How can we distinguish between good and evil? How can we know the difference between right and wrong?
There are many bad and ungodly lifestyles which were once universally condemned in the past, but today, many non-biblical lifestyles are now considered to be “good” and culturally acceptable in society.
For example, there was a time when sex before marriage was considered to be inappropriate. However we now live in a world where if a person is still a virgin by age 20 – that person can be ridiculed or humiliated.
What used to be considered a bad lifestyle, is now promoted as being good and as part of our “evolution” as mankind and society.
Another example: There was a time in the past when homosexuality was considered to be a bad and inappropriate lifestyle. However we now live in a world were homosexuality and same-sex marriage are promoted as being a normal part of life. In fact, the view of homosexuality as changed even within various liberal minded churches which now openly support homosexuality.
Therefore there are various ideologies, doctrines and teachings that were considered to be unthinkable in the past which are now encouraged and promoted within culture and also within religion.
So these days we live in a world where morality is declining at a very fast rate. What used to be good is now considered to be evil – and what was considered to be bad in society is now promoted as being good.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
The world has been turned upside-down. Many people can no longer distinguish between right and wrong or good and evil. Instead the concept of good and evil is viewed through a humanistic or individualistic lens. So what’s wrong to you, might be right to someone else – and what’s right in your mind, might be wrong to others.
So the question is: How do we distinguish between right and wrong or good and evil?
1. Our Standard Must Be The Bible
Our standard for what is good and what is evil must come from God’s word – the Bible.
The Bible is God’s infallible word to mankind. The Scriptures reveal the nature of God, the plan of God and His values and principles for life.
Therefore our source which helps us distinguish between right and wrong is the Bible. It is NOT our political leaders; it is not a famous celebrity nor is it even a religious leader who can be our source of what is right or wrong. Instead the ultimate source and final authority in everyone’s life is the infallible word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
Psalms 119:11 – Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.
Our knowledge of God’s word helps us to discern the things that are sinful from the things that are righteous. When God’s word is instilled inside of us then we become equipped to live a life that is pleasing to God.
God therefore gives us the standard through the Bible for what is good and evil in our life. God’s word is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
2. We Must Know God and Have a Relationship with Him
We cannot know the difference between right and wrong without knowing and relating with the ultimate Lawgiver.
Therefore it is not only important to know the Bible – but it is also imperative to know the Author of the Bible.
Therefore when we have a personal relationship with God, combined with knowledge of His word, we will intimately know the nature of God.
As we relate with God personally and intimately we will have a desire to please God and to obey His word.
One of the main reasons why morality is on the decline is because many people do not live to please God. Instead many people ultimately live to please themselves and to fulfill their own fleshly desires.
2 Timothy 3:1-4 says: But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
So it’s clear that in the last days, man’s love for God will grow cold. Mankind will hate the things of God more than ever before. This hatred for God and the things of God leads to a culture where people do not care about what is right or wrong – but people will only care about what pleases their own flesh.
3. We Must Have A Reverential Fear of the Lord
The fear of the Lord refers to having reverence or deep respect for God and His position and authority in our life.
Proverbs 8:13 says: The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil…
Therefore if we are to hate what is evil and love what is good, then we need to have the fear of the Lord. We need to respect God’s authority in our life.
We cannot discern between good and evil if we do not respect or fear God.
Proverbs 9:10 says: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Therefore, just as Proverbs 9:10 explains: if we are to have wisdom to discern between right and wrong, then we must begin by fearing God.
4. We Must Love God
Jesus said in John 14:15: If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Loving God is therefore essential to keeping God’s commandments and to discerning between right and wrong.
The more we love God, the more we will hate what is evil. The more we love God, the more God will put His desires in our heart.
When we love God, we do not create our “own truth”. When we love God we do not create our own ideas of what should be right and what should be wrong. Instead our love for God will compel us to obey God’s commandments because we understand that God alone is the source and standard through how we discern the difference between good and evil.
Discerning between good and evil is essential to every individual’s life. Without the ability to distinguish the difference between right and wrong, our life will be filled with many mistakes and ungodly choices.
It’s therefore important for us to always ask God for wisdom in every area of life and to have the understanding that our relationship with God is integral to living a life that is pleasing to God.