Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Fifth Commandment – From a Christian Science Perspective, Part Two

JESUS HONORS TRUE KINSHIP:

We read the following episode about Jesus in Matthew 12:46-50: “While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

That story is also briefly related in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21. Taken out of context from the rest of Jesus’ teachings and life, it might appear from these verses that Jesus was being disrespectful of his mother, and, therefore, was not honoring her according to the Fifth Commandment. But we know from his other actions and statements that he loved Mary, and he urged others to fulfill their duties to their parents, except when there is a clear conflict with performing our duty to God. In the instance above, Jesus is showing us the spirit of true kinship — that when we share common interests, experience, goals, and obedience with others, we can rightly call them family. Note, he does not offer the term “father” to such kinsmen; that term was reserved only for God.

In a similar vein, we read later in Mark 10:28-31: “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”

Again, would it be breaking the Fifth Commandment to walk away from our responsibilities of caring for our family, including, perhaps, a needy father or mother, for the sake of following Jesus and his “good news”? Why would Jesus say this, if it appears to be in disobedience to God’s law? In this story, what Peter wanted to know was whether or not he and the other disciples who had left their homes and jobs to follow Jesus, would receive any kind of reward for their sacrifice. Jesus is telling him that, yes, they would receive much more, albeit with persecutions. It is true that when God directs us into new paths, our family members may not be ready to come along with us, or are not able to walk at our speed. They may be vehemently opposed to our new religious beliefs. Therefore, a separation may be necessary — either mentally or physically. But, Jesus is not telling us here to abandon our legal and moral duties. This is another example to show that while our legal and biological families may reject us for our religious beliefs, we have a family in Christ to turn to, and we will not lose anything needful, but gain “an hundredfold” now and in eternal life.

In Christian Science, where we learn that consciousness is really “our world,” the above statement of Jesus can also be seen as saying we should not be afraid of giving up our old beliefs that we have been living with. We must have the courage to let go of any long ties to false systems, material beliefs, superstitions, beliefs in heredity or traditions, etc. By letting go former beliefs, and trading them for the further enlightenment that comes with the appearance of Christ, Truth, we can fully expect to be well compensated for our sacrifice. With regard to “honoring our father and our mother,” why not take time, especially when friction occurs, to re-evaluate your beliefs about fatherhood, motherhood, and “sonship.” Letting go of the false sense of our relationships can bring a new sense of freedom and make room for God to take
a greater role in our lives.

The Book of Luke also shows us Jesus reminding his followers that the Christ may cause divisions in families: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (Luke 12:51-53)

On the road to Jerusalem, Jesus said something similar to the above: “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-26)

William Barclay comments on the latter episode: “We must not take his words with cold and unimaginative literalness. Eastern language is always as vivid as the human mind can make it. When Jesus tells us to hate our nearest and dearest, he does not mean that literally. He means that no love in life can compare with the love we must bear to him.” (WB, The Gospel of Luke, pg. 196)

It is also possible that Jesus is saying we must let go of a false, mortal sense of family before we can understand his spiritual teachings. That false sense is what is meant to be hated and rejected — not our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I like the explanation given by Mary Baker Eddy, as recorded in the Notes on the Course in Divinity on February 16, 1904: “The Bible says, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long,’ etc; then when it says, Luke 14:26, ‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’ This would look like a direct contradiction of the words just quoted but is not; after we have honored our father and mother, then comes the next step — forsaking the flesh for Christ.”

It is that sense of “flesh,” as opposed to Spirit, that is to be hated and forsake. But, we lose nothing real or permanent.

