Ethics cannot be categorized in our lives. People try to use one set of ethics for their professional life, another for their spiritual life and still another at home with their family. This gets them into trouble. Ethics is ethics. If we desire to be ethical, we live by one standard across the board. In other words, there is no such thing as business ethics. This is the heart of Ethics 101. When leaders find a standard of values to govern their lives, they can be ethical wherever they go. I believe the Scriptures teach that one standard is “The Golden Rule.” This rule is simple: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. (Matthew 7:12). When personal convenience or getting results or winning or rationalizing our decisions or revenge is more important to us than doing what is right, we will act unethically when the going gets tough. This is what happened to one of the greatest leaders in Scripture: King David. He and one of his soldiers, a man named Uriah, provide a study in contrast concerning ethics.
Uriah: A Man of Influence Who Possessed Ethics
King David failed as a leader in 2 Samuel 11. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, his most famous sin. The story has been circulated worldwide in history, and even movies have been made about it. It was the worst of times for David.
There is a man, however, who emerged during this episode whose ethics shone brightly and clearly, in stark contrast to David’s. It was Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. After David slept with Uriah’s wife and she became pregnant, the King sent for Uriah to return home for a few days. David’s hope was that Uriah would spend some time with his wife, and later believe that it was his child in her womb. David planned to deceive his way out of trouble by simply getting Uriah to enjoy a day or two at home.
But alas, that was easier said than done. Uriah proved to be a better man than David on this day. He refused to spend time with his wife. His conscience wouldn’t let him. His ethics were too clear and strong for him to do such a thing. We learn from both Uriah and David about situational ethics:
Uriah’s ethics compelled him to submit to Joab, his authority and commanding officer, even when he didn’t understand his orders (11:6, 7).
Uriah’s ethics caused him to sleep with the king’s servants instead of in his own home, choosing humility instead of exercising his personal rights (11:8, 9).
Uriah’s ethics prevented him from enjoying the pleasures of intimacy with his wife when his fellow soldiers were sacrificing their lives on the battlefield (11:10, 11).
Uriah’s ethics were motivated by his faith in God and his sense of justice. He could not rest while the ark of God’s covenant remained in temporary shelters (11:11).
Uriah’s ethics enabled him to obey the king without questioning the situation (11:12).
Uriah’s ethics remained even when he was drunk, as he remained with the servants instead of returning home. A drunk Uriah was a better man than a sober David (11:13).
Uriah’s ethics kept him from reading or altering the letter he carried back to his commander, a letter that contained his own death sentence (11:14, 15).
The Role of Convictions
Uriah’s ethics were born out of his personal convictions. He wouldn’t have been breaking any law by spending time at home; in fact, he would have been obeying his king. But Uriah’s convictions guided him in what was right and wrong. For ethics to have any staying power, they must be birthed from personal convictions. In fact, the strongest ethics come out of:
Generosity (My ethics must revolve around giving myself away.)
Justice (My ethics must revolve around a desire for justice for all.)
Excellence (My ethics must revolve around setting a standard above average.)
Service (My ethics must revolve around adding value to other people.)
Convictions (My ethics must revolve around a firm inward compass.)
If my ethics are not borne out of my convictions, they may shift and change with the tide of the culture or with what is convenient for me. When I form my ethics out of spiritual convictions, they are unchanging. I have a standard that is transcendent beyond my personal preferences.
What Are Convictions?
A conviction is a strong belief that so governs your decisions that you are willing to die for it. History of full of leaders who changed the world because of their convictions. The scripture tells how Joseph’s convictions enabled him to say no to sexual pleasure, how Daniel’s convictions led him to civil disobedience in Babylon, and how Elijah’s convictions led to a showdown on Mount Carmel against the prophets of Baal.
Convictions are a strong inward compass. Ethics result from this inward compass. They show us our true north. They go on vivid display when we’re under pressure. Someone has said that humans are like tea. Our colors show up when we get into hot water. Many people never develop convictions because they make them appear narrow and intolerant. Convictions are stronger than ideas or feelings. In fact, we might list it this way:
Idea – A thought or concept which is usually attractive because it is novel or because it’s yours.
Opinion – An idea you feel emotionally tied to, but which might change as your emotions change.
Belief – A strong inclination not only tied to emotions but based upon thoughtful reflection.
Commitment – A decision to embrace a belief or principle based on your emotions, mind, and will.
Conviction – A strong belief that so governs your decisions that you are willing to die for it.
Convictions Come in Our Life When…
1. We decide on a truth source from which we will live.
We have chosen to follow the Scriptures as our truth source. The Judeo-Christian ethic can be found in both the Old and New Testaments.
2. We choose to apply that truth source to our daily life.
A truth source only works if we do. If it is only theory, it won’t have any power over us when we need it to guide us during tough times.
3. We expose ourselves to a relevant need or crisis.
Convictions rarely form in a vacuum of safety and security. When we choose to put ourselves in view of needs and crisis, we begin to feel the need to respond.
4. We choose what’s worth living and dying for.
We cannot determine convictions when we’re in the middle of the crisis. They must be decided in quietness when we take the time to determine what’s worth living for.
5. We determine our life mission and values.
Once we know our passion and the contribution we want to make in life, we can determine values. These values begin to direct what become our convictions
6. Our identity is secure and we like the person we’ve become.
Almost everyone who embraces firm convictions also has a healthy self esteem. We must be secure in who we are and embrace that identity.
Building Convictions into Your Life
Summarize and meditate on major principles from Scripture.
Repeatedly expose yourself to needs around you.
Interview people who possess deep convictions.
Determine your life mission and values.
Make an all-out commitment to a habit for a set time.
Identify why you do what you do; adjust your motives.
Get someone to hold you accountable to your convictions.