Why Your Conscience Can’t Really Know it All

Can you always let your conscience be your guide?

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.

Can you always let your conscience be your guide?

(Photo by Photodune)

“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.

Why Your Conscience Can't Really Know it All

(Photo by Photodune)

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 judgment.

Question: Has your conscience ever been wrong? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Jeanelle Sims

    Thanks for cleari understanding of the two. I have not consider the difference before. Your wisdom from Scripture always gives me reason to stop and think a new thought. Have a blessed day.

    • You’re welcome, Jeanelle, and I’m grateful for your regular doses of wisdom as well! You and James are such an encouragement.

  • Ed Pomelear

    Thanks, Wayne. Clarifying and convicting.

    • You’re welcome, Ed. I’ve always found it helpful to keep my conscience “clear” of what it shouldn’t do. God bless.


    yes my conscience has ever been wrong,because i’m still confused whether that’s from God or myself or evil spirit,we need God to gives us direction and instruction,i have made a lot of mistakes in the past that’s maybe because i listened to my own conscience too much.

    • Sometimes I find it helpful not to try to figure out the source of my thoughts as much as how I’m going to respond. Regardless of the source, my response is to be obedience. Thanks.

  • wft2969

    Great read as always. My conscious always bothers me about rather my repentance has been worldly or Godly. Does world or Godly repentance really matter in the end if it eventually leads to recognizing that we are in need of a Savior in Jesus? This is what my conscious always is bugging me about. Thank you

    • That’s a great question. I’m not sure the difference you mean between worldly and godly repentance. But you’re right, if repentance leads to faith in Christ, then it has served its purpose. Our conscience is a God-given part of His general revelation (in addition to the creation) that points us to God’s existence (Romans 2:14-16). If your conscience points you to God, you are responding well to it. Thanks.