THE HYPOCRISY OF CORBAN:

Jesus had a strong rebuke to those Jews who tried to use their own laws to escape their responsibilities to care for their elderly parents. We read about this in Mark, when the Pharisees were criticizing the disciples for breaking one of their laws:

“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the
commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”  (Mark 7:5-13)

Jesus is charging the Pharisees with hypocrisy. In their efforts to follow their traditions, they overlook the primary laws of God found in the Ten Commandments. The example Jesus gives is of the command to honor father and mother. He uses the term “Corban,” (also spelled Korban) which needs explanation. I turn again to William Barclay: “The word means a gift. It was used to describe something which was specially dedicated to God. A thing which was Korban was as if it had already been laid upon the altar. That is to say, it was completely set apart from all ordinary
purposes and usages and became the property of God. If a man wished to dedicate some of his money or his property to God, he declared it Korban, and thereafter it might never be used for any ordinary or secular purpose.” (WB, The Gospel of Mark, pg. 169-170)

Barclay continues: “It does seem that the idea of Korban was already capable of misuse. If that be the idea behind this, the passage speaks of a man declaring his property ‘Korban,’ sacred to God, and then when his father or mother in dire need comes to him for help, saying, ‘I am sorry that I cannot give you any help because nothing that I have is available for you because it is dedicated to God.’ The vow was made an excuse to avoid helping a parent in need. The vow which the scribal legalist insisted upon involved breaking one of the ten commandments which are the very law of God.”

“Jesus was attacking a system which put rules and regulations before the claim of human need. The commandment of God was that the claim of human love should come first; the commandment of the scribes was that the claim of legal rules and regulations should come first. Jesus was quite sure that any regulation which prevented a man from giving help where help was needed was nothing less than a contradiction of the law of God.” (ibid pg. 171)

This section proves that Jesus upheld the Fifth Commandment — that nothing should prevent us from coming to the aid of our earthly parents in their times of need, which was the original meaning of the Fifth Commandment. We cannot resort to any excuse, legal or otherwise, to avoid our duty to our parents or to show them mercy.

In her Message to The Mother Church for 1901, Mrs. Eddy speaks about the treatment of “reformers” in society. In making an analogy, she highlights the problems some elderly parents have: ” . . . well-meaning people sometimes are inapt or selfish in showing their love. They are like children that go out from the parents who nurtured them, toiled for them, and enabled them to be grand coworkers for mankind, children who forget their parents’ increasing years and needs, and whenever they return to the old home go not to help mother but to recruit themselves. Or, if they attempt to help their parents, and adverse winds are blowing, this is no excuse for waiting till the
wind shifts. They should remember that mother worked and won for them by facing the winds. All honor and success to those who honor their father and mother. The individual who loves most, does most, and sacrifices most for the reformer, is the individual who soonest will walk in his footsteps.” (’01, pg. 29)

JESUS AND MARY AT THE CROSS:

Let’s see how Jesus discharged his duty to his mother at the time of the crucifixion:

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:25-27)

Jesus had an undeniably good excuse for not paying attention to others below him as he was suffering on the cross. Yet, in his infinite unselfishness, Jesus took note of his mother. He was the “eldest son,” and had responsibilities for her care. Notice that he did not entrust her to the care of his younger brothers. Why not? Let us look at William Barclay’s commentary on this event:

“In this passage there is something which is surely one of the loveliest things in all the gospel story. When Jesus saw his mother, he could not but think of the days ahead. He could not commit her to the care of his brothers, for they did not believe in him yet (John 7:5). And, after all, John had a double qualification for the service Jesus entrusted to him — he was Jesus’s cousin, being Salome’s son, and he was the disciple whom Jesus loved. So Jesus committed Mary to John’s care and John to Mary’s, so
that they should comfort each other’s loneliness when he was gone.” (WB, The Gospel of John, Volume 2, pgs 256-257)

Here, Jesus not only honors his mother, Mary, by arranging her future care, but he also honors that true kinship he had with John, his beloved disciple, and bestows upon him the responsibility that might normally go to a brother. Jesus shows, by example, how to obey the Fifth Commandment, and at the same time honor those who are our spiritual kin.

JESUS AND HIS FATHER:

Jesus taught: “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) We have no record of what name he used with Joseph, but during the time recorded after his baptism, we know that God was the only one he referred to as “Father.” In fact, in Mark 14: 35-36, when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he used the term “Abba,” an affectionate term which might be likened to our “daddy.”

