Are You an Opportunist?
DO YOU take advantage of opportunities? Or are you an opportunist? At first there may seem to be little difference between the two. But on closer examination one will be found good, the other bad; so bad, in fact, that it is even condemned by God.
Taking advantage of opportunities is proper when we understand the word “opportunity” to mean “a combination of circumstances, time, and place suitable or favorable for a particular activity or action,” as a dictionary defines it. For example, in connection with taking every opportunity we can to serve God, the Bible states: “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Eph. 5:15, 16) Yes, even if we borrow time from other pursuits, making opportunities to serve God is proper.
In the Christian congregation, taking advantage of opportunities to serve God in a greater capacity, such as that of an overseer, is commended: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Tim. 3:1) Even when counseling slaves, the apostle Paul said: “Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Cor. 7:21) In these instances, there was no violation of right principle, therefore the opportunities could be seized.
How different it is with opportunism! Opportunism is defined in this way: “The art, policy, or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances, especially with little regard for principles or ultimate consequences.”
An opportunist, therefore, is one who is selfish, unconcerned with the feelings of God or man, always looking out for his own interests even if it is at the expense of others. It does not matter to the opportunist whether the opportunity he takes advantage of runs contrary to right principle.
Opportunists are plentiful in this world, which is why dishonest dealings, lying, cheating and immorality are so prevalent in high and low places. How often governments sign peace treaties only to break them and invade and plunder the territory of a neighbor without regard for principle or for the consequences to those vanquished! A tragic example of governmental opportunism occurred recently when the United States dishonored a treaty that had given a tribe of Seneca Indians land for a reservation. Authorities wanted to build a dam that would flood the reservation and cause the Indians to lose their homes, property and heritage. The treaty guaranteeing their rights was signed in 1794 by President George Washington. Ordinarily treaties have the force of law to back them up, but not even the Supreme Court would uphold the treaty rights of the Indians. Because of commercial and political opportunism, Indian treaties have been dishonored for decades.
While you may not have the chance to break a national treaty, you do have occasions in everyday life to demonstrate whether you are an opportunist. For instance, if you were invited to eat at the home of persons who could not afford anything fancy, would you break the engagement if later someone else offered to take you to a very expensive restaurant and a theater that same evening? If you did, you would be an opportunist, since it was not ill health, an accident, or some such circumstance that caused you to make the change, but your desire for a “better deal.”
When making out your income-tax return, do you deduct more in contributions to charities than you have actually paid? When driving, do you run through stop signs or red lights in isolated areas where you feel nobody is watching? When shopping, do you pick up items without paying for them when no one looks? Do you play up to someone in authority just for your own personal advantage? If you do such things, you are an opportunist!
While you may feel such things are innocent, especially ‘since everybody does them,’ you must appreciate that persons who stand up for right principles do not do them. They know that opportunists are disgusting to God. As Psalm 119:158 states: “I have seen those who are treacherous in dealing, and I do feel a loathing, because they have not kept [God’s] saying.”
However, does this mean that all who break agreements are opportunists? No. If a man agrees to rob a bank, but then is stricken by conscience and breaks the agreement, he is hardly an opportunist. The agreement he broke was wrong to begin with. He broke it because of right principle, not in spite of it.
This also applies where one marriage partner has agreed to accept the religion of his mate, or has agreed to raise his children in a certain religion, but then learns of true religion. He changes his former religion, adopts true religion and begins to instruct his children in his new faith. Is this opportunism? No, because it is done for the sake of truth, for God’s righteous laws. Actually, he would displease God if he did not take advantage of the opportunity to practice true religion. Continuing in a false religion is wrong. Abandoning it is not only right, but mandatory, even if it means breaking a previous agreement to do so.
Take advantage of proper opportunities to serve God and man. Build a personality based on the righteous principles of honesty, integrity, fair dealing, and consideration for others. Do as the psalmist, who said: “I have made a sworn statement, and I will carry it out, to keep your righteous judicial decisions.” (Ps. 119:106) Follow the example of Jesus Christ when he said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No,” and do not be an opportunist!—Matt. 5:37.