WE all face decisions that make us wonder how important it is to stick with what is right rather than to do what is easiest, least expensive, least demanding, or most convenient at the moment. At times, doing what is expedient is wise, efficient, and truly the right course to take. But when expediency displaces principled action, we need to reexamine our motives.
One young couple learned the value of doing things the right way when they turned to divine Principle, God, in their decisionmaking. They had purchased their first home and it was going to need extensive renovation. A well-intentioned family friend, surveying the situation, commented, "Be sure you don't take out a building permit. With all this work, it'll cost you three times more if you have a city building inspector checking on you!
The couple had very little cash. But they also felt uncomfortable about following their friend's suggestion. They recognized this as an issue of expediency versus principle, and they felt they couldn't afford not to be principled. They remembered a verse from Psalms that says, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. They had learned, through their study of Christian Science, that God is the Father and source of all good and that we experience more good in our lives as we ende avor to live in accord with what we know is right.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives a concise explanation that helps us understand God better. She writes: "God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence. As they prayed to know that they could do what was right without being harmed by their choice, the young couple found it helpful to conside r what they knew of God's nature as Principle. Principle, they reasoned, is that which is correct, right. It is strong. It abides consistently with what is good. It is incorruptible and undeviating. It is divine order.
Because the couple wanted their project to go smoothly and safely, they knew that they wanted it to be God-guided, God-governed, God-watched-over from beginning to end. In order for this to happen, they realized, they needed to do their part by being God-governed themselves in every step of the work. They knew that if they lived up to what they understood of divine Principle by obeying the building codes, they would be starting the right way. And they could expect that Spirit would give them enthusiasm a nd teachableness for the work, that divine Love would watch over them and keep them safe, that Mind, God, would provide the intelligent ideas they needed, and so on.
In essence, they felt that by going ahead and taking out a building permit, they were doing more than simply upholding a building code requirement: they were committing themselves to be workers for God's law of good. This commitment to good, they were sure, would help them to do an even better, more efficient, more cost- effective job.
At first glance, righteousness, or principled action, may seem to cost us something, but as we become more comfortable with making the choice to follow the very highest sense of right that we can, we find that righteousness pays its own way in our experience. And in the long term doing what is expedient, but wrong, carries intangible costs out of all proportion to the perceived short-term "benefits.
How do we know if the way we are choosing is principled or is expedient? I've found that asking myself a few questions helps to clear things up: Is this choice self-oriented, time-oriented, or based on fear? Does this choice include anything not in accord with divine law? Does it involve even a little deceit or dishonesty? Does it attribute power or authority to something other than God? If I have to answer "yes to any of these, or similar, questions, I know I'm being expedient, rather than principled.
When we choose that which is entirely good, we have aligned ourselves with the divine order and our actions bless all concerned. The book of Isaiah records God as saying, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. Christ Jesus, of course, is our best example of what it means to live a life wholly dedicated to God's ways. And as we strive in our own lives to make God's ways our ways, we'll find that we make fewer decisions based on the fear that God is not watchin g out for us. Instead, we'll trust God, divine Principle, to show us how to be and do good.
The couple determined to make God's ways their ways in every aspect of their remodeling project. They took out the building permit, and became very friendly with the building inspector who came around frequently to check their work!
Many months later, as the work was just being completed, they found that they were to be moving to another state and would need to sell the house. About this time, some neighbors had guests who asked if they could come over for a tour and see all the remodeling that had been done. After the guests had walked through the house, they offered to buy it on the spot. There was just one stipulation: they wanted to see the building permit, with all the improvements properly signed off by the inspector!
The couple was truly awed by this beautiful proof that God's law of Principle is also a law of Love. They had witnessed, once again, the im-portance of acting from principle, and not just expediency.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.