Think of this whenever you pray the Lord’s Prayer — what it really means to have God as your Father, your “Dad.” Not in a mortal sense, obviously, but as the only Cause and Creator, who loves and cares for all eternally, and would never wish any harm, but has planned for His family great blessings and a harmonious existence filled with joy and progress. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

If this is true — that God is our Father, and therefore we are God’s children or off-spring — how can we “honor” God? Jesus shows us by his life, and in statements such as:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)

By these statements, we can see that Jesus wanted us to “shine.” We want to show off what God has created! We let our spiritual nature shine through our lives to bear witness to God’s perfection and supremacy. Those of us who study Christian Science strive to learn about God’s nature, and then to manifest those qualities of God as best we can in our daily lives. Our Way-shower in this endeavor is Christ Jesus. Mary Baker Eddy explains:

“In divine Science, man is the true image of God. The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow, — thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, — perfect God and perfect man, — as the basis of thought and demonstration.” (S&H, pg. 259)

Part of Jesus’ mission, then, was to show us how to honor God by demonstrating His nature in our present lives. Just as we would love to make our earthly parents “proud” of our accomplishments, we should want to please our Heavenly Father by being the child He created: the perfect, spiritual image and likeness of His Being. And, just as we hope our own children represent us well in society, all the while loving them no matter how long it takes for them to “reach their potential,” God knows all along that we are His perfect reflection. In fact, that is all He knows of us — our perfection. From our limited human perspective, it appears He has infinite patience and forgiveness.

To fully develop this theme, I recommend a study of the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is found in Luke 15:11-32. Analyze the story from the point-of-view of all three characters. There is so much to learn from this parable on many levels, but in using it to illustrate the theme of the Fifth Commandment, focus on the issue of relationships. For instance, if the Father symbolizes God, what is Jesus telling us about God’s nature and His love for His children, even when they have “left” His “house”? Where is home? Why was the Elder Son in the field with the servants, rather than at home taking advantage of his “sonship.” The Prodigal was willing to be a “servant” for his father. Should we aim to be servants or sons? Christian Scientists familiar
with “the three degrees” found on page 115 of “Science and Health” might consider if each character illustrates one of the degrees or its inversion: the physical, the moral, the spiritual, and discuss how the higher ideas embrace the lower as material beliefs fade away.

 

 

 

 

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The Fifth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part One

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

The Fifth Commandment is unique for two reasons. It is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a “promise.” It is also the link between the first four Commandments, which speak to our relationship with God, and the last five, which speak to our relationship with our fellow beings. There are those who feel the Fifth Commandment should be included in the first group; others feel it belongs in the second group. There is no reason, it seems to me, in light of the teachings of Christian Science, why it is not meant to be part of each group.

In this lesson on the Fifth Commandment, we will explore the many ways to obey the command to honor father and mother — morally and spiritually — based upon the teachings in the Old and New Testament, especially the words and example of Jesus, as well as the teachings of Christian Science, as taught by Mary Baker Eddy in her textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I will also offer suggestions for teaching this Commandment to your children or Sunday School class.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND:

Until doing research on the Fifth Commandment, I was unaware that the commandment was originally intended as a warning for grown children not to neglect their elderly parents. I knew that family was an important part of Jewish life and that children were taught to obey and respect their parents, but the necessity for the Fifth Commandment was an eye-opener.

In some societies, in those days, the elderly were often sent out to the wilderness “to be eaten of beasts or to die of exposure,” if they became a burden to their families, as the Interpreter’s Bible and other commentaries tell us. We see, then, that this Commandment is not just exhorting little children to mind their parents, but for adults to value their elderly parents as worthy of care in their old age.

The Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes explains: “Family solidarity has always been one of the characteristics of Israel. It was so much a part of the social texture of life that it would seem that no special commandment was necessary to protect parents. To a child growing up in a Jewish home, the Fifth Commandment would be as superfluous as ‘Thou must breathe’ or ‘Thou must eat.’ Like the others in this code of laws, it is directed to the adult citizen who is burdened with the care of an aged parent, and is a warning against the heathen habit of abandoning the aged when they can no longer support themselves. The reward for such piety as is here commanded is a stable society in which health and long life can be enjoyed.” (IB, Vol. 1, pg 985)

In the early Hebrew society, minor children had little choice but to honor their parents. We read in Exodus and Leviticus that if children hit or cursed their parents, they would be put to death! In Proverbs 30:17 we read this warning: “The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” [Lovely image, eh? No wonder I never heard it read on Sunday]

A statement I do like is found in The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary on the Bible in its commentary on the Fifth Commandment. It points in the direction of metaphysics: “In the broader sense discipline in the family, where the mature wisdom of parents overrules the impulse and prejudice of youth, is the basis of an ordered society.” (pg. 54)

If we think about this, we can see how we should have our own impulsive thoughts — no matter what our age — be subjugated or disciplined by wisdom. We should always honor wisdom.

