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The Eighth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective

“Thou shalt not steal.”

 INTRODUCTION

In an ideal world, everyone would be completely satisfied with what they have.
No one would feel a need to steal in order to feed a family or a drug habit. No
one would need to steal another’s spouse to find a mate. There would be no
temptation to stoop to larceny or corruption in business, government, churches,
or charitable organizations. There would be no scams, schemes, phony offers,
bait and switch ads, or cynical con artists preying upon the innocent and elderly.

There is such an ideal world. It is called the kingdom of heaven. This realm of
harmony can be experienced now – here on earth – when mankind is willing to
seek it. Jesus told us: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.”
(Matthew 6:33)

When we become convinced that there is no lasting pleasure in material appetites
or passions, which often bring pain and suffering in their wake, we will be ready to
seek the kingdom of God. The Ten Commandments help to discipline our thoughts
and actions as a foundation for spiritual growth.

One of the first lessons of childhood is that we should not take things that do not
belong to us. Parents or guardians who insist that this code of conduct become
deeply ingrained in the moral character of their children are fulfilling a vital
responsibility. The laws of good government also support this ideal. The Eighth
Commandment is the foundation for this important moral law. But it is not just a
simple rule to live by – it is a spiritual promise!

The Eighth Commandment is not just about stealing from our fellow man. In the
book of Genesis, we learn that “God saw everything that he had made, and,
behold, it was very good.”
(Genesis 1:31) Is it possible that we “steal” from
God, when we attempt to take away the wholeness, unity, and perfection of
God’s “very good” creation by portraying it as being divided into the haves and
have-nots, the deserving and the undeserving, the promising and the washed-up,
the plentiful and the depleted – beliefs which set us up as potential thieves or the
victims of thieves?

That is a limited way of looking at God’s universe, which is based upon the
testimony of the physical senses. By lifting up and improving our concept of God
and His “image and likeness,” we can gain a more expansive spiritual outlook
which would eliminate any need to steal or any reason to be a target of theft.

The Bible makes a promise in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:

“And it is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you will have ample
means in yourselves to meet each and every situation, with enough 
and to spare for every good cause.” (II Corinthians 9:8, New English Bible)

All things spiritual come from God, Spirit. Our needs, both human and heavenly,
are met by God. We do not need to steal from others. We only need to develop a
deep trust in God, our true Father-Mother, to provide us with everything we need at
the proper time. This requires faith in God, but most importantly, this faith requires
an enduring trust built upon a spiritual understanding of Him.

Before we can gain this spiritual understanding of God that unlocks the treasures
of heaven, harmony, in our lives, we must learn to be obedient to the laws of God
that spring from this heavenly Principle. The Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt
not steal,”
was given to mankind to protect us from unintentionally breaking the
law of Love, which supports us, just as a loving parent would do. God is Love, and
Love gives to all freely, unconditionally, abundantly. A heart that lives this divine
Love has no fear or anxiety. It is generous with all, resists selfish motives, and is
never tempted to take what belongs to another. How much better it would be to
live in a world where no one ever steals, because everyone is satisfied and
content with the riches given to us by divine Love.

If this sounds like the kind of world you would like to experience, you can start by
digging deeper into the meaning of the Eighth Commandment, until its essence
permeates your consciousness and your life.

We will now take a step toward that deeper look at the Eighth Commandment,
first by exploring how it is taught in the Bible and, secondly, how it is applied in
the spiritual and metaphysical demonstrations of Christian Science, as taught by
the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science: Mary Baker Eddy.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND

A study of this theme in the Old Testament shows that the Eighth Commandment,
“Thou shalt not steal,” is not simply about property rights, or about those who “have not”
trying to take from those who “have,” but is also about greed, ingratitude, and a fear of
lack versus satisfaction, gratitude, and a trust in God’s care for all.

To emphasize the importance of this Commandment, it is repeated a number of
times and a number of ways throughout the Old Testament (KJV). We are told:

“And the Lord spake unto Moses saying: . . . Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither
lie one to another.”
(Leviticus 19:1, 11)

“Neither shalt thou steal.” (Deuteronomy 5:19)

“Then said he [an angel] unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face
of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side
according to it.” (
Zechariah 5:3)

“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying . . . The people of the land have
used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy:
yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully. . . . Therefore have I poured
out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath:
their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.”
(Ezekiel 22:23, 29, 31)

The Bible makes clear that stealing is a sin which will bring punishment. And yet,
it is a sin which comes with a very clear path to redemption, as outlined in the Old
Testament. The Bible scholar William Barclay writes:

“The law of the Old Testament does not simply condemn stealing; it has much to
say about the penalty for it. The law of the Old Testament never fails to insist that
restitution has to be made; in fact, the restitution is usually the punishment. One
of the notable features of the Old Testament law is that it is just as eager to see
that the victim is compensated as that the criminal is punished.”
(Barclay, William:
“The Ten Commandments,” Westminster John Knox Press, 1998 edition, pg. 162)

This is illustrated in the book of Exodus 22:1-12, in which Moses outlines in detail
the punishments and compensations for stealing. Part of it reads:

“If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen
for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. . . . If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour
money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found,
let him pay double.”

We also learn that there is a very harsh penalty for stealing a man in order to sell him
into slavery:

“And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall
surely be put to death.”
(Exodus 21:16)

“If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh
merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil
away from among you.”
(Deuteronomy 24:7)

What is also interesting in the Old Testament is the nature of certain crimes
considered stealing. Both usury – the lending of money at interest – and
manipulating weights and measures, were severely condemned. God is shown
as caring for the poor and needy and demanding that those in a position to help
should do so without exacting too much in return:

“If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to
him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. If thou at all take thy
neighbour’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun
goeth down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein
shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear;
for I am gracious.”
(Exodus 22:25-27)

“And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt
relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with
thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother
may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him
thy victuals for increase.”
(Leviticus 25:35-37)

William Barclay has some interesting comments on usury that show a principle
beneath the commandment:

“Is this a total prohibition of lending money at interest? The real principle of this
goes much deeper than that. It is not simply a prohibition of lending at interest;
it is the commandment of God that no man must ever take advantage of his
brother’s misfortune. No man must, to put it in modern language, cash in on his
brother’s need. There are times when it is possible to drive a hard bargain, or
to charge a high price, simply because someone desperately needs something.
The law of the Bible is that no one must ever take advantage of another’s need,
and use that need for his own profit and enrichment.”
(The Ten Commandments,
pg. 170)

The Old Testament has at least five instances of condemning stealing by the
use of false scales and measurements, such as the verses below:

“Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt
not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt
have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that
thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. For
all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto
the Lord thy God.” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

“A false balance is abomination to the Lord: but a just weight is his delight.”
(Proverbs 11:1)

“Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not
good.”
(Proverbs 20:23)

We start to get the point that even in the smallest of details we must be honest
and forthright. Taking advantage of others is a form of stealing that is an
“abomination” to God. Barclay comments further:

“It may seem a quite extraordinary thing that the Bible should take up so much
space to speak about weights and measures, and the accuracy of scales and
containers and units of measurement. It is intensely significant that the 
assumption
is that God is interested in these things, and that careful justice 
and meticulous honesty
in these things is the natural and essential expression 
of true religion.

“The Bible lays it down that there is something badly wrong with the religion of
the man who will worship on the Sunday and who will then go out to be a careless
or a dishonest tradesman, robbing others by offering less than his best, or a
man in any kind of business indulging in smart practice to make a quick profit,
or a clever opportunist using someone’s need as a chance to make more for
himself, or an employer who is blind and unsympathetic to his employees’
needs.” (The Ten Commandments, pg. 171)

It is not enough to avoid stealing from our fellow man; we must see to it that we
do not steal from God. According to the Old Testament, God seemed to take
notice when tithes were withheld or shortchanged (a tithe being one-tenth of
one’s goods or earnings):

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we
robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have
robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,
that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the
Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a
blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
(Malachi 3:8-10)

In the “Glossary” of the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key
to the Scriptures,
by Mary Baker Eddy, we read part of the metaphysical definition
of “tithe” as used in the Bible:

“TITHE. Contribution; tenth part; homage; gratitude.” (S&H, pg.595)

This indicates that the qualities of homage and gratitude are what God is
expecting us to contribute. Gratitude can be symbolized by the giving of material
goods or financial offerings, but sincere thankfulness should be the motive from
our heart, and giving money should not be done as a superficial exhibition.
Withholding heartfelt honor and gratitude for all the good that God has given is
a form of stealing, and would therefore be one way to break the Eighth
Commandment.

We now move into the New Testament to see how Christ Jesus taught and
demonstrated the Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”

JESUS AND THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

After Jesus was baptized by John, he was led into the wilderness where he was
tempted by the devil. The very first temptation that Jesus had to face down was using
his Christ-power to create a comfortable material life. We read:

“And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that
these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not
live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
(Matthew 4:3-4)

This is a temptation that faces every spiritual seeker at some point. How shall we use
our developing spiritual sense, understanding, and power? Shall we use them in
turning stones into bread, so to speak – using prayer mainly for personal material
gain and satisfaction – or do we seek Truth for Truth’s sake, feeding upon the Word
of God which nourishes our spiritual identity, something matter alone could never do.

While the New Testament does not indicate that Jesus spoke much about the Eighth
Commandment, it does show us that he strived to teach us about the evils of greed,
ingratitude, and lust – all qualities that could lead to stealing. Jesus urges us to turn to
God, and trust Him for our needs. Some of his miracles directly relate to this law of
abundance: he turned water into wine; he fed thousands with just a few loaves and
fishes; he paid taxes with a coin found in a fish’s mouth.

Jesus taught that if we put God first in our lives, we would have no desire to steal, and
we would also not set ourselves up to be victims of those who would steal:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and
where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor
steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
(Matthew 6:19-21)

We also get an idea of how strongly Jesus felt about keeping our consciousness –
which is our true spiritual temple or church – free from those sins which would attempt
to rob God and invade His rightful territory, in this episode at the temple in Jerusalem:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in
the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that
sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of
prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
(Matthew 21:12-13))

How often do we let the thieves of daydreaming, fear, worry, and other sinful
thoughts, set up tables in our temples of prayer or meditation? Are we accomplices
to these thieves, or do we overthrow them?

