Has your conscience ever been wrong about something? I had to smile when I heard about a mother who tried to explain to her son the difference between the words conscious and conscience. Afterwards, she asked him if he understood the difference.
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“Yeah,” he answered. “Conscious is when you’re aware of something, and conscience is when you wish you weren’t.” Pretty sharp kid!
Too many people believe Jiminy Cricket’s catchy tune that reminded Pinocchio: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Sounds great, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. God never intended your conscience as your guide.
It has another purpose.
Becoming Conscious of Your Conscience
God has given each of us a conscience. The conscience is a capacity within each of us that assesses our actions. It’s an internal judge of our standards, but it doesn’t set the standards. It simply evaluates them.
[Gentiles] show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them. —Romans 2:15
Our conscience either accuses us or excuses us of sin. But it isn’t an infallible guide to truth. (Neither is your heart.) God never meant it to be. Here’s why:
- Our consciences can be clear and good (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18).
- Our consciences can also be guilty, corrupt, and weak (Titus 1:15; 1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12; 1 Tim. 4:2; Heb. 10:22).
See why the conscience isn’t a great guide? At first we may feel guilty for our sins, but the more we do them, the less guilty we feel. In fact, we can even come to believe that what we’re doing is okay. Eventually, the truth no longer affects us.
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Your Only Infallible Guide
Our consciences can’t be our guide to truth. Only God’s Word is. In fact, Scriptural truth can help you clear your guilty conscience. Only a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ can “cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). Your guide should be your Bible (Ps. 119:9-11).
Only God’s Word provides a consistent standard by which we can live and by which our consciences can make a good judgments.
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