A lot of folks have principles in life—some of them high principles. Question is, do they live them out? Do they really follow their principles? Often, it’s all rhetoric, professed just to put up a show. They say one thing but live completely opposite lifestyles, especially in private. It’s what you do in private that God watches, mind you.
It’s better to have simple life principles and really live by them. The Pharisees observed a lot of highly principled edicts which, according to Jesus, were never lived out. In contrast, Jesus introduced radically simple life principles which were clearly seen in his life. It’s one thing to say you have high or strict standards in life; it’s quite another thing to really live them out daily.
You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. [Matthew 24]
I’ve seen folks, especially bosses, who hate it when people are late. In fact, they’re merciless with tardy people. But they themselves often get late, and when they do it’s perfectly all right to them, like nothing happened. Just because they’re boss, they think they’re exempted from their strict principles. Jesus calls them camel eaters—they easily swallow camels but are strict about bugs that people under them get in their water.
Read the entire chapter of Matthew 23 in the bible and you’d get a good idea what some “principled” people really are. They formulate high principles for “you” to follow but which they themselves rarely observe, or never. They try to tell you what you should do but you see them doing the complete opposite.
There are lots of reasons why people become camel eaters, and one outstanding is sophistication. They think a sophisticated life is impressive so they do everything to make everything complicated, like formulate strict-sounding principles and standards. “I am this and that,” they say to put up a grand show of themselves and create an impressive image on the minds of their admirers. And their unthinking followers put them on a high pedestal.
People would laugh at you for being “mediocre” if you have simple life principles, unsophisticated lifestyle, and if you’re quiet about yourself. They’d think you’re inferior and know nothing. Dumb even. They like people who talk a lot about themselves and always try to prove their worth. They do that during job interviews and even in schools—some teachers or profs size up their students by how talkative they are. To them, talkative means smart. But God thinks otherwise:
Proud fools talk too much; the words of the wise protect them. [Proverbs 14.3]
Here’s something to seriously consider:
A wise man holds his tongue. Only a fool blurts out everything he knows; that only leads to sorrow and trouble. [Proverbs 10.14]
Simplify and Relax
There are lots of other reasons why people “eat camels.” But I think it all boils down to how relaxed your soul (mind, will and emotion) is. Stressed out people have complicated lives that choke them and make them easily fall short or compromise on their standards. Your too tight schedules often push you to the edge leaving you little room for your principles and standards so that you often break them out of pressure and it becomes a habit.
Remember the seed that fell on thorns? “They are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature,” [Luke 8.14]. A lot of people look professional, efficient and productive but they’re really immature people in private. You’d be shocked at how self-centered and self-conceited they are, enjoying it when talks are centered on them and people praise them. But when other people are being admired, they’d mutter about how we shouldn’t esteem people too much or glorify men but only God, and things like that.
I’ve also met people who seem highly principled in public but have badly broken marriages in private, or else have successive problematic relationships. One guy I know was highly titled and degreed, top government official, high salaried, and seemed professional and cordial in all his dealings with people. He was highly respected. But once you get to really know him, he has serious issues with relationships.
Highly principled people, genuine ones, are often those who live simple and quiet lives so they’re really able to prioritize their principles in life over what goes on around them. The priority in life should be relaxation. Relaxing in God gives you more time to live by his Word and balance things in your life.
It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don’t you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? [Psalm 127.1-2]