JESUS AND THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT:

Jesus is the Way-shower. In his life, as recorded in the Gospels, we see how Jesus demonstrated obedience to the laws of God. We also see how he taught and lived a higher sense of the laws by permeating his actions with the motive of love. This brought a new sense of freedom. The original intent or spirit of the various laws of God, including the Ten Commandments, was often hidden under layers of human opinion and years of traditional forms of rituals. Jesus cut through the old interpretations and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. His interpretations were radical. From Jesus we have examples and lessons to ponder today, on how to honor both our
earthly parents, as well as our heavenly Father-Mother God. We can explore how the moral and spiritual qualities of true motherhood and fatherhood can be “honored” in our own thoughts and actions, and how we can appreciate these qualities in others. The following stories of Jesus would be good starting points to discussions of the Fifth Commandment with our children or Sunday School classes:

JESUS VISITS JERUSALEM AT PASSOVER

In the second chapter of Luke, we find the only story from the childhood of Jesus. After reading the commentary of William Barclay which follows the story below, you will see how this episode illustrates perfectly how Jesus demonstrated for us the necessity to honor God by recognizing that he is Father-Mother, without dishonoring our human parents. The story goes:

“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he
went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:41-52)

In his book on the Gospel of Luke, part of the Daily Study Bible Series, William Barclay makes the following comments on this episode [Note: Barclay uses a different Bible translation, so some key phrases will not match the King James Version]:

“A Jewish boy became a man when he was twelve years of age. Then he became ‘a son of the law’ and had to take the obligations of the law upon him. So at twelve Jesus for the first time went to the Passover. We may well imagine how the holy city and the Temple and the sacred ritual fascinated him. . . . When his parents returned he lingered behind. It was not through carelessness that they did not miss him. Usually the women in a caravan started out much earlier than the men for they traveled more slowly. The men started later and traveled faster and the two sections would not meet
until the evening encampment was reached. It was Jesus’ first Passover. No doubt Joseph thought he was with Mary, Mary thought that he was with Joseph and not till the evening camp did they miss him. . . . They returned to Jerusalem to search for him. For the Passover season it was the custom for the Sanhedrin to meet in public in the Temple court to discuss, in the presence of all who would listen, religious and theological questions. It was there they found Jesus. We must not think of it as a scene where a precocious boy was dominating a crowd of his seniors. ‘Hearing and asking questions’ is the regular Jewish phrase for a student learning from his teachers. Jesus was listening to the discussions and eagerly searching for knowledge like an avid student. . . . And now comes one of the key passages in the life of Jesus. ‘Your FATHER and I,’ said Mary, ‘have been looking for you anxiously.’ ‘Did you not know,’ said Jesus, ‘that I must be in MY FATHER’S house’? See how very gently but very definitely Jesus takes the name ‘father’ from Joseph and gives it to God. At some time Jesus must have discovered his own unique relationship to God . . . As the years went on he must have had thoughts; and then at this first Passover, with manhood dawning, there came in a sudden blaze of realization the consciousness that he was in a unique sense the Son of God. . . . Here we have the story of the day when Jesus discovered who he was. And mark this — the discovery did not make him proud. It did not make him look down on his humble parents, the gentle Mary and the hard-working Joseph. He went home and he was obedient to them. The fact that he was God’s Son made him the perfect son of his human parents. The real man of God does not despise earthly ties; just because he is God’s man he discharges human duties with supreme fidelity.” (WB, The Gospel of Luke, pages 29-30)

The last point in the story is an important one for young people to see. In Christian Science, we do stress that man is God’s “image and likeness,” and so we are God’s “children.” This is our most important relationship to understand and cherish. But, that does not give license to disobedience and ingratitude toward our earthly parents, as we shall see in the example of Jesus, and in the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy.

