“‘Everything is permissible’ — but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ — but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
Did you ever step on the gas to get through an intersection just before the light turns red? I have, more times than I can count. There are typically two thoughts that occur in our minds when we do this that justify our actions: (a) my time is too valuable to sit through a red light, and (b) I didn’t really break the law. We just seem to forget one thing, in our big rush, who including ourselves might we have placed in harm’s way?
During my days managing a bond trading unit for a large investment firm, my least favorite responsibility was having to be a policeman, ensuring that everyone complied with the laws and regulations pertaining to bond transactions. Sounds simple enough, as most regulations are fairly straightforward; except, there’s this one certain rule in securities law known as “fair practice” that requires brokerage firms to go beyond simply what is legal, and further ensure doing what is right for the client. As you can imagine, this rule creates some gray areas that become subjective and more difficult to enforce.
In defense of my former colleagues in that industry, the vast majority were good honest professionals who took seriously what was in the best interest of their clients. But then there were those few who dared to push the envelope for the sake of their own commissions, and who, like speeding through an intersection before the light turns red, defended their actions by arguing that they “didn’t really break the law.”
In his famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus went to great lengths in explaining the deeper meaning of the Laws, that is the Ten Commandments. “You have heard it said . . .,” he would begin about a particular law. “Do not murder . . .,” for example. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment,” he would explain. It’s more than just staying within the boundaries of the law, in other words, it’s the condition of your heart toward others that matters most. For everything is permissible if it is lawful, but that doesn’t mean it is beneficial or constructive. According to the Apostle Paul, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Should that not always be the litmus test in determining whether we’re doing the right thing?