What about the “Gray Areas” of Morality?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Morality and Ethics, Part 2

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Erik Lutz, AiG–U.S., explains that we need to examine our hearts as we consider ethical issues.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9–10)

Today’s big question: what about the “gray areas” of morality?

One of the first topics to come up in a discussion of biblical morality is the idea of spiritual “gray areas,” such as clothing, music, and movies. God’s Word does not give much direct teaching about many of these issues as they relate to our modern culture. However, we can—and must—discern principles from Scripture in order to govern every decision we make.

Most people would agree there are many clear “black and white” teachings in Scripture. For example: don’t steal, don’t murder, and don’t commit adultery. In one sense, these commands are simple: murder is always wrong; therefore, don’t murder. However, the Ten Commandments and other biblical instructions don’t just stop at the outward, physical actions like murder, theft, or adultery. As Jesus showed us, these commands reach all the way down to the heart attitudes that motivate these wrong actions:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

Jesus was not giving new commands; He simply pointed out what was true all along. To God, having unrighteous anger is comparable to murder, as both sins share the same heart attitude. We see in today’s passage that our own hearts often deceive us, but God knows and rightly judges every heart. We need to be careful about classifying any moral issues as “black and white” or “gray” since everything we do should be for the glory of God—even the most basic of daily tasks like eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31).  

When faced with a moral dilemma that isn’t directly addressed in Scripture, we need to consider what Jesus would have us do in light of His Word. This is not just a religious sentiment; it is taken directly from Scripture, which states, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Having the mind of Christ is a critical part of living a godly life. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, can you honestly say you “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”?

Today’s big idea: live by the heart of the command, not just the letter of the law.

What to pray: ask the Lord to reveal any areas where you are trusting your deceitful heart over the truth of His Word.

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