“Be faithful at the temple gate of conscience, wakefully guard it; then thou wilt know
when the thief cometh.”
(Mary Baker Eddy – Message of 1901 18:1)

We may think we do all the right things – perhaps we have never stolen anything, or
shoplifted, or cheated on taxes – but Jesus tells us that stealing is an evil thought,
which would defile us if left unchallenged in our conscience, whether we act upon it
or not. Evil thoughts must be condemned before they take root in thought and spring
into action. Jesus once explained:

“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,
THEFTS, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but
to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”
(Matthew 15:19-20)

Jesus taught that we must be grateful to God no matter how little we may seem to
have. In Luke we see that Jesus taught that our motive means more than money:

“And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he
saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I
say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have
of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast
in all the living that she had.”
(Luke 21:1-4)

Not long after Jesus completed his earthly mission, the Apostle Paul would write to
the Christians at Ephesus: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour,
working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that
needeth.”
(Ephesians 4:28)

As the above citation indicates, God’s goodness can come to us through what
appear as normal human avenues. We may be given opportunities to earn money
to buy what we need, or we may be able to barter for goods or services in exchange
for what we can offer. Sometimes our needs may be met by inheritances or gifts
from others, and maybe, just when our prospects seem bleak and all doors of
opportunity seem shut to us, we just might find what we need in a fish’s mouth!

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “What hinders man’s progress is his vain conceit, the
Phariseeism of the times, also his effort to steal from others and avoid hard work;
errors which can never find a place in Science.”
 (Miscellaneous Writings 234:12-15)

What about those in extreme poverty, who might be tempted to steal just to meet
basic needs? It would be hard to blame them, wouldn’t it? And certainly we want to
have mercy on such brothers and sisters who have found themselves in dire
circumstances, and help them in any way we can to improve their lives. But stealing
is rarely justified, if ever, and would prevent us from seeing the opportunities God
provides His children through infinite avenues, even if it is the temporary willingness
to accept charity, when necessary. Our real need is for trust in God, divine Love.

There is always a better way than stealing for getting to where we need to be –
whether that need is having food, housing, or a sense of the kingdom of heaven on
earth. As we read earlier, Jesus instructed us how to begin this better way when
he said:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow
shall take thought for the things of itself.”
(Matthew 6:33-34)

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE AND THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT

There is a beloved statement in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health
with Key to the Scriptures
, by Mary Baker Eddy, which says:

“Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.” (S&H 494:10)

Thousands of Christian Scientists have put this promise to the test during times they
needed to look away from fearful thinking about some lack in their lives. Knowing
that God is Love, and that by expressing more Love in our lives, we can find answers
to every problem. Mrs, Eddy tells us further:

“God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never
ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you
wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious
inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! More we
cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have. This sweet assurance is
the ‘Peace, be still’ to all human fears, to suffering of every sort.”
(Miscellaneous
Writings 307:1)

The Bible teaches that God is Spirit. We are taught in Christian Science that God
is also infinite Mind. Both are synonymous names for God in Christian Science.
Therefore, the substance of Mind is Spirit. What Mind, Spirit, creates must be of
the same substance; it must be spiritual. God’s creation, therefore, consists of
spiritual ideas – not dying mortals or material objects subject to loss or decay.
God’s highest creation is man, His “image and likeness.” Man’s identity is spiritual,
and God has created each of His children to be complete, perfect, wanting nothing,
and including all that is needed to fulfill God’s plans for His infinite universe
throughout eternity.

If we do not see this spiritual perfection now (and the five physical senses do not
bear witness to spiritual reality), we will start to grasp it when we begin to spiritualize
our thinking by bringing it in line with God’s ideas of good. A daily study of the Bible
and Science and Health helps us in this spiritual journey.

These spiritual ideas that God gives us, come to us in forms we can see and utilize,
even though they are in reality forms of Spirit. What is happening is that God’s ideas
are present, but our interpretation of them may be cloudy or obscured by material
thinking and fears. In the book of Genesis, this obscurity is symbolized by the
“mist that went up from the earth.” As our thinking becomes more aligned with
spiritual truth, we will experience more divine ideas in consciousness – ideas that
are more beautiful, more tangible, and more abundant than our material senses
have ever known.

With this habit of thinking, any temptation to steal from others simply vanishes. We
see that stealing not only breaks the Golden Rule, but is an attempt to rob God of
His perfect “image and likeness.” We lose opportunities to witness God’s care
for us and others when we attempt to take matters into our own hands by stealing.

Soul is a name for God which indicates the sinless, infinite Consciousness that is
aware of all creation, all identity, all beauty and goodness. In Science and Health,
Mary Baker Eddy, writes of Soul:

“Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be
more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul.”
(S&H 60:29)

If mankind would look through the mist of materiality to see this vision of God – the
Supreme Being with infinite resources to shower upon His children – there would be
no desire to steal from others. Everyone would find that God, who “saw everything
that he had made, and, behold, it was very good,”
has already provided each one
with all that we need to live well. Christian Science teaches us how to do that.

One of the first lessons in getting to know God as the source of all our needs, is
learning to discipline our thinking with the Eighth Commandment. We must be
willing to obey this law in humility and trust. We must ponder the lessons of Jesus
about greed and ingratitude. Christian Science builds on these foundational lessons
by showing that the law behind these teachings is divine. For instance: God is good.
God is infinite. All is infinite good. There is nothing good lacking in God’s kingdom.
God’s children are given all good to use and enjoy. But good is Spirit – it is not to
be found in matter, materiality, or the physical senses. We seek God’s kingdom
through our spiritual sense, through our thoughts of good that come to us from
God, the divine Mind.

These spiritual concepts are taught in Science and Health, and many new readers
of this textbook have found their lives redeemed, regenerated, and blessed with
abundance. They discover that their search for God and a quest for meaning in their
lives, has taken them to a new way of thinking about things. They learn that Spirit is
the only reality; that matter is not what it appears to be to the physical senses, but is
merely a false sense of the substance of Spirit. While the belief of matter is limited
and capable of being lost or destroyed, Spirit is limitless, permanent, eternal good.
In a paragraph subtitled “Self-completeness,” Mary Baker Eddy writes:

“As mortals gain more correct views of God and man, multitudinous objects of
creation, which before were invisible, will become visible. When we realize that Life
is Spirit, never in nor of matter, this understanding will expand into self-completeness,
finding all in God, good, and needing no other consciousness.”
(S&H 264:13)

CONCLUSION

Most everyone agrees that stealing is wrong. Society could not function well over the
long term if people’s property rights were not respected and protected. The fact that
Moses heard this as one of God’s commands shows that the choice to resist stealing
is based upon divine law.

Jesus taught that our motives and thoughts are just as important as any act of sin.
We can break the Eighth Commandment mentally as well as physically. Therefore,
we should discipline thought towards the notion that man must earn or be given his
possessions, rather than take them forcefully or deceitfully from others. And we
should rise above all pettiness of thought – be generous and honest with others,
never stealing their time or opportunities, their reputation or character. We do not
steal by gossiping (see the Ninth Commandment!), and we do not steal our own
valuable time coveting what others have (see the Tenth Commandment!).

Mrs. Eddy stresses this in one of her comments on the Eighth Commandment:

“‘Thou shalt not steal;’ that is, thou shalt not rob man of money, which is but trash,
compared with his rights of mind and character.”
(Miscellaneous Writings 67:7-9)

Christian Science teaches that man and the universe are in reality spiritual ideas of
the infinite divine Mind, and include all that they need, all that God has given, through-
out eternity. We should look to God, to Truth, to reveal our perfect completeness.
We must learn to claim our right to have a sense of abundance by seeing no limits to
God’s infinite ideas of goodness which thrive in the atmosphere of the kingdom of
heaven here on earth.

As humanity struggles to get in touch with its spirituality and to purify consciousness
in order to see and experience God’s kingdom, there certainly will be times we
“miss the mark.” We should not condemn ourselves or others if we have fallen victim
to the temptation to steal. We must recognize the sin, and denounce it. But, through
the understanding of man’s true identity as taught in Christian Science, we can turn
from this sin as no part of our spiritual nature. “Go, and sin no more,” as Jesus said
to the adulterous woman he had just forgiven.

When we no longer believe that God creates a capacity to steal, we shall no longer be tempted to believe in this sin’s power to harm. Divine Love is in control – on earth, as it is in heaven. Love is the great Giver, and bestows its blessings fairly and abundantly.

In summary: There is no cause, no motive, no need, no desire to steal, because man’s true selfhood is spiritual and complete.

As we reach out in earnest communion with our Father-Mother God, with the humble request of the Lord’s Prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread” – divine Love responds with an angel message: you already have it!

Copyright 2008 Vicki Jones Cole

 

Teaching Children the Seventh Commandment

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

[Note:  This article is based on the teachings of Christian Science.  You might wish to read the previous posts on the Seventh Commandment for background explanations.]

It may seem like an uphill battle to protect the innocence of modern young people. Some parents may give up too soon, thinking it an impossible task, or that it doesn’t really matter in today’s world. But purity and innocence are very important in our spiritual development. Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This Beatitude means that our understanding of God requires a purity of thought and motive.

The pleasures of the senses would adulterate, or muddy, our clear sense of God and His universe. We would continue to walk blindly through the mists of earth, if we did not attempt to rise above the clouds of sin. We must strive to teach our children how to avoid the temptation of adultery, if we want them to be happy and successful in life.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes:

“Too much cannot be done towards guarding and guiding well the germinating and inclining thought of childhood. To mould aright the first impressions of innocence, aids in perpetuating purity and in unfolding the immortal model, man in His image and likeness.” (First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany 261)

Although many parents and Sunday School teachers see the need for teaching the Seventh Commandment to young children, some may feel uncomfortable talking about this subject, and are looking for a way to approach this Commandment without bringing up the subject of sex. They may simply choose to skip this one!

