Living by Principles
Do you live your life by certain principles? If so, what are they? Where did they come from? I might ask, “How important are your principles to you?”. That would be a redundant question, however, because by definition principles are supremely important. If a principle is not more important than even life itself, it is not a principle. Indeed, principles are those things by which noble people live their lives and for which they are even willing to give their lives.
Does our modern culture have such principles? If so, what are they? It is said that in recent decades our culture has “advanced” from a basic philosophy of modernism to that of relativism which includes the concept that there are no objective moral principles. Everything, including right and wrong, is relative to the situation or circumstances at hand. Truth is no longer seen as an objective standard that applies equally to all people.
Relativism is really no more than a standard of behavior that is based on selfishness. The principle upon which our modern culture operates is that anything is good if it helps us get what we want. Stealing, cheating, lying, adultery, abhorrent personal behavior, etc. are all good if they help in achieving our personal goals. Everything seems to be relative to and subordinate to some self-serving objective.
Within this context of relativism the most noble standard of behavior to which our society dares appeal is the shallow and meaningless “just follow your heart”. This empty advice is heard to the point of nausea. The noble individual who lives according to principle does not simply “follow his heart”. The dictates of the heart are subjective in nature, based only upon our individual and personal feelings. Do we really want to live in a society in which everyone does what they feel like doing? When a 5 year old kicks a play mate or a teenager mouths off to his parents or school teacher they are doing what they feel like doing. The ultimate end would be a society totally given over to violence and chaos. We must therefore recognize the need to control our feelings and separate feelings from behavior. Our feelings (even our “heart-felt”ones), therefore, may not be based on Biblical principles of Godly living and for this reason we cannot simply “follow our heart”.
The abandonment of principles by our culture can be seen on many fronts. For example, the principle of governance by the rule of law seems now to be replaced by the rule of popularity polls. The immutable moral laws of God have been replaced by a hedonistic and selfish pursuit of pleasure. The principles of personal and family responsibility have been sacrificed at the alter of personal freedom. We have seen the abandonment of sacred principles in the lives of our fellow citizens as well as in the public lives of our nation’s leaders. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Right- eousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people”. Surely our nation and our culture has been reproached in these matters.
The Word of God shows forth itself as the divine standard of truth. We must not only acknowledge God’s standard but also live our lives by it with the assurance that we will be blessed in doing so. James 1:25 says, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.”
Furthermore, the Bible points out that the principles we live by may sometimes require great sacrifices. Romans 14:20 says, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food”. Also, in Romans 15:3 we read: “For even Christ did not please himself”. In light of Biblical principles and the personal example of Jesus, how can we abandon what is right for the momentary pleasure of doing wrong?
How can we put self first and neglect duty to God, family and fellow-man? The only thing that will keep you on the path of righteousness when temptations come is your determination to be true to the principles of God’s word. When no one was looking, why didn’t Joseph lie with the beautiful and adoring wife of Potiphar? The answer, PRINCIPLE! In the midst of idolatry and within the confines of a foreign nation why didn’t Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego allow themselves the nominal gesture of worship toward the God of the Babylonians? The answer, PRINCIPLE! And the examples could be multiplied.
Our principles remain with us when we are alone. Remember that when the curious eyes of others cannot see us, God’s all seeing eye can. All that we do in secret will be brought to light. If we do not remain true to the principles of God’s Word, these same truths will come back to haunt us in the end. By these same principles we will be judged. It is foolish to abandon God’s principles. Do not be a fool!