The Duties of Life
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
There's a lot being said and thought lately about morals. I found an interesting definition of morals as "the practice of the duties of life."
Benjamin Franklin once asked, "What can laws do without morals?" God's law, the highest of law, includes moral law. The Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20:3-17) summarize how to obey God, and they form the basis of much civil law. And to love God with all our heart and soul and might (see Deut. 6:5) is to place one's actions within the moral law at all times.
Our morals have a lot to do with how we walk among our fellow men and women, and have everything to do with how we approach God. Christ Jesus made it clear that to judge how moral we are, we need to look not only to our actions themselves but, just as important, to our motives - the thoughts behind our actions. We need to ask ourselves, perhaps, "Am I fulfilling the duties of life? Are my motives and actions in line with the spirit of the Commandments?" If so, we are fulfilling our duty to God, ourselves, and others, to live rightly. Moral thinking naturally causes us to respect the lives and rights of others.
A number of years ago, I worked for a company that managed the estates and affairs of those who had either passed away or were permanently unable to manage their affairs. I hadn't been with the company long when I began to sense an atmosphere that wasn't quite right. One day, while I was handling the stored belongings of one deceased person, the thought crossed my mind that some small item I had noticed (one I was sure no one would ever want) would look very nice in my home. I didn't take the item, but neither did I recognize the temptation - at first.
That night I had a dream, in which I heard someone say something to me about not defiling God's law by breaking the Commandments, even in a small way. The next morning I woke feeling shaken. I also felt embarrassed that I had not immediately condemned that thought I'd had to take what wasn't mine. Actually, it had been a thought to break the Commandments that say simply, "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet."
As I then thought further about the atmosphere at work, I realized that this type of less-than-honest thinking was the very reason I'd been feeling uncomfortable. I began to pray about the larger issue here - that is, to see more clearly that honesty expresses the universal power of spiritual truth. I also needed to see everyone in the company as under this power because each was actually the reflection of God, His spiritual image. As I would drive to work each day, the following statement from "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, kept coming to me: "All that God imparts moves in accord with Him, reflecting goodness and power" (Pg. 515).
During the several years I was with that company, I was able to establish a principled framework of business for the areas in my charge. And though my principles sometimes seemed to conflict with the intentions of others in the company, my point of view gradually gained increased support. When the time came for me to leave, our president, who had seemed to be at odds with me, did not want me to leave - and at first even refused to accept my resignation!
I had learned more about the essential qualities of good character that help us to contribute to the well-being of all as we walk among our fellow human beings. These include unselfishness, as opposed to self-interest. When we let unselfish love for others guide our motives and actions, we are conducting ourselves under God's direction.
These unselfish motives have their rewards. Among them are contentment, satisfaction, and the basic comfort that comes from a clear conscience. Beyond these, there's the reward of knowing God's love in our lives; of feeling His direction in our choices; of seeing the good we receive from showing God's grace and mercy, which flow through any right motive and purpose.
Obedience to God carries into even the "little" matters of our days - in which we can choose to be honest, pure, kind, and unselfish, not living above the law but in the law, enjoying the good that fulfilling life's duties brings.