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Ethics vs. Legality

By Kendra Clarke

We live in a world and time of ever-shrinking boundaries. People seem to want to get over by any means necessary with very little regard for the persons impacted, the spiritual ramifications of their actions, or the lessons taught and learned by their children where oftentimes a cycle ensues. “Money rules the world” and “You gotta pay, to play” is how we live, but we should instead consider that “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). In a world of excess, where more is never enough, Matthew 8:36 asks,

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul”.

The world is comprised of laws and ethics, but there seems to be more of a focus on whether or not an act is legal than whether or not that act is ethical. Before we delve further, we should probably differentiate between ethics and legality. For starters, just because something is considered legal does not make it ethical and vice versa. There exists a relationship between legality and ethics; however, the two terms are mutually exclusive and often times conflict with one another. Laws are bred out of a society’s ethics and are codified to protect its citizens. When something is considered illegal, there are penalties for the violation, and depending on the law that was broken, there is little question as to whether or not it was an ethical act. On the other hand, ethics are what comprise a person’s moral fabric. It stems from a desire to do the right thing not only when the spotlight is glaring or when it is convenient, but even in dark spaces behind closed doors where there is an expectation of privacy.

Some laws skew the boundaries of what is right and wrong with laws that make certain actions legal, which renders the ethics of those actions muted. In other words, when an unethical act is said to be legal, the ethics of the action do not seem to matter as much because there is no penalty or consequence for being unethical. With that being said, persons have risen to the highest offices in the land with shoddy ethics but no criminal record. Conversely, some have even been elected to office with criminal records which left no questions regarding their lack of ethics. Furthermore, it seems that some believe the laws do not apply to them, but when the consequences befall them, they cry foul and we wonder why we, as a society, are where we are today.

What is going on? Have we created a system of loopholes wherein if you have the means or the looks, you can skirt the system? Have we produced a system where persons feel they can break the law with impunity, without batting an eye lash and then honestly believe they are entitled? Have our ethics been reduced to a sound bite? Have we been brainwashed by society to ignore the inner most core of a person, which says more than what they can profess with their lips when the cameras are rolling? No one wants to be held accountable for their actions these days and it says a lot about our societal norms. We all have a part to play in this game that we call life, so if a few drop the ball, we all ultimately and collectively pay the price.


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