REACHING FOR HIGHER GROUND
Today we embark on our fourth week of looking at the ancient teachings of the Ten Commandments, exploring the relevance they have for our lives today.
One of the many gifts that I have received through this series is the realization that they are not really commandments -- arbitrary commandments given to a group of unruly people thousands of years ago in an attempt to bring them under control. Well, NOT JUST THAT, anyway!
Rather they are guidelines, invitations for how we can live our lives from a spiritual perspective. They are guidelines for putting our behavior in relationships and our views of life in line with spiritual principles. For moving step by step in harmony with God's Love and Law.
Despite their relevance to us, they are not always on the forefront of our minds, and we sometimes aren't even quite sure how they go. As evidenced by the inability of most of you to tell me what might be the next one!
I don't want you to feel badly about this. In fact, to give you comfort this morning and to show you that your Bible knowledge is really pretty good -- at least by comparison -- I want to share with you some Biblical facts as reported by a Sunday school class.
The first book of the Bible is Guinness's in which Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree.
In the Old Testament, we learned of Lot's wife, who was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.
Joseph led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol.
Moses went up to the top of Mt. Cyanide to get the Ten Commandments.
Paul preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage. He taught that a man should have only one wife. This is called monotony.
And finally, the little one who put an interesting spin on the seventh commandment, which is the first commandment we will look at this morning, when he thought it said:
Thou shalt not admit adultery.
The Seventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)
So, how in the world do I handle this topic! If nothing else, it gives me the forum to tell you a joke I've been saving for a very long time now, not knowing if the occasion would ever occur that I could tell it. My guess is it is now or never.
A little boy was playing in his room one afternoon as his mother was cleaning the house and he walked out and said, "Mom, how old are you?" Mom was indignant and refused to answer.
Then, he said "Mom, how much do you weigh?" Same response.
Then, "Mom, why did you and daddy get divorced." More of the same.
He came back a few minutes later and said, "Mom, I've figured it all out. I looked in your wallet at your driver's license and I now know the answer to all my questions." He holds out the license and says, "see, here is your weight -140 pounds; and here's your age - 32."
And the mother said, OK I see that, but where does it tell you why your father and I got divorced?" "Right here," he said, "See, it says you got an F in sex!"
So let's get into the 3 levels of meaning again -- 3 layer chocolate cake.
1st Level of Meaning
The obvious. Why was this made a commandment? Perhaps it had to do with preserving bloodline, lineage, etc.
But, as we know, these "commandments" are much richer than that. Even this first level of meaning is richer. The intent behind this commandment goes beyond the words on the surface. It speaks to people about the sacredness and sanctity of the commitment that is made in marriage.
It is the intention of the institution of marriage that we come to know another person on an extremely profound, deep, soul level and that relationship is to be revered, honored and treated with the highest integrity.
2nd Level of Meaning
The second layer addresses the issue of living in integrity. Very interestingly, the word integrity comes from the Latin word that means to be whole or complete.
In Hebrew the word for wholeness and completeness is shalom, which also means peace between people and peace within oneself. At its deeper meaning, this 7th commandment tells us that if we want to live in peace with others and with ourselves, our words and our actions must be in harmony -- we must live in integrity.
And why is this important to be spelled out? Well, because sometimes when we think no one is looking, we can step out of it!
A salesman rang the bell at a suburban home, and the door was opened by a nine-year-old boy puffing on a long, black cigar. Hiding his amazement, the salesman said, "Good afternoon, son. Is your mother home?"
The boy took a puff of the cigar, pulled it out of his mouth, blew a smoke ring, flicked ashes on the carpet and said, "What do you think?"
I once heard this sage council:
Lead your life so you won't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.
We can't fool the Law. If we live out of integrity, the consciousness that is established by that, will come back to bite us . . .
It is SO important, then that we come to understand the Truth of life; that we come to know that we cannot break spiritual laws without having them come back to us.