However, Mary Baker Eddy does not exclude this Commandment in her requirement for young Sunday School pupils to be taught the “first lessons,” and that is wise. There is no need to avoid the subject of adultery, since there is a way to discuss its meaning with young ones without having to first explain “the birds and the bees.”

If you will first read my  previous essay on the Seventh Commandment, you will see that there is a broad meaning that covers physical, moral, and spiritual stages of thought, seen through the teachings of Christian Science. It is not just about sex! In that essay, you will find background material and ideas that would be appropriate for sharing with older children and teens.  You might also wish to see the Questions and Answers on the Seventh Commandments found in my book “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments, found elsewhere on this site.  Go to the About page to begin and then to the Ten Commandments page for a listing of Q&A’s.

It is never too early to begin the quest of inoculating our children against the virus of lust and adultery. Mrs. Eddy tells us:

“Dear reader, right thinking, right feeling, and right acting — honesty, purity, unselfishness — in youth tend to success, intellectuality, and happiness in manhood. To begin rightly enables one to end rightly, and thus it is that one achieves the Science of Life, demonstrates health, holiness, and immortality.” (Miscellany 174)

For Young Children:

When children are old enough to understand what it means to “keep a promise” – that when we agree with someone to do something, we must do it – they can be taught that this is part of what the Seventh Commandment means. That would be a good start. They can practice this Commandment by being loyal and obedient to their parents and family members, as well as being taught how to be loyal and obedient to God. Little children can also be taught how to keep out the impure thoughts that would make them rebel against their parents. They can be told that it is natural for them to love to do good and be good. You can play a game with them by pretending to be a “devil” or “angel,” and asking which thoughts to let in. Students can also learn to “stand porter at the door of thought.” (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, 392:24)

To help get you started with introducing the Seventh Commandment, you might read or explain to children it in the following way, or something similar:

“‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ means that we should not bring impure thoughts and behavior to our marriage. When a man and woman marry, they make a promise to love and honor each other. If one of them breaks that promise, by going to someone else for the kind of love and affection they should be getting only from their marriage partner, then it might be said that they are ‘committing adultery.’ In the same way, we also do not let impure thoughts muddy the understanding of ourselves as the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”

“The Seventh Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ helps us to keep our families together and to draw us closer to God. Adultery poisons the marriage relationship. Everyone suffers in some way. But think how happy a family would be if everyone was trusted to be loyal to the family. In the same way, we must be true and loyal to ourselves and to God. We must not look for happiness outside of our relationship with God, good. Learning to turn away from wrong behavior while young, helps us gain the self-discipline which will protect us from committing adultery. This will keep our lives pure and in obedience to God.” (Cole, Vicki Jones: “First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments”)

To help both young and older children grasp some of the concepts involved, you can try to illustrate the problems that occur when things that need to remain pure are made impure. For instance, show how adding something such as dirt to a pure glass of water will cause the liquid to look or taste different. The impurity can spoil the drink. The drink of water becomes useless to humans who need pure water for nourishment or cleansing. Some children may understand a discussion on environmental pollution, and how that affects the quality of life on earth.

When the children see this cause and effect of mixing pollutants with pure water, discuss how God’s children, who were created pure and innocent, need to keep their thoughts and their hearts pure, as well, so that they can fulfill their purpose in life. Ask what kinds of thoughts or activities could poison their purity. Relate this to the Seventh Commandment, which tells us not to adulterate our relationships, or to break our promises. Ask your children or students why it is
important to keep our relationship with God pure. What would try to interfere with our unity with God? Can we hear or see God if our thoughts are clouded with wicked or impure suggestions?

For Older Children:

In addition to the above, you can discuss the importance of loyalty in our relationships with our friends. Older kids are learning what it means to be a true and loyal friend. They certainly know when others have betrayed them, even if they do not yet see how they could be guilty themselves! Ask for examples of loyalty or disloyalty in action. Perhaps they have felt let down or abandoned by others, or they have been the victim of gossip, teasing, or being ousted by a
new clique. Ask how they feel when this happens. Do they feel sorry when they have broken their own promises to a friend? How can they make it up? How often should they forgive another for a seemingly disloyal act? Discuss the Golden Rule and its relation to the Seventh Commandment.

Show how our friendships give us opportunities to practice the qualities that will prevent us from breaking the Seventh Commandment when we are older. We should be true and loyal friends — unselfish, humble, gracious, and self-controlled — so that we can be the same with any future marriage partner, and with God. Learning to obey all of the Ten Commandments, not just the Seventh, will be a shield and armor in life.

Older children can also benefit from the following areas of discussions, some of which are included in the lessons in my book, and most of which are explored in-depth in my previous essay on the Seventh Commandment:

1. Choosing friends. We need to make wise choices in friends, so that we are not tempted to spend our time in activities which would harm our purity, our morals, our intelligence, and integrity. Point out Mrs. Eddy’s quote: “Never breathe an immoral atmosphere, unless in the attempt to purify it.” (S&H 452)

2. Marriage. The Christian Science textbook has an entire chapter on the subject of “Marriage,” and older children and teens can begin to study Mrs. Eddy’s practical advice and spiritual interpretations on this special relationship. They will find in there this statement, which can be a springboard for further discussion:

“Marriage should improve the human species, becoming a barrier against vice, a protection to woman, strength to man, and a centre for the affections. This, however, in a majority of cases, is not its present tendency, and why? Because the education of the higher nature is neglected, and other considerations, — passion, frivolous amusements, personal adornment, display, and pride, — occupy thought.” (S&H 60)

3. Atonement. In addition to the chapter on “Marriage,” the chapter “Atonement and Eucharist” in Science and Health, introduces the subject of our “at-one-ment” or unity with God. This unity is the real covenant or bond that is never to be adulterated. Older kids ready to explore this truth of “Principle and idea” being One (See S&H, pg 465), can begin to understand the “Law of Love” that necessitates the Seventh Commandment.

4. Male/female qualities make up our completeness. This is discussed in the chapter “Marriage,” and throughout the textbook. See my previous essay for how this relates to the Seventh Commandment and for suggested citations to read.

5. Divorce and sexual affairs. Some children and teens are forced to deal with this up close and personal in their own families. Each situation needs to be handled according to the need, and with God’s guidance. Mercy and forgiveness is usually called for. Point out how Jesus handled the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8). Teach kids how to turn to their Father-Mother God for stability and comfort.

6. Influence of the media. While premarital sex and adultery certainly existed before the advent of books, movies, television, and the Internet, the onslaught of sexual images in today’s media cannot help but overwhelm young minds with ideas they are not prepared to handle. Since parents cannot always be around to monitor what their children watch, it is wise to at least try to teach children and teens the reasons why they should want to avoid explicit images of sex and violence on their own. Teach them to value innocence and purity, and to protect
these qualities as aggressively as they would protect their lives or their treasured possessions. If they can experience Christian Science healing, or the joys of a Christian outlook, they may want to keep their minds free from the sins that might muddy their vision of God, good, in their lives. As they learn more about Christian Science, they will begin to see the claims of power that unGodlike images have on our physical and mental health, and they may willingly avoid media that is obviously harmful to their peace of mind.

7. Happiness. Explain that those who search for sex or love outside of marriage, are not usually bad people, but are often simply victims of ignorance. They are “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Our happiness is not found in sex, or from the adulation of other people, but in Soul, God. Mary Baker Eddy writes:

“Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul. Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man. We cannot circumscribe happiness within the limits of personal sense. The senses confer no real enjoyment.” (S&H 60-61)

“Unselfish ambition, noble life-motives, and purity, — these constituents of thought, mingling, constitute individually and collectively true happiness, strength, and permanence.” (S&H 58)

“Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness; conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing  else can.” (Message for 1902 17)

CONCLUSION:

There appears to be so much immorality and sensuality abroad in the world, that getting through to our children sometimes may seem like trying to fill a leaky bucket with water.  However, if we can recognize the innate innocence and purity of God’s child that is the true identity of each and every one of us, and claim this forcefully in our daily prayers for our children, we can take heart that the Truth is doing its work to counteract the suggestions of evil. God’s angels are also on guard to protect the innocent ones, and will always come to the rescue of a receptive thought.

Children can be taught to love good and reject the temptations of evil, because they are naturally attracted to spiritual ideas.  God works with us; we just have to be willing to put in the effort and expect successful results!

To any earnest heart, young or old, the message is clear:

“Beloved children, the world has need of you, — and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. You need also to watch, and pray that you preserve these virtues unstained, and lose them not through contact with the world. What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!”  (Miscellaneous Writings  110)

Copyright 2006, 2017  Vicki Jones Cole

The Seventh Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Four

DEALING WITH THE TEMPTATION OF ADULTERY

Hormones on a rampage are pretty difficult to deal with, it seems. Sometimes, even the best-intentioned Christians get knocked off-balance when they find themselves uncontrollably attracted to another. It is even more troubling when that object of desire is someone either married to another, or is not your own spouse. Perhaps you have already found yourself in this situation. Whether or not you succumbed to temptation, God’s mercy is always available to those who are willing to repent, and “sin no more.” We need to take a mental stand against adultery and lust before the next test comes. If your conviction is solid that purity and obedience to God is the only wise and loving course of action, you can protect yourself and
others from the inevitable suffering and sorrow that adultery brings.

In your struggle to withstand the onslaught of aggressive mental suggestions that would mesmerize you into justifying a sexual affair, it helps to listen to God’s angel messages that come to uplift, inspire, and protect. That’s what divine Love is there for! You can also stick with one simple basic Christian rule: the Golden Rule.

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

You can apply the Golden Rule in some of the following ways:  Think how this act of adultery or fornication that you are contemplating will affect your innocent spiritual selfhood, and the pure innocence of the person whose body you plan to use to satisfy your sexual desire. Think of those you may hurt by this act. Think of how you would feel if you were a husband or wife being cheated against. Think how disappointed your parents might be. How would you feel if one of your children were being seduced into an adulterous affair? Consider what you would do if you came face to face with Jesus during your tryst. How would you feel if the affair were videotaped and broadcast over the internet.

