“See that none render unto any one evil for evil; but always follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all” (1 Thessalonians 5:15 ASV).
In considering this portion of Scripture, it may be helpful to clarify “…what is good for one another and for all” (NET) actually involves. For instance, this passage does not prohibit us from acting in our own best interest when appropriate. However, it does imply that we have an obligation to look beyond our personal interests to the interests of others and respond accordingly. It also means that the agenda of a God-honoring life can no longer be driven exclusively by the question, “what’s best for me?”
This passage also serves to draw our attention to the nature of love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. That portion of Scripture tells us that genuine love is not “self-seeking” (NIV) or “self-serving” (NET). In other words, love does not exclusively pursue its own best interests; instead, it chooses to anticipate the needs of others and respond in an appropriate manner.
For example, genuine love seeks to determine what is best for everyone in a given situation and willingly defers to others where necessary. While the circumstances may change from person to person, we can often identify a loving response with the following question: “What is in the best interest of the people who are involved in this situation from God’s perspective?”
Paul the Apostle expanded upon this idea in his Biblical epistle to the Philippian church…
“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well” (Philippians 2:3-4 NET).
Finally, just as Joseph provided us with a positive embodiment of the mindset advocated here in 1 Thessalonians 5:15, another Old Testament figure named Laban offers a negative example. We first meet Laban in Genesis chapter twenty-four and his life serves an example of what not to do in seeking to pursue what is good for one another and for all.
Whenever Laban saw an opportunity to serve his own interests, he took advantage of that opportunity without concern for who might be hurt or negatively affected by his choices. In fact, Laban’s attitude was probably best summarized by the phrase, “What’s in it for me?” Therefore, we can set the right example in a world of modern-day “Labans” by following this Biblical injunction to “…pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”
For an in-depth look at Laban’s life, see Genesis chapters 29-31 here