. Whenever someone gives me a CD like that, I love it and am introduced to a lot of new music I otherwise would never know about. I usually end up buying three or four albums from the collections, so the artists come out on top in the end, right?

Maybe, but I don’t have the authority to act as my own personal Paste. My thinking on this was seriously rocked when I handed out copies of my Christmas compilation to four guys in, get this, publishing (which should prove I didn’t think I was violating anything – otherwise I would have avoided the publishers in my gifting). The only one to question me on this was the head publisher himself and, while my face was burning up when he questioned me on it, I’m really glad he did. I had another small pile ready to give away sitting on my desk during that phone call. During that phone call, that small pile found their way to the trashcan.

So here is my public confession, since I’ve been public about my mix-mastering in the past. If you get a CD from me from this point on, know that I personally paid for your copy of all the songs I’m giving you, or have otherwise sought appropriate permission to share. And as much as I hate to do this, if you are one who shares music like this with us also, I’m hereby asking that you no longer include us, unless you also have personally paid for our copy of the songs you are sharing.

Tough part over.

That conversation sticks with me in many other arenas. We went to the movies recently and I’ll admit this too: I’m a snack sneaker. $9 for popcorn and a Coke is completely crazy, so I’ll usually sneak in a Coke and something salty in my pocket. No more. The last time we went to the movies we forked over the cash for the snack. In this case, they allowed one refill per item, so that was pretty nice. And yes, it was tempting to send someone else back with the tub for a third refill – the movie people would have never known, but that would be breaking the deal. They offered one free refill, I made that agreement with them when I bought the snack, and I would have been lying and stealing to have done otherwise. I felt really relieved by that decision that day.

Now comes Monopoly. I’ve grown up playing it that if you land on someone’s property and they don’t see you, and someone else rolls, you don’t have to pay. Without thinking, that was the way I began teaching my own kids to play. Craig played with us the other day and he called me on it: this teaches our kids to be honest and responsible with their debts how? He was right. Ethics and biblical understanding apply to everything; they inform and shape who we become.
May my yes be yes and my no be no, and my acts and intentions be honorable (and biblical) from now on, and for all the days of my life.

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33 thoughts on “The Biblical Nature of Ethics

  1. Megan says:

    I’ve been a non-(intentional)-speeder since high school, though I did happen to get a ticket in 2003 for going 38 in a 30. I really didn’t realize I was speeding, though. I usually don’t (speed).
    That drink thing at restaurants, though, Charliam. Ouch.

    Like

  2. Charliam says:

    I remember having similar conversations with my father when I was growing up. One occassion was around my mom wanting to drink some of his refilled soda at a restaurant when she had order only water. Surprising how pervasive what you are bringing up really is in our daily lives!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Like

  3. Chelsea says:

    The Devil’s Advocate in me really wants to justify my snack-sneaking right now (I’m hypoglycemic, I’m poor, blah blah blah), but you’re absolutely right. Darn that straight and narrow road! Then again, I only go to an actual movie theater about once a year, so maybe I shouldn’t sweat the overpriced popcorn.
    Does this mean you’ll never speed again?

    Like

  4. Megan says:

    I’ve been a non-(intentional)-speeder since high school, though I did happen to get a ticket in 2003 for going 38 in a 30. I really didn’t realize I was speeding, though. I usually don’t (speed).
    That drink thing at restaurants, though, Charliam. Ouch.

    Like

  5. Charliam says:

    I remember having similar conversations with my father when I was growing up. One occassion was around my mom wanting to drink some of his refilled soda at a restaurant when she had order only water. Surprising how pervasive what you are bringing up really is in our daily lives!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Like

  6. Chelsea says:

    The Devil’s Advocate in me really wants to justify my snack-sneaking right now (I’m hypoglycemic, I’m poor, blah blah blah), but you’re absolutely right. Darn that straight and narrow road! Then again, I only go to an actual movie theater about once a year, so maybe I shouldn’t sweat the overpriced popcorn.
    Does this mean you’ll never speed again?

    Like

  7. Margaret says:

    Great one! My husband is the most ethical person I know, and he keeps me on my toes.
    My mom used to sneak food into movie theatres, and it really shamed me. Now I buy food at movie theatres just to make up!

    Like

  8. Rhonda says:

    I have also been making these changes in my life. It’s definitely hard sometimes!
    I have a good friend that copies movies she rents. I don’t do this (and she knows I don’t approve), but I have watched these movies at her house. I have lately realized that I can’t do that anymore. When we visit this summer, we’re going to have to refuse to watch them. That’s going to be fun. Ugh.

    Like

  9. Jenni Simmons says:

    Your CD confession rules. I used to do the same thing, but then I worked at an indie music company, then I married a musician…
    Although, someone recently gave me mix CDs and I didn’t know what to say. Thanks for writing about this – it is encouraging.

    Like

  10. kateortiz says:

    funny you should write about this now. there is a stack of u2 concert dvds and paste cds on my desk that someone gave us to copy. i felt uncomfortable when he handed them over but didn’t have the courage to turn them down so said i’d be happy to “listen” to them. thanks for the encouragement!

    Like

  11. martha10 says:

    i never tho’t of what i would be be teaching my kids re ethics in a game. it’s amazing what we can be blind to when it’s the “way we’ve always done it”. thanks for the ethics challenge in the places where we live. m

    Like

  12. Margaret says:

    Great one! My husband is the most ethical person I know, and he keeps me on my toes.
    My mom used to sneak food into movie theatres, and it really shamed me. Now I buy food at movie theatres just to make up!

