The past couple of weeks there has been a news story making its way through the media regarding an unemployed German woman. The woman evidently lost her job and went on government unemployment. In the course of her unemployment, job office contacted her and said something was available; it wasn’t the kind of job she was expecting. In fact, she was told by the unemployment office that if she didn’t accept this job that her unemployment benefits would be terminated.
“Standard policy” you may think? Well, it’s not every day that an unemployment office tells you to become a prostitute or lose your benefits. That’s right, the job that had become available was with a German brothel and the government expected this woman to prostitute herself or lose her unemployment benefits. After all, a job is a job, right?
What happened here?
You may be wondering, how did something like this happen? Well, two years ago, the German government declared prostitution legal. In so doing, they required brothels to provide health insurance and pay taxes. In return, the brothels gain access to the government’s roles of the unemployed. When some questioned the morality of the matter, one lawyer stated that since prostitution has been legalized it is no longer immoral.
The fact of the matter is that in this situation money has been allowed to define morality. What was the rationalization for legalizing prostitution? Likely it was to reduce state health care costs and to levy taxes�money. And what was the result of said legalization? Prostitution is no longer considered immoral by the government. So now, the people come under the tyranny of the government’s definition of morality.
Where do we begin?
There are several things wrong with this. First, Germany has already once tried to redefine morality in order to accommodate their government. Does anyone remember Hitler and a little thing called genocide? The defense of those who followed his rule was that they were only doing what they were ordered to do and that after all, morality is subjective to the culture in which we live; each country defines morality in their own way. That was the defense, of course, until the prosecuting attorney’s at the Nuremburg trials argued that morality was beyond the provincial and the transient and that it didn’t matter what the laws of the country were in which you lived, some things were wrong for everyone simply because they were wrong. Has Germany learned that lesson or not? Evidently not. The Bible teaches that God is always the standard for what is right and wrong; for what is moral and immoral (Proverbs 3:5, 6, Jeremiah 10:23, 24).
Second, legalization of something that is immoral doesn’t make it moral. We have been arguing this point for years in the United States in reference to the question of abortion. Just because it is legal to get an abortion doesn’t mean that it is moral. Smoking may be legal, but that doesn’t mean that it is moral. Drinking may be legal, but that doesn’t mean it is moral. Cursing may be legal, but that doesn’t mean that it is moral. Public nudity may be legal (it is in some places) but that doesn’t mean that it is moral. Whether something is legal or not has absolutely no bearing upon the question of its morality. The Bible says that the purpose of government is to uphold that which is good and punish that which is wrong (1 Peter 2:14). This means that the government must first know what is and what isn’t moral and then act accordingly.
Third, don’t individuals have a fundamental right to personal morals? That is, one job is not just as good as another if a person has a moral objection to such a job. Shouldn’t governments be obligated to respect an individual’s moral beliefs instead of penalize them? Evidently, the German government doesn’t believe in personal morals. The Bible teaches that even in the face of overwhelming adversity, we are not to follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). Governments ought not to require individuals to so do.
Finally, money ought never to be used as a justification to do that which is immoral. We have placed too much value upon money today when it comes to matters of morality. We’ve recently seen multiple business leaders face criminal trials due to their unethical handling of financial matters in their companies. The message that is portrayed is that if you can avoid getting caught it is worthwhile to make money unethically and immorally. Business leaders often pressure their subordinates to do things that are questionably ethical upon penalty of losing their jobs. Truth is no longer the driving force for that which is moral, but money. The Bible teaches that money, far from being the valuable thing that most consider it to be, is not to be loved (Hebrews 13:3) and that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Benjamin Franklin is known to have said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” Indeed, it is not freedom that defines virtue, but virtue that defines freedom. It takes a virtuous people to understand that money doesn’t trump morality. But when governments and institutions make laws and rules that vacate morality for the case of money, the people suffer. And when the people suffer, liberty is lost. The only true freedom comes through knowing, loving, and living the truth (John 8:32).