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From The Chaplain's Desk
Sept. 2015 Chaplain's Corner: Thou shalt...

By Charles Dimmick, CT State Grange Chaplain

  SEPTEMBER 5, 2015 --

It is my impression that too many people look on religious observance as a list of things that they should not do, rather than a guide as to what they should do, and thus construct for themselves an image of an avenging God who is looking for an opportunity to condemn them to everlasting hellfire. To them religion is “Thou shalt not”, whereas even moderate familiarity with scripture will show that the proper emphasis is on “Thou shalt”. After all, when Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment his answer was “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and then added “and the second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

These two “thou shalt” rules cover everything, including the “shalt nots”. If you strive to follow these by giving yourself to loving God and loving your neighbor you will no longer have inclination or motivation to run afoul of the shalt nots. If you truly love your fellow human beings you will not lie, cheat, or steal or even covet. As for the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony, they are pretty much covered also. How can you love your fellow human beings and yet have room for wrath, greed, lust and envy? Sloth, pride, and gluttony may not at first seem to be covered in this, but they are an outcome of not fully embracing both basic commandments. Sloth and gluttony, especially in combination, are bad for your health, and may lay the foundation for a heart attack. “Love your neighbor as yourself” includes loving yourself to the point of at least taking care of yourself, and not voluntarily letting your health deteriorate to the point of becoming a burden to others.

Pride is a little trickier, at least because in English the word pride has several different meanings. The opposite of pride is humility, but even here one has to be a bit cautious. Pride expressed as boasting and thinking of oneself as better than others is harmful and certainly not an example of loving one’s neighbor. But false humility, pretending that one is humble or acting humble when you don’t really mean it, is also harmful. St. Paul deals with this in Colossians 2:18-23 (I’ll let you read this on your own as a homework assignment).  What one needs to aim for is humble pride. In God’s eyes you are no better than anyone else, but also you are no worse than anyone else. Finally, remember what the prophet Micah said: “what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”


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