Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Right and Wrong

Ever since Adam ate the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all men have known right from wrong. Why then, I wonder, do we need to teach our children right from wrong? Why, for that matter, do so many of us need to learn right from wrong ourselves? These are not trick questions. Let’s think this through.

Most people believe it is wrong to lie. It’s certainly a sin to bear false witness (Exodus 20: 16), and a lying tongue is one of seven abominations before God (Proverbs 6: 16 - 19). But just because a person tells a lie doesn’t mean they have a lying tongue (i.e. someone who lies routinely), and it isn’t necessarily an abomination before God either.

The Egyptian midwives lied to Pharaoh about the newborn Jewish boys they were supposed to kill and God rewarded them (Exodus 1: 15 - 21). Rahab lied to the king of Jericho about the Jewish spies that Joshua had sent into the city (Joshua 2: 1 - 6) and God rewarded her with a place in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1: 5). When people lied to German Nazis to protect Jews hidden in their attics, they most certainly did not sin.

Note too that in each of these cases it was their civil leaders, the government, that these people lied to. But according to Paul, we’re supposed to be subject to the government (Romans 13: 1 - 5). No, there is no contradiction here. These people didn’t rebel or try to overthrow their leaders. They were still subject to their rulers, for if they’d been found out they’d surely have been punished. Still, at the very least, they were willing to risk the consequences for doing the right thing.

And therein lies the answer to our question. We do not need to learn the difference between right and wrong. We know right from wrong. What we need is the courage to act in accordance with that knowledge. We need to stop rationalizing what we know to be wrong, what we know to be sin (I John 1: 8 - 10). Far too many people need to stop their vain attempts to assuage their own consciences before they are permanently seared (I Timothy 4: 2).

Just because the government says something is right or wrong doesn’t make it so. It only makes it legal or illegal. The government says you're not allowed to drive faster than the posted speed limit. I'm not saying that it's okay to speed. What I'm saying is that if the law did not forbid driving 100 miles per hour it would be no sin to do so. For that reason I say that, since the government forbids driving 100 mph,  if you do and get caught you must suffer the consequences. But I will not say that you've sinned, or done evil.

Consider the converse. The government says it’s legal to take the Lord’s name in vain. Freedom of speech they call it, but that doesn’t make it right. The government says it’s legal to commit fornication, adultery, sodomy and all manner of deviant unseemliness, but that doesn’t make it righteous. The government says it’s okay for women to have their unborn babies murdered, but that makes it no less a sin to do or have done. And when the government, through one of its judges, says that it's a crime to offer food and water to Terri Schiavo, that may make it illegal but it doesn't make it wrong.

This is why we need to instill in ourselves and our children the moral confidence to stand firm on what is right regardless of potential consequences. Because sometimes the government demands that people do evil, and at other times it forbids that they do right. When that Florida judge ordered police officers to arrest anyone who tried to bring food or water to Terri Schaivo, he effectively ordered the police to actively participate in her murder. Do you believe that on Judgment Day God will accept as their defense the plea, “We were just following orders!?” If some have their way it won’t be long before the government, likely once again through a judge's decree, declares it a hate crime to preach God’s Word to homosexuals, but that won’t make it wrong. Now do you believe that God will accept “The government said we couldn’t” as an excuse not to?

Indeed, we already know right from wrong, and we are without excuse (Romans 1: 20).

Exodus 20: 16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Proverbs 6: 16 - 19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Exodus 1: 15 - 21 And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.

Joshua 2: 1 - 6 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

Matthew 1: 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

Romans 13: 1 - 5 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

I John 1: 8 - 10 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

I Timothy 4: 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Romans 1: 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: