Keys to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
The authors of the American Declaration of Independence sent a clear message to their homeland and the nations of Europe. Great Britain’s king was a tyrant. The fledgling 13 states desired to be free of him and his government, which sponsored both political and personal oppression. The now-former British colonialists declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The decision to revolt was based on religious faith and principle. The king had taken away human rights bestowed on all men by the Creator God. The colonialists told the whole world that they were taking back their God-given rights to life, liberty andthe pursuit of happiness. These simple assertions started a revolution that profoundly affected the course of world history. The inspiration gained from these words led to the birth of the single greatest nation in human history.
The thoughts put into words then still have their impact today. These few sentences have resonated deep within the hearts of millions not only in America, but also throughout the world. Human beings have no trouble understanding their timeless meaning.
Everyone desires an abundant life of freedom. Each man, woman and child on the planet wants to find real, lasting happiness. But for many living in our world, abundant life, liberty and happiness simply do not exist. The World Health Organization reported in October 2002 that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds, one person is murdered every 60 seconds and one person dies in armed conflict every 100 seconds. Where is the life, liberty and happiness in these figures?
Philosophers, scientists, educators and even religious leaders have sought to uncover the secret to happiness. Some believe and teach that the secret can be discovered through human reason. Geneticists are searching for the happiness gene. Educators believe that happiness comes through improved knowledge. Religious leaders of all faiths insist that happiness comes by greater spiritual awareness. However, many are pessimistic—not believing happiness is possible. Some even go so far as to suppose that God prevents human happiness.
What is the truth? Did the Founding Fathers of America get it right? Is there a God who has given all human beings the right to live abundantly and freely, and to be happy? Can we find true, lasting happiness? There is a way!
World of Sorrow
We live in a world filled with cruel irony. Highly intelligent men have designed fantastic gadgets that have freed many people from the drudgery of hard labor. Sophisticated computer systems, robots and advanced machinery now do many everyday jobs that men, women and often children once had to struggle to do. A certain type of liberty has been achieved—at least, in the Western, have nations. We control more time to pursue other interests. Yet, are we happy? The stark reality is, we are not!
There is a lot more trouble in our world today. In fact, the evils in our world are piling up faster than we can produce the amazing machines we have come to depend upon. Let’s be honest. While thrilled nasa flight controllers celebrate bouncing the land rover Spirit onto the surface of Mars, brutal butchers still lead nations by abuse, repression and bloodletting. While scientists dig into the surface of Mars looking for signs of life, the so-called have-not nations continue to suffer immeasurably. The continent of Africa is witness to this fact. These nations are plagued with starvation, poverty, illiteracy and fatal diseases. There are teeming masses of people enslaved to hopeless lives of continual pain.
Yet, even those living under the political freedoms of the wealthiest Western nations cannot claim true happiness. Marital strife and family division plague our society. Crime and violence of every sort bother us. All English-speaking nations are living under the terrorist threat. Security experts tell us it is inevitable that some radical group will explode a weapon of mass destruction upon us. We can no longer feel safe in our own neighborhoods. The question of human survival has suddenly become up close and very personal. Why can man extend his reach onto the surface of Mars but not solve his serious problems on Earth?
There is a cause for every effect. Something is bringing about human suffering. What is it? Will humanity face the answer when it is offered to us?
Here is the plain truth. Our world must face the fact that it is bringing all this horrible suffering on itself. How? By the way it is living.
Is there a connection between the suffering in this world and the Ten Commandments? Yes, there is. Few will accept this fact. Why? In our high-tech civilization, most have come to believe that human reason and rational thinking can solve every problem. In essence, man has built a civilization—a way of thinking and living—without God!
No Commandments Necessary
The Ten Commandments are considered by many to be both old-fashioned and destructive. The highly educated, including theologians, believe that mankind has advanced to the point that the basic moral law espoused by the Commandments is unnecessary. Yet the obvious fruits of that thinking stare us boldly in the face. As our fund of knowledge has increased, so has our evil and suffering. Do men really know better than God?
In the latter half of 2003, a lot of publicity was devoted to the furor over Judge Roy Moore’s placement of a huge chunk of granite displaying the Ten Commandments in the Alabama state courthouse. Opposing him were judges, lawyers and leaders of atheist groups. Supporting him were well-known heads of Christian groups. There were marches to get the granite rock out of the state house. There were prayer meetings and candlelight vigils to keep it in public view. The setting was very revealing about how our Western world views the Ten Commandments and God.
