Wise Use of Freedom of Choice
“I CAN’T understand how she can wear a dress of that color. I wouldn’t be seen in it!” “Classical music? I can’t stand listening to it!” “Eat meat? Why, it’s the worst thing in the world for you!”
No doubt you could add significantly to this list of likes and dislikes among humans. How well the saying, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” describes the wide variation in tastes of different individuals!
These differing tastes reflect the freedom of choice humans have, which freedom is cherished by each person. It should be, for God made it that way. Man was created as a free moral agent and was given considerable freedom of choice in matters of life.
This does not mean, however, that man’s freedom should know no bounds. In matters such as worship, doctrine and conduct, the Holy Bible, God’s Word, gives much detailed information as to the proper course to follow. Often there are specific statements as to what is right and what is wrong. These things God does not leave up to the individual to establish. Still, man can choose to obey or to disobey these instructions; but he must face the consequences.
Yet the Bible does not lay down laws to regulate directly everything one does. It leaves a wide area up to individual choice, initiative and taste. The resulting variety in personal taste makes life more interesting. How monotonous it would be if every person had exactly the same taste in everything the Bible left to free choice! So while Bible principles should always guide us, the choice of one’s food, clothing, entertainment, furniture and many other things is largely left up to the individual. In exercising this freedom of choice, however, one should be careful not to infringe on the freedom of choice of others.
For example, you may like to listen to music very much, and you are free to do so. But your neighbor may prefer to read quietly instead. Your choice should not interfere with his. If you insist on playing your music so loud that it disturbs your neighbor, then you infringe upon his freedom of choice. He is not choosing to listen to your music voluntarily, but is having it imposed upon him. You have abused your freedom. The Biblical principle that must be remembered is this: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12) You do not want another’s choice imposed upon you. Do not impose yours upon him.
Also to be taken into consideration is the Christian conscience. The Christian appreciates his freedom to choose the kind of music he will listen to, but he also appreciates that some songs are suggestive and demoralizing. So he avoids these. He fills his mind with what is righteous and chaste. He does not abuse his freedom of choice, and so harm himself spiritually.—Phil. 4:8.
In the matter of clothing a Christian is also allowed a wide area of choice. But since what is considered acceptable, well-arranged dress in one part of the world may be viewed as offensive and immodest by morally upright people in another, Christians must use wise judgment in their choice. The Bible counsel for women is “to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Tim. 2:9) Thus a Christian woman will be careful never to give the appearance of being immodest. She will avoid being swept along with the fads of this morally decadent world. But, wisely, she will avoid setting herself up as a judge of others.
The Bible also leaves it up to a Christian to decide what kind of food he will eat. (1 Cor. 10:25) One person may relish eating meat, another may be a vegetarian. Both are free to eat what they choose. If a person chooses not to eat meat, or some other food, he should not be criticized: “Let the one eating not look down on the one not eating, and let the one not eating not judge the one eating, for God has welcomed that one. Who are you to judge the house servant of another?”—Rom. 14:3, 4.
But even in his eating, a mature Christian will use discernment in exercising his freedom of choice. If he knows that certain foods or drinks are offensive to others, then he will not insist on his rights. He will exercise his freedom of choice with consideration for others.—1 Cor. 10:23, 24, 32, 33; 8:7-13.
Since God’s Word allows Christians such a wide area of choice in so many matters, it behooves each one seriously to consider Jesus’ counsel: “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1) Others no doubt have personal tastes and ways of doing things quite different from yours, and it is not the Christian thing to infringe upon their freedom by criticizing them or by going from one person to another asking if others think that what So-and-So is doing is right, and so putting that one in a bad light. How much better it is to set a good example ourselves, and, when it comes to others, commend them for the progress they are making toward Christian maturity!
This does not mean that in the family arrangement parents should not regulate the freedom of choice of their children by correcting and disciplining them. This is their obligation. Christian overseers are also obligated to show loving concern for the spiritual welfare of all in the congregation. At times they may observe circumstances developing that could easily lead to a serious problem, and they may offer sound counsel to help to avert it. Rather than infringing on your freedom of choice, their earnest desire is to help you to see how to apply Bible principles to make wise use of your freedom to choose.
Yes, freedom of choice is desirable and necessary for humans, but it needs to be used wisely. We must appreciate that we cannot have total freedom in all areas and still be approved by God or have harmony with our fellowman. A mature Christian is always guided by the Bible principle that states: “Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for moral badness, but as slaves of God.”—1 Pet. 2:16.