DefinitionsArticle / Produced by TOW Project
The word “ethics” comes from the Greek word ethos, which has two meanings in common Greek usage: habit or custom, and ordinance or law. Usage in the New Testament includes both of these dimensions. For example, in Acts 25:16 it is usually translated “custom” (“it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone”), whereas in 1 Cor. 15:33 it is translated as “morals” or “character” (“Bad company ruins good morals,” NIV).
The two words — ethics and morals — are often used interchangeably. You could say that ethics is the study or science of moral principles that govern or influence our conduct. Dennis Hollinger says ethics is “…the systematic study of standards of right and wrong, justice and injustice, virtue and vice, with a view to applying those standards in the realities of our lives.”
Christian ethical living is concerned with “…ordering our steps in every situation of life according to the fundamental faith commitments we share as Christians.” Or, according to another definition: “Christian ethics is the attempt to provide a framework and method for making decisions, that seeks to honor God as revealed in Scripture, follow the example of Jesus and be responsive to the Spirit, to achieve outcomes that further God’s purposes in the world.”