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Written in stone

February 18, 1987



THE money was gone. A twenty- dollar bill, withdrawn from an automatic teller machine, was no longer where I had put it. Someone had taken it. My first thought was of the Ten Commandments. ``What good are the Commandments if no one obeys them?'' I asked myself bitterly. How is it possible to persuade people of the value of the Commandments, especially when there are times when I don't find them too attractive myself?

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Looking for answers, I opened my Bible to Exodus, chapter 20, and began reading. The Commandments, as we learn later in the book of Exodus, were written in stone. Something that's written in stone can't be changed. A stone is hard, unyielding. The Israelites recognized the value of stone as a foundation. In the Bible the word stone is sometimes linked with the word foundation, as I found through research. In the last book of the Bible I came across this reference: ``And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones.''1 This verse and the one following it go on to list several gems such as emerald, topaz, amethyst, and sapphire.

Why does the author speak now of precious stones in the foundation? I wondered. Many gemstones are formed through constant heat and pressure. I began to realize that obeying the Ten Commandments was not a static process; it was a transforming one.

When we obey the Commandments under pressure, internal or external, other people may not acknowledge or understand our struggle. In the same way, no one sees the formation of a gem because the transformation takes place deep within rock. The results, however, are highly visible.

Everyone is attracted to jewels if not to stones. Why? Because unlike a plain stone a precious stone reflects light. The most effective way to persuade people of the value of the Commandments is to live them, not simply preach them. Then these moral laws will be desired by more people, including ourselves. Obedience to them is natural; it shouldn't be thought of as a burdensome necessity born of misfortune. Obedience to divine law is the very basis of genuine health and joy.

As I read the Commandments again, I was a little put off by what sounded to me like dull, stern language of Old Testament ``Thou shalt nots.'' I could see that I would have to work to get beyond this impression and see the mighty power in the words. Soon I was so involved in applying the Commandments to my own thoughts and actions (not always with success, but I didn't stop trying) that I forgot about the theft. It was a wonderful surprise when eight months later the person who had taken the money returned it to me.

People often steal because they feel they lack something. I've had friends who committed adultery because of a deep feeling they were unloved. And whenever I covet, whenever I want something that belongs to someone else, it's usually because I feel left out. All of these actions indicate an emptiness inside. I'm often tempted to think I can fill that emptiness by turning away from the Ten Commandments. Yet the very opposite is the case. The Commandments are spiritual riches that confer incomparable satisfaction. I can't describe exactly the feeling I had when my money was returned, but I can tell you that the surge of happiness was worth more than twenty dollars.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, asks, ``Are we picking away the cold, hard pebbles of selfishness, uncovering the secrets of sin and burnishing anew the hidden gems of Love, that their pure perfection shall appear?''2 The question is applicable to us all. Our very salvation depends on seeing more and more clearly, through obedience to divine law, who we really are as God's blessed, indestructible spiritual likeness. And because this is our true selfhood, we can obey the Commandments and find genuine peace in doing so. By struggling to obey divine law, even under intense pressure, we will find a gift more precious than diamonds. Through inner transformation as well as outward obedience we will be ``changed into the ...image'' of our creator, ``even as by the Spirit of the Lord.''3 And we will find a precious gift--the gift of healing.

1Revelation 21:19. 2Miscellaneous Writings, p. 343. 3II Corinthians 3:18. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:19