THE WEDDING AT CANA:

The next story that includes Jesus and his mother is that of the Wedding at Cana. The part that is pertinent is what Jesus replies to Mary after she tells Jesus there is no more wine left. It appears she wants him to solve the problem. Most likely she has already become aware of his divine powers, and is urging him to “go public.” But Jesus appears to rebuke her sharply. Let’s read the story first:

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they
filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This
beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.” (John 2:1-11)

It appears from this translation in the King James Version of the Bible, that Jesus spoke rather rudely to his mother — it doesn’t sound as if he “honored” her very well. What are we to make of this? Was Jesus disobeying the Fifth Commandment? Thank goodness for Bible scholars. Once again I turn to my current favorite, William Barclay, for his commentary on this passage:

“The Authorized Version translation of Jesus’ reply makes it sound very discourteous. It makes him say: ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ That is indeed a translation of the words, but it does not in any way give the tone. . . . The phrase, ‘What have I to do with you?’ was a common conversational phrase. When it was uttered angrily and sharply it did indicate complete disagreement and reproach, but when it was spoken gently it indicated not so much reproach but misunderstanding. It means:
‘Don’t worry; you don’t quite understand what is going on; leave things to me, and I will settle them in my own way.’ Jesus was simply telling Mary to leave things to him, that he would have his own way of dealing with the situation. . . . The word ‘woman (gunai)’ is also misleading. It sounds to us very rough and abrupt. But it is the same word that Jesus used on the cross to address Mary as he left her to the care of John. In Homer, it is the title by which Odysseus addresses Penelope, his well-loved wife. It is the title by which Augustus, the Roman emperor, addressed Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen. So far from being a rough and discourteous way of address, it was a title of respect. We have no way of speaking in English which exactly renders it; but it is better to translate it lady, which gives at least the courtesy in it.” (WB, The Gospel of John, pages 114-115)

There are a number of insights to be found in this episode at Cana. Give thought to what must have gone on in the life of Jesus before his public ministry that would cause his mother to turn to Jesus to solve the problem of the lack of wine. How many “miracles” had Mary already witnessed? Had Jesus been timid about using this power in public? Is this why it appears Mary may have felt a need to push him into action? Is this a quality of true motherhood, that of “leading” children; or was there a false sense of motherhood, that of anxious ambition or pushiness? These could be questions to ask in Sunday School to get a discussion started on “honoring” motherhood.

With this episode in mind, Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health: “May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned.” (S&H, pg. 65)

It was Mary’s purity and spirituality which enabled her to first discern the Christ, and so perhaps it was natural for her to want others to share in this inspiration? That discernment and conception of our true spiritual nature should always be honored wherever found and shared.

END OF PART ONE OF THREE

Teaching Children the Fourth Commandment

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

For  those who wish to use some of the ideas below for teaching your children or Sunday School pupils, I recommend you read the previous two posts on the Fourth Commandment, if you have not done so already, for background information on the Fourth Commandment.

Based upon that material, my lesson ideas spring from the following interpretations:

a) The “sabbath day” is a time to drop our worldly activities and turn our thoughts to God. We are also to allow others under our control to have the time for rest, as well.

b) The Sabbath can be a day, an hour, or even a moment, if during that time we find our peace and rest in God’s presence and comfort.

c) We must have earned our rest through righteous activity governed by God, good.

d) The Sabbath has both literal and spiritual meanings. In Christian Science, we find in Mary Baker Eddy’s writings many statements relating to work and rest, and our oneness with the divine Principle, God.