Christopher Hitchens, Oxford graduate and prolific political journalist, wrote this in an article titled “Moore’s Law: The Immorality of the Ten Commandments”: “Judge Roy Moore is clearly, as well as a fool and a publicity hound, a man who identifies the Mount Sinai orders to Moses with a certain interpretation of Protestantism. But we may ask ourselves why any sect, however primitive, would want to base itself on such vague pre-Christian desert morality (assuming Moses to be pre-Christian).
“The first four of the commandments have little to do with either law or morality, and the first three suggest a terrific insecurity on the part of the person supposedly issuing them. … [A] day of rest, as prefigured in the opening passages of Genesis, is no more than organized labor might have demanded, perhaps during the arduous days of unpaid pyramid erection. …
“The next instruction is to honor one’s parents: a harmless enough idea, but again unenforceable in law and inapplicable to the many orphans that nature or god sees fit to create” (Slate Magazine, Aug. 27, 2003). The article continues in such a similar reproachful manner for all the commandments. It is not our intention to fingerpoint here, but the author obviously holds a hatred of God and established religion.
No doubt Mr. Hitchens speaks for many liberal intellectuals today. While they may espouse morality, they resent and resist all authority—especially God’s. Men today want a permissive society that emphasizes do, but removes all the don’ts. Morality and law is a matter of personal interpretation and personal choice. Obey the Ten Commandments? Why, that is viewed as negative and even harmful.
Does today’s Christianity offer a better view? On the surface, all the prayers and candlelight vigils that took place in Alabama give the appearance that Christians fully support the Ten Commandments. But that is not really the truth. Yes, the majority of today’s Christian churches teach that children should honor their parents, that people should not kill, steal, lie and covet. Yet, the vast majority of all Christian denominations will not keep the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exod. 20:8). Modern Christianity has come up with all sorts of clever arguments to get around this law. The other Commandment that many Christian denominations struggle with is the second, which states, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image …” (v. 4). Many Christian buildings feature images and statues. Two major denominations worship icons and relics. How are these practices reconciled? One church, claiming 1 billion members worldwide, simply eliminated the Second Commandment and divided the tenth into two. Other denominations assure us that they do not bow down or worship the statues and images.
The blunt truth: Even the pious retain contempt for the laws of God.
In regard to the Ten Commandments, there is a fundamental flaw in our modern Christianity. Herbert Armstrong discovered this flaw and wrote extensively about it. He said, “In Satan’s deceived world many have come to a counterfeit Christ who is supposed to have done away with His Father’s commandments. They even worship Christ. But Jesus Himself said plainly, ‘Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. … And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. … Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye’ (Mark 7:7, 9, 13)” (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 133-134). Could Mr. Armstrong’s statement be true? Are the vast majority of Christians worshiping a false Christ? Are today’s Christians simply following what men—but not what God—teaches? The answer is an absolute yes if you know your Bible.
Modern Christianity has failed to recognize that Jesus Christ is the King of God’s coming Kingdom, and the Ten Commandments will form the foundation of all law in that Kingdom. The Ten Commandments have been in force since the creation of man, are in force today, and will be enforced in the future.
Creator and Lawgiver
It is time that this world comes back to the true God. Science continually shows us that we live in an incredible creation. Advanced investigation in fields of astronomy and biology reveals an incredible design in both the universe and life on the Earth. Any rational person must admit there has to be a Master Designer—a Creator.
That Creator must also be a great Lawgiver. God is the supreme Lawgiver (James 4:12). He rules the universe by His government, through which He administers His laws. Most scientists accept the fact that there are fixed physical laws in the universe. There are the laws of physics and chemistry. These laws protect and sustain physical life. No sane person would deny that the law of gravity operates all the time. It is a proven law. If an individual jumps off a building, he falls. The result? Serious injury or death.
However, few people will accept the fact that our Creator set in motion invisible spiritual laws to preserve and sustain human happiness, peace and abundant well-being. The Ten Commandments are also proven laws. God designed them to produce all the good that men desire. The cause of all human suffering is the rejection and transgression of those laws. This is not a simplistic fantasy of the uneducated. It is the humble recognition of the only way of life that will truly work! When we ignore these laws—live totally opposite to them—we suffer just as we would suffer from breaking the law of gravity.
