Making Ethical Choices
HONESTY and ethics have become hot topics in the last few years. As scandals --whether in political, social, or business circles--have been uncovered, people have had to look harder at their motives as well as their actions.
Sometimes it might seem as though a little cheating here and there wouldn't do any harm. Yet the Bible offers many insights into the importance of righteousness. It draws a direct parallel between righteous, or honest, behavior and prosperity for both people and nations. In Psalms, for example, we read, ``I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
In effect, the Bible is saying, honesty is practical because it brings us into line with God, the divine Principle which governs all and which gives all good. Honesty is an affirmation of our spiritual selfhood as the sons and daughters of God. And as we understand spirituality to be the actual reality of our lives, we learn to trust God to meet all our needs. Christ Jesus made this very clear in his ministry as is evident in the Gospels, especially the book of Matthew.
Still, even if we want to do the right thing, it isn't always easy to know what to do. This is where prayer makes a huge difference. In prayer, we can examine ourselves and our motives. Why do we want to do a particular thing? Is it truly honest? or are we going to great lengths to try to justify it?
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has some very direct things to say about honesty, all of them well worth considering seriously. In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she says, ``Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help."
To be dishonest, then, is to deny our spirituality and to assume that we can be separated from God's love. Such conduct is based on the erroneous belief that we are matter-driven mortals. Even though human circumstances may at times seem to offer this as a possibility, it is not true. To believe in this false, material picture of who and what we are is to cheat ourselves--to keep us from seeing our true, spiritual heritage.
Through prayer we can actively affirm--on a daily basis--our unity with our divine Father. And God is more than just a distant spiritual relative. We can know His presence in our lives right now. And this daily assurance that He is ever present will help us choose what's right in times of temptation or confusion as well as on what we might call ``ordinary" days. Since God is Mind, as well as divine Principle, our prayers will help us to know and do the right things even when it is difficult to tell what is right.
Here is an illustration of that point. I once had a job that involved working under great pressure with tight deadlines. Decisions had to be made very quickly. I had made a point of always striving to be sure that whatever we did was honest. I felt that this policy was a way of affirming God's presence in my life and my work.
One day a situation arose where we were under tremendous pressure to get on with a project. A member of our team felt strongly that we should use some material that we weren't sure we had the legal right to use. The person I usually consulted on legal matters wasn't available, and her substitute said I could go ahead, but more with an ``everybody does it attitude than with the legal authorization I felt we needed.
Everyone I checked with assured me that there wouldn't be a problem. My intuition still told me not to go ahead. But I didn't have a way to stop the use of the material because, at least on the surface, there was nothing actually wrong with using it.
I turned in prayer to God and affirmed that I could never be separated from Him. I was sure that somehow He would help me avoid doing something wrong if we were about to make a mistake. Through a totally unexpected set of circumstances an unrelated situation arose that prevented us from using the material. Later events that none of us could have anticipated proved that using it would have been unwise.
Each of us, through God, has the power to affirm the presence of law, of good, of honesty, and of truth in our lives. And as we let these concepts grow in our thoughts and keep them close to our hearts, the path of righteousness will be clear to us even at times when there seem to be a lot of thorns and bushes covering it.
Such self-discipline will strengthen our families, set a good example for others and, both directly and indirectly, bring prosperity to our nations.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
Deuteronomy 30:19, 20