In the ethical universe, there are no ideas bigger than good and evil. If good and evil mean anything, then they indicate something bigger than me, greater than the present, more important than any culture.
Yet even when confronted with the largest concepts, we humans are wonderfully adept at turning the focus on ourselves. So very easily we explain good and evil in words that scream, ‘It’s all about me.’
Try this for size. Ask someone to explain their reason for doing something good. Or why they should avoid doing something bad.
I’ve heard plenty of people explain to me why they want to do what I think is very good – share in Christian ministry. ‘Why do you want to serve Jesus by teaching Sunday school/leading a church/going to the mission field?’ I feel that this fits my gifts and personality. I always get lots of positive comments when I lead a Bible study. My minister encouraged me to pursue this.
It’s me, me, me. A bit of a worry, don’t you think? I’d hope that ministry is about Jesus first, and serving neighbour second.
No wonder people are so uncomfortable even with gentle criticism, or the suggestion they are not really suited to the task they’re doing. If it’s about me, then every negative word is heard as a personal attack.
This happens with evil, too. ‘Why should we not lie?’ Lies come from me being insecure and lies pander to that insecurity. A lie will rebound and end up hurting you, anyway. Someone who lies is not being authentic. If I learn to lie now, it will weaken all the relationships I have in the future.
Again I wait in vain for any thoughts about God, or the larger moral universe. Perhaps the idea that God is true, and the author of truth – and that the devil has been a liar from the beginning. Perhaps the idea that words matter because ‘in the beginning was the word.’ Something bigger than, ‘Let’s talk about me for a while.’
If good and evil count, they call me to humility instead of selfish babbling.
What do you think? Is there a problem of self-focussed ethics-talk? And, if so, what is the way out of the problem?