“Let your conscience be your guide.” A couple of generations ago that phrase could be used freely and everyone knew what was meant by it. Today, I’m not so sure!! But the subject’s worth looking at precisely because our conscience does guide us. It causes great conflict within us if we act contrary to it. It also accuses us or excuses us according to what its guidelines are. It is always true to its own standard. Ah, but . . . what guides our conscience? That is the question.
Our conscience is developed during early childhood through the many messages of adults telling us what is right and wrong. However the messages may be as inconsequential as: “Never wear white before Easter or after Labor Day!” But they rule with the strength of a command of God in some cultures. And that’s the point. We have only a cultural conscience until we come to Christ and begin renewing our minds according to His Word, and His ways. When we have gained a biblical perspective or worldview, we can be said to have a biblical conscience and can be guided by it, indeed, we must be guided by it. We must guard it carefully against being violated by our own choices, thoughts and activities. It then becomes a most sacred property.
In 1792 James Madison wrote about property saying,
” . . . a man’s land, or merchandise, or money, is called his property. . . . a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of exclusive value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them . . . He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties, and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same . . . Government is instituted to protect property of every sort . . . This being the end [purpose] of government . . . Conscience is the most sacred of all property . . .”
The current issues of rights about whom to serve in ones business and whom not to serve, about creating laws redefining things instituted by God, to please a very few and in the doing, displeasing our own consciences and our God can be settled by determining if these choices are dictated by ones conscience or ones lifestyle choices; by a biblical conscience or a cultural conscience.
Another’s behavioral choices are not my business unless and until they bring harm to me or to others. Then I must stand and make my voice heard in every way I can. I cannot, however, dictate to others what they believe, just as they cannot dictate to me. The role of government is to make sure property, both internal and external are protected.
A tremendous responsibility rests upon parents and teachers of all kinds to be very careful how they influence and mold a child’s conscience. The subject of property pertains to biblical stewardship which also carries the understanding of faithfulness to God and accountability to answer for ones choices and decisions.
In teaching a child to protect their conscience which is internal property, you can rest assured that they will also be faithful to protect their external property. Teach them that they themselves belong to God and and are only stewards of His property. He requires them to be faithful and they will have to answer for how they took care of the property entrusted to them.
The evening news is full of examples that can be used to discuss together the principles and their practical application. Allow children to give their opinions and then encourage them to reason from the biblical principle into the practical application on these issues. You are teaching him to be a faithful steward, to think biblically, and to reason from principle to application. You are also building a bond with him that will last a lifetime and will blossom into genuine adult friendship as he matures.