When we start talking principles, someone eventually comes along who does not like the principles and says, “‘people are more important than principles,” and for them that’s the end of the matter. Often, though, those same folk will make the “greater good” argument when it comes to their own principles.
Energy – what we cook and heat our homes with, what makes our jobs possible, what moves us from home to work … energy costs. When costs of energy go up, who suffers first? The poor. People end up choosing between heat and food. When utility bills go unpaid, folk become homeless. When government policies force the cost of energy up – due to environmental policies and to generate revenues for “green” technologies, these policies hurt people. Yet, in this case, folk recognize the long-term benefits and that sound environment practices will improve the lives of all.
When we look to the Scriptures with an eye toward life principles, we find the same, that a principled life is a disciplined life and the long-term benefits and sound applications will improve the lives of all.
Where the real difficulty comes in is when the principles in the scripture run contrary to what folk want, then the argument shifts to “people over principles.”
Jesus said,“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30, ASV).
The purpose of a yoke is to increase efficiency of carrying or pulling a load. We wear all kinds of yokes. Some yokes fit well; those of being a parent who loves and sacrifices for the child’s sake. The care of a loved one who is ill or unable to care for themselves. Some yokes are difficult to wear; like those of dealing with an irrational boss or co-worker. A well-fitted yoke makes hauling the burden easier. But it does not mean there is no burden.
As for burdens, Jesus says, yes, his ways are a burden, but light. Ask yourself, where is the heavier burden? In sin or in righteousness?
In abstaining from alcohol, or puking all night into the toilet, living with the consequences of a lost night, alcoholism and its related diseases.
In abstaining from non-marital sex, or in dealing with STDs, or an unwanted pregnancy, or divorce due to adultery.
In going the extra mile in family and business relationships, or being hated and despised by those who should be our closest allies and partners?
The Scriptures present principles for life in many ways, some are straightforward statements as in the Proverbs, or the commands handed down through Christ and his pen-men. Some we glean from reading the lives of the ancients and the blessings and rebukes they received for their actions. Scripture teaches us that, “… these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Application of the principles of Scripture means sometimes saying “No” when we want to say “Yes,” and saying “Yes” when we want to say “No.” It means passing on the short-term pleasures of sin, in order to gain the long-term benefits of righteousness.
It also calls us to remember that the God who laid down these principles is a lover of people, and has what is best for people in mind when he gave them. He proved his love in the Cross and resurrection of Christ.