|Vol. 16 No. 5 May 2014||
Donald R. Fox
“The needs of society determine its ethics” (Dr. Maya Angelou). This is an interesting quote from a very famous and well-known lady. We do not need a great scholar to understand Dr. Angelou’s statement. The sentiment she expressed may be acknowledged as a truth for many in our society today. However, it is my judgment that Dr. Maya Angelou is as wrong as wrong can be. Ethics are defined in part as: “A set of principles of right conduct. A system of moral values. The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession, such as medical ethics” (The Free Dictionary).
In the passing of time societies change, and many times society changes for the worse. With that said, I affirm that ethics and moral values, rules, standards of right and wrong do not change in the passing of time. Ethical standards are fixed. Dr. Maya Angelou’s view that a society or culture determines its own standard of right and wrong is dangerous. If a society determines its ethics, then it is right when Orthodox Islamic Sharia Law dictates stoning or beheads adulterers. Let us not forget “honor killings” for a variety of reasons, and mostly against women. If Dr. Angelou is right, how could we have condemned Nazism under Adolf Hitler? The German people and their society were following their ethical standards. Would anyone in his right mind say that Nazism under Hitler’s regime was right conduct and a good ethical system of moral values?
“Dr. Angelou’s words and action continue to stir our souls, energize our bodies, liberate our minds, and heal our hearts” (Dr. Angelou’s web site https://mayaangelou.com). Notice, “liberate our minds”; what does that mean? Does it mean that one can decide his own ethical standards per Dr. Angelou’s quote? Yes, it seems that is what Dr. Angelou believes. Mankind has reaped great problems with this liberated thinking and doctrine of flexible ethics.
Friends, the Bible is the only true standard and system of moral values.
If God is our Sovereign King and Lawgiver, it is of course his right to command, and it is our duty to obey. And hence the Scriptures require that all our actions shall be in harmony with God’s will. “You are not your own,” says Paul; “for you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And again, Christ says, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). (Robert Milligan. Reason and Revelation, 35)
The morality contained in God’s Book is not to be compared with the faltering, blundering codes that men devise. Even with the perfection of Christ’s life before us, it is only by persistent and diligent application that we can come close to the balance that He maintained in moral excellence. What a tragic mistake to set up another standard between Him and us – a standard of our own devising. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8.9).” (Fred A. Amick. Hearing for Eternity, Vol. II, 245)
“Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8 ASV).
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Common courtesy.” However, these days it seems to be in scarce supply. Courtesy is defined as, “politeness of manners; especially, politeness connected with kindness; civility; considerateness.” Having thoughtfulness toward our fellow man is virtuous. Please ponder the following ways you can practice courtesy.
(1) Keep your word. God is the Ultimate standard in this matter. In fact, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). Consider one example. “Blessed be Jehovah, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56). What about your word? If you tell your boss you will perform a certain task, do you follow through? When talking with your mate, can he or she count on you? Did your vows include “for better or for worse”? Parents should be particularly careful to build trust in their children. Their dependability will greatly mold the habits of their offspring.
(2) Use words of courtesy. In our self-centered culture, some people find words of kindness unpalatable. Make it your pledge to use “Thank you” more often. Read Luke 17:11-19. Phone and Internet exchanges are woefully lacking in courtesy. Some have no qualms with making a call and beginning with: “Hey, give me…!” Yes, many phones provide caller identification, but why not still be courteous and identify yourself in a kind manner? You may be a busy person (who is not?), but taking only a moment to be courteous will pay dividends.
(3) Be on time. We are not talking about delays that are out of our control. Let’s be frank. Tardiness is often followed up with a multitude of pitiful excuses. Being avoidably late is inconsiderate. When we keep others waiting, it often sends a demeaning message – as if peasants must wait upon a king. Our 1,001 excuses fall upon deaf ears when others know we can be punctual for things we deem important. For example, some fans are known to camp-out before sales begin in order to secure a coveted movie or ballgame ticket.
(4) Practice the “Golden Rule.” Read Matthew 7:12. This Divine principle, if implemented, will make a person of courtesy out of you. You will treat others with the courtesy you wish to receive. If you desire others to be kind, but frank with you, such will be your treatment of others. “One of the most difficult things to give away is kindness, for it is usually returned!”