Contending “According to the Rules”
THIS life holds out many good and desirable things. And it is but natural that persons with health, strength and hope should look forward to gaining some of these. There is nothing wrong with the desire to get ahead, to succeed. For example, the apostle Paul clearly says that it is commendable to want to become an overseer in a Christian congregation: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.”—1 Tim. 3:1.
However, while there is nothing wrong with aspiring to a position of greater responsibility, trying to succeed in worthwhile matters, there is something decidedly wrong when one is so concerned with realizing his objectives that he rides roughshod over everyone in his way and violates the rules. For example, aspiring to the office of an overseer is a good thing, but it is dead wrong to scheme to gain that office by playing politics, by slandering another or plotting his downfall.
Needless to say, the world is full of people who are doing that very thing; that is why lawlessness abounds and the love for God on the part of many has grown cold. When you really come down to it, all delinquency, all immorality, all crime, all the squabbles between nations and blocs of nations are because persons and nations refuse to contend according to the rules.—Matt. 24:12.
Rules are necessary for the peace and well-being of all concerned. Rules limit your freedom for the benefit of your neighbor, even as they limit the freedom of your neighbor for your benefit. In other words, for all to enjoy freedom each one’s freedom must be relative. So it at once becomes apparent that this matter of contending according to the rules applies to all our relations with our fellowman and, chief of all, in our relations with our Creator, the Maker of the rules.
Going by the rules is therefore the right thing to do. Only by so doing can we have a clear conscience, which is not an insignificant item. Every time you resist the temptation to violate the rules, to circumvent them for some personal advantage, large or small, you get a reward in moral strength, in satisfaction, in increased self-respect, and that is certainly worth it.—1 Tim. 1:19.
Further, contending according to the rules is the only fair thing to do in your relations with your fellowman or neighbor. You want others to be just in dealing with you, so you should be just in dealing with them. You do not want others to take unfair advantage of you, so you should not want to take unfair advantage of them: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31.
Going by the rules is also the wise way, for in the long run it is true that “crime does not pay.” At the moment, one may appear to succeed in wrongdoing, but “there is nothing . . . carefully concealed that will never become known and never come into the open.” As the apostle Paul noted in advising his fellow Christian Timothy: “If anyone contends even in the games, he is not crowned unless he has contended according to the rules.”—Luke 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:5.
Due to inherited selfishness, “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up,” so we need to be on guard and fortify ourselves so as to be always contending according to the rules. (Gen. 8:21) One of the greatest aids is faith and trust in Jehovah. Trust God that you will have your daily bread, that he will not forsake you when you refuse to stoop to dishonest practices. “Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.”—Ps. 84:11.
Another great aid is appreciation. While setting your sights on a goal ahead or working for the attainment of a desirable possession, do not undervalue the blessings you do have. Do not be like wicked Ahab, who, although king of Israel, was miserable because he had set his heart upon another man’s vineyard. The little he did not have meant more to him than the much he did have. The only way he could get that vineyard was by murdering its owner, and this was done. But at what a price! A terrible judgment of death came upon both himself and his wicked wife, whose advice he followed.—1 Ki. 21:1-26.
Another great aid for all who would contend according to the rules is modesty. Do not aim too high, do not be greedy for much wealth or many possessions and you will be less likely to be tempted to violate the rules, to do wrong to realize your goals. Not without good reason does Jehovah command: “Be modest in walking with your God.” And well does the wise maker of proverbs note that “wisdom is with the modest ones.” The king of Israel was counseled not to “increase silver and gold for himself very much.” And the apostle Paul warns that “those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.”—Mic. 6:8; Prov. 11:2; Deut. 17:17; 1 Tim. 6:9.
The greatest aid of all is love, love of God and for one’s neighbor. (Mark 12:29-31) Love of God will make you want to please him and fear to displease him and so will help you to contend according to the rules, even though it may seem that you could get away with violating them as far as man is concerned. Love of neighbor will keep you from violating the rules to his harm, for “love does not work evil to one’s neighbor.”—Rom. 13:10.
This old world is in the mess it is politically, religiously, economically and socially because it is filled with and run by persons who are not concerned with contending according to the rules. But contending according to the rules is the wise thing, the right thing to do. Faith in God, appreciation of your blessings, modesty and love will help you to contend according to the rules, to your own happiness and well-being.