If you do a Google search on “Biblical Ethical Characters” no articles or websites show up about specific Bible ethical characters. You get page after page of Christian ethics, bible and ethics, scripture and ethics. The joke has always been if you found it on the internet it must be true. So what happens when you are expecting your search to turn up something but nothing you are looking for shows up?
Let’s take a look at some of the people in the Bible just to see how ethical they were.
First we have Moses. Raised as an Egyptian prince, he killed an Egyptian for the sake of an Israelite. On top of that, after the Pharaoh orders him to be killed, he flees. I would categorize his ethics as egoism “that the supreme principle of conduct is to promote one’s well-being above everyone else’s” (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009, p. 15). I’ll give him a pass, since he changed his ways after finding God at the burning bush.
While trying to free the Israelites he was hoping that the Pharaoh would follow the Kant’s theory “motives for actions to be of the highest importance, in that it expects persons to make the right decisions for the right reasons”. (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009, p. 25). Too bad, if he had then the Pharaoh could have saved his son and a whole lot of other lives – not to mention a few of those nasty boils.
Second we have David, a man after God’s own heart “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:220 Before David became king he had such high ethics that even after knowing he was anointed king over Saul; he could have killed him but would not harm him, even though Saul was trying to kill him. After becoming king – not so much. I think that being king lead him to egoism and down the path of adultery and even murder to cover up that sin.
Third we have Saul or later known as Paul. As Saul he hunted down and Killed Christians. Being an educated and devote Jew, he thought that Christians were blasphemers of God. I would say he followed the Common-Morality Theory “that all people share by virtue of communal life and that this morality is ultimately the source of all theories of morality” (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009, p. 35). I like Paul the best of all because even after his conversion he still held true to his theory, even to the point that he believe that non-Jews should learn and follow Christ. His only course change was that he realized that the answer is love, grace and forgiveness instead of killing.
So what have we learned from all this? Nobody’s perfect, and God is the only one who can judge and know a person’s heart. All are sinners and some have learned from their mistakes. Just because a person fails does not mean they can’t grow and become persons of high moral standards. It’s those mistakes that keep you humble, give you compassion for others, and helps you grow as a person and leader.
Why does the search come up empty? Man tends to judge and remember only the mistakes, its one and done for the world. They say, How can people that were that bad, be ethical? Well thanks to God’s grace and forgiveness we have a chance for redemption. Let’s make the most of it, just like to the people in the Bible.
As for Jesus, well I would say that he was Utilitarian because “Utilitarian is committed to the maximization of the good and minimization of harm and evil” (Beauchamp, Bowie, & Arnold, 2009, p. 19). One death on a cross to wipe-out all sin is about the maximum amount of good you can get with the minimal amount of harm and no evil.
Beauchamp, T. L., Bowie, N. E., & Arnold, D. G. (2009). Ethical theory and business. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Prentice Hall.