Children who attend Sunday School are familiar with the fellowship of church, and they can easily see they are participating in one form of “remembering the sabbath.” But, what about those families who do not attend church, for one reason or another? Do children have to feel that if they belong to a non-church going family that they cannot be obedient to God’s commandment? Or, what should they think if “dad” prefers to golf on Sunday rather than attend church with the rest of the family? Should they be critical of that parent? No. In Christian Science, at least, we can find many statements in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, and in the life and words of Jesus and Paul, that support the point that attending a particular church or denomination is not necessary to be able to worship God, or to demonstrate the Fourth Commandment in our lives (refer back to my previous posts). Our cycle of work and “sabbath rest,” we learn in Christian Science, is a mental activity reflecting the operation of divine
Principle.

LESSONS FOR LITTLE CHILDREN:

Make sure your youngest children know what the terms “rest,” “remember,” and “holy” mean. Use a regular dictionary to give them basic meanings before exploring what the Commandment is telling us. You can give a simple Biblical explanation of the Sabbath Day, and how it was originally practiced by the Hebrews.

Little children can understand the idea of “work first, then rest,” or that we work hard to carry out a task, but check in with Mom or Dad to see if it is being done correctly, or to get help when we see we need it. For instance, here is a possible lesson for little children in Sunday School that might help to explain the concept of “work, then rest:”

STRAW AND STICKS — OR BRICKS?” This is what I’m calling a game you might play with young students. Most of them will be familiar with the story of “The Three Little Pigs.” (I’m not going to retell the whole story here to save space.) Ask the kids if they know the story, and then go over it briefly. Remind them that the pigs had to leave home and make their own way in the world. They needed to build their own houses to live in and no longer depend upon their mother’s support. But, they were also thrilled at their new freedom. Two of the pigs were so impatient to
get back to playing and having fun, that they did not take the time and effort to design and build a really strong home. One pig put together a poorly made house of straw, and the other one made a house of sticks. Sure enough, they were off having a good time right away. But the third pig was willing to work very hard to build a strong house that would withstand attacks from such bad things as hungry wolves and violent weather. So, he did put in all the extra work required, while his brothers laughed and played. When he was through building his house of bricks, that pig probably appreciated his well-earned rest. But, he did his work first.

We know from the story what happened when the wolf came. He was able to “huff and puff and blow” the house of straw and the house of sticks down. But he was not able to blow down the house of bricks. And that pig was saved — and perhaps saved his brothers, too, depending upon which version of the story you have!

Now, using this story, tell your students you will play a game of “straw and sticks — or bricks?” Tell them that we all have to build a strong “house” in our consciousness, or where we think our thoughts. We must use good thoughts, which are kind of like sturdy and long-lasting bricks. And we must devote time to this work of building our house of good thoughts and ideas. When we do this, we are putting in our “six days of work.” Then we can take a rest — our “sabbath day” — where we find freedom from worry and fear, and protection from our enemies, just as the third little pig did.

Then tell the kids that in the game to be played, they will have to decide whether a certain activity or way or thinking is building their house with “straw and sticks — or bricks.” If the activity seems frivolous or worthless or sinful, then it would be “straw and sticks.” If the activity or thinking is a good and solid one, based upon intelligence, love, or truth, etc., then they would be building with “bricks.”

For instance: “watching cartoons all Saturday morning” (straw and sticks) — or “helping Mom do some chores” (bricks) — “Doing a good deed for a friend or sibling” (bricks) — or “stealing an extra cookie after being told not to take any more” (straw and sticks) — “getting homework done before it is due” (bricks) — “handing in homework only half done and with a poor excuse” (straw and sticks) — “telling a lie” (straw and sticks) — “apologizing for hurting someone” (bricks), etc. You get the point. Perhaps have the children come up with their own ideas to suggest. After mentioning an activity or quality of thought, ask them: “is this building our ‘house’ with straw and sticks — or bricks?”

Remind them that this gives us an idea about the Fourth Commandment. We have work to do on earth — God has given each of us a mission. We must do our work, including prayer daily. Then, we need to take time to check in with God, and hand things over to Him. We need to spend time thinking about Him, and not ourselves. We must remember to thank God for His blessings, and we must remember that we want to continue to work hard to be obedient to Him and to help destroy the evils of the world.

On a more practical level, tell them that the idea of working before playing or resting gives us a feeling of satisfaction and confidence, and we appreciate our times of rest and recreation more when we have earned it. If their parents have asked them to clean their room, isn’t it better to do it without complaint, and not worry that Mom or Dad might get upset with them for not doing it, rather than resist it hour after hour, or day after day, and then have to deal with the wrath of our parents?

