Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The sum of the matter

If you were going to make a brief summary statement about what is necessary to live a good life . . . what would it include?

For many years, I have usually referenced Micah 6:8:
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does [YHWH] require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [NASB]
This morning, however, I read the end of Ecclesiastes and came upon v. 12:13:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. [ESV]
Oh! That's a short summary!

But, somehow, that reminded me of Jesus' statements:
  • Matthew 22:37-40:
    And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." [ESV]
  • And Mark 12:28-31:
    And one of the scribes came up and . . . asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." [ESV]
But, of course, these both directly reference some Old Testament Scriptures.

I found Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ("Hear, O Israel: [YHWH] our God, [YHWH] is one. You shall love [YHWH] your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." [ESV]) and Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ("And now, Israel, what does [YHWH] your God require of you, but to fear [YHWH] your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve [YHWH] your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of [YHWH], which I am commanding you today for your good?" [ESV]).

Can you think of any more?

I thought there were several other "close seconds" in Ecclesiastes, though they weren't quite--not quite--as all-encompassing. I passed these along to one of my sisters a couple of days ago, as she has tended to be too strict with herself, always asking--about everything--even down to the color of socks she might wear: "Is this what God wants me to do?"

"I think you've been overdoing it," I said. "Whether you should wear blue or green socks is not a moral decision . . . and you ought not to make it into one! Focus on the important decisions. Kind of like Micah 6:8 where He says, 'He has told you, O man, what is good . . . ,' so here. As God says in Deuteronomy 29:29: 'The secret things belong to [YHWH] our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.' --God does not hide these things. He does not make them hard to figure out!"


In considering my sister's difficulties with feeling confident that she might be "in God's will" (or not), I suggested
  • Ecclesiastes 7:16-17:
    Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? [ESV]
  • And Ecclesiastes 9:7:
    Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. [ESV]
Though, for the sake of my broader audience, here (since I have no idea quite how "fastidious" you may be, let me throw in a couple more similar aphorisms from Solomon. These, too, were from my reading this morning:
  • Ecclesiastes 11:9:
    Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. [ESV]
  • And Ecclesiastes 12:1:
    Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them" . . . [ESV]
    . . . and then he goes on with an absolutely stunning imagistic description of the decrepitude and sadness of old age.
ETA (7/15/09, 8:53 AM): Oops! There was one more from Ecclesiastes that caught my eye. Chapter 2, verses 24:
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also . . . is from the hand of God . . . [ESV]
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