Today, we come to the final lesson in our series on the Ten Commandments - or as we have been calling them the Ten Words, or Ten Invitations, because, as we have learned, they are invitations to us. Invitations for connecting with our internal guidance system that can lead us to fuller, more meaningful, joyous and richer lives.
And as we draw this series to a close, we can see that each invitation has been a choice point. With each invitation, we have a choice to follow it -- even into its deepest layer -- or not! We always have a choice about how we are going to think, how we are going to respond, and how we are going to act.
And what we know is that the quality of our lives will be based on the choices we make. That statement is pretty powerful, and perhaps even a little intimidating, because it suggests that we have responsibility for own our lives -- for our own happiness, for our own well-being.
To quote Imelda Shanklin in her book What Are You: "Your thoughts are the tools with which you carve your life story on the substance of the universe. When you rule your mind you rule your world. When you choose your thoughts you choose results. The visible part of your life pours out of your mind, shaped and stamped by your thoughts."a
What is this saying? In Unity, we have a belief that behind all that is visible is the invisible. When we make our choices, we set the invisible into motion, which produce results or the visible in our lives.
From the Eastern perspective (Buddhist, Hindu and Zen) this concept is known as Agami-Karma, referring to the consequences we face in the future because of actions we do today.
So over the past 4 weeks we have explored some choice points - 8 of them so far. Eight different choice points, each with three layers, given to us thousands of years ago by God through Moses.
Today we will look at the last two and then we are going to do a short process with the deepest layer of each of them with an eye toward having them serve as OUR ROADMAP FOR DIVINE CONTENTMENT!
The Ninth Commandment
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."b (Exodus 20:16)
1St Layer of Meaning
Common interpretation is "Don't spread lies about someone." This gets broken all the time! Particularly in an election year. Perhaps the candidates don't out and out lie about one another, but they certainly skew the facts - wouldn't you say?!
2nd Layer of Meaning
More than just about not lying. The Hebrew Text in the Torah translates these words as: "Don't answer, respond or repeat against your neighbor."c
For many centuries, scholars and commentators have analyzed the 9th Commandment to understand what is meant by "Don't repeat against your neighbor." Most experts interpret the meaning as including the challenge to: Guard your tongue and refrain whenever possible from saying harmful or private things about other people.
In other words, don't . . . . what? Gossip.
Don't gossip, ouch! If we didn't say harmful or private things about other people, we wouldn't have anything to talk about half the time! Gossip often even drives TV news and talk shows, book publishing, magazines and radio.
How is it that this is so important to make the "top ten" list, so to speak - right up there with murdering and stealing? It is possible that the Bible is outdated or simply wrong when it says, "Don't gossip - don't discuss harmful or private things about people"? Gossip is really pretty innocuous, isn't it? Or, is it?
Emmet Fox: "Of course, anybody on the spiritual path, with the slightest desire for spiritual progress, will not indulge in gossip."d
Why? Let's look at it from two perspectives. First from the perspective of what it does to the person being discussed, and then from the perspective of what it does to the one doing the gossiping.
There's a wonderful Hasidic story that describes beautifully the widespread effect that just one person spreading gossip and rumors can have.
In this tale, a woman says hurtful things about her neighbor. But, eventually, she feels badly, goes to her rabbi and asks what she can do to make amends.
Her rabbi suggests, "If you want to make amends for what you've done, I recommend that you take several feather pillows, cut them open, and let the wind disperse the feathers. Once you've done that, come back and see me."
She does what she is told and returns to the rabbi, who says calmly to her, "Now, there's one more step. Go out and gather up all the feathers."
A pretty difficult, if not impossible, task, isn't it? That's how difficult, if not impossible, it is to undo the damage done to someone when we gossip about them.
How about the other side? Gossip injures the spirit of the person who says it. Why? Well, as we said earlier -- there is a Karmic effect for all of our choices.
In fact Charles writes in the Fillmore Study Bible: "We deceive ourselves when we imagine that we can think thoughts or speak words without getting definite results in mind, body and affairs."e
Jack Addington in his book, The Hidden Mystery of the Bible put it this way: "Every word of condemnation that we utter against another, every thought locks the door on someone's prison. But, even more important, every unkind thought or word about another locks us in the same prison, for that which we behold becomes the pattern for our own experience."f
Not that we'll be punished by God for this, but we shall be "punished" by the Law of Being -- as ye mete, so shall it be meted unto you.
3rd Layer of Meaning
Let's get to the third layer by looking at the inverse of the meaning. If "thou shalt not bear false witness" then it must mean that we "shall bear true witness," right? And what does "true witness" mean?
Of course, seeing the Truth, Spiritual Truth, about EVERYONE in all situations. Even when it is difficult. Even when we would much rather not!
A phrase that I heard recently that has really been meaningful to me: "If I cannot see the Divinity in everyone, I can't see it in anyone -- including myself!"
