We all want to be ethical. Ethical coffee beans and ethical investment funds. Fair trade clothing can even make us all look ethical chic.

But the ethical high road may be the biblical wide road. There are certainly lots of people on it these days. Businesses and Schools proudly post their "Code of Ethics", detailing how fairness and equality are a big deal for them. But the narrow way that Jesus referred to in Matthew 7:13 relates to obedience in the context of God's Law and Prophets, mentioned in the previous verse. God did not give Moses a "Code of Ethics" carved in stone. Perhaps calling it a "Moral Code" would be closer to the truth. What's the difference?

William Gairdner clarifies the difference between 'ethical' and 'moral' in The Book of Absolutes (p.27f). He insists that the two terms should not be used interchangeably. Gairdner writes:



The word ethics generally refers to the rules of proper person-to-person conduct from a very broad and openly secular perspective.
This is people trying to figure out what is best in balancing the pros and cons of a particular situation as they see it. It will likely be a relativistic and pragmatic solution. But it will result in a standard of conduct that is not derived from any external, transcendent, or religious principle.It will be a personal viewpoint, perhaps one that is widely recognized in a democratic and egalitarian culture - but not one that can be imposed from on high like some revelation from Sinai. Morality, however, is quite different.

Morality ...implies an absolute and transcendent standard of conduct that is generally considered binding on all human beings, even on ethicists.It has to do with...God-to-person conduct and is assumed to be in force without regard to the happiness of individuals or groups.
Morals are not a matter of personal preference. You cannot choose which of the Ten Commandments you like, or decide where you think they apply. That's why there are not many people on this road. Politicians can claim to be ethical even when journalists expose their lack of morality.

The Gospel does not tell us that Jesus followed our code of ethics and thus enables us to have a fulfilled personal life. It tells us that Jesus fulfilled God's Moral Law so that all our moral failings can be dealt with at Calvary. Even if those moral failings are conveniently cloaked under the self-righteousness of our ethical attempts to buy the right coffee beans.We should not want to exploit cheap Bangladeshi labor when we buy a cotton shirt; but we should also remember that our Ethical Chic outfit may just be what Isaiah calls "filthy rags"!



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