Would you agree with this statement: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments…” Most Bible students would quickly agree, I suspect. But what if we quoted the rest of the verse: “…and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3)? Perhaps, the second part would draw out the more skeptical side of many. Yeah, I get it.
When I was a freshman in college I had an interest in philosophy, deep thoughts, and logical thinking; so, I took a couple of courses in philosophy. Somewhere in his opening remarks my first professor made a statement that I had never thought about before, “Philosophy is always about living a happy life.” The more I read, the more I thought, the more I saw that he was right. From Plato to the most contemporary philosophers, their deep thoughts were all about ways of thinking and acting that would lead to a better, happier life. No, we’re not saying that all philosophers are “party-ers” at heart. What I am saying is that even thoughtful pagans and atheists realize that the short-term happiness of sensuality, drunkenness, lack of self-discipline, laziness, and irresponsibility unerringly resulted in longer-term unhappiness, dishonor, and emptiness. So, although pagan philosophers weren’t guided by divine morality (the gods sinned as much as humans), it was philosophers that taught men to be good as a road to long-term happiness, honor, and fulfillment.
But it wasn’t necessary among God’s people, because they had something better—much better. They had a caring God, who gave them commands that would astonish the philosophers and be the envy of the entire world. In a revealing passage in Deuteronomy 4:5-8 Moses tells Israel,
“See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
Here’s a tragically overlooked facet of God’s commands laid out before us. God’s commands are a blessing! They are not burdensome. Indeed, it is the sins that we commit that become burdensome and curse our lives.
Let me illustrate with the very first story of mankind in the Bible, the story of Adam and Eve. God had created and laid before Adam and Eve a world of blessings even greater than the beautiful world in which we now live. God put them in the Garden of Eden, a world full of blessing. But the Garden He also placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, their only choice for disobedience. God told them that they would die, if they ate from it; but Adam and Eve ate from it anyway, apparently thinking that God’s warning was a bluff. Thus, we now live with death and the others curses carried into the world by their disobedience. Instead of embracing the blessings of obedience, the first man and woman chose the curses.
As with Adam and Eve, so with us; when we embrace God’s commands, we embrace blessings for our lives. As we embrace sinful deeds, words, and attitudes, we embrace trouble, curses, and destruction for ourselves.
Think about it with me just a moment:
- When obeyed, God’s laws about marriage brings personal happiness, love, emotional stability, economic stability, fulfillment, real satisfaction, the best chance for well-adjusted children, and (on the societal scale) societal stability.
- God’s law on children obeying their parents, when observed, gives children (from infancy to adulthood) the benefit of wisdom, experience, skills, and mistakes. It will be the difference between success vs. trouble and heartache and long-term happiness.
- God’s law on sexual morality, when followed, gives appropriate structure and parameters to a very powerful appetite, gives stability and security to marriages and homes, avoids diseases, avoids powerful emotional damage and distress, dodges watering down your marriage bond, and stops perversions before they can get started.
- When we observe God’s law on turning the other cheek we find peace more often, we avoid the violence that begets more revenge and more violence, and we don’t bear the grudges that hurt the grudge holder more than it hurts the the one against whom the grudge is held.
- God’s law on forgiveness, when observed, kills grudges, brings family healing, reconciles friends, and is the foundation for peace and love.
- God’s law on using our tongues correctly, when carried out, avoid the curses of hurt feelings, fights, and the general evil that the tongue engenders. And it gives blessing upon blessing, when we use our tongues well.
- God’s law on worry (that is, “Don’t”), when followed, avoids disease, ulceration, and unhappiness.
- God’s law on humility, when carried out, avoids pride, arrogance, and bragging, which breeds a world of hateful things and curses from others who resent the pride. Humility, on the other hand, blesses with appreciation and uplift of others.
- God’s law on cooperation and service, when submitted to, builds love, accomplishes more than any one person could, and breeds social ties like nothing else.
- God’s law on self-control and self-indulgence, when followed, provides the gatekeeper of so many blessings and curses, making a major difference in one’s life and success.
- God’s law on drunkenness and drugs, when observed, saves from broken homes, broken lives, broken health, broken minds, and broken souls.
- God’s law on patience, when done as God has commanded, succeeds when others have quit, shows mercy to those who’ve had difficulty, and reflects one of the things we are most grateful to God about.
- God’s law on courage, when obeyed, yields honor, success, and a good conscience about standing for the truth.
And the list could go on about truth, honesty, integrity, love, kindness, and gentleness. And that’s not even to speak of the blessings accompanying religious commands about church attendance, singing in worship, prayer, giving, thanksgiving, worshipping, Scripture reading, fellowship, and involvement—all of which are blessings to our spiritual lives.