Jesus wonderful words: "Love thy neighbor as thyself."g
Let us look at our surroundings and say, "Am I bearing true witness to God's image?"
Bear TRUE witness - Do a "Namaste" minute. Look at everything and everyone around you and say "I bow to the divine in you."
And now we come to the final commandment.
The Tenth Commandment
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female slaves, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbors."h
A little boy obviously confused and combined the 7th Commandment (which we learned last week was about adultery) and this 10th Commandment when he wrote: The 10th Commandment says: Thou shalt not take the covers off thy neighbor's wife.
Looking at this one a little differently -- the overall meaning -- which means what it means! And the three important metaphysical reasons for it.
This spiritual lesson invites us to get a handle on the often human tendency to become jealous or discouraged about what other people have or are.
Once a famous movie director, who appeared to have it all, but never felt he had enough, never felt he was good enough, said: "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little."
We can cause ourselves some real spiritual pain by comparing ourselves to others and feeling inadequate as a result. My guess is that every one of us at one time or another has envied, coveted something someone has -- whether it be possessions, position, skills or gifts.
How often do we look around and wish we could be like someone we admire, or to wish we had what someone else has. But when we are being covetous, we are forgetting THREE very, very important Spiritual Truths.
1st Spiritual Truth
First, each of us is a Divine Expression of God. We each have unique talents and gifts and we each have greatness within us.
Many of the gifts we offer to others are small, ordinary things: a kind word, a simple meal, a comforting visit, a gentle touch. We give from what we have. If we have apples, then apples are our gift. If we have good humor, then laughter is our gift. If we can cook, then food is our gift. If we can make music or hold a hand or listen or build or love well, these are our gifts. The currency of our kindness flows from what we are, what we love.
Some of us wish to wait until our gift is potent and comprehensive enough to solve all the world's problems. Seeing that our gift does not stop all the suffering, we decide it is inadequate. But every gift is important. We can thrive on the earth only if we each bring what we have and offer it at the family table.
It is impossible that you have no gift.
2nd Spiritual Truth
Second, we live in a limitless -- not limited -- Universe. When we covet, we are believing in lack and limitation. That there is only so much to go around. That if you have that, then it means I can't.
But I believe, and we teach in Unity, that God is our source and our supply and that we live in an infinitely abundant Universe. My having what seems to be ALL of it doesn't mean that you can't have ALL of it too!
3rd Spiritual Meaning
And third, that the Creative Process works through the Law of Mind, which is impersonal and works for everyone exactly the same -- all the time. And Jesus told us how to work with the Law of Mind when he said at Mark 11:24: "Therefore, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive it, and ye shall have it."i
Jack Addington in his book, The Hidden Mystery of the Bible said: "That which we believe in, accept for ourselves, and confidentially expect is sure to come into our experience. Eventually, we come to see that to covet another's good only diminishes our own, for it holds up to life an image of lack for ourselves. To rejoice in another's good fortune is the best way of all to build an awareness of the very same thing for ourselves."j
And so as we come to embody this Spiritual Truth, we can rejoice with our neighbor over his good, for anything that is possible for him must also be possible for us.
And so there you have it. All you've ever wanted to know about the Ten Commandments -- but were afraid to ask!
And as we look at the deeper meaning of these commandments, we can see, as I said earlier, that each brings us to choice points. And here's the bottom line choice that I think we are being asked to make with each one in 10 different contexts -- are we choosing to live from the perspective of our Oneness with God and therefore our oneness with each other -- or not?
When we choose to live from our perspective of Oneness with God and with others, we truly live in a place of Divine Contentment and our lives are filled with richness, meaning, and depth.
It is always my goal to give you something usable, tangible. And so as we take our last look at these 10 Invitations, I offer you not only a brief explanation of our third layer of each commandment, but the gift of an affirmation for each one.
So let this be your meditation for this morning:
1. God is my infinite, eternal strength. I listen to my internal Guide, and I am free.
2. I live on purpose, remembering always that I am here to express the Divine.
3. God is good -- all the time!
4. This moment, here and now, is sacred and holy.
5. Today, I infuse every prayer with a knowing that it is already done!
6. I rest in the assurance that I and all beings are part of the never-ending circle of Life.
7. God in me, as me, is me.
8. I open my heart and my mind to the fullness that life has to offer knowing that all is mine by right of consciousness.
9. Today I see the Divinity in everyone, in everything, at all times.
10. I rejoice in the good of others knowing that the Source and Substance of all supply is Infinitely available to all.
I have also included a separate document of the Metaphysical Summary of the Ten Commandments. It has the metaphysical meaning of each and the affirmation for each one.
So, we will connect again in June, and I will let you know when it is possible to meet again in the church.
aImelda Shanklin What Are You
cHebrew Text in the Torah
eCharles Fillmore Fillmore Study Bible
fJack Addington The Hidden Mystery of the Bible
jJack Addington The Hidden Mystery of the Bible