Jesus quoted both of these
commandments from the Law of Moses; the second one is from the book of
Leviticus. So these are included in the laws that, if we disobey them, will
cause us to run from a wind-driven leaf. And as the Lord teaches us, these are
the primary laws that we must obey in order to avoid that kind of fear in
our inner being.
When we disobey these
laws, we are living only for ourselves, and disregarding the wellbeing of
others. If taking advantage of another person will further our own goals, we
will take advantage of another person. If hurting someone will help us, we will
hurt someone. When we live in this way, we build up causes for fear both within
us and around us. Outside of ourselves, we come to fear revenge from those we
have hurt, and we fear the punishments of the law. We fear losing what we have
Even stronger than these
rational fears are the irrational fears that we build up inside of ourselves.
When we live as a law unto ourselves, we view the world through eyes that are
warped by our own twisted attitudes. We attribute to others all the motivations
from which we act--even when others have no such bad motives. We see enemies all
around us, because what we are seeing around us is a reflection of what is
within our own minds and hearts. If we persist in this direction, we finally
reach a state when, both literally and figuratively, we become frightened of a
mere leaf blowing in the wind.
We also become the
leaf blowing in the wind.
When we center our lives
around anything but the Lord's love and wisdom, we become a slave to whatever it
is that we put at the center of our lives. As Jesus says, everyone who sins
becomes a slave to sin. In contemporary terms, every evil thing we get into the
habit of doing becomes not just a habit, but an addiction. We become entangled
more and more in its web, until we are powerless to extract ourselves. We may
think that we are free because we have chosen to follow this particular way of
life. But evil ways of life, by their very nature, become addictive and
enslaving. If we exercise our freedom to choose evil, our freedom turns into a
false and slavish freedom.
A prime example of this in
our modern world is putting the pursuit of money before everything else. This
seems to be a road to success and power. We often envy those who have plenty of
money; who live in large, beautiful homes with lots of lawns and woods around
them; who drive expensive cars and move in the upper circles of society. How
could the pursuit of money be slavery?
Many wealthy people are
not motivated primarily by money. But for those who are, money does become an
addiction. Relationships, children, and happiness itself are sacrificed as their
lives become focused more and more on acquiring wealth. If we step back from the
allure of money and examine such a person's life, we will find that money is
like a current of wind, and the person is like a leaf driven by it. Wherever
money leads, whether good or bad, that person will go. Superficially, it appears
to be freedom; but that person's soul is enslaved every bit as much as an
alcoholic is enslaved by alcohol.
I would call this sort of
living "living by mistake." When we make mistaken choices, and
continue in the direction those choices lead, our whole life becomes a mistake.
Our whole life becomes driven by something not worthy of a free and rational
human being--and especially not worthy of the Lord.
We do not want to live by
mistake. We want to live on purpose. We want to live a life that is not driven
by external forces that will impose their will upon us. Rather, we want to live
a life that is motivated by the genuine goodness that comes from God. As Jesus
says, "if the Son," meaning the Lord, "makes you free, you will
be free indeed" (John 8:36). Why is it that we are slaves when we are
driven by things like money and power, yet we are free when our life is focused
on the Lord? Isn't the Lord also an external power? Don't we surrender our
freedom also when we follow the Lord?
This is how it appears to
us when we are involved in things that go contrary to the Lord's way of life. If
our life is focused on money, it seems to us that the choice the Lord offers us
between serving God and money means that we would lose our freedom and our
purpose in life if we were to forsake money as our primary goal and live for God
But God is not a force
external to our being, as money is. Rather, God is the source of our
being. Everything that is truly good in us is good in us because it comes
from God. Everything that is truly us is actually God within us. It is
impossible to be enslaved to God because in following God, we are also following
the best and highest that is within ourselves. In following God, we find the
highest form of freedom, which is the freedom to live a good and loving life
according to the inclinations and talents that God has given to each one of us.
This is what it means to
live on purpose. When we make the choice to follow the path the Lord is showing
us rather than our own mistaken path, then we are putting a purpose and a
motivation that we can trust at the center of our lives. It is a purpose that
will lead us toward happiness and joy, whatever hardships we may pass through on
That path will be
different for each one of us. Each of us is different; the right path for one
person is the wrong path for another person. One of the challenges of our
spiritual journey is to discover the purpose that the Lord has in mind for each
of us personally--which is the same as the highest, most fulfilling, and most
joyful purpose and motivation that we could have for our lives. For one person
this purpose might be to teach and guide children or adults into knowledge. For
another it might be to keep our neighborhoods safe to live in. For another it
might be to provide one of the many goods or services we need to live our lives:
food, clothing, housing, health care, and so on.
As we discover and follow
a good and useful purpose here on earth, we also build up within our souls a
love for the Lord and a dedication to the wellbeing of the people around us.
This love and dedication frees us from our fears--both external and internal.
For we know that whatever may happen to our bodies, and whatever may befall us
financially, the Lord holds and protects our souls, so that no lasting harm can
come to us. We can then feel the safety and the joy of knowing that we are not
living by mistake; we are living on purpose.