Charlie Brown was sitting in the living room watching TV when he heard a loud noise in the kitchen. He went to check it out and caught Snoopy, his dog, raiding the refrigerator. "Hey, what are you doing?" he asked. "You can't just take things out of the refrigerator." Pulling out his Bible, Charlie directed Snoopy to Exodus: "Thou shalt not steal." Snoopy took the Bible from Charlie's hand and flipped over to Deuteronomy 25:4 where it says: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain." While Charlie read the verse, Snoopy slipped out the back door and took up his position atop his doghouse. Having finished reading the verse, Charlie realized what had happened. "I don't see you treading out any grain," he yelled. Snoopy interrupted his meal long to enough to reply: "Yeah, but at least it got me out the back door."
Most Christians, sad to say, have on occasion misused the Bible and its many commands and prohibitions to get themselves "out the back door" in the various situations of life. One of our principal goals in studying ethics will be to learn how to use the Bible properly when it comes to making ethical decisions. But just what is "ethics" anyway?