I mentioned yesterday that even if we agree that a commandment is a commandment there still can be a variety of opinions on how exactly one should follow that commandment. Take for example the question of how to keep the Sabbath Day holy. I always believed that that meant not going to the store then, because that would make other people work during the Lord’s Day.
It was a nice and tidy solution, but then it became more muddled with the advent of online shopping. Is it wrong to make a computer algorithm process my purchase on the Sabbath? Is just accruing a charge on my credit card breaking the Sabbath?
And even if I decide to not make online purchases on the Sabbath, packages that I am waiting for are still going to be processed through packing facilities and transported on shipping containers on that day. It’s unavoidable.
Does keeping the Sabbath require that I just abstain from online shopping entirely? Or am I just overthinking things and shouldn’t even worry about it? Where should the line be drawn?
This brings me to a memory where I was attending a Sunday School lesson and a similar quandary emerged. We were discussing the commandment to give to the poor and the question was raised whether we should give money to panhandlers or not.
Some of those present said they refused to do that, because they feared their contribution would just be used to purchase drugs or alcohol. Their charity would actually be enabling harmful behavior. They suggested that people buy food for panhandlers instead.
Others said they tried buying food and had it rejected, in which case they had just wasted their money and no one was benefited at all. They suggested it was better to volunteer at halfway-homes and soup kitchens where one knew that the needy were receiving real nourishment.
Still others said it wasn’t for us to judge how the panhandlers were using our money. Just give to them, and whether they use it for good things or not is on their own heads.
There were so many different opinions, and all of them had valid points. As the class discussed this we slowly uncovered what I believe was a gospel truth. Our conclusion was that the commandment was to “Give to the Poor.” If Brother Jones examines his conscience and counsels with God and decides that means he should give money to panhandlers then that is fine. If Sister Stevens examines her conscience and counsels with God and decides she would rather volunteer at a soup kitchen then that is fine too.
So long as you are doing something and your conscience is truly content with it, then you are keeping the commandment. You do not need to be concerned that someone else’s method of commandment-keeping is different from your own, we all have our own song to sing.
This, then, is commandments combined with personal revelation, and this makes the commandment become more alive! The law has now been made personal, not general. Now you have your way of giving to the poor, and your way of keeping the Sabbath, and your way of nourishing your body. Now you have ownership of your own faithfulness.