In Keep A True Lent Charles Fillmore wrote: "We are not punished for our sins, but by our sins."a
3rd Level of Meaning
Very, very interesting fact: One of the most common and most used Hebrew symbols in Moses' day was the concept of adultery symbolizing idolatry. In the Old Testament, according to Emmet Fox, these two words, symbolically, are almost always interchangeable.
The worship of false gods was described as adultery. So, this commandment could be interpreted to say: Thou shalt not worship false gods.
Wait a minute? Haven't we already had this commandment? Most certainly. Commandment #2 at Exodus 20:3-5: You shall have no other gods before Me, etc. etc.
Remember what we said about idolatry several weeks ago? Even if we no longer build or worship physical idols like in ancient times, we have modern-day addictions and pressures that cause us to forget that our purpose here is to be a vehicle for Divine expression.
This is such an important concept, it appears not once, but twice in our 10 "Words!" So if you didn't "get it" four weeks ago, PLEASE get it today! Adultery is turning from God to something else.
The Eighth Commandment: "Thou shalt not steal." (Exodus 20:15)
1st Layer of Meaning
The first layer goes even beyond the meaning that we might think. There are many ways to steal in life besides going up to a store, a home, or a person and taking something without pay.
In fact, the root word of the Hebrew word we have translated into "steal" means what we think it means and it also means to cleverly outwit or outfox another.
So, with this interpretation, we see the 8th commandment warning us that there is a line between being clever, ambitious or assertive and being deceitful and manipulative.
And we can be very creative with our deceit, can't we?
For example, the story of the governmental official who was approached by a contractor who wanted to give him a sports car as a little "token of appreciation." The official objected, "Sir, common decency and my basic sense of integrity would never permit me to accept such a gift."
"I quite understand" said the contractor. "Suppose we do this: I'll sell you the sports car for $10." The official thought for a moment, "In that case, I'll take two."
The biblical words telling you not to steal or be deceitful really challenge you daily to decide whether you want to seek a life of integrity. Oh, here we go again with Integrity!
But that's only the first layer.
2nd & 3rd Layer of Meaning
The additional layer of meaning for this is so rich, I've rolled 2 and 3 into one! We can have nothing in life except by RIGHT OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
We can have nothing in life except by RIGHT OF CONSCIOUSNESS.
A need to steal or take from another -- whether that be money, property, credit, dignity or glory -- comes from a deep consciousness of not enough. From a belief that you don't have enough and that in order to get, you must take it from someone else.
A compulsion/addiction to steal -- again whether it be money, property OR credit or glory -- is an extreme, extreme consciousness of not enough.
But, in the end, we CANNOT really steal anything - remember last week, how we interpreted "thou shalt not" to mean "thou canst not"? The same holds true here. We cannot really steal anything and nothing can really be stolen from us!
We may temporarily take something from another, but it won't "stick" so to speak unless we have the consciousness for it. And, we obviously don't have the consciousness for it if we think we have to steal it! Get it?!
To be healthy, we must have a consciousness of health. To be prosperous, we must have a prosperity consciousness. To be successful in any field of endeavor, we must have the consciousness that CORRESPONDS.
There is a slang expression that says that to accomplish anything difficult: You must have what it takes.
Well, what it "takes" is the consciousness to correspond with it. The following passage from Emmet Fox's Ten Commandments hit me between the eyes: "To try to get something without having the consciousness simply cannot succeed. We cannot steal. And the sooner we realize that fact the sooner we shall give up trying. When we give up trying to steal, then we shall begin to have our own. We shall come into our own rights, our own property -- using the word property in the widest sense of the conditions that belong to us -- and when we get that, liberation will not be very far off."b
So, both of these commandments invite us to do the same thing just in different contexts: They both invite us to Reach for Higher Ground. They invite us live a life from the highest consciousness possible.
And that is my desire, my prayer, for all of us -- that in all of our relationships, in all of our dealings, in all of our activities, and before any of those, IN OUR CONSCIOUSNESS -- we are always lifted to higher ground!
aKeep A True Lent Charles Fillmore
bEmmet Fox's Ten Commandments