It Really is Your Choice

I’m not a good poker player.

Technically I’m a great poker player. I can compute odds with ease in my head, and I never lost a penny playing poker in the long  run. But I suck, because I am emotionally unfit for the game.

Translation: I get very mad when other people play stupidly.

I’ve asked God to help me stop this behavior. Lots of people ask God for help. And they tend to use the phrase, “I cannot do it without your help Lord, but only your help will give me the strength.” Or words to that effect.

Well, suddenly when I was saying those words, it came to me: (God spoke to me as I see it), “NO! You have all you need to stop your anger. I AM you. I am here to love you no matter what. I witness your failures. But YOU choose how to behave.”

Well, you can say what you will about my “encounter” of course. But it seems to me that in reading the Mass for today, I maybe got the message correctly.

Ecclesiasticus 15:16-21
2Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37

Ben Sira states:

“If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power.” (emphasis mine)

Paul states:

(The hidden wisdom of God) “. . .are the things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.”

And Jesus says in Matthew:

“For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

What is being said here?

Ecclesiasticus seems most straightforward. Remember the words of Genesis:

God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them. (Gen 1: 27)

Now, I have never taken this to mean that we are like God in a physical sense. Rather, being sentient, I believe it means that our minds work as God’s does. B follows A, and 2+ 2 = 4. While we have limits to the capacity of our minds, we see the universe as God sees it. Thus we can communicate.

Thus to me, having the power, means I have all the requisite mind to discern good and evil. I don’t need any collection of writings (however much they aid me from not having to duplicate work) for within myself, I know right from wrong.

Further along in the reading from Ecclesiasticus Ben Sira continues:

He has set fire and water before you;  put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.

Indeed, choose the fire if you wish, but don’t blame God if you get burned.

Paul of course, is explaining that the Spirit of God naturally guides us to the depths of God meaning I believe that we can easily discern what God wants from us: to do good. We need no special education or teaching from wise men and women. This is never to say that such things are not useful, in making our tasks easier, but they are not necessary to our being good people. Being good is natural to sentient beings created in the image (mind) of their Creator.

What to make of all the wise sayings of Jesus in Matthew? Well, some churches, mine included, seem to think that these are special “rules of the road.” Thus Catholics are “supposedly” forbidden divorce, since Jesus, taken literally does seem to say that. Some take the “taking of oaths” quite literally.

But I don’t think this laundry list of dos and don’ts is what Jesus had in mind.

Recall the quoted part: if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes. . .

What were they noted for?

Specifically they were noted for studying the laws of Torah so minutely that they had created a million little laws, nitpicking the teachings to death. This and that were clean, unclean, not to be done on this day or that.

Jesus here is saying is that if you do that, you are missing the real virtue of the law, the real depth of meaning. Jesus illustrates with some of those deeper meanings, not as “new” laws, but meaning that you will discern right and wrong, truth and falsity if you look within at the point of the commandments. What is God asking of us?

Jesus completes the Law by bringing the message of love and compassion and caring for each other. Remember he taught that our first commandment was to love God, and then to love our neighbors. All the law is summed up in these two things. As one rabbi said, all else in the Torah is commentary.

To those who feel that there is no moral compass without a inerrant book to guide you, I can only say, then you have missed the point of the book. For plenty of the writers alluded to the fact that it is “written in our hearts.”

Blessings. AMEN.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Thomas Bryner
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 15:58:33

    It’s similar in Hinduism. One of my favorite verses is near the end, after Krishna has explained to Arjuna all about Life, The Universe, and Everything:

    “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” BG 18:63

    Free will! Ain’t it cool?


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