Ethics vs legality, is there a difference? Society composes laws which dictate the legality of an action. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines legality as an “Attachment to or observance of law, lawfulness”. These laws do not prescribe the ethics but are based on morality. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines ethics as “The discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation”. We live in a world and a time of ever-shrinking boundaries. People seem to want to get over by any means necessary with little regard to the consequences of their actions. In societies, the focus seems more on whether an act is legal; then on whether it is ethical. It is no wonder the morality of nations is in the toilet and bought and sold to the highest bidders.
“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
“For what shall it profit a man, it he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Ethics and Legality Are Mutually Exclusive
In a world of excess, where more is never enough, we expect that “Money rules the world”. We gotta “Pay to play” so we spend most of our lives slaving for the mighty dollar. The “Haves” constantly devise ways to not only keep but make more money, while the “Have-Nots” seek ways to make it. Finding shortcuts/loopholes are acceptable as long as they don’t violate the law while being ethical is often viewed as an afterthought. There is a relationship between legality and ethics; however, the two terms are mutually exclusive. A society’s ethics establishes laws which are supposed to protect its citizens. Certain penalties/punishments go into effect when someone commits an illegal act; but society rarely questions a person’s ethics. Conversely, ethics/morals are what drives a person to do the right thing, not only in the spotlight, but behind closed doors where there’s an expectation of privacy.
Being Unethical isn’t Illegal
Legal doesn’t mean ethical and, depending on the laws, being ethical isn’t always legal. Some laws skew the boundaries between right and wrong so when certain acts are deemed legal, the ethics is mute. Essentially, when the law determines an unethical act is legal, the ethics of the action doesn’t seem to matter as much. That is because there is no penalty/consequence for being unethical. It’s a fact that persons have risen to the highest offices in the land with shoddy ethics but no criminal records. We have even had elected officials with criminal records, which left no questions about their lack of ethics. Some believe the laws don’t apply to them or they are above the law. However, when consequences befall them, they cry foul. Is it any surprise we, as a society, are where we are today?
“Therefore all things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”. (Matthew 7:12)
What Has Happened to Our Ethics
What happened to our ethics? Have we created a system where if a person has the means/looks, they are somehow entitled? Does a system exist where people feel they can act or do whatever they want even if others are harmed, as long as no laws are broken? Has our ethics been reduced to a soundbite? People always try to find ways to do away with The Most High’s laws. However, those same laws teach us how we are to treat others. Have we been brainwashed by society to ignore a person’s actions which speak louder than what they profess with their lips when the cameras are rolling? No one wants to be accountable for their actions and it says a lot about our society. We all have a part to play in this game of life, so if a few drop the ball, we all collectively pay the price.