People have always had to make decisions. “Where will I live?” “What do I want to do with my life?” “Who will I marry?” Throughout time people have also been faced with tough ethical and moral decisions. “How will I respond to what happens to me?” “How will I run my business?” “Will I cheat others or deal with them fairly?” “Will I lie or be a person who tells the truth?” “Will I be faithful to my husband or wife or will I choose to be unfaithful and tear my home apart?” Those are questions that people have had to address throughout time.
You and I are now living in a day when we are not only faced with important questions like these, but we are now being confronted with increasingly complex questions because of technological advances and the morally lax atmosphere of our society. You and I will have to make tough decisions about what is “right” and what is “wrong,” but how will we make those decisions? What will we base our decisions on?
At the same time that we are being presented with these tough decisions as individuals we are watching the tools that we so desperately need to make these decisions vanish before our eyes. Because we have downplayed the importance of God’s Word as the guiding light for our lives as individuals and for our nation we have been left to make these important decisions based upon what we feel is “right.”
For most of society the difficult decisions that we are being faced with are being made without the benefit of the counsel of God which comes through the Word of God. We are making tough decisions, as well as everyday decisions, based upon what we “feel” or what we determine would be “best” for us or for those we love. This type of reasoning, or decision-making, is called “situational ethics.”
We can thank an Episcopal priest named, Joseph Fletcher, for situational ethics. His book, Situation Ethics, was the launching pad for this type of reasoning, or decision making. Joseph Fletcher died in 1990, but while he was alive he was involved with the Euthanasia Educational Counsel, and an advocate for Planned Parenthood. He was a supporter of both euthanasia and abortion.
If we base our decision-making on situational ethics then we will make decisions, according to Father Fletcher, on love, the only absolute is love. Fletcher says, “Love should be the motive behind every decision. As long as love is your intention, the end justifies the means.” The problem with this type of thinking is this: how do we even know what “love” is? We are sinners, our minds are tainted, and our reasoning is flawed. Our thoughts are not the thoughts of God and neither are our ways like His ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
Love should be our motive, but it is the love of God and our willingness to live this life according to His will that demonstrates our commitment. John wrote, “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3 NIV)
Situational ethics is being taught in many of our schools, it is being practiced in the home and at work by those who’ve never even heard of Joseph Fletcher, and it is wrecking lives, work places, homes, and our society. Let me put you to the test with a scenario that has been used to show the fallacy of situational ethics. How would you advise a mother who was pregnant with her fifth child based on the following facts: Her husband had syphilis. She had tuberculosis. Their first child was born blind. Their second child died. Their third child was born deaf. Their fourth child had tuberculosis. The mother is considering an abortion.
Would you advise her to have the baby or to have an abortion? With her history would it be wise, or loving, to encourage her to have the baby? Great question! I know what Joseph Fletcher would have advised the mother to do, but do you realize that if the mother would have listened to Father Fletcher the world would never had heard the glorious sounds of the great composer and musician Ludwig van Beethoven! Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 21:2-8.
2 All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. 3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! 5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. 6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. 7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right. 8 The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright. (Proverbs 21:2-8 NIV)
This is such a powerful section of Scripture for those of us who live in a day where there is no guidance, no boundary lines, no authority to lead us other than our own voice, our own heart, our own minds, or whatever we think is best. I’m not an alarmist. I wouldn’t dare try and convince you that our day is worse than the days gone by because we can see from God’s Word that what we are experiencing today has happened in the past. Let me give you an example. Turn with me to the very last verse of the very last chapter of the Book of Judges–Judges 21:25.
25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (Judges 21:25 NIV)
“Everyone did as he saw fit.” Do what you think is best for you regardless of what God’s Word says. In the New Testament we see the same mentality. Turn with me to Romans 1:21-25 and let’s read together.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:21-25 NIV)
This section of Scripture so describes our day. The people of Paul’s day knew God, they knew about God, they could quote the Torah, they visited the synagogue, but their hearts were set on doing what they wanted to do rather than submitting to God’s will for their lives.
Take a look at America today. There are more churches in American than any other country in the world. There are 1400 churches in Oklahoma City alone. We have multi-million dollar worship facilities and the people to fill them on Sunday morning, but our hearts are filled with getting our way, doing our own thing, and with precious little thought of what God desires or wants for us. As a result we see the crime rate in America out of control. Our prisons are filled to overflowing with more than 2.5 million inmates. Divorces in the church are equal to those who claim no faith at all. Who is leading us? How are we making the important decisions of life?
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21:2, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart.” All of our ways may seem right to us, but that doesn’t mean that they are right. In the time that we have left I want to take a look at the two kinds of people Solomon describes for us in verses 2-8. Go back and read the Scripture with me again and let’s mark the descriptions of the two kinds of people. Read Proverbs 21:2-8.
First, you have the person who is committed to living for the Lord. We’ve spent many, many weeks examining Solomon’s counsel to his son on the kind of person he desires for him to become and the kind of people that he should avoid. Solomon desires for his son to be a man of God. In verse 3 we see that doing what is “right” and “just” are more important than carrying an offering to the altar. In verse 5 we see that being “diligent” is a character quality of those who are seeking after the Lord. In verse 8 we read that “innocence” or “purity” leads to an upright life. I wish we had the time to take a look at each of these Hebrew words, but our time is short so we will take a look at just a couple of the key words used here.
First, let’s go back to verse 3 and try and understand what it means to do what is “right.” Is doing what is “right” simply doing what we think is right or could it mean something different than this? The Hebrew word is almost impossible to translate with one English word. The word in Hebrew means, “justice, righteousness, or being rightly related.” The word appears in the Old Testament 157 times and it is most often translated as “righteous.” The word is used in Jeremiah 33:15-16 where we read about the coming Messiah.