Developing empathy and compassion for how others feel — or how you would feel, if caught —can help us put the brakes to behavior that might hurt others. You may try to justify a situation by saying that you and your sex partner are single adults, and no one is getting hurt. This is short-sighted. Few women can avoid emotional entanglements with those they have sex with; men can eventually begin to lose a sense of integrity when they wake up to the fact that they may have selfishly abused a friendship by taking something that does not morally or legally belong to them.

Along a similar line, many people may find themselves caught up in affairs, not for the sex, but simply because they have a need for romance, intimacy, or personal validation, and have developed the mistaken notion that they can only find such affection or attention by agreeing to a sexual relationship with someone before the couple has had a chance to form a mutual bond of love.  Women, especially, can be easily seduced by the right words whispered at the right moments, without using their logic to realize that there is no foundation to safely stand upon. Men may feel they have to prove their manhood in a sexual way to win the love of a woman they desire, or to gain bragging rights to impress their guy friends. People want to be loved so much,  they can justify actions for themselves, or others, they might not otherwise choose in the cold light of day.   But using sex in this way is just plain dangerous – physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We’re not talking here of only the obvious things that can go wrong and bring hurt to all:  unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease, lowered self-esteem; guilt.  We’re talking of how sex outside marriage affects yourself and others in ways you may not be thinking about at the time of your affair.  A loss of trust and trustworthiness is a sad thing.

If you and your friend are single, consider that you may be committing adultery against a future partner, even if you do not yet see how you are committing adultery against God and yourself. Future husbands and wives can feel the same type of jealousy over previous sex partners their spouses may have had, that they might feel about recent ones. If they are being honest, few people want to compete with the memories of previous lovers!

Virginity is a special gift to bring to a marriage, even in this day and age, and is one that should be more highly valued by both partners, and by society at large. At the very least, sexual discipline, as opposed to promiscuity, needs to be an active goal for both men and women. It is never too late to begin. It will save a lot of emotional torment and regrets for everyone involved. Through the teachings of Christian Science, we learn that innocence and purity are mental states found in our reflection of Soul, and are not just physical conditions that can be lost in a
one-time event. We always have the opportunity to be re-born, regenerated, washed clean from the impurities of past sins, when we are ready to let go of the false sense of ourselves (remember the Prodigal son!), and return home to our true heritage as the pure sons and daughters of God.

When those who are married and have children commit adultery, they are not just being disloyal to their spouse (and God!); they are being disloyal to their whole family! The children are being robbed of a stable, secure home environment. They are being affected, no mistake about it. They can feel the tension when their parents’ relationship is floundering. They may blame themselves for any marriage break-up. No amount of physical pleasure found outside the home is worth the loss of a child’s respect and trust.

In his book on The Ten Commandments, William Barclay, the Scottish New Testament scholar, steps outside of his Bible commentary for a moment, to answer in his own way the question of why adultery or sex before marriage is wrong. He suggested that if it is accepted as normal, the whole institution of the family is radically altered; that to demand premarital sex is to demand privilege without responsibility; and that it is wrong to demand sexual rights without
commitment. Unfortunately, even today, many do not see how true Barclay’s opinions are, and that we must regain a higher standard.

Learning to put the Golden Rule to use, and to love others more than ourselves, is what is needed. By studying the teachings of Jesus or Christian Science, we learn the rules to obey; plus we learn why adultery is wrong on both a moral and spiritual level. We learn that while our purity and innocence are never really adulterated — because of the fact that God, Spirit, is infinite — mortals will suffer the punishment of adultery as long as they hold onto it and believe it is pleasurable and a part of man’s real nature. As Christian Scientists, we must resist the temptation to believe we are material creatures, with appetites and passions that are uncontrollable. We must affirm our spiritual identity that is created and preserved by God. We must see that we are naturally attracted to Spirit, not to the world’s sensual pleasures. We must understand that our sense of completeness, worth, and satisfaction are in good, God.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science,  writes:

“Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing  else can.” (Eddy, Mary Baker:  “Message for 1902,” pg. 17)

It can seem like a mighty battle, or a long struggle, to fend off the temptations of sexual relations outside of marriage, or even lust within marriage. But God, our divine Father-Mother, would not have created us incapable of obeying any of His laws or commandments; and Jesus, our brother, would never have taught us to think and live with an attitude that is unnatural to our innate being. We are spiritual, not material. We are the “image and likeness” of the Father-Mother God, and therefore have the male and female qualities that make us complete and satisfied with a life of purity and goodness. We are embraced by divine Love that loves us
unconditionally; we do not need to seek love through physical bonds, although these bonds can benefit from the pure, sweet affections of love that can be brought to marriage.

We can trust God to control all of our relationships throughout time and eternity; we do not have to force or manipulate or use others to make us feel loved or attractive. There is no pleasure in sin. We can turn from sin, and look to the light of Truth for all our needs. God will supply the opportunities we need in order to share our love with mankind, and therefore feel that oneness and unity that we are truly searching for. These ideals have often been proven in the lives of Christians and Christian Scientists.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”
“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

What about the constant pressure of the human sexual drive? Should we blame ourselves or others if we cannot overcome sexual urges that are “natural” to man, whether those urges are heterosexual or homosexual?

First off, we are taught by Jesus not to judge others; that is not a responsibility God has given us. Instead, we should always show mercy to those struggling with the temptations of the flesh, in whatever form that seems to be. We all have the problem of being to work out in “earth’s preparatory school.” If we are merciful with others, we can humbly expect mercy to be shown us whenever we manage to mess things up.

Is it possible, in our human experience, to gain complete dominion over the sexual drive, or to prove its “unreality” as a God-given function? That task may be too great for many at this point in time, but we can make a worthy start by disciplining the cravings for the so-called pleasures of the senses. Just as we must often deny our brains and stomachs the pleasures of certain foods, alcohol, or drugs, when offered to us socially, we should be able to resist temptations to indulge in sex presented to us as easy opportunities. It is okay to just say no!

We can also re-think just what it is that motivates us, and others, to do what we do. Self-knowledge or self-awareness is always useful. With that in mind, an interesting spiritual interpretation of the human sex drive is seen in the following recorded statement of Mary Baker Eddy’s:

“What is the scientific realization of which sexual intercourse is the counterfeit? It is the recognition and realization through communion with God of man as a perfect, complete idea, masculine and feminine. That which is true of yourself as a complete reflection of Father-Mother God, is true of every individual in the universe and reveals God and His creation, perfect and eternal. Mortals are struggling for completeness and hope to find it through sexual intercourse; when in fact this desire
is simply the divine idea, struggling to express itself in completeness. A recognition of this brings compassion, tenderness, and love for the poor struggling heart and conviction that there is no sin.” (DCGC 224)

This insight can help us show mercy towards those caught up in the belief of lust or adultery. The underlying drive, though unrecognized, is a divine one. The natural desire for completeness has been inverted by material sense (a.k.a. the “devil,” “Satan,” “the serpent”) into a search for physical satisfaction. The sin is a belief in separation from our true identity, and from God. When Jesus told the adulterous woman to “Go, and sin no more,” he saw that there was no evil heart that needed to be stoned; she was merely mesmerized by her belief in lack of completeness, whether that was lack of money, companionship, or her spiritual unity with God. But her false belief was no excuse for her to keep sinning; she needed to go back and ponder her healing, and see that the Christ had just lifted her into a higher sense of her true identity, which would not need to, or want to, commit adultery.

“Overcome selfishness and you bring out unity. Overcome sensuality and you bring out purity. Overcome sexuality and you bring out the God idea.” (DCGC 211)

CONCLUSION:

One day there will be no temptation of adultery, because man will have risen to see that the only true marriage covenant is between God and man: His child, His reflection, His image. There is nothing that can separate, or come between, “Principle and its idea.” All is One. There is nothing to spoil or adulterate this divine relationship. We can begin to prove this in our lives now, by being loyal to those we have committed our hearts to, and those to whom we have promised our love. Is a “piece of paper” the only proof that a bond, or covenant, exists?
No. Adultery, as we now see it from a more spiritual altitude, can happen anytime we have broken a mutual promise, or covenant, that we have made with another – whether that is a promise to follow Christ, or to honor a personal commitment built upon trust. Our motives, our heart, can make a covenant; they can break one, as well.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote:

“This time-world flutters in my thought as an unreal shadow, and I can
only solace the sore ills of mankind by a lively battle with ‘the world, the
flesh and the devil,’ in which Love is the liberator and gives man the
victory over himself. Truth, canonized by life and love, lays the axe at
the root of all evil, lifts the curtain on the Science of being, the Science
of wedlock, of living and of loving, and harmoniously ascends the scale
of life. Look high enough, and you see the heart of humanity warming
and winning. Look long enough, and you see male and female one —
sex or gender eliminated; you see the designation man meaning
woman as well, and you see the whole universe included in one infinite
Mind and reflected in the intelligent compound idea, image or likeness,
called man, showing forth the infinite divine Principle, Love, called God,
— man wedded to the Lamb, pledged to innocence, purity, perfection.
Then shall humanity have learned that ‘they which shall be accounted
worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither
marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they
are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God.’ (Luke 20 : 35, 36.)
This, therefore, is Christ’s plan of salvation from divorce.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body nature is, and God the Soul.
— POPE
(First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, 268)

Copyright 2006, 2017  Vicki Jones Cole

The Seventh Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Three

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE AND THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

Christian Science demands adherence to the moral and spiritual law of “Thou shalt  not commit adultery.” The demand is upon both men and women, inside and outside of a marriage relationship. The principle behind God’s Commandment includes Jesus’ teaching on lust, and anything that would stain or invade the purity of one of God’s children, or the purity of man’s relationship with God. We will explore both the moral and spiritual concepts of the Seventh Commandment, and see how the idea of our unity with God — our “at-one-ment” — is the true
Covenant which is not to be adulterated.

