Being a public employee, I hear a lot about ethics. We have a long "ethics" policy that delves into details like can we eat the cookies appreciative citizens drop off (yes), can we go on vendor supplied junkets to Vegas (no), and can we use our agency-supplied cell phone to call home in an emergency (yes, if it is short and infrequent - there's also a whole discussion of what constitutes an emergency, but that's another story). In government, ethics = rules.
One of my professors in grad school said over and over that true ethics don't have much at all to do with rules. That was a little hard to comprehend at the time, but I think I understand it better now. For instance, as I've mentioned before, I work in a law enforcement agency. Law enforcement agencies tend to be very paramilitary. Thus chain of command is VERY important.
Last week, my Police Chief was engaging in some behavior (political, primarily) that was detrimental to my organization as a whole. I was faced with a choice - violate chain of command and inform the overall agency manager, or keep to myself. I chose to go over my boss' head. This isn't about me being courageous - I used to work for the agency manager and they were so grateful for the information that they pledged to protect me if necessary.
I'm sure we've all heard the saying, "Ethics are how you behave when no one is watching." Trite, but true to an extent. But I also think our ethics cut to the fundamental honesty of our character. Can we speak the truth, even if it will hurt? Today I had to tell an employee I couldn't give them a raise, as much as I value their work. That was the hardest conversation I've ever had to have with an employee - but I think that being a Christian helped prepare me to be honest.
I think we need to talk more about ethics in church and how being a Christian should affect all areas of our lives. I know that I'm constantly challenged, and it would be good to walk through those challenges with others.