Defined by Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, as “the branch of axiology – one of the four major branches of philosophy, alongside metaphysics, epistemology, and logic – which attempts to understand the nature of morality; to define that which is right from that which is wrong”…
Ethics is a hot topic nowadays.
Books, magazine articles and syndicated newspaper columns have been written about it.
Entire audio programs and seminars have been built around it.
Recently, in a single month, not including tens of thousands of related searches using the term, the word “ethics”, in and of itself, was searched on 37,111 times… just on the Yahoo Search Network alone!
This quest “to define that which is right from that which is wrong” isn’t limited to individuals.
In an effort to determine “right” from “wrong”, companies, government agencies and institutions have brought in ethics consultants, formed ethics committees and hired ethics executives.
I don’t understand what’s so complicated about it.
As I see it…
Jesus, the Master Teacher, made this whole matter of ethics very simple.
As a matter of fact, Jesus made it so simple even a child could understand it.
In Chapter 7 of the book of Matthew, Jesus is quoted as saying:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.”
In Chapter 6 of the book of Luke, Jesus is quoted as saying it this way:
“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
In other words, as my dad used to say…
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Although some might find it a bit simplistic, this very simple principle, best known as the Golden Rule, has served for many centuries as the best definition of “that which is right from that which is wrong.”
Not long ago, I was following a story in a local newspaper that illustrates just how far we’ve gotten away from this very simple principle Jesus taught us.
The story went something like this…
In a nearby town, the local elected town council was about to vote on a new contract with the police union.
One member of the town council had two close relatives, both of who were police officers, who’d directly benefit from the terms of the new contract.
When confronted with this fact by another town council member before the vote, he said he felt, as an elected member of the town council, he should vote on the new contract and that he could be impartial.
As you might expect, some of his fellow council members agreed with him while others did not.
This disagreement turned into several weeks of debate before the issue of his voting on the new contract finally came to a vote.
What do you think happened?
The town council vote was evenly divided. Half of his fellow council members thought he should be allowed to vote on the new police contract, the other half thought he shouldn’t.
The town council, after several more weeks of debate, voted to send the issue to the town’s “ethics commission” for an opinion before voting on the matter again.
After debating the matter for several additional weeks and consulting attorneys to “interpret” the town’s “ethics code”, the ethics commission decided it couldn’t render a opinion because the town’s ethics code didn’t adequately address this specific situation.
A panel was formed to study the town’s ethics code to see if it needed to be revised and…
Guess what they needed to help them make that determination?
Why they needed…
“Ethics consultants”, of course! 🙂
This situation, which I stopped following at about this point, would be downright hilarious if it wasn’t being repeated, at least to some degree, practically every day, in homes and offices all around the world.
In my humble opinion, all this wasted energy, time and money, which could have been put to *far* better use, could have been easily avoided had this particular council member asked himself this one simple question:
If I were an ordinary, taxpaying, citizen of the community, who was not on the town council, would I want someone on the town council voting on a new contract, which could cost me more money if passed, in which he or she had a potential conflict of interest?
The answer, I guess, is open to debate. However, the way I understand the Golden Rule, my answer would be no and therefore, had I been on this town’s council, I would have removed myself from voting on the new contract, if for no other reason than to protect the peoples trust in local government.
When I was a kid, my dad, who served his fellow citizens as a police officer for some fifty years before he passed on, once told me, “if everyone just followed the Golden Rule, there’d be no need for lawmakers, laws, police officers, lawyers, courts and prisons.”
I think he was right…
Thanks Dad! 🙂
Copyright 2006 Tony Mase