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Foundations For Success

God's Basic Laws for a Successful Life: The 10 Commandments

How can these old decrees affect my life today?

By Dr. Monte E.Wilson III

Ah, the sweet smell of success. We dream of it, we pray for it, we run after it. Yet for so many, success is as elusive as a butterfly. How many times has success been just within our reach when suddenly our world fell out from beneath us? At the precise moment we were getting that longed for promotion, our spouse was informing us that the children were caught experimenting with drugs. What happened?

How many people do you know that have successful relationships but are continually fighting back financial bankruptcy? How many people do you know whose careers are humming along and their relationships with their spouses are great but their spiritual health is less than what they want? How many of us have incredible successes in one context of life but are facing defeats in other areas of our lives?

True success is comprehensive success. If I have millions of dollars in the bank and no debt, yet have alienated my family or am spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, I am not a successful. Am I?

Comprehensive success is the product of many things. It comes through hard work, faith, wisdom, discipline and vision. Of course, as it regards generating income, it also requires that we master a particular skill, service or field of knowledge. But comprehensive success also requires something that many people overlook: it requires that we become a certain kind of person.

I suggest that successful people--those people who are successful in every context of life--are people who believe that the foundation of their ground rules for success is a desire to honor God.

Truly successful people do not ignore the spiritual aspects of life. They see and believe that there is a God who created them and all the beauty and life and wonder that surrounds them, that their existence on earth is not an accident but has been brought about by a loving Creator. Accordingly, these people do not define success merely in terms of their physical well being but in terms of their spiritual journey as well. They wish to honor their Creator, to act in harmony with the Creator and all that has been created. Such a desire to honor the Creator inevitably leads to the question of behavior. Are there ground rules that will guide us in our quest for success, in our quest to honor God and to be productive in every other area of our lives?

Everyone has rules that guide their behavioral choices. All people have a compass by which they navigate through their decisions regarding what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable. Maybe they adopted their parent's rules or the rules of their culture or maybe they sorted through the rules of various religions. Quite possibly the rules some of us live by came to us by osmosis as we read books, watched movies, listened to family and friends and we just sort of took a rule here or a rule from over there. In other words, some of us--maybe a lot of us--have adopted rules for behaving without really putting much thought into where they came from.

Interestingly enough, there are many, many similarities in the code of ethics adopted by those who believe that their success in life includes spiritual concerns. I suggest that this is a reflection of the reality of the existence of a God who wishes for us to know how we may show appropriate honor to our creator, as well as what the ground rules for successful living are. I further suggest that these ground rules are summed up in the Jewish and Christian scriptures and are referred to as the Ten Commandments.

How Many Laws Are There?

The Ten Commandments get a lot of bad press today. Some of this is due to the common "no-one-can-tell-me-what-to-do" attitude, and some of it is a blatant commitment to hedonism and the all out pursuit of pleasure no matter what the cost. Yet some of it is due to the portrayal of God and his commandments by Christians themselves.

God's rules are not meant to be used to bash others, neither are they instruments of hate. On the contrary, God's rules are all about love: love for our creator and love for our fellow humans. In both the Jewish and the Christian traditions, the highest law is love for God and the next law is love for others. (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37-40) Accordingly, in both traditions the commandments are always to be applied or interpreted in this light. Sadly, many within both of these traditions have forgotten this or have never been taught. Both religious scriptures, however, teach that the commandments are all about expressing love to God and to others.

One of the pitfalls that face people who take their spiritual quest seriously, is that we often are tempted to begin heaping up rule after rule after rule. Somehow, we begin to believe that the more detailed the rules, the more comprehensive the rules, the more rules there are, the better off we will be.

Imagine you are Adam and Eve. You really wish to honor God and enjoy the many gifts He has given to you. The only restriction given you concerns eating from a particular tree that is called the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." That's it. Other than this, go to work, have a good time.

Now, being that you wish to please God, you begin thinking about this tree and the horror of what will happen to you if you eat the fruit of it. So to protect yourself, your spouse and your children, you decide to make a law against even touching the tree. "There, that ought to do it. Now, no one will be hurt even by accident."

"But", someone asks, "what if I am chasing a pet and I accidentally touch the tree?" Well, that won't do. So, the family gets together and decides to build a fence around the tree. While everyone is feeling pretty safe, however, another person is still feeling a little nervous.

"What if one of the children is playing with a ball, the ball bounces over the fence." So, another fence is built and then another and another, until no one can enter the Garden of Eden because it is entirely fenced off. What began with a simple commandment to refrain from a particular fruit, ended with most any other activity being prohibited. I suggest this is what many golden-intentioned people have done within the religious community.

However well intentioned the rule makers are, what they are saying is that God was not strict enough. Had God only known how people would abuse adult beverages and sex, for example, there would have been a lot more laws regarding these activities! But God did know and the laws He gave us are sufficient for living well, thank-you very much.

As our Creator, God knows exactly what is required for our health and welfare: His "ground rules" are not given as a means to tease, trouble or torment us but to act as guiding lights or fences alone, the highway of successful living. Those who follow their wisdom will not only honor God but will also be well equipped for an incredibly fulfilling, life. Indeed, God promised special blessings to those who keep His rules (Ex 20:6, Daniel 5:20, 9:4).

Simply stated, these commandments sum up God's "ground rules" for treating people with love and respect that you would like to experience (Thus, Honor your parents, do not steal, lie, or murder, etc.). See [Golden Rule]

The Most Important Rule for Living

Have you ever wished you didn't agree with someone? Maybe a politician was espousing a policy or law that you agreed with, but his demeanor was mean spirited and contrary to any motive you would have for supporting such a law. What about a time when you watched a mother or father enforce a rule with their child--a rule you agreed with--but they did so in an abusive manner? This is how I feel when I hear some Christians today saying we need to return to the Ten Commandments. I always get the feeling that underlying this profession is a desire to see someone they don't like get thrown into jail.

The Ten Commandments have received a lot of bad press. Some of it is because there are those who talk about the Commandments who appear hateful. Some of the bad PR is due to clergy who condemn those of us who struggle with obedience and then they are exposed as the worst of offenders. Then there is also the problem with divorcing the rules from the rule maker: God. If you think these commandments are simply arbitrary rules some religious leaders came up with, then you will understandably be repelled by these rules.

What if you read the Ten Commandments through the eyes of one who believes God is sadistic or not culturally relevant? How will they read to you? On the other hand, what if you started with the idea that the God of the Ten Commandments is a God of love and that He is good and always does good? And simply wants to insure that we do good to ourselves, to each other and to all creation. Do you think this might change how someone responds to the Ten Commandments?

The Rules of the Game

As our Creator, God knows how we can best live our lives. God knows what works (not just short term but long term) and what does not. God knows what will cause us great harm and what will bring lasting joy. God knows what will keep us on the path to spiritual health, eternal happiness and comprehensive success in this life and what can send us off spiraling ever downward.

I like to play golf. I didn't invent the game. I didn't invent the equipment. I didn't establish the rules. If I want to play with others, if I want to compete in this game, if I want to be allowed on a golf course, I must accept and abide by the rules. Life has come to us in the same way. The Creator created the game and knows how best to play it: keep the rules or get thrown off the course.

That is not to say that keeping the rules will get you a free pass to heaven. On the contrary, we all know that no one can keep these Laws perfectly. As Christians we understand that it is our faith in Christ and what He did for us by dying in our place-in the place of lawbreakers. But as Christians we also know that to please God, to get on with being restored and brought into a place of every increasing spiritual health these commandments are important to us.