Is It a Sin?
I was recently asked a very odd question. An acquaintance has been trying to buy a new videogame system. Not because he wants it, but because there are a limited number available before the holidays, and if you're one of the lucky few to acquire one right now you can resell it for two or three times its worth.
My acquaintance was feeling convicted, and wondered if what he was doing was sinful? Was it wrong to be trying to take the thing that someone else wanted, only to get them to pay more money for the thing that they want?
I thought it was a great question, so I'm going to work on answering it here. It's a great question not because it's some sort of massive moral ambiguity (we're not talking about lying about hiding Jews during the holocaust here), but because it opens up a whole different question. That question is this, how do I know if something is wrong if the bible doesn't clearly tell me one way or the other? This is the real question. I'm going to offer three ways to judge right and wrong in general on topics where the bible doesn't give us a clear yes or no.
#1 - Conscience - Isaiah 30:21 says, "And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." The first thing to ask when trying to figure out if something is sinful, if the bible doesn't give a clear answer, is to examine your own conscience. Does it feel right? Do you have hesitations? Does thinking about it make you uncomfortable? Our consciences can be a valuable tool in telling right from wrong as the Holy Spirit guides and convicts us. This is ALWAYS in submission to God's word. If I feel okay about something, but the bible says no, the bible wins.
#2 - Love For Neighbor - Galatians 5:14 says, "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." A huge help in deciding on whether or not we should do something is to ask how it will effect others. Will my actions cause others physical harm? What about emotional pain? I recently repented to a church member because I realized that my thoughtless words had (very understandably!) hurt them deeply. Taking the focus off of me, and moving it to others is a great way to get a wider perspective on the value of my actions. The sports camp I helped run in Pennsylvania had a motto, "God first, others second, I'm third!" If that's true, then moving our focus from ourselves to others will help us find the answer to whether or not our action is/would be right.
#3 - Glorify God - I Corinthians 10:31 says, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Our whole lives as Christians revolve around glorifying God. Whatever we do, we do it to bring Him glory and honor and praise! So a great question to ask is, does this thing bring praise to the Lord? Does it lift his name high? Does it show that I trust God? Does it make people ask, "why would he do that?" or "what is different about her?" This is the most important of the three questions, because it is the ultimate goal. I want to obey my conscience and love my neighbor SO THAT I bring glory to God. Because He deserves it, both for who He is and what He has done for us!
I hope these guidelines help you to think through how God's glory, the value of others, and the asset that is our conscience can help us to make God-honoring decisions in areas that the bible doesn't give us a 100% clear yes/no answer!