    Like

  13. Rhonda says:

    I have also been making these changes in my life. It’s definitely hard sometimes!
    I have a good friend that copies movies she rents. I don’t do this (and she knows I don’t approve), but I have watched these movies at her house. I have lately realized that I can’t do that anymore. When we visit this summer, we’re going to have to refuse to watch them. That’s going to be fun. Ugh.

    Like

  14. Jenni Simmons says:

    Your CD confession rules. I used to do the same thing, but then I worked at an indie music company, then I married a musician…
    Although, someone recently gave me mix CDs and I didn’t know what to say. Thanks for writing about this – it is encouraging.

    Like

  15. martha10 says:

    i never tho’t of what i would be be teaching my kids re ethics in a game. it’s amazing what we can be blind to when it’s the “way we’ve always done it”. thanks for the ethics challenge in the places where we live. m

    Like

  16. Bethany says:

    Don’t forget the Settlers of Catan! Like Monopoly or Risk but way, way, WAY better.
    Oh and you can play Ticket to Ride online for free at daysofwonder.com. Totally rad.

    Like

  17. Margaret says:

    Yes, I’m in on the Monopoly question. Do we teach our children to be fair and honest (and admit when they land on someone’s property) or do we prepare them for the world of unfair and dishonest people?
    I must say, I am not terribly materialistic, yet I find Monopoly fun and refreshing. I think it sometimes allows us to act out our frustrations. As the youngest, there was nothing more satisfying than beating my sister in Monopoly. Once.

    Like

  18. RT says:

    The bummer about the illegality of mixed CDs is that they really shouldn’t be, or so says the music-buyer in me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased new albums based of a mix given by friends. Still, not the point, eh?
    While at seminary we ran into fellow students at the movie theater and they seemed shocked that we stopped at Walgreens first for candy. It was the first time I really considered sneaking candy in a “bad” thing to do.
    Here’s what I’m interested in. How do we maintain great Christian ethics without looking down our nose on people who don’t hold to our standards? Maybe that’s the question of the Christian life in its entirety: How do we live righteously (while looking inwardly) and live with love and grace (while looking outwardly). I’d sure hate for battles of superiority to begin based on mixed CDs or cheaper Snickers bars.

    Like

  19. Megan says:

    I’m going to jump in here really fast on the Monopoly point. Not paying rent in Monopoly is actually cheating. It is not in the game rules that you can skip out on the rent if you want to. As house renters ourselves, we don’t get to not pay next month if Mr. White isn’t looking at us. We’re still required to pay, as we still live in his house.
    That’s just life. It’s also the game rules.
    For games in which bluffing is part of the rules, I think that’s a different animal altogether. And as for properties being different prices, charging different rents based on price? Also life. And it has been a good lesson for the girls as they see how their wealth-building actions, which seem right and okay while they are doing them, are really harmful to others. They feel guilty when they ask a sister to fork over $2000 for rent on something. We’re still working out the kinks here, but the main point of not sneaking out on rent – that’s a no-brainer for our family. If you want to play another way, by all means, go right ahead.

    Like

  20. Bethany says:

    Don’t forget the Settlers of Catan! Like Monopoly or Risk but way, way, WAY better.
    Oh and you can play Ticket to Ride online for free at daysofwonder.com. Totally rad.

    Like

  21. Margaret says:

    Yes, I’m in on the Monopoly question. Do we teach our children to be fair and honest (and admit when they land on someone’s property) or do we prepare them for the world of unfair and dishonest people?
    I must say, I am not terribly materialistic, yet I find Monopoly fun and refreshing. I think it sometimes allows us to act out our frustrations. As the youngest, there was nothing more satisfying than beating my sister in Monopoly. Once.

    Like

  22. RT says:

    The bummer about the illegality of mixed CDs is that they really shouldn’t be, or so says the music-buyer in me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased new albums based of a mix given by friends. Still, not the point, eh?
    While at seminary we ran into fellow students at the movie theater and they seemed shocked that we stopped at Walgreens first for candy. It was the first time I really considered sneaking candy in a “bad” thing to do.
    Here’s what I’m interested in. How do we maintain great Christian ethics without looking down our nose on people who don’t hold to our standards? Maybe that’s the question of the Christian life in its entirety: How do we live righteously (while looking inwardly) and live with love and grace (while looking outwardly). I’d sure hate for battles of superiority to begin based on mixed CDs or cheaper Snickers bars.

    Like

  23. Megan says:

    I’m going to jump in here really fast on the Monopoly point. Not paying rent in Monopoly is actually cheating. It is not in the game rules that you can skip out on the rent if you want to. As house renters ourselves, we don’t get to not pay next month if Mr. White isn’t looking at us. We’re still required to pay, as we still live in his house.
    That’s just life. It’s also the game rules.
    For games in which bluffing is part of the rules, I think that’s a different animal altogether. And as for properties being different prices, charging different rents based on price? Also life. And it has been a good lesson for the girls as they see how their wealth-building actions, which seem right and okay while they are doing them, are really harmful to others. They feel guilty when they ask a sister to fork over $2000 for rent on something. We’re still working out the kinks here, but the main point of not sneaking out on rent – that’s a no-brainer for our family. If you want to play another way, by all means, go right ahead.

    Like

  24. Megan says:

    I changed the comment to be under this post (that’s why my face is showing up next to Claudia’s name), but I have to say: so glad I wasn’t drinking anything because I busted out laughing…
    Funny.
    Sort of wondering how they delineate between Christianity and communism in their version…
    Hurry! Only 5 left in stock. Order soon!!

    Like

  25. Megan says:

    I changed the comment to be under this post (that’s why my face is showing up next to Claudia’s name), but I have to say: so glad I wasn’t drinking anything because I busted out laughing…
    Funny.
    Sort of wondering how they delineate between Christianity and communism in their version…
    Hurry! Only 5 left in stock. Order soon!!

    Like

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