Should You Insist on Your Personal Preferences?
TWO young children are playing together. One child grabs his favorite toy away from the other child and screams, “Mine!” From an early age, imperfect humans display a measure of selfishness. (Gen. 8:21; Rom. 3:23) Moreover, the world in general promotes a me-first attitude. If we are to avoid this spirit, we must put up a hard fight against selfish tendencies. Unless we do so, we can easily stumble others and weaken our relationship with Jehovah.—Rom. 7:21-23.
Encouraging us to take into consideration the effect that our actions have on others, the apostle Paul wrote: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up.” Paul also said: “Keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” (1 Cor. 10:23, 32) In matters involving personal preferences, then, it is the course of wisdom to ask ourselves: ‘Am I willing to forgo certain rights when the peace of the congregation is threatened? Am I prepared to conform to Bible principles, even when it is inconvenient to do so?’
In Choosing Employment
Most people view their choice of employment as a personal decision that has very little—if any—impact on others. But consider the experience of a businessman from a small town in South America. He was known as a gambler and a drunkard. As a result of studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, he made spiritual progress and changed his way of life. (2 Cor. 7:1) When he expressed interest in preaching publicly with the congregation, an elder tactfully encouraged him to think about the nature of his secular work. For some time, the man had been the town’s main distributor of pure cane alcohol—a product having many uses but in that region commonly mixed with soft drinks and consumed for the sole purpose of getting drunk.
The man discerned that if he preached publicly but still sold such a product, this would put the congregation in a bad light and could damage his relationship with God. Although he had a large family to support, he stopped selling alcohol. He now supports his family by selling paper products. This man, his wife, and two of their five children are now baptized. They zealously preach the good news with freeness of speech.
In Choosing Associates
Is socializing with those who do not share our faith simply a question of personal preference, or are Bible principles involved? One sister wanted to go to a party with a young man who was not a true Christian. Although warned of the dangers, she felt that it was her right to do so and therefore went to the party. Not long after she arrived, she was given a drink laced with a powerful sedative. She woke up several hours later and found that she had been raped by her so-called friend.—Compare Genesis 34:2.
While associating with unbelievers may not always result in a tragedy such as that, the Bible warns: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) There is no question about it—choosing bad associates exposes us to danger! “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself,” states Proverbs 22:3, “but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” Our associates can affect us and our relationship with God.—1 Cor. 15:33; Jas. 4:4.
In Dress and Grooming
Styles and fashions change with every season. However, Bible principles about dress and grooming remain constant. Paul urged Christian women to “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind”—a principle that applies with equal force to men. (1 Tim. 2:9) Paul was not recommending an extremely plain style of dress, nor was he saying that all Christians must have the same taste. But what about modesty? One dictionary defines modesty as “freedom from conceit or vanity . . . propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.”
We need to ask ourselves: ‘Can I honestly say that I am being modest if I insist on my right to dress in a manner that calls undue attention to me? Does my manner of dress send a wrong signal about who I am or the morals I live by?’ We can avoid “giving any cause for stumbling” in this regard by “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just [our] own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—2 Cor. 6:3; Phil. 2:4.
In Business Matters
When serious issues arose relating to wrong or fraudulent dealings in the congregation in Corinth, Paul wrote: “Why do you not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded?” Paul counseled Christians to be willing to give something up rather than to take a brother to court. (1 Cor. 6:1-7) A brother in the United States took this counsel to heart. He had a difference of opinion with his Christian employer about wages that were owed him. Following Scriptural guidelines, the two brothers met time and again but without finding a solution to the problem. Finally, they took the matter “to the congregation,” as represented by Christian elders.—Matt. 18:15-17.
Sadly, the issue still could not be resolved. After much prayer, the employee decided to forfeit most of the money he felt he was owed. Why? He later said, “This disagreement was robbing me of my joy and consuming precious time that could be used in spiritual pursuits.” After making that decision, the brother felt his joy returning, and he sensed Jehovah’s blessing on his service.
Even in Little Things
Not insisting on our personal preferences also brings blessings in small matters. On the first day of a district convention, a pioneer couple arrived early and secured the exact seats they desired. As the program began, a large family with several children hurried into the crowded coliseum. Noticing that the family was searching for adequate seating, the pioneer couple gave up their two seats. This made it possible for the entire family to sit together. A few days after the convention, the pioneers received a thank-you letter from the family. The letter explained how discouraged they were when they arrived at the convention late. That feeling soon changed to joy and gratitude because of the pioneer couple’s kindness.
When we have the opportunity, let us willingly forgo our preferences in behalf of others. By displaying love that “does not look for its own interests,” we help to maintain peace within the congregation and with our neighbors. (1 Cor. 13:5) But most important of all, we preserve our friendship with Jehovah.
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Are you willing to forgo your personal preferences in your choice of fashion?
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Are you willing to give up your seat for your brothers?