For Our Own Good- Question

I can see why the commandments of God are often seen by the world as a burden. They do, many times, put restrictions on the things that we would otherwise do. I think it is fair to say that were it not for our conscience, we would all live a far more hedonistic and sensual life, catering to the carnal tastes that are in us all. Thankfully we do have our conscience, though, and as a result, overcome many passions for our own greater good.

But even with the help of our conscience, we inevitably come to another sticking point. Sooner or later we will encounter a commandment which we do not necessarily feel the importance of. Perhaps we totally get why it is wrong to steal and kill, and will gladly restrict ourselves from such behavior, but keeping the sabbath day holy? Living a chaste life? Paying our tithes? If we list out enough commandments, sooner or later each of us will likely find one that just doesn’t resonate in us as much as the others.

What is one to do in such a circumstance? Do we ignore the laws that we don’t understand? Is it possible to gain full benefit for following them in a state of “just going through motions,” where our hearts are not in it? I would like to consider these questions, as well as contemplate why we even come to this conundrum in the first place. In the meantime, I would be curious to hear how you have dealt with the laws that you did not fully understand the reasons for? Did understanding come eventually? If so, what did you have to do to gain it?

Commandments and Personal Revelation- Summary

This study was an excellent opportunity for me to dive into a topic that has been a big source of confusion to me, and I am sure to many others as well. It’s important to remember that just because one has questions about the commandments does not mean that they don’t want to keep them. That desire naturally wants knowledge to be able to steer correctly, and so studies like these are important. Though I should add that the greatest understanding of commandments does not come by study alone, but by actively living them.

Commandments are Given and Followed By Love

One of the ways I’ve come to measure my understanding of a commandment is whether I can see the element of love in it. Can I see the love from God in giving it to me, and the love for myself and others in following it? For example, one could view laws of sexual purity as restricting one’s pleasure, or they could see them as protecting oneself from deep wounding and facilitating a more abiding romance.
Jesus came at a time where the law had been inflated into an oppressive and unwieldy mass. I believe a very real part of his mission was to remind his contemporaries of this love that had been originally intended by the law.
John 13:34- A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 14:15- If ye love me, keep my commandments.
Matthew 22:37-39-Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Commandments Should be Personal

There already existed in the Mosaic Law provisions for the poor before Jesus’s ministry. For example, farmers were required to leave portions of their fields for the impoverished to freely glean from.
When Jesus instructed the rich young man to sell all of his possessions and give to the poor, though, he was asking for something that went far above what the law required. Of other people he had different life requirements.
“Go and sin no more.”
“Behold thy mother.”
“I will make you fishers of men.”
In each case Jesus understood that we need the explicitly spelled-out commandments, but that we then have additional personal needs fitted for our individual growth. To each of us he promises this same personalized guidance.
John 14:26- But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things

Commandments, Guidance, and Revelation

I know there all manner of voices that can cast confusion on the commandments. The world calls them unnecessary, the faithful give different interpretations to them, and your own mind may obsess over whether you are following them properly or not.
Even so there are answers if we look for them. There are resources to guide us rightly. Specific injunctions like those in Moses’s ten commandments lay the ground rules for us. General guidance like those in Jesus’s two great commandments explain what our intentions should be. Personal communion from the spirit adds the final element in being able to make personalized and worthy decisions.
And it is alright if our initial thoughts of what we are supposed to be doing are imperfect. We can be sure that God will steer us as needed, just so long as we are trying sincerely.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.

Commandments and Personal Revelation- Life Examples

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.