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Ethical Principles from the Bible

Turning the Tide

From Turning the Tide - Ethical Principles from the Bible

We should resist the temptation to construct a pharisaical list of do's and don't's but rather look for biblical ethical principles to guide our decision making. These can be summed up in the commandments to 'love God with all our heart, soul and mind' and 'to love our neighbour as ourselves' (Mt 22:37-40). While respecting the ten commandments, we should recognise that true Christian morality involves going beyond the mere letter of the law (Mt 5:21-22, 27-28) to the very spirit of love on which it is based (1 Cor 13:4-8). The following principles are based on the ten commandments.

1. The Sovereignty of God

You shall have no other Gods before me (Ex 20:3)

God is the Creator (Gn 1:1), the Sustainer (Heb 1:3) and the Lord of all life. He is also absolute arbiter of right and wrong and has spoken clearly in history through his word and through his Son Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2), in whom all his fullness dwells (Col 1:19). We must always put him first.


2. Stewardship

You shall not make for yourself an idol (Ex 20:4-6)

God has made us stewards of his creation and guardians of the planet (Gn 1:26,28). This validates scientific enquiry and application but is not a license for exploitation, nor for seeing medicine rather than God as mankind's saviour. We must always exercise our delegated authority for good, especially for the good of individual human beings. Furthermore we should do it according to God's revealed standards of right and wrong. The end does not justify the means.


3. Honouring God's character

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God (Ex 20:7)

We must recognise and acknowledge God as the real source of all good gifts (Jas 1:17; 1 Cor 4:7) upholding his compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice (Ex 34:6,7); and not bringing dishonour to his name in our words or actions; nor should we seek glory for ourselves.


4.Work and Rest

Remember the Sabbath Day... six days shall you labour (Ex 20:8-11)

We have an obligation to work (2 Thes 3:10-13), to serve others in order to provide for our own needs and those of our family (1 Tim 5:8) and to imitate God who is himself a worker. But we must also honour and recommend the Creator's rule of one day's rest in seven, recognising that it was made for our pleasure and benefit (Is 58:13-14; Mk 2:27) and as a sign of the rest to come (Heb 4:9-11).


5. Authority and the Family

Honour your father and your mother (Ex 20:12)

God has established human authorities as his agents to serve and protect us and we should submit to them and not rebel against their authority (Rom 13:1-7). Most important among these is the family which is God's provision for the protection, nurture and discipline of children (Dt 6:6,7; Eph 6:1-4) and the stability of society as a whole.


6. The Sanctity of Life

You shall not murder (Ex 20:13)

All human life is made in God's image (Gn 9:6,7) and is worthy of the utmost respect from its beginning to end. This includes the unborn (Ps 139:13-16; Is 49:1; Jb 10:8-9), the handicapped (Lv  19:14), the vulnerable (Ex 22:21-24) and the advanced in age (Lv 19:32). The heart of Christianity is that we must love as Christ himself  loved (Jn 13:34), that the strong should lay  down  their lives  for the weak (Phil 2:5-8, Rom 5:6-8).


7. Sexuality and Marriage

You shall not commit adultery (Ex 20:14)

Marriage is a life-long, publicly recognised, heterosexual, monogamous relationship (Gn 2:24; Mt 19:4-6; Eph 5:31-33) and is representative of Christ's own relationship with the church. Sex is God's good gift for intimacy (Mt 19:4), pleasure (Pr 5:18,19) and procreation (Gn 1:28) but must only take place within the marriage relationship.


8. Respect for property

You shall not steal (Ex 20:15)

God has blessed human beings materially in order that they may provide for their own needs and those of others (2 Cor 9:8). We should show respect for the property of others and seek to use what he has given us in accordance with his revealed will.


9. Veracity

You shall not give false testimony (Ex 20:16)

We should 'speak the truth in love' (Eph 4:15) at all times, using our words to build others up rather than tearing them down. Lying through commission or omission runs counter to the nature of God himself (Nu 23:19) and leads to injustice. We should be people of our word (Jas 5:12).


10. Contentment

You shall not covet... (Ex 20:17)

We should be grateful and content with what God gives us (Phil 4:11-12), not being driven by jealousy or desire for the possessions, relationships, gifts or honour of others. Rather we should desire to do his will, to have his gifts to serve others (1 Cor 12:31) and most of all to desire God himself (Ps 37:4), knowing that he will provide us with what we need.



More from Turning the Tide: Turning the Tide

  • Knowing the Times
  • Why is ethical decision making more difficult?
  • Thinking World-Viewishly
  • Making Ethical Decisions the World's Way
  • Making Ethical Decisions God's Way
  • The Authority of the Bible
  • Authorities Outside the Bible?
  • Interpreting the Bible
  • Applying the Bible
  • Ethical Principles from the Bible
  • When Christians Disagree
  • Ends and Means
  • Conflicting Commands?
  • Imposing our morality?
  • Handling Conflict
  • Tips for ethical debates
  • Euthanasia
  • Abortion
  • The Status of the Embryo
  • Contraception
  • Animal Rights
  • Sexuality
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