The Ethics Of Making A Good Decision

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Series: Other Speakers

Sun am 13 January 2013 – Justus Swart

Eph. 2:10; Eccl. 3:1-8; Phil. 2:13; (Job 42:2) 

Most disagreement amongst Christians is in the area of ethics. There are so many opinions. Let us look at the ethics of making a good choice. “Ethics” are the moral principles that govern a person or group’s behaviour; how you discern between good and bad. We inherit our moral vision mainly from our families and communities, but we need to be flexible and open minded when we come to the topic of ethics. We need to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). As we stare into the fresh new canvas of 2013 we become aware of opportunities and we can re-invent ourselves and create something new out of what has been. We take with us everything we have learned and feel we can make better decisions. The chance to wipe the slate clean and start over is the reason for New Year’s resolutions. When we start something new we want to start it right. We want to avoid negative decisions and guarantee some form of happiness because of everything we have learned and everything we are taking with us. There can be a slight element of fear because we do not know if the decision we are making is the right or wrong one. What happens if we end up outside of where God wants us to be? We also wonder if we are in the right place; how did we get here? We are stuck because we do not know what the right decision is. We are so afraid that something we are doing may lead us to the wrong place and we may end up lost.

We think we have missed the mark when we find ourselves in a situation that is not ideal. We feel we have made a wrong choice. There is something  very unimpressive about the claim that our God’s plan can be thwarted by our wrong decisions. He is bigger than that! In the book of Job it says God’s plans cannot be thwarted (Job. 42:2). An omnipotent God can look at a situation that seems completely off the rails and still be the God who is in control.

“The will of God may lie very deeply concealed beneath the great number of available possibilities” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer). He is not saying that God does not have a plan, but he is saying that God’s plan is far bigger than we could imagine. It is an indestructible plan that was set before time and finished before time. This plan is so encompassing that it accounts for every decision we make, right or wrong. When we make a decision, how do we discern what is good and what is bad? What is it that makes something good? God has given us a moral compass.

Do we say a decision is good or bad based on the consequences of the given decision? If the end result is good, does that mean it was a good decision? If the end result is bad, does that mean it was a bad decision? What about a decision where there is no clearly spelled out right or wrong, like a career choice? What about a person who applies to two different Universities for two different courses and one denies him and one accepts him? Did he make the choice for his career, or what the choice made for him? What do we use as a moral compass during times that a decision has the ability to shape the rest of your life? Who to marry? Which career? Where to live? etc. What makes us capable of saying that it is a good or bad decision?

Non-Christians think the Bible is a rule book, and that we have to live our lives dictated and ordered by the rules. When people are living that perfect life, no-one wants to go near them because they are so unrealistic. Is the Bible really just what to do and how to do it? Is it the DIY of living the good life? It is unfortunate that people have this perception of our faith. People who have this perception stay very far away from anything that looks like a system of control. People who want to live their lives by the rule book in a rigid dictatorial state often end up detached from reality and cannot fully invest in the people around them. I am required to live my life by the Spirit and actually engage with what is going on around me. It is called a correspondence with reality.

There is an appointed time for everything (Eccl. 3:1-8). You can never be outside of God even though you may not be running alongside His will. If you make any decision with the basis, “Is this what God wants for me?” then you have started correctly. We can lose ourselves in thinking right and wrong equals Christian and non-Christian.  It is important that we include God in our processes; that He is there in our formative stages. We may shout a question so loudly in our heart and be returned with silence, and we will have to make decisions that are painful, which at the time seem right, but in hindsight they seem wrong.

It seems ignorant of us to think we possess the ultimate claim to secure good in our future by applying a few simple steps. We see in Scripture that some of the apostle’s deaths are not recorded but some of them met gruesome ends. Some of them were burned alive, some were thrown in jail; Stephen was stoned alive. Can we surrender to God amidst total chaos where we seem to have lost control?

We go through difficulties and we have our character shaped and formed by them, but only to the extent that we allow it. We want to know if we are on the right track and if we are headed in the right direction. The best way to know is to live honestly before God. Do not hide the fact that there are difficulties and do not write off the difficulties thinking that you are in the wrong place. Life is not black and white. Do not try to be above your problems, but find out what He is trying to shape you into. What is it that He wants you to come out knowing? Take responsibility for your past; let God teach you through those things. It is not always the outcome of a decision that will have the lasting impact, but it will be the process by which God was able to speak to you, reach into your life and mold your character. For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:10).