Black and White or Shades of Grey

Dear Reader,

Thanks to Jerry Bridges in his book Transforming Grace, I ran across this quote from Abraham Booth: “To constitute a work truly good, it must be done from the right principle, performed by right rule, and intended for a right end.” That’s a high standard, isn’t it? I find it intimidating. I am not sure I ever do anything that meets all three criteria. If anything the easiest part is often the middle, to do it by right rule. I take this to mean (as does Bridges) that it conforms to God’s law. But to always have the right motivation and the right end, those are hard. I am thankful that even are imperfect efforts are made acceptable to God through the righteousness of His Son Jesus Christ.

Thinking of actions on these three levels does help me understand some things though. We live in a world where not everything appears black and white. At least from our limited vantage point, we see a lot of grey. But I think considering an action from these three levels helps at least clarify the shades of grey. For instance, take the classic example of a man stealing to provide food for his children. What is his motive in this? Feeding his family. That is a good thing. It is his God-given responsibility to provide for them and he probably wishes to do so because of his love for them. What is his end? Maybe just to see his children’s bellies satisfied. That may not be the highest motivation but it is not a bad end. But what of his means? Stealing is against God’s law and therefore sinful. So we see that though he may be getting part of the formula right, he is erring on the middle bit, the means. This is why it looks grey to us, because there are both black and white there. It can work the other way too. We may use good means, for example giving to the poor, for a bad reason like because we feel guilty or for a bad end, perhaps our own glory.

So I guess what I am saying is that I don’t so much believe in a grey world as in a world where black and white get so often and so profoundly mixed up that we cannot see anything but grey. However, I do believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, sees not only our deeds but also our hearts. His vision is better than ours and I believe He can see all the dots of black and white clearly that to us only blend together.



One response to this post.

  1. Hello Nebby3! I have just called over from A Peaceful Day.
    Sometimes those grey areas make ethical things hard, especially when we are dealing with our kids . Funnily enough, the father stealing to feed his family was an example we used recently when discussing these ethical ideas with the children.
    I have just read your “About”” page which tweaked my interest since I have been a Type 1 diabetic for 37 years. I will try to pop back soon and read more of your interesting blog.
    Thanks for having me!


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