The moral decisions we make every day are related directly to the issue of authority. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all base the moral and ethical choices we make on who we believe is in charge, or whether we believe the consequences are worth risking. Observing the speed limit, taking an extra 10 minutes for lunch, arriving on time, cheating on taxes, telling the truth, speaking out against injustice, watching pornography, taking drugs, flirting with a co-worker, sleeping with someone you are not married to, seeking revenge, forgiving someone, giving money to charity, being implicated in church, being a faithful spouse, sharing the gospel, exhorting someone, remaining silent, participating in gossip, practicing homosexuality, taking sugar packets from the break room, teaching your children about God, defending the helpless, obeying parents, listening to a teacher, submitting to government laws, being jealous and envious of someone, bullying another person, telling the cashier that they gave you too much change, and all the hundreds of other ethical and moral decisions that we make on a regular basis are founded upon the issue of authority.
Why did I mention so many issues? I did so because I want to help us see that much of our lives consist of choices that reflect who our hearts wish to glorify, honor, and obey. The real question that we need to answer is not who do we think is in charge, rather, who is in charge? I believe often, in the heat of the moment and in the casualness of life, we forget who has authority over all things, and who we will be held accountable to when this life is over. In other words, all the moral decisions we make in life matter to the One who is the Moral Giver, and He will hold us accountable for the way we live and who we live for.
“In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). Everything started with Him. Everything exists because of Him. He is the One who has determined the rules of nature, right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies, and all creation is accountable to Him as Creator and God.
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah once confessed to God, “You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” (2 Chronicles 20:6)
The Psalmist in Psalm 135:6 said, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” This is a clear declaration of God’s authority. Only the one in complete authority can do everything they please. Usually on Sunday evening or Monday morning I plan out all that I want to accomplish for the week. Only rarely do my plans fully come to fruition. Why? I am not in charge and I do not control all things. So, when life happens, I must react to it. But think about this truth: God never reacts. He just simply acts. Everything He plans happens. Nothing can stop His plans because He is in control of every single thing that exists. He has all authority over all things, and all things are accountable to Him. Isaiah the prophet records the Lord saying, “I am God. Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43:12b-13). The apostle Paul says of the Lord Jesus that He “is the head of all rule and authority.” (Colossians 2:10b)
So, what does this have to do with our moral and ethical choices. In a word, everything. Since the Lord God has authority over all things, and He has declared what is true and good and right, then the question of whether our decisions and choices are morally and ethically good and right depends fully and completely on whether God considers them to be so. He is the standard of truth, for He is truth (John 14:6). He is the standard of good, for He is the only One who is ultimately all good (Matthew 19:17). And He is the standard of righteousness, for only He is truly perfect (Matthew 5:48).
Therefore, we are not the authors of truth, goodness, and righteousness. God is. If we seek to make decisions and choices in our daily lives in a way that is contrary to His will and His word, then no matter how good it may feel, no matter how popular it is, and no matter how much we want it to be so, they will be considered wrong and evil, and will be judged by God. Also, we must understand that parents, teachers, police officers, government officials and church leaders, as well as all other positions of leadership, though have authority over certain people, are ultimately accountable to God for the way they exercise their authority and uphold God’s word and will, just as much as those under their authority are accountable to Him for the way they respect those who lead them. Therefore, just because the government has made a law saying that a man can marry a man, or a woman can marry a woman does not ultimately make that moral decision right nor good. To know the answer as to whether something is right or wrong one must look to God, the Moral Giver and see what He has said about the issue. On the subject of homosexual marriage, God has clearly spoken that He designed sex to be practiced only in the constraints of marriage, and that marriage is the covenant relationship between a man and a woman only. Any marriage or sexual relationship outside of that is considered morally wrong and evil by God. Regardless of what culture or government laws say, homosexual marriage, the transgender movement, fornication, pornography, and all other forms of sexual immorality are in rebellion against God for it seeks to place man’s authority over His. While the culture feels free in their sinful sexual pride, all people, including myself, will be held accountable to Him in the way we obey His word and commands on this and all issues.
So, the moral and ethical choices we make matter. They matter mainly, not because of what we think or consider right. They matter because God, who has authority over all moral and ethical decisions, has declared what we ought to do and not do, what we ought to think and not think, and what we ought to believe and not believe. “In the beginning God” and He has spoken. And we mustn’t forget, God is completely good in His character and in all His actions. So, everything that He declares right, wrong, true, false, good or evil, and every single command that He gives us to follow is holy, and ultimately and truly for our good. Therefore, the application question for all of us is, are we listening to Him?
Some reading this might be thinking, “I do not like the fact that I cannot decide for myself right and wrong, truth and false, good and evil. I want to decide for myself, and it should be okay.” If this is you, I encourage you to listen to what God said to some when they thought something similar: “Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him…Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’…Thus says the Lord, The Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him…will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded al their host.” (Isaiah 45:9-12). We can try to live our lives upon our own personal authority. But, eventually, all authority must bow the knee before the One who has full authority. At one point, the clay must bend its will to the potter’s hands.
Therefore, submitting to and exercising authority is a spiritual issue, for in due course, it all eventually answers to God. Truth be told, we are all immoral, unethical, and lawbreakers. None of us can claim otherwise (Romans 3:10). That is where the gospel comes in. As we understand and see our sin and guilt before God, He holds out His hand of mercy in Jesus Christ. All, and God truly says all, who humbly go to Him, confessing their rebellion against Him and trust in His Son Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin, will be saved from being judged by Him. But not only that, God will then give that person His Spirit in order to help them learn what it means to live under His authority, and experience the joy, peace, and contentment that comes when one lives their lives with a heart that desires to obey Him. And as His Spirit teaches us God’s will through His word, as we encounter all the regular moral and ethical decisions of daily life, He will be our moral compass that will guide us on how to act, think, and believe according to His authority. For all our decisions and choices are, in the end, spiritual ones.