“‘Thou shalt not commit adultery;’ in other words, thou shalt not adulterate Life, Truth, or Love, — mentally, morally, or physically.” (Eddy, Mary Baker: “Miscellaneous Writings,” pg. 66)

The Moral Demand of the Seventh Commandment:

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

“Infidelity to the marriage covenant is the social scourge of all races,‘the pestilence that walketh in darkness, . . . the destruction that wasteth at noonday.’ The commandment, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ is no less imperative than the one, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”

“Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life.” (S&H 56-57)

Committing adultery is a moral wrong according to Christian Science. Good morals provide a foundation for our spiritual growth and ability to heal. Maintaining chastity, and turning from the temptations of adultery, will also keep us from much personal sorrow.

“You must control evil thoughts in the first instance, or they will control you in the second. Jesus declared that to look with desire on forbidden objects was to break a moral precept. He laid great stress on the action of the human mind, unseen to the senses.” (S&H 234)

“In order to heal by Science, you must not be ignorant of the moral and spiritual demands of Science nor disobey them. Moral ignorance or sin affects your demonstration, and hinders its approach to the standard in Christian Science.” (S&H 483)

“Emerge gently from matter into Spirit. Think not to thwart the spiritual ultimate of all things, but come naturally into Spirit through better health and morals and as the result of spiritual growth.” (S&H 485)

“Never breathe an immoral atmosphere, unless in the attempt to purify it.” (S&H 452)

“It were better to be exposed to every plague on earth than to endure the cumulative effects of a guilty conscience. The abiding consciousness of wrong-doing tends to destroy the ability to do right. If sin is not regretted and is not lessening, then it is hastening on to physical and moral doom. You are conquered by the moral penalties you incur and the ills they bring. The pains of sinful sense are less harmful than its pleasures. Belief in material suffering  causes mortals to retreat from their error, to flee from body to Spirit, and to appeal to divine sources outside of themselves.” (S&H 405)

Meeting the Moral Demands:

As many already know, forced long-term celibacy is a pretty hard task. During much of history, social pressures kept many people from committing adultery, or engaging in premarital sex. By the end of the 20th Century, most of these pressures were gone. Birth control pills and abortion prevented unwanted pregnancies outside of marriage. The rights of illegitimate children were
enforced, and the stigma associated with illegitimacy faded. Women’s legal and economic independence fostered a more carefree attitude about sex, and easy, no-fault divorce gave both men and women an escape from unhappy marriages.

With social pressures gone from much of Western society, and sexual freedom seeming more and more acceptable, why would a person care about meeting Old or New Testament standards of morality? Remember from citations quoted in an earlier post, how the Jews often committed adultery even though they risked being stoned to death if caught? Today, in most societies, severe public consequences are gone. So what is there to restrain us from indulging in sex outside of marriage? There may be many individual reasons for abstaining from sex, but a solid, permanent reason is clear: Love — pure love for God and man. Many Christians do want to be obedient to God. They do want to respect and honor others. And, many Christian Scientists do yearn to heal others spiritually, and are willing to stay pure to do so.

Where once the expectations of society and family kept premarital sex and adultery somewhat under control, we are now left alone, with few social stigmas, face-to-face with our conscience and with God. How do we fend off the temptations of lust and adultery in today’s modern society?

Christian Science offers a way to lift thought above the material senses to see our lives “hid with Christ in God.” We do have a spiritual covenant with God, our Father, and as we grow in our understanding of His nature and our relationship to Him, we find a special unity with Him that cannot be broken, divorced, or adulterated.

What keeps us from consistently being the good, moral people we may long to be? The Apostle Paul expressed his frustration in this way:

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:19-20)

According to Christian Science, lust and sensuality are evidence of a mind mesmerized by the material senses. Paul called it the “carnal mind.”  Because human procreation seems necessary to perpetuate this so-called carnal mind, the suggestions of lust seem to be the most powerful sin of all to conquer.  But, in reality, sinful qualities are not natural to God’s children, and need to be targeted by spiritually scientific prayer. It does seem to be a struggle, but we are given encouragement in Christian Science that we can be successful, since there is no divine law supporting lust or sensuality.  Any indulgence in them can cause a belief in separation from God, good, and may bring us much needless suffering.

Let’s take a look at how lust and sensualism are viewed through the lens of Christian Science, as taught by Mary Baker Eddy:

“A moral question may hinder the recovery of the sick. Lurking error, lust, envy, revenge, malice, or hate will perpetuate or even create the belief in disease.”  (S&H 418)

“Self-ignorance, self-will, self-righteousness, lust, covetousness, envy, revenge, are foes to grace, peace, and progress; they must be met manfully and overcome, or they will uproot all happiness. (Miscellaneous Writings 118)

“Until he awakes from his delusion, he suffers least from sin who is a hardened sinner. The hypocrite’s affections must first be made to fret in their chains; and the pangs of hell must lay hold of him ere he can change from flesh to Spirit, become acquainted with that Love which is without dissimulation and endureth all things. Such mental conditions as ingratitude, lust, malice, hate, constitute the miasma of earth. More obnoxious than Chinese stenchpots are these  dispositions which offend the spiritual sense.” (Unity of Good 56)

“Sensuality palsies the right hand, and causes the left to let go its grasp on the divine.” (S&H 142)

“Sensual treasures are laid up ‘where moth and rust doth corrupt.’ Mortality is their doom. Sin breaks in upon them, and carries off their fleeting joys. The sensualist’s affections are as imaginary, whimsical, and unreal as his pleasures. Falsehood, envy, hypocrisy, malice, hate, revenge, and so forth, steal away the treasures of Truth. Stripped of its coverings, what a mocking spectacle is sin!” (S&H 241)

“Selfishness and sensualism are educated in mortal mind by the thoughts ever recurring to one’s self, by conversation about the body, and by the expectation of perpetual pleasure or pain from it; and this education is at the expense of spiritual growth. If we array thought in mortal vestures, it must lose its immortal nature.”  (S&H 260)

“Sensualism is not bliss, but bondage.” (S&H 337) 

We are promised that beliefs of sin and evil can be overcome, and Christian Scientists are encouraged — commanded, even — to take up the fight against lust. The following citations offer insights to how we might overcome this sin step-by-step:

“Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, — to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness, and success. They will deliver you to the judge, the arbiter of truth against error. The judge will deliver you to justice, and the sentence of the moral law will be executed upon mortal mind and body. Both will be manacled until the last farthing is paid, — until you have balanced your account with God. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ The good man finally can overcome his fear of sin. This is sin’s necessity, — to destroy itself. Immortal man demonstrates the government of God, good, in which is no power to sin.” (S&H 405)

“If a man is an inebriate, a slave to tobacco, or the special servant of any one of the myriad forms of sin, meet and destroy these errors with the truth of being, — by exhibiting to the wrong-doer the suffering which his submission to such habits brings, and by convincing him that there is no real pleasure in false appetites. A corrupt mind is manifested in a corrupt body. Lust, malice, and all sorts of evil are diseased beliefs, and you can destroy them  only by destroying the wicked motives which produce them. If the evil is over in the repentant mortal mind, while its effects still remain on the individual, you can remove this disorder as God’s law is fulfilled and reformation cancels the crime. The healthy sinner is the hardened sinner.” (S&H 404)

“We cannot build safely on false foundations. Truth makes a new creature, in whom old things pass away and ‘all things are become new.’ Passions, selfishness, false appetites, hatred, fear, all sensuality, yield to spirituality, and the super-abundance of being is on the side of God, good.”
(S&H 201)

“Evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one’s belief permits. Evil thoughts, lusts, and malicious purposes cannot go forth, like wandering pollen, from one human mind to another, finding unsuspected lodgment, if virtue and truth build a strong defence.” (S&H 234)

Prayer, as taught in Christian Science, enables us to destroy sinful beliefs, such as lust, by daily denying their reality. They are not real because God did not create them! We pray to not be led into the temptation of believing that evil has power, or is “real” in God’s kingdom, which “has come.”  We also affirm the spiritual good that God did make, and ask to be fed with this daily bread of Truth. We affirm our spiritual innocence and purity.

Christian Science and Marriage:

Mary Baker Eddy offers an entire chapter on the subject of “Marriage,” in the textbook, Science and Health. The chapter contains both practical and moral advice to those who are seeking to improve their concept of marriage and family relationships. But tucked in-between these helpful, down-to-earth comments, will be found ideas and statements meant to lift thought that is ready for it, to a higher ideal of true marriage. We can find in the teachings of Christian Science the remedy for that feeling we are somehow not complete, and need a mate to make us so. We learn that adultery is more than disloyalty to a human institution; it is disloyalty to God and to our spiritual integrity.

Most Christian religions see in the Bible’s words God’s blessing of marriage; however, Christian Science picks up on the message of Jesus to his disciples as it was recorded in Luke:

“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” (Luke 20:34-35)

While Christian Science does not teach that its followers abandon marriage at this period, as it certainly provides for stability in homes and families, we are given indications throughout the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, that Jesus meant what he said. The question to ponder then, is why does he say that?

Does God’s divine plan for man include the human institution of marriage? We get the first indication that marriage may not ultimately be a divine requirement, in this early paragraph from the chapter “Marriage,” which has the marginal heading “marriage temporal.”

“Marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among human kind. Until the spiritual creation is discerned intact, is apprehended and understood, and His kingdom is come as in the vision of the Apocalypse, — where the corporeal sense of creation was cast out, and its spiritual sense was revealed from heaven, — marriage will continue, subject to such moral regulations as will secure increasing virtue.” (S&H 56)

It appears that as long as mankind still believes in the need for human procreation, marriage will be needed to protect families. But the idea is introduced here that would indicate there will come a time when this human marriage may no longer be necessary. The question may then be asked:  where will future children come from if marriage is no longer necessary?  The answer may be found through an in-depth study of the textbook of Christian Science — Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures — for an explanation of the true nature of man as an infinite reflection and “image and likeness” of God, and how God is the only Creator of man and the universe.  There will never be a shortage of God’s children!