Let’s be honest about it. Look at how much suffering we could eliminate if every person in this world obeyed the Seventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14). We could wipe out the massive teen problem of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy. Consider the immediate stability reintroduced into society due to the fact that these children would be born to happily married couples. We could eliminate the transmission of deadly sexually transmitted diseases that cause much human misery. aids would never take another life. No man, woman or child would fall victim to a sexual assault. Also, consider the mental and emotional pain that could be eliminated in all the marriages affected by an illicit affair.
Think on each Commandment. No stealing, no lying, no coveting. If every man, woman and child obeyed each one in both the letter and spiritual intent, our world would be revolutionized. Can we see that no man could ever write such a law? It is a perfect law (Ps. 19:7). The Ten Commandments are a perfect combination of do and don’t. There is both a positive action and a restrictive, self-disciplined side to each.
Man continues to write law after law, and look at the mess. There are endless volumes of all kinds of laws regulating human conduct. For every infraction, someone writes a new law.
Law of Love
Considering the all-encompassing magnitude of God’s law, Mr. Armstrong stated, “It outlines, in broad detail, our right relationship with the true God that we may have all the needed guidance, help and blessings from God; and also our right relationship toward human neighbors—including parents, children, husband or wife. This law provides for every human need for our own good in a living, active, continuous relationship with the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God” (Plain Truth, January 1984). When we meditate fully on the Ten Commandments, we can see that God provided the means for mankind to have pure religion, happy families, a right social life, and wealthy economies. Never did God intend that His law be oppressive or destructive. In fact, the law can be summed up in one very powerful word—love!
The Bible reveals that God is love (i John 4:8, 16). God designed the Ten Commandments with His love in mind. The Apostle Paul showed that the Ten Commandments are kept through acts of love (Rom. 13:10). Essentially, this invisible spiritual law is the way that gives, helps, serves and cooperates. It is a way of life that is concerned for the good and welfare of others.
The reason why men don’t see the Ten Commandments as love is because we don’t know what true love is. God must define it for us. In the Ten Commandments, God teaches us how to love Him and other men. Real love is outgoing care—not inward lust. Jesus Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). There is no need to argue over which ones. All ten are listed in the New Testament. John, the disciple closest to Christ, also taught that if we do not love men, we really don’t love God (i John 4:20). King Solomon, the wisest man on Earth in his day, said the Ten Commandments defined the whole duty of man (Eccl. 12:13). We have the duty to love God and our fellowman. Jesus Christ said these laws were the foundation of the entire Bible (Matt. 22:40; see also Rom. 7:7; 13:8-10; James 2:10-11 and
i John 2:3-4, to name a few other verses.)
We must come to see that a loving God has given us a law that, when kept, ensures that blessings come upon us. Within the Ten Commandments, God only forbids those things that harm us.
Law of Liberty
Most today view the Ten Commandments as a restrictive law that takes all the fun and happiness out of life. Yet, when obeyed, these commandments produce an abundant and happy life. Jesus Christ, the only truly obedient human being, said, “… I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Was He just kidding? No! God and Christ desire that all humans have an abundant life. To have an abundant life, we must live as Christ lived. How did He live? He always obeyed His Father. The ultimate abundant life is to live eternally. When asked how to receive eternal life, Christ responded, “[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). Man must stop being flippant with God’s law.
Today people want to be free to do as they please. But what happens when people do as they want? Our society is full of people suffering from addictions—the worst kind of slavery. How many lives are wasted on the unhappiness of drug and alcohol abuse? There are multiple thousands of people addicted to perverted sex and pornography. Many of our young people are enslaved to a life of crime and violence with no hope of escape. Can we recognize the bad fruits of a generation raised without discipline and lawful restriction? Can we admit the critical error in emphasizing the do’s but ignoring the don’ts? Peter warned, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (ii Pet. 2:19). When men ignore God’s law, they subject themselves to slavery. Do we see it? God gave us the Ten Commandments to keep us out of slavery.
The Apostle James refers to the Ten Commandments as the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). Keeping God’s law is the only way that will preserve life, freedom and true happiness. However, we must recognize that God will never force us to keep His law. God has made us free moral agents. God wants us to choose to follow Him and His ways. It is all for our good.
From the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve that they couldn’t make their own rules. Our first parents did not obey God. Their sad history is recorded for us in the first few chapters of Genesis. It is not too late to learn the lesson they did not.