But, Is It Ethical?

This article was originally posted on an older blog site January 7, 2009.

Many people may not know what ethics is.  It is sad that little in the way of ethics is being taught today in the public school system due to the great influence of situation ethics or relativism. The sadness is that young people are growing up in many cases with no sense of right or wrong other than to say that if a thing feels right to them then it is right, regardless of any objective moral code or standard.  Let us consider the definition of “ethics.”

Webster defines “ethic” as follows:

1plural but sing or plural in constr : the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation2 a: a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values <the present-day materialistic ethic> <an old-fashioned work ethic> —often used in plural but singular or plural in construction <an elaborate ethics><Christian ethics> bplural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group <professional ethics> c: a guiding philosophy d: a consciousness of moral importance <forge a conservation ethic>3plural : a set of moral issues or aspects (as rightness)….

With that group of definitions in mind, I want to ask if the following action is ethical.

A man is laid off from his job in a certain state. Due to the fact that he is laid off he has the right to go the unemployment office in his city or state and ask for unemployment compensation. So far, we see no problem with this situation. But, now comes the big problem or question.

The person who has been laid off from his job in the state of Kentucky or Alabama (the name of a state is simply for example; it could be almost any state) learns that there is a loophole in the unemployment compensation program in the State of Massachusetts. This loophole (which is supposed to be legally closed in January 2009) unintentionally allows anyone from any state outside of Massachusetts who claims unemployment to travel to Massachusetts and claim unemployment compensation from Massachusetts because of the legal loophole. Added to this is the fact that unemployment compensation in Massachusetts is higher than many other states in the USA.  So, a person may, if he chooses to do so, claim unemployment compensation from his own state where he was laid off, then pay a few hundred dollars to fly to Massachusetts and apply for unemployment compensation in that state as well.

If a brother in Christ (or anyone) were to do this, would it be ethical? Would it be morally right to do it? What would be wrong with it? Does the fact that it is legal make the matter right?

Some make the claim that it is not against the law of Massachusetts, therefore it is okay to take money from that state even though one has never worked there. Some reason that if the laws of Massachusetts were written so poorly that the state loses money, then it is Massachusetts’ fault, and there is no wrong done to take advantage of the matter and make some extra money.

In such logic and thinking one may not consider that he may be greedy; or, that he may be stealing, or lying, or violating the spirit of the unemployment laws of Massachusetts for his own personal selfish gain.

Does this conduct and the attitude behind it provide for things honest in the sight of all men? “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” Romans 12:17. What does it teach the young people who know about those who do this?

Just because a thing may be technically legal (even if only for a short while longer), does being legal make a thing morally right?

In some states gambling,  prostitution, alcoholic beverages and other matters that are known to be sinful are legal. But, is it permissible for one to participate in these things just because they are legal? Certainly not! Just because something is legal does not make it morally or ethically right to participate in it. Does such an activity follow the instruction of Paul in Philippians 4:8?  “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

It is a violation of the spirit of the laws of the state of Massachusetts to take advantage of a legal loophole for one’s own monetary gain when one has never worked in that state. It causes the taxes of the citizens of that state to be raised. It affects the goods and services of Massachusetts towards its own citizens. It fails to apply the “golden rule,” Mat. 7:12. It is possible that seeking to take advantage of this loophole puts one in a position of lying to the state of Massachusetts.

Is it Christ-like conduct to seek to take advantage of another even if “the other” is a government entity? Taking advantage of another is not a Christian attribute. Does such conduct indicate spiritual maturity or a carnal mind? 1 Cor. 3:1-3.

What a shame that some brethren in Christ have participated in this deception and greed!