Lynn wrote to me and asked about aborted baby cells being used to make COVID vaccines. She asks, “Is it wrong to benefit from an act of evil, like receiving a COVID vaccine that was developed with aborted baby cells?”
The issue that you’ve brought up can be a difficult one because we have strong feelings about abortion, and we want to walk with God in a way that honors him in anything we do. We don’t want to be participatory in any kind of evil. So, let me answer a question that is straight-up implied by your original question.
Is receiving a vaccine created through the cells of an aborted baby participatory in the sin that killed the baby? No.
Is it wrong to benefit from an act of evil? No, unless you intentionally participated in the evil act that benefited you.
These answers are not going to sit well with some people. So, they need some explaining. As I discuss this issue, keep in mind that there are biblical reasons why the answers I’ve given are sound, even if we struggle with them greatly.
First, let me explain what I call the “Spectrum of Morality.” This might help you get a grasp on how God views and responds to our morally good, morally evil, or non-ideal acts. Then, I will give you several examples from scripture of people who benefited from evil acts in one way or another—including Jesus.
The Spectrum of Morality works like this.
Morally Wrong —————-Not Ideal But Permitted —————— Morally right.
In the Mosaic Law, there were certain acts that were always forbidden because they were always morally evil. These included sins like murder, adultery, lying, stealing, etc. (Exodus 20:13-16). There is never a time in scripture when these acts are considered right or acceptable in any way.
Then, there were things in Scripture that were always defined as morally good and morally right. There is never a time in scripture when these acts are ever considered sinful or wrong, they are always right: faithfulness, humility, kindness, love, generosity, and so on (Galatians 5:22-23).
But there is a space in the middle of things that are not necessarily wrong. But, neither are they ideally right. They are not considered morally wrong. But, they are permissible if not ideal. Let me give you some examples.
Adultery is always morally wrong and is never morally right. It cannot become morally right. However, polygamy and concubinage were permitted, and God never rebuked anyone in scripture for engaging in these behaviors. Now, it’s not ideal. God doesn’t promote polygamy, but, nor does he condemn it. We might say that the husband received the benefit of something that isn’t ideally right, but it was not absolutely forbidden either.
How about stealing? It is condemned. The ideal is to work to earn wealth and become a generous person. But borrowing and lending, under certain conditions, were acceptable. Taking the spoils of war was also permissible and not considered stealing.
Let’s try another example. Murder is always wrong and never right. Nothing ever makes it right. The ideal is to create life or defend life. This honors God. However, killing other people is permitted in capital punishment (Genesis 9:6), or in times of war (Numbers 31:7-8). It’s not ideal, but it was not morally wrong either.
You can use this spectrum on all of the commandments. Even with the First Commandment about having no gods before the Lord. Worshipping other gods is always a sin and can never become morally right (Exodus 20:3). Only worshipping God is always right and can never become morally wrong. But giving obedience and honor to the government or king, which operates in the stead of God, is acceptable (Romans 13:1-7). See how it works?
Now, abortion is always wrong, and there is never a time when it is morally right; not even in cases of rape or incest. Abortion is always murder. But once the act of abortion is committed, someone may benefit from it even though the abortion was wrong. God does not hold them accountable for taking the benefit. So, let me give you scripture that would seem to support this view. The easiest one is the violence done to Joseph.
Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph languished for years as a slave and a prisoner but eventually rose to become Prime Minister of Egypt. When he revealed himself to his brothers, he told them, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good that many lives would be saved as it is this day” (Genesis 50:20). Joseph did not hold his brothers accountable. He forgave them, and the whole kingdom and even other nations benefited from Joseph’s administration. So, everyone benefited from an act of evil that his brothers did.
Consider David and Bathsheba. David murdered Uriah the Hittite and took his wife (II Samuel 12:9). God punished him with the death of his son, but he gave him another child, Solomon. David benefited from the murder he committed by keeping Bathsheba. God did not tell David to put her away. Then Solomon grew up to rule Israel at the zenith of its power and influence in the world. The whole nation benefited from making Solomon king, which never would have happened if David had kept it in his pants.
When David was fleeing from Saul, he stopped to see the High Priest, Abiathar, who, at David’s request, gave him the showbread which God reserved only for the priest. For a non-priest to eat the showbread was a violation of the law. But not only did David and his men eat it, even Jesus did not condemn David because his human need for food overrode the ceremonial law.
Lastly, consider Jesus, who was invited to eat in the homes of tax collectors (Luke 19:1-7). Tax collectors were the worst of the worst. They got filthy rich from the people over whom they had charge. They routinely took more than they were authorized for. Yet, Jesus benefited from their theft by eating what was set before him, even though it was likely bought with stolen money—money gained by oppression.
The point here is that there is a separation between benefitting from participating in an evil act and benefiting from an act of someone else. You are not responsible for the baby that was aborted and whose cells were replicated to make your vaccine. You did not participate in the sin of killing the baby. But neither is there anything in scripture that forbids you from receiving the vaccine. Now, mark my words…it is not ideal. But nor is it forbidden. You can freely choose to refuse it, and there is no guilt. You can choose to accept it, and there is still no guilt. However, if your conscience bothers you about this, then do not take it. Never violate your conscience, even if it is for something considered permissible.
My last example is the death of Jesus. Jesus was brutally murdered. He was as innocent as an unborn baby, even more so since he did not have a sin nature. We did not participate in the act of his murder, but we received the benefit from it—salvation. Yes, you could say that it was because of our sin that he died, and that is true. But we, as people who were not there, did not commit the actual act of murdering him. Others committed the evil, the greatest evil of all time, and we received the benefit.
I hope this analysis helps you as you determine what you want to do about being vaccinated. No matter what you choose, I hope and pray that those around you will support you in your decision as you seek to honor God through your decision.