The chapter on “Marriage,” introduces the concept that “completeness” — which we usually hope to find in marriage — does not come from such a ceremony or oath, but is rather a compound idea of mental elements:

“Union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness. The masculine mind reaches a higher tone through certain elements of the feminine, while the feminine mind gains courage and strength through masculine qualities. These different elements conjoin naturally with each other, and their true harmony is in spiritual oneness. Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong. The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renewal like the returning spring.” (S&H 57)

Seeking for such spiritual qualities in a partner, rather than superficial traits such as money, looks, status, etc., is a more promising way to start a marriage. But, we are also shown an even higher spiritual outlook:

“Marriage should signify a union of hearts. Furthermore, the time cometh of which Jesus spake, when he declared that in the resurrection there should be no more marrying nor giving in marriage, but man would be as the angels. Then shall Soul rejoice in its own, in which passion has no part. Then white-robed purity will unite in one person masculine wisdom and feminine love, spiritual understanding and perpetual peace.” (S&H 64)

Is there any Biblical authority for this idea? Mary Baker Eddy points us to the story of creation in Genesis. It is there we read:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27)

We see in Genesis that God has created man in His image. We learn in Christian Science that God must be both Father and Mother; otherwise, God could not create man both male and female. The divine Mind, or Spirit, must include the substance of that which He creates! But, was His “male and female” divided into two separate “genders”? Mrs. Eddy writes of the concept of “gender”:

“Gender means a kind. Hence mankind — in other words, a kind of man who is identified by sex — is the material, so-called man born of the flesh, and is not the spiritual man, created by God, Spirit, who made all that was made.” (Miscellany 239)

“God determines the gender of His own ideas. Gender is mental, not material. . . Gender means simply kind or sort, and does not necessarily refer either to masculinity or femininity. The word is not confined to sexuality, and grammars always recognize a neuter gender, neither male nor female. The Mind or intelligence of production names the female gender last in the ascending order of creation. The intelligent individual idea, be it male or female, rising from the lesser to the greater, unfolds the infinitude of Love.” (S&H 508)

The following words of Jesus are part of the traditional Christian marriage ceremony:

“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”  (Matt.19:6) 

Was Jesus referring only to the act of mortal men and women being joined together, or was he suggesting something more spiritual?

We learn in Christian Science that male and female qualities are found in each
individual. Just as God is Father-Mother, so His children reflect this Fatherhood-
Motherhood. So, perhaps these are the elements that “God hath joined together,”
and these masculine/feminine qualities make up the complete spiritual identity of man
that he is not to “put asunder.” Or, we could also consider what Mrs. Eddy once wrote:

“We are joined by God, divine Science, to Himself, His power and love. And what God hath joined no man can put asunder.” (quoted in Divinity Course and General Collectanea, pg 43)

The above quotation is from a collection of writings, letters, and statements of Mary Baker Eddy titled Divinity Course and General Collectanea, compiled by Richard Oakes. Elsewhere in the book is an example of how Mrs. Eddy suggested that these new concepts about gender and completeness be applied in our thinking and prayers:

“This is my support, that the male and female natures are equally expressed, coexistent in me. This is the way that I exist and is the reason I never lack. It is because I am of the nature of infinite completeness; there is never anything in my experience in which the male and female qualities are not infinitely at one, supporting each other. It is because my spiritual inspiration is perfectly balanced with scientific understanding; because my joy is perfectly balanced with courage, and because my love is perfectly balanced with strength. My tender emotional nature is perfectly balanced with thought, reason and understanding; therefore I am a state of perfect protection, perfect substance, and I am supported by my own infinity. I am the presence of substance, because there is no unsupported idea in me.

“My manhood takes care of my womanhood, defends, protects, and supports her. My joy is defended and protected by my courage. My love is protected and defended by my understanding, by the strength of my scientific understanding which is omnipotence. I am never undefended and my womanhood cherishes my manhood. My tender affection cherishes my scientific understanding and unfolds love to it, takes care of it, watches over it with love, and gives it every opportunity to unfold
and demonstrate itself in perfect harmony, unity, equality, and unfoldment. 
So my nature is complete.” (DCGC 73)

Mrs. Eddy comments on male/female natures again in the chapter “The Apocalypse,” in the Christian Science textbook, when discussing the symbolism of the “Lamb” and the “Lamb’s wife” in the book of Revelation:

“The Lamb’s wife presents the unity of male and female as no longer two wedded individuals, but as two individual natures in one; and this compounded spiritual individuality reflects God as Father-Mother, not as a corporeal being. In this divinely united spiritual consciousness, there is no impediment to eternal bliss, — to the perfectibility of God’s creation.” (S&H 577)

What does all of this have to do with adultery and the Seventh Commandment?

What this spiritual truth does, is to question the old Biblical concept that adultery is only the breaking of the marriage covenant between two humans, and shows that there is a spiritual covenant with God that man breaks whenever he accepts, or acts upon, the belief that 1) man is both spiritual and material; 2) that man is separated from his Father-Mother God, the source of all spiritual qualities; or that 3) man’s complete spiritual nature reflecting male/female qualities, can be inverted and separated into mortal men and women needing to find each other. Gender is really a human concept, as we read earlier. When this is all understood and accepted into consciousness, the animal instinct that drives people to lust after one another — searching for happiness and physical satisfaction in sexual relationships — will diminish, or be mastered.
It is recorded that Mrs. Eddy once explained the Seventh Commandment against adultery this way:

“Unity. Knowing that we reflect the male and female, we must not adulterate this idea by supposing that each of God’s children is not complete, infinite. Seeing this purity, we are partakers of the marriage supper of the Lamb, the unity of man with the spiritual idea.” (DCGC 233)

Unity. Completeness. Purity. These ideals are themes throughout the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. We find our authority for these truths in the teachings of Jesus.

“Atonement is the exemplification of man’s unity with God, whereby man reflects divine Truth, Life, and Love. Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man’s oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage. (S&H 18)

This unity, or oneness, with our Creator, is the true marriage that must not be adulterated by the false beliefs that we are “animals,” that we are made of matter, that we are self-created through a sexual act, or that evil, sin, disease, or death can adulterate the pure, innocent spiritual children of God that we are.

Just as the early Hebrews and other ancient people were concerned with the “seeds” of foreign men falsely impregnating their women, and perhaps resulting in illegitimate children claiming the inheritance that rightfully belonged to others, so we need to be just as alert to the seeds of evil invading consciousness through mental adultery.  These seeds of evil could result in the false fruits of sin, disease, and death, which would pretend to be legitimate, but are the carnal mind’s attempt to rob God’s natural children of their rightful heritage.

Do all of these spiritual ideals outlined above mean that we must give up the human institution of marriage at this point in history? No, as was earlier explained; but, for those who are ready to ponder the issues, Christian Science offers suggestions for how mankind might work up to it. Mrs. Eddy writes:

“Until time matures human growth, marriage and progeny will continue unprohibited in Christian Science. We look to future generations for ability to comply with absolute Science, when marriage shall be found to be man’s oneness with God, — the unity of eternal Love. At present, more spiritual  conception and education of children will serve to illustrate the superiority of spiritual power over sensuous, and usher in the dawn of God’s creation, wherein they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels. To abolish marriage at this period, and maintain morality and generation, would put ingenuity to ludicrous shifts; yet this is possible in Science, although it is to-day problematic.” (Miscellaneous Writings 285)

End of Part Three – To Be continued

 

The Seventh Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Two

EARLY CHRISTIANITY AND THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

The early Christians embraced Jesus’ teachings on purity and adultery. While those who had come to Christianity as Jews understood the importance of chastity and the family bond, not everyone lived up to the ideals. And, remember, Palestine was then under the control of the Roman Empire, with its particular cultural ideas on marriage and fidelity.

“In the time of Jesus marriage in Palestine had nearly broken down and the treatment of women was shameful indeed. It is never to be forgotten that it was against that background that Jesus made his demands for chastity. . . . It is genuinely doubtful if there ever was such a cataract of immorality in any age as in the years when Christianity first came into the world. . . . Christianity confronted that situation with an uncompromising demand for purity.  Immorality and all impurity are not even to be named among Christians.” (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,”1973; pg. 105)

The Greeks were notoriously indifferent to the marriage bond with regard to sex, which was considered to be acceptable and normal outside of marriage. The Romans took marriage more seriously, but after they had conquered and assimilated the Greeks, they unfortunately assimilated their moral laxity. It was said: “Rome had conquered Greece, but Greek morals had conquered Rome.” Against this backdrop, the early Christians took their stand.

“Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and the adulterous.”  (Hebrews 13:4- RSV)

There are two concepts we will here consider with regard to the early Christian community:
1) their sense of the body; and 2) their ideas about marriage, and whether or not it was appropriate for a Christian to marry at all. William Barclay offers this commentary on the body:

“We must begin with the simple, and yet far-reaching, fact that the Christian respected the body. To the Greek the body was no more than the prison-house of the soul, and from it came all the ills of life. The world at that time was deeply infected with Gnostic thought, which believed that only spirit is good and that all matter is incurably and irremediably evil. . . . The inevitable conclusion of this is that the body is evil. If the body is evil, two courses of action are possible.  First a man can adopt a complete asceticism in which he denies every desire and deed of the body. Second, he can say that, because the body is evil, it does not matter what we do with it, and that therefore we can sate and glut it and it does not matter, because it is evil anyway.”

“But the Christian came with a new conception of the body. For the Christian the body is designed to be nothing less than the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 3:16).  ‘Do you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?’ The Christian must, therefore, glorify God in his body
(I Cor. 6:19, 20).  It is not only 
possible, it is an obligation, to present the body as a sacrifice and
an offering to 
God (Rom 12:1). Christianity came with a view of the body which was bound to revolutionize the ethics of sex for the Hellenistic world.”  (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,” pg. 125)

Some people, who have not studied Christian Science carefully, have likened it to the Gnostic thought mentioned above. They may assume that because we challenge the reality of matter as the true substance of Spirit’s universe, we must feel there is no reason to care what we do to the body, or with it. This is false. While we appear to be living in our human bodies, we must take care of it. If we abuse it, we are not demonstrating the unreality of sin.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science and the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, explains:

“Expose and denounce the claims of evil and disease in all their forms, but realize no reality in them. A sinner is not reformed merely by assuring him that he cannot be a sinner because there is no sin. To put down the claim of sin, you must detect it, remove the mask, point out the illusion, and thus  get the victory over sin and so prove its unreality. The sick are not healed merely by declaring there is no sickness, but by knowing that there is none.

