Is it Stupid to Play by the Rules?

Is it Stupid to Play by the Rules?
Rev. Tony Cooke

In Psalm 37 and 73, frustration is expressed at seeing people “get ahead,” even though they’ve cut corners and compromised, while the righteous seem to not be making as much progress. Psalm 73:13 (The Message Version) even says, “I’ve been stupid to play by the rules; what has it gotten me? The truth is though, that it’s only those who play by God’s rules who are going to be standing in the end (the psalmist acknowledged the error of his frustration later in Psalm 73).

Benjamin Disraeli said, “Principle is ever my motto, not expediency.” Expedience refers to pursuing whatever is immediately advantageous or personally desirable without a view toward the ethics, morality, or principle involved in the matter. A person of principle is one who establishes a high code of values, and then consistently lives out those values.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Expedients are for the hour, but principles are for the ages. Just because the rains descend, and the winds blow, we cannot afford to build on shifting sands.” When you see people cutting corners and compromising to get quick results or immediate gratification, don’t feel that your integrity is in vain. Know that you’re building on a solid foundation—one that will endure and remain over time.

In examining the lives of honorable men and women throughout church history, we find that they possessed strong values and convictions. These were not vague, floating aspirations, but they had consciously identified their values and often had articulated them.

John G. Lake wrote out what he called, “My Consecration as a Christian.” One of his values was expressed this way: “I will always strive to be a peacemaker. First, by being peaceful myself and avoiding all unfruitful contentions, and treating all with justice and regarding their rights and their free agency, never trying to force any to my point of view. If I should offend anyone knowingly, I shall immediately apologize. I will not scatter evil reports about any person, and so try to defame their character, or repeat things that I am not certain of being true. I will strive to remove the curse of strife among the brethren by acting as a peacemaker.”

Another great minister who clearly articulated his values was Jonathon Edwards. His verbiage reflects his era, but he certainly embraced and expressed some great principles, such as:
6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
54. Whenever I hear anything spoken in conversation of any person, if I think it would be praiseworthy in me, Resolved to endeavor to imitate it.

Men and women don’t become great by accident. They are carried into greatness by great values, great decisions, great convictions, great principles, and great actions. One person said, “Make your decisions, and your decisions will make you.” Make it your determined effort not to grow lax or sloppy in your morals, values, and convictions, even if others around you seem to be. Don’t let yourself simply “go with the crowd.” Embrace the highest and the best that God has for you. Don’t let His Word be a book of ideals to you from which you can selectively and occasionally live, but let them be your commandments—orders given by one in authority about which there is no choice and from which there is no retreat!