LESSONS FOR OLDER CHILDREN

Depending upon the age and interest of your children or pupils, you might wish to go over the historical background of the Jewish sabbath and how it evolved by the time of Jesus. Some might be interested in how the Christian’s “Lord’s Day” and the Jewish sabbath become “one,” as briefly explained in the previous posts.

The following paragraphs contain a number of suggestions to get you started on a variety of ways to explore the Fourth Commandment with various age groups:

Ask your pupils to read the following statement in the Manual of The Mother Church on page 60, where Mrs. Eddy writes: “A Christian Scientist is not fatigued by prayer, by reading the Scriptures or the Christian Science textbook. Amusement or idleness is weariness. Truth and Love rest the weary and heavy laden.”

Would they agree or disagree with Mrs. Eddy’s assessment that “amusement or idleness is weariness.” Ask them to explain. Ask how this statement might support the Fourth Commandment.

For Christian Science students, ask them to consider the fact that the Quarterly Bible Lesson Sermon contains six sections that we are to study and work on during the week, and then it is read to the congregation on Sunday. Is it possible Mrs. Eddy had the “six days of work” and a Sabbath rest in mind when she devised this system? Can we think of it that way?

There are several instances of Jesus going up to a mountain or to the desert to pray alone. This was usually after a busy period of healing or teaching. Note, that he would stay long enough to find refreshment, or guidance, and that he would return to the multitudes and their needs. Have your students read these, and discuss the worth of getting a balance of work and rest — both in our regular physical labors and our spiritual, mental work.

On a previous post, I listed a few citations from the writings of Mrs. Eddy relating to “work and rest.” There are many more to be found if you search the Concordances for her writings. These can be used in your discussions along with appropriate Bible verses.

Use your Bible concordance to find the stories relating to Jesus and the Pharisees and their criticism of his activities on Sabbath days. Show that, although Jesus did attend a local synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath, he did not go along with the interpretations that would make the Sabbath more burdensome than other days of the week. Ask how these ideas might apply to our mental work in Christian Science.

In my book, “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments” (found elsewhere on this web site) I have a number of ready-made lessons on the Fourth Commandment in which the concepts of harmony, reflection, completeness, and heaven are explored and how they relate to our “Sabbath” moments or days. Research these words in a Concordance (or the computer program Concord) and have your students or children study citations that might show what the reward of our “work” might bring in the way of peace and harmony.

In an earlier post, I mentioned Mrs. Eddy’s reference to the walls of Jericho, and how the Hebrews marched around the walls for six days. Have your pupils read this story in the Bible, and then show them Mrs. Eddy’s comments. Ask how she might have come up with this interpretation, and how they might use this in their life.

Let your pupils or children know that different families and churches, “remember the sabbath day” in a variety of ways. We are not to judge anyone. Show them Paul’s statement on this. We do not know what is in a person’s heart. Just because people do not share our religious beliefs or practices, does not mean they are not honoring God in their own way. Trust that divine Love will lead all Her children “back home.”

Ask questions that would explore this idea: a Sabbath can be any day, or any hour, or minute, or moment — when we turn away from our activities, or our struggles with mortal mind beliefs — and seek solace in Truth and Principle.

A practical idea for your students to use can be found in this statement in Science and Health:

“Our heavenly Father, divine Love, demands that all men should follow the example of our Master and his apostles and not merely worship his personality. It is sad that the phrase divine service has come so generally to mean public worship instead of daily deeds.” (S&H 40)

Show them that doing good deeds daily, rather than making a public show of attending church once a week, is what God wants us to do. This is following the example of Jesus, and he is our Master and Wayshower. Ask the pupils if they are ready to agree with this, and whether or not this means we should not go to church at all. How might an individual decide what is the best way to put this statement into practice? Bear in mind the Fifth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” How can minors balance their emerging spiritual concepts with their parents’ preferences for church (or non-church) attendance and membership.

“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  (Mark 2:23)