“A sinner is afraid to cast the first stone. He may say, as a subterfuge, that evil is unreal, but to know it, he must demonstrate his statement. To assume that there are no claims of evil and yet to indulge them, is a moral offence.  Blindness and self-righteousness cling fast to iniquity.  When the Publican’s  wail went out to the great heart of Love, it won his humble desire. Evil which obtains in the bodily senses, but which the heart condemns, has no foundation; but if evil is uncondemned, it is undenied and nurtured. Under such circumstances, to say that there is no evil, is an evil in itself. When needed tell the truth concerning the lie. Evasion of Truth cripples integrity, and casts thee down from the pinnacle.”  (S&H 447)

The great Apostle Paul gave marriage advice in his letter to the Corinthians. In it, he appears to suggest that it was good not to marry if you weren’t already married. He urged those that were married to remain faithful to each other.

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.  Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. . . . For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” (I Cor. 7:1-3;7-9)

In “Marriage, a History,” we read:

“What distinguished early Christianity from Judaism in its approach to marriage and family was the belief that the kingdom of God was close at hand, and people must therefore break with worldly ties to prepare for the imminent arrival of God’s kingdom. In subsequent centuries this aspect was played down, but early Christianity was hostile to marital and kinship obligations to a degree unimaginable to any previous reformers aside from Plato.

“The founders of Christianity agreed with Jewish scholars that it was better to marry than to be preoccupied with lust. But their acceptance of marriage was much less enthusiastic. ‘It is better,’ Paul grudgingly conceded, ‘to marry than to burn’ (I Cor. 7:9).” (Coontz, Stephanie: “Marriage, a History,” pg. 85-86)

William Barclay believes that we find in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, written nine years after his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul’s true view of marriage, in which he appears to validate it. Paul writes:

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)

The Apostle Peter also gave marriage advice in one of his letters. He urged the expression of those lovely qualities which could keep married Christians happy and away from the temptation of adultery. This translation is from “The Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson:

“The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance – the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes – but your inner disposition.

“Cultivate inner beauty; the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands. Sarah, for instance, taking care of Abraham, would address him as “my dear husband.” You’ll be true daughters of Sarah if you do the same, unanxious and unintimidated.

“The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground.” (I Peter 3:1-7) (Translation: Peterson, Eugene H.: “The Message”)

To the early Christians, chastity was just as important as marital fidelity:

“Freedom from unchastity was one of four minimum entrance requirements for aspiring candidates to Christian groups, as stated in a letter sent from the elders and apostles at Jerusalem to Antioch Christians via Judas Barsabas and Silas.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, pg 206)

We read about those four minimum entrance requirements in Acts:

“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
(Acts 15:28, 29)

The choice of these four minimum requirements was reached after fierce debates by the elders regarding what they would require of the new non-Jewish converts to Christianity. Should the Gentiles be required to be circumcised, was one question, for instance. In the end, only a few rules regarding food remained, plus the one moral rule: no fornication. This is sex outside of a marriage relationship. The elders had taken Jesus’ teaching to heart, that to indulge in lust, inside or outside of marriage, was as sinful as the act of adultery.

William Barclay quotes the historian J.D. Unwin, who had studied over 80 different civilizations, and from his study Unwin discerned the following pattern:

“Every civilization is established, and consolidated by observing a strict moral code, is maintained while this strict code is kept, and decays when sexual license is allowed. . . Any human society is free to choose either to display great energy or to enjoy sexual freedom; the evidence is that it cannot do both for more than one generation.” (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,” pg. 141)

You can find numerous articles on the Internet that quote Unwin’s study, and those of other sociologists concerned with the impact of moral laxity on society. Some sources theorize that it would take several generations to see the impact of this sexual freedom.

If you are interested in learning more about the history of marriage, divorce, and sexual relations, from ancient times up to the present day, you can find detailed information in “Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage,” by Stephanie Coontz; 2005)

End of Part Two – To Be Continued

 

The Seventh Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part One

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

The Seventh Commandment is not just about sex. Adultery is not just about the breaking of marriage vows. As with the other Ten Commandments, there is both a moral and a spiritual meaning to the Seventh Commandment. Both meanings are based upon a universal divine Principle that underlies the Law that was revealed to Moses.

Because of that universal divine Principle, which could be called “the Law of Love,” people’s efforts to dismiss this particular Commandment as outdated, useless, unenforceable, forgettable, or not applicable to modern man, will, at some point, prove as harmful as assuming that one can defy gravity by jumping off a cliff. It hurts!

Adultery, seen from a spiritual perspective, may be thought of as looking outside of our relationship with God for our completeness, our happiness, our satisfaction, our salvation. God commands us to be loyal to Him. We practice this solemn loyalty by taking our promises seriously, and disciplining ourselves to be faithful to those who are trusting in us to uphold our oaths. We learn in the Bible that the marriage covenant was considered to be of utmost importance. Purity, chastity, and virtue, both in and out of marriage, were highly valued. We shall see that in today’s world our thinking must also remain pure, by keeping it free from sinful beliefs which would muddy or spoil our spiritual vision. God’s Seventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” speaks to us on many levels, and offers guidance to keep us safe,
and on track, in our spiritual journey.

We will be exploring these concepts in the sections below [and in upcoming posts]. A separate article with ideas for teaching the Seventh Commandment to children and Sunday School pupils will follow.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND

There was already a moral code against adultery in ancient civilization before God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. For example, in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (see Genesis 39), Joseph knew that it would be a “sin against God” to have sex with another man’s wife. This was hundreds of years before Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, and received the Ten Commandments. However, not everyone considered adultery a sin against God – it was more of a crime against property rights!

In those ancient times, a woman was considered to be the property of her father, and later of her husband. A loss of affection had little to do with the crime of adultery. Property rights were involved, especially when it came to the legitimacy of children. Husbands had to be very careful to make sure that the children his wife bore were his, since his possessions were to be passed along to them. This was serious business!

“Because women could bear a child with an ‘impure’ bloodline, introducing a ‘foreign interest’ into a family, their sexual behavior tended to be more strictly supervised, and females were subject to severe penalties for adultery or premarital sex. The laws and moral codes of ancient states exhorted men to watch carefully over their wives ‘lest the seed of others be sown on your soil.’” (Coontz, Stephanie: “Marriage, a History,” 2005; pg. 46)

“By the time we have written records of the civilizations that arose in the ancient world, marriage had become the way most wealth and land changed hands. Marriage was also the main vehicle by which leading families expanded their social network and political influence. It even sealed military alliances and peace treaties.” (ibid)

That is why the early Jewish definition of adultery is very specific. Jewish law states that adultery is the intercourse of a married woman with any man other than her husband. It was not considered adultery if a married man had sex with an unmarried woman, such as a concubine. An example is the relationship Abraham had with Hagar, who gave birth to Ishmael, Abraham’s first child. (see Genesis 16).

Chastity before marriage was also important in early Hebrew history. In his book, The Ten Commandments, William Barclay writes:

“The supreme importance that the Jewish mind attached to chastity can be seen from the passage in Deuteronomy which provides for the trial of a bride whom her husband suspects of not being a virgin at the time of her marriage, and for her death by stoning if the charge is proved.”  (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,” pg. 88)

The early penalty for adultery was also stoning. We read in Leviticus 20:10:

“The man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

So, why, if the penalty was so severe, would any two people risk death to have sex?  It’s a question still being asked today. As Barclay puts it:

“It is the paradox of human nature that there was no sin regarded in Judaism with greater horror than adultery, and there was no sin which, to judge by the rebukes of the sages and prophets, was more common.”  (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,” pg. 84)

Barclay explains the influences in the regions surrounding the Hebrews. Ancient people worshipped the power of reproduction, because it was so strong. Men visited cult or temple prostitutes. Sex with them was “regarded as an act of worship of the reproductive force.” Barclay goes on to write:

“To the modern mind the connection of prostitution with religion is shocking; but it was extremely widespread in those days; and it is perfectly understandable when it is understood as the worship of the life and reproductive force. Human nature being such as it is, it is easy to see the attraction of this form of so-called worship; and the basic purity of Jewish worship is in such an environment all the more wonderful, and we shall see later that the Christian ethic was faced with exactly the same problem. The wonder was not that sometimes the Jews drifted into sexual irregularity; the miracle is that in such an environment the ideal of disciplined chastity ever came into being at all, and that in the end the ideal of purity won the day.”  (ibid, pg. 89)

Covenant with God

A covenant is a bond or agreement made between individuals. In the Bible, God made special covenants. For instance he made covenants with Noah (Genesis 9:13) and Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21; 17:4-14). In Exodus 24, we read of the first covenant God made with the Hebrews.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the accusation of “adultery” leveled at the Hebrews when they were guilty of worshipping idols, or breaking trust with their promises to God to obey His laws. Adultery and fornication were useful symbols for getting the Israelites to understand the crime of idolatry. We read, for instance, in Ezekial 16:

“Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord: Thus saith the Lord God; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them; Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.”

The Old Testament records the tribulations of the Israelites as they wander for forty years in the wilderness, their takeover of the Promised Land, and then the continuing problems they had keeping their part of their covenant with God. When they were obedient to God’s laws, their society flourished; when they were disobedient, they brought punishment upon themselves. But God’s mercy was ever available:

“The New Covenant of the prophets grew up in the centuries after Israel had entered Canaan, and through experiences of personal and national suffering attained a spiritual awareness of the need for salvation. Israel had broken her covenant with God, but He was willing to write in their hearts a new compact (Jer. 31:30) which would be universally available.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary)

We read in the book of Jeremiah: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In the first Covenant, God was a “husband” to the Hebrews. They believed that He promised protection in exchange for loyalty and obedience. Although adultery was a strong symbol to the Israelites, the principle behind the idea of a “covenant” does suggest that adultery is more than just illicit sexual relations between men and women.

In the New Covenant, man is expected to look within consciousness for God’s law.  Just as Joseph was able to understand intuitively that adultery was wrong, even though he did not have a tablet of stone with such a commandment inscribed upon it, we can be sure that the Ten Commandments are within consciousness, and operate as spiritual law. If we live in harmony with God’s law, we prosper; if we try to set ourselves apart from the law, or above it, we bring discord into our lives. This is true of breaking the Seventh Commandment.

