There are lots of times in life when it is hard to know whether we are doing the right thing. In order to figure out whether a particular action or decision is morally right or wrong, there are two things we need to look at:
- The action itself
- Our motivation for doing the action
1. The action itself
The FIRST, namely knowing whether a particular action is right or wrong, is the easier part to figure out. We need to read and study the Bible, go to church and learn the Scriptures from the preacher, Bible study groups, and Sunday school classes. A good place to begin learning right from wrong in the Bible is the 10 Commandments (found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) and in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
If you are new to the Christian faith, it will take some time to become familiar with the Bible and if you have a question about a particular action, it would be a good idea to ask your pastor or other mature Christian church member where in the Bible it talks about that. But over time, you should be able to gain a good sense of right and wrong as you read, study, and pray through the Scriptures, submitting yourself to God and to your local church leadership, and allowing your thoughts, words, and actions to be shaped by God’s Word. The Apostle Paul talks about this in Romans 12:1-2, when he says:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
Of course, there are difficult decisions in life where we may not be sure about what is the best or most helpful decision, but if we know what God’s Word says, we should be able to make moral decisions on every occasion, as the Holy Spirit grows us into Christian maturity (Titus 3:5)
2. Our motivation for doing the action
The SECOND aspect of knowing whether something is right or wrong is bit more difficult. Are we doing the right thing for the right reason? What is our motivation? In the Old Testament, God condemned the Israelites for doing the ceremonies that he required, but with the wrong motivation. They obeyed some of God’s commands in an effort to get God to bless them in spite of their disobedience to other commands. This kind of hypocrisy didn’t impress God at all. Through the prophet Isaiah, God said,
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats … When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:11, 15-17)
When we think about doing a particular action or saying something to someone, we need to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I doing this for God’s glory or my own glory?”
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
In summary, if you have searched the Scriptures and know that a particular action is pleasing to God, and you have searched your heart and think that you are doing it out of a desire to please God, then you should have confidence that you are doing what is morally right.