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Saving Us From What Would Destroy Us

In Psalm 119, the psalmist sings jubilantly, “O Lord, how I love your law! I think about it all day long… How sweet is the taste of your instructions. Sweeter even than honey”. What a difference from the attitude of many people who view the commandments negatively—as something that

restricts and confines them. The Israelites understand the commandments positively—as something that liberated them. God’s law liberated them from a life of slavery to sin for a life of service to God. That is the right way to understand the commandments. God gives them to us to save us from behavior that would destroy us. He who is our creator knows what is good for us and what is destructive. He gives us the commandments out of love to help us avoid the things that are contrary to our nature, the things that would harm us or others. Think for example of the commandment “you shall not steal”. If we do not respect the property of others and they don’t respect our belongings, we will have no trust for one another. And without trust, we can have no

community. And without a community of mutual help, our lives would be much impoverished. We

can live fully only with the assistance of one another in so many ways. So the commandment to not steal is to enable us to have what is required for fruitful living. It and every commandment is not a restriction but an empowerment to live in accord with our nature. As Benjamin Franklin once put it, “Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden. It is forbidden because it is hurtful”.


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