The 'why' of morality

Clearly, the first commandment, ''Thou shalt have no other gods before me,''n 1 lies at the heart of moral behavior.

n1 Exodus 20:3.

Often, though, we tend to teach the necessity of obedience to this and other Biblical commands without really grasping the ''why'' of these precepts and without helping others to see the ''why.'' Someone caught in the trap of sensuality, hatred, or dishonesty, and who justifies his position, may need to hear more than ''You're wrong-the Bible forbids what you're doing.'' Certainly evil should be condemned. But we might do well to go beyond a mere dogmatic adherence to Biblical teachings and discern something of the eternal truth that underlies them.

The Biblical record shows that when the children of Israel broke the Commandments, they suffered. Was it because a wrathful Jehovah, conscious of every transgression, punished the transgressors mercilessly? Is that what happens when we today break some moral precept?

Christ Jesus revealed God to be Spirit, the loving Father of the universe. And he healed the infirm and sinful, showing that harmony is the natural, God-bestowed state of being. But the Master's teachings also show us that sin is punished-not because God condemns us but because in breaking a moral precept we are, in a sense, separating ourselves from Him, from the very Principle of universal harmony. The Commandments, the Beatitudes, and other Scriptural precepts aren't, then, arbitrary or outmoded rules. They're vital guides to our own well-being and to the prosperity of humanity as a whole.

We may accept this in theory but continue in the wrong path, not seeing the deeper meaning of the Commandments-or further, of Jesus' life and teachings. If God is Spirit, as the Master taught, then the true nature of His creation, including man, must be spiritual and enduring, not physical and destructible. The basis of harmony, then, must be spiritual, in accord with the divine nature. If this is true, couldn't we broadly define sin as that which supports, even promotes, the misconception that matter is the substance of life rather than God , Spirit?

Certainly it's not a sin to enjoy the genuine good of human life. But, looking deeper, we begin to see the difference between legitimate human needs and actions that tend to reinforce the conviction that man is mere flesh and bones, a sensuous, finite being living apart from his creator. Referring to the ''me'' of the first commandment, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, points out: ''This me is Spirit. Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual.''n2

n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 467.

We all have plenty of work to do before we fully demonstrate this ideal. But it's evident that the essence of the first commandment and of Jesus' life example is the inescapable fact that Spirit is to be worshiped, not matter. Spirit is eternal and matter is temporal, the very foundation of human suffering. Hence the importance of spiritualizing, or purifying, our thoughts, motives, and acts-putting off the old man and putting on the new, as Paul expresses it.

It's wisdom, then, to turn away from sexual promiscuity or any other materialistic indulgence because such behavior can only lead to suffering. It materializes thought and so separates us from feeling and experiencing God's care, Spirit's natural and constant impartation of good. Identifying with the flesh, we open ourselves wide to the ills of the flesh. Sensuality, though it may seem natural and desirable to the mentality engulfed in it, is really chaos. It's devoid of Spirit, of Principle. The same is true of dishonesty, resentment, hatred, greed, selfishness, and so on. The hypnotic hold of these tendencies can and must be broken, through an awakening to the nature of evil and further, through a recognition of the Principle of all good and God's infinite love for man.

The ''why'' of morality becomes clear when we see moral behavior as the only genuine road to happiness and salvation. DAILY BIBLE VERSE He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. I John 2:17

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