How do you distinguish between right and wrong?

Confused manA couple of weeks ago, I was asked to respond to a young lady who was looking for some biblical advice about her dating relationship.  (One of the questions that came out of that discussion is answered in a previous post.) At the heart of her concerns was a rather significant question to which we all really need an answer:  How do you distinguish between that which is morally right and that which is morally wrong? What follow is my attempt to address that question…

The Dilemma

There are a lot of different things that could influence the way you think about questions of morality.  Some examples include your upbringing, your culture, your peers, your traditions, your religion, the law, etc.  The challenging thing about making moral decisions is that the various sources of influence that might guide your thinking on a particular issue often conflict with one another.

What do you do when your peers tell you it’s okay to do something and your parents tell you it’s not?  How do you choose between the advice your culture gives you and the advice your religion gives you?  Which one is right?  Are any of them right?

There are two vital questions each of us needs to answer.

Question 1

Is there anyone or anything that legitimately possesses the right to instruct me about the way I ought to function?

This is really an issue of responsibility.  Automobile manufacturers have the right to instruct buyers about the proper function of the cars and trucks they purchase because those companies are responsible for the design of their vehicles.  Animal owners have the right to instruct their dogs and cats because they are ultimately responsible for the behavior of their pets.  Parents have the right to set expectations for their sons and daughters because they are responsible their children’s upbringing.  Likewise, God has the right to instruct us in the way we ought to live because He is responsible for our existence.

God made us.  He knit us together body and soul (Psalm 139:19).  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows the things that are good for us as well as the things that are not.  As our Designer and Creator, He possesses the authority instruct us and command our obedience.

And the medium through which God has chosen to communicate His instructions for our lives is the Bible.  Through the inspiration of the sixty-six books that comprise the Old and New Testaments, God has provided the teachings He intends to guide and govern the way we live.  By studying His Word, we gain insight that helps us distinguish between those things that are morally right and morally wrong.  We learn about the kinds of choices that God does and doesn’t want us to make, and we obtain perspective on types of behavior that help us fulfill our design.

Question 2

Am I going to follow those instructions?

Will I choose to function in a way that is consistent with the directives provided by my Maker, or will I choose to function in a way that runs contrary to my design?  God promises not only proper function but also blessing and reward for those who choose to obey Him.  Conversely, He promises strife and hardship for those who choose to ignore His instructions.  But He leaves the choice to us.

I would strongly encourage you to use God’s Word—rather than the opinions of peers or the accepted practices of your culture—to guide the way you think about questions of morality.  The Bible, and the Bible alone, possesses the legitimate authority to instruct the way you live.  Listen to its teachings, be warned by its examples, and follow its commands.

Trey Garner
Trey Garner is the Pastor of Children's Ministries at Faith Church. He has been married to his wife Deb since 2001. They have two children named Noah and Lauren. Originally from Texas, Trey appreciates barnwood, armadillos, and Blue Bell Ice Cream.