15 “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:15-16 NIV)
The Messiah did come and Jesus did what was right and what was just throughout His life. How did He determine what was right or just? In John 5:19, Jesus said,
19 “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19 NIV)
A little later in the same chapter Jesus said, “for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30 NIV) This should be the driving force behind our every decision. We are not here to please ourselves, but to please the Lord.
I want to take a look at one more word. Take a look at verse 8 with me and let’s read together. “The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.” (Proverbs 21:8 NIV) See the word, “conduct?” The Hebrew word for “conduct” means, “work, deeds, or actions.” The actions or deeds of those who are innocent or pure in their motives are upright, they are a blessing to those around them. Now, turn with me to Proverbs 21:6 and I want to show you the exact same word that we looked at in verse 8. The word that was translated, “conduct” in verse 8 is now translated, “made.” Read along with me.
6 A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. (Proverbs 21:6 NIV)
You see we are all doing something, we are all at work, but the question is who are you working for? The conduct, actions, or work of those who are rightly related to God will bless those around them. The actions or work of those who are not rightly related to God will lead to all kinds of ungodly actions.
Now, let’s take a look at the character qualities of those who are not rightly related to God. In verse 4 we see “haughty eyes” and a “proud heart.” In verse 5 we read that “haste” leads to poverty. In verse 6 we read that they have a “lying tongue.” In verse 7 we read that they are “violent” and “refuse to do what is right.” Finally, in verse 8, we read that they are “devious” in their ways, the way they live their life and relate to others.
We’ve learned over and over again in the book of Proverbs that our hearts are truly the heart of the matter. Everything flows from the heart. If our hearts are set on walking with God then godliness will flow like a mighty river in our lives. If our hearts are wayward and set on doing what we want to do rather than walking with God then there is no limit to the depths to which we will sink in our relationships with others. Let’s take a look at verse 6 where we see that a “proud heart” is a character trait of those who refuse to walk with God. The Hebrew phrase for “proud heart” literally means, “wide heart.” The same phrase is found in a number of other places in the Old Testament. Let me share just a few examples with you. In Isaiah 10:12-13 we read,
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes.” 13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom, because I have understanding. I removed the boundaries of nations, I plundered their treasures; like a mighty one I subdued their kings.” (Isaiah 10:12-13 NIV)
Did you notice the mindset of the King of Assyria? All that had happened in his life he attributed to his wisdom, power, and strength. God says that He will punish the king for his arrogance.
In Proverbs 28:25-26 we read about a “greedy man,” but in actuality the word for “greedy” is the same Hebrew word translated, “proud” in Proverbs 21:4. Read along with me.
25 A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper. 26 He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. (Proverbs 28:25-26 NIV)
The proud man stirs up trouble, he trusts in himself, and he is a fool. That is the description of the arrogant man given to us by Solomon. I want to look at one final section of Scripture found in Habakkuk 2:4-5. Read along with me.
4 “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright, but the righteous will live by his faith, 5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.” (Habakkuk 2:4-5 NIV)
I hope you have noticed the clear distinction between the two kinds of people that we are looking at today. How do you explain the differences? Is it pedigree? Lack of access to a quality education? Could it be a dysfunctional home-life that has brought about the shady character qualities of the latter group? I don’t think so. I can introduce you to folks who’ve got more degrees than a thermometer, come from a wonderful Christian home, and have had every advantage and yet they’ve chosen to chart their own course and it has led to disastrous results. On the other hand, I can introduce you to people who’ve experienced most every disadvantage in life, things have been rough, but they’ve chosen to base their decisions upon God’s Word and will and it has led to a life of peace, contentment, and trust in God’s Sovereign hand.
What is the key? What is the difference? I can show you. Take a look with me at verse 4. Solomon writes, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!” There is the key for us!! I know, you are thinking where is the key? See the phrase, “The lamp of the wicked.” That phrase perplexed me this week as I was studying this section of Scripture so I called my friend David Darnell. He was explaining the Hebrew to me when he said, “Mike, the ‘lamp’ is the way of a person, how they make decisions, what they choose to do in life.” The decision-making process of those who choose to make their own decisions apart from God’s counsel is crooked, it’s skewed, it’s off-base.
There is another way to make decisions. There is another “lamp” that will lead you that is far different than what you or I “feel” or “think.” Turn with me to Psalm 119:105. Read with me. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105 NIV) God’s Word is a lamp and a light to our path. Isn’t that awesome! God has not left us walking in a dark world with no compass or light–He is the way! He is our light! He will lead those who will lean upon Him and trust in Him.
Solomon wrote to his son in Proverbs 6 and encouraged him to make his teachings paramount in his life. Now, we must keep in mind that Solomon wasn’t teaching his son from the Farmer’s Almanac or conventional wisdom from his day. He was passing on to his son the wisdom that he had learned from God. Look at verses 20-23 with me.
20 My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. 23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Proverbs 6:20-23 NIV)
How will we make decisions? There are only two choices for you and me. We can either face the future, and the decisions that are yet to come our way, with our own wisdom and determine what will be best for us and the people we love or we can submit to the will of Almighty God and seek His will in every decision that comes our way.
How we will make decisions is not only an important question for the ethical dilemmas we will face in life, but even more importantly, it is an important question to settle in answering the most important question in life–“What will we do with Jesus?” Will we bow before Him or we will turn away? If we listen to the Lord then we will know that “today is the day is the day of salvation.” This is the day when we need to make things right with God. We need to confess our sin and surrender our hearts to the Savior. If we trust in our own logic and intellect then we will convince ourselves that we don’t need Jesus or we will get around to making things right some day. Some day may never come my friends, listen to the voice of God today. He is calling you and me today. Today is the day of salvation–won’t you come?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114