Betrothals and Adultery

Before moving to the teachings of Jesus, there is some interesting commentary on the subject of “betrothals” at that time, which sheds some light on the situation faced by Mary and Joseph. The Hebrew custom was to have three steps: first, an engagement; then a betrothal, lasting about a year; then the wedding ceremony. William Barclay’s book on the Ten Commandments provides details of what these three steps entailed, but here is a brief segment on the betrothal:

“Betrothal was as binding as marriage. A betrothed girl who was unfaithful was treated in the same way as an adulterous wife. Betrothal could only be ended by divorce. During the time the couple were known and regarded as man and wife. Should the man die, the girl was known as a widow, and in the law we find that curious phrase, ‘a virgin who is a widow.’ This explains the relationship of Joseph and Mary as we find in the first chapter of Matthew. In verse 18 they are betrothed; in verse 19 Joseph is called Mary’s husband, and he is said to wish to divorce her.” (Barclay, William: “The Ten Commandments,” 1973, pg. 100)

Thankfully, Joseph listened to the angel message, and took Mary as his wife rather than divorcing her; or worse, having her stoned. Joseph willingly obeyed God’s commands, proving that his allegiance to his covenant with God was more important than Jewish tradition. His purity of thought allowed the angel message to be heard.

JESUS AND THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT

As we have learned in our study of the other Ten Commandments, Jesus usually raised the bar with regard to the meaning or standards required of each Commandment. It is not enough to abide by (or ignore!) the literal interpretation only, we must be willing to see the moral and spiritual principle behind the Commandment.

We find our first message from Jesus on adultery in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”
(Matthew 5:27-30)

Jesus has set the new standard: it is not enough just to avoid the legal definition of adultery; we must avoid indulging in lust. He tells us that this is so important we should go so far as to “pluck out an eye” that is being used for lustful gazing.  Barclay explains:

“Of course, the words of Jesus are not to be taken with a crude literalism. What they mean is that anything which helps to seduce us to sin is to be ruthlessly rooted out of life.” (Barclay, William: “The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1,” pg. 148)

Barclay comments on the use of the term “lust” by Jesus:

“It is necessary that we should understand what Jesus is saying here.  He is not speaking of the natural, normal desire, which is part of human instinct and human nature. According to the literal meaning of the Greek the man who is condemned is the man who looks at a woman with the deliberate intention of lusting after her. The man who is condemned is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to awaken his lust, the man who looks in such a way that passion is awakened and desire deliberately stimulated. . . . In a tempting world there are many things which are deliberately designed to excite desire: books, pictures, plays, even advertisements. The man whom Jesus here condemns is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing. To the pure all things are pure. But the man whose heart is defiled can look at any scene and find something in it to titillate and excite the wrong desire.”  (ibid, pg. 147)

Clearly we can see how the use of pornography is lust. Jesus tells us this is adultery of the heart. If we are Christian, we will want to avoid pornography, explicit books, movies, and so we must “pluck out that eye,” so that we are not cast into “hell.”   We learn in Christian Science that part of the definition of hell is “self-imposed agony.”  Mistaking material pleasures as a source of happiness can bring self-imposed pain to the body.

Barclay’s comment above that Jesus was not speaking of the “natural, normal desire which is part of human instinct and human nature,” at first glance seems reasonable. In the time of Jesus, this was a huge step forward in man’s spiritual journey – to see that over-indulgence in lust is a form of adultery. But, there is a further step – a spiritual one – that challenges the notion that desire for sex is a natural or normal part of man’s spiritual identity. This will be explored under the section on Christian Science.

An important part of Jesus’ teachings was his explanation of motives. We learn that adultery and lust stem from sinful motives. Jesus told them:

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders,  adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  (Matthew 15:18, 19)

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, would later write:

“Jesus knew that adultery is a crime, and mind is the criminal. I wish the age was up to his understanding of these two facts, so important to progress and Christianity.” (Eddy, Mary Baker: “Christian Healing,” pg. 7:22)

The following episode from Matthew, chapter 19, contains a teaching that most Christians were not able to comprehend at the time, much less were prepared to follow. But it shows Jesus’ teaching on adultery and divorce in its original state, “unfettered by human hypothesis.” It has to be contemplated and prayed about by individuals, without being dictated to by others on how they should act upon it:

“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

There is one well0known story, found only in the Gospel of John that shows Jesus dealing with a woman caught in the act of adultery (notice that the man was not brought before him!). Actually the main point of the episode, it has been said, is to show how Jesus handled the Pharisees’ attempt to catch him being disobedient to the Jewish law, but it also says a lot about how Christians are to show Christly compassion in such situations with possible adulterers. We read:

“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:3-11)

While Jesus showed mercy to the adulterous woman, notice an important point. She was told to “sin no more.” We must learn that we are not to abuse God’s mercy, by continuing to sin and hoping for forgiveness, but we are to set ourselves on a path of redemption as soon as we recognize the sin for what it is.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

There are three separate Gospel accountings of an episode in Jesus’ life in which he is asked about marriage in the resurrection by a group of Sadducees, who are trying to trick him. His ending message shows a remarkable thought. The statement in Mark simply tells us there will be no marriage in the resurrection; but the statement in Luke appears to be saying that his followers should not marry at all!

“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matthew 22:29, 30)

“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” (Luke 20:34, 35)

With that in mind, it is interesting to read that the first noteworthy act of Jesus in his ministry is the turning of water into wine at the wedding in Cana, recorded in John. This would indicate at least some sort of approval for the institution of marriage. Perhaps he is urging those who are ready, to consider deeply what he is saying about the spiritual nature of man even now.

Mary Baker Eddy has a lovely comment germane to this. It is from the chapter “Marriage” in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and has the marginal sub-heading, “Blessing of Christ.”

“Experience should be the school of virtue, and human happiness should proceed from man’s highest nature. 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 64)

End of Part One

Teaching Children the Sixth Commandment

“Thou shalt not kill” 

Most young children do not fully grasp the concept of death. They do, however, feel the terror of fear, of separation from loved ones, of anger directed at them. They also know what it feels like to be angry, and to struggle with self-control. You can easily teach children the words, “Thou shalt not kill,” but for them to learn how to obey the Sixth Commandment, it might be wise to first teach them about dealing with emotions, and practicing the self-discipline that goes into getting along with others, and with God.

If children have been taught to love their heavenly Father-Mother God, who takes care of us, they will gladly obey the Ten Commandments. To help them, we must point out the qualities of thought and action which might lead to the breaking of the Commandments. This is especially true of the Sixth Commandment. We can teach our children how to develop the attitudes and discipline that will prevent them from killing and murdering in the various forms they take – physical, moral, and spiritual.

If you are a parent or Sunday School teacher wishing to teach the Sixth Commandment to your children or pupils, you might wish to study my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment for background material and ideas to share with older children.

You can also find ready-made lessons in my book,  First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume One: The Ten Commandments. This book has daily lessons for young people in question-and-answer format, and includes discussions on the Sixth Commandment.

Jesus taught that being angry is just as bad as actually killing, so we want our children to learn that anger and other emotions, such as hate, envy, jealousy, and greed, are bad qualities we want to subdue or control. We also want to learn how to express humility rather than self-will, which insists on getting its own way, “or else”! The toddler attitude of “I want what I want when I want it” can grow into the kind of temperament that would strike back at someone to harm, if it is thwarted in its efforts to indulge its wants or whims.

Below are a few more ideas to use in Sunday School classes or one-on-one moments with children, to expand their understanding of the Sixth Commandment and how it might be applied in daily life. These ideas are loosely grouped into age categories, which are to be used only as guides.

For Very Young Children and Up:

Hands are not for hitting. You can turn this into a game of sorts, by telling the children that our hands are not for hitting or hurting. This would make God unhappy (not to mention the poor person or animal on the receiving end!). Ask them to tell you what good things they can do with their hands instead of hitting. Have them show you and the others in class. For instance, hands are for helping. Have the children show one way they can use hands to help.  Maybe they can open up the Bible or hymn books in a loving way. Hands are for hugging. Have everyone share a hug! Hands are for holding. Can everyone hold hands, or hold up a useful item. Hands can clap, draw, steer a tricycle, pull a wagon, brush someone’s hair, play piano, cook and eat! Let them use their imagination. End the game with a reminder that we are not to hit or hurt with our hands. A hand that strikes another person might end up hurting them, or even killing them. And that would break the Sixth Commandment. If we are unhappy, we try to use soft words and patience to express what we need to communicate. They can also learn to pray to ask God for what we want, and be willing to accept His answers. Perhaps you can combine this game with a lesson on angels, who can protect us with the messages they bring to us from God.

We do not hurt or kill insects or animals for fun. While there may be a need to defend ourselves against certain insects or wild animals, at times, children can be taught not to torture or kill helpless animals for amusement. They are to be gentle with puppies, kittens, and other animals, as well as using wisdom around them so that the animals do not bite back trying to defend themselves. Have the children consider what they would feel like if someone much, much larger than they did the same thing to them. Would this meet with God’s approval? Would it break the Sixth Commandment?

Sibling rivalry. Teach that learning to get along with our family members is a good place to learn the self-control that will protect us from hurting others. We may sometimes feel like our parents love our siblings better, but show them what happened in the Bible when Cain became jealous of Abel. Also, read to them parts of the story of Joseph, whose brothers were jealous of him and sold him into slavery. Later, Joseph could have had them killed, or denied them food, but he forgave them. Both stories can be found in Genesis.

Beatitudes. The lovely spiritual attitudes taught by Jesus in the opening of the Sermon on the Mount, provide protection from the animal instincts that could develop into murderous actions. The Beatitudes on meekness, mercy, and peacemaking especially apply to the Sixth Commandment.  See Lessons in my book First Lessons in Christian Science, Volume Two: The Beatitudes.

The Golden Rule.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” No one wants to be injured, harmed in any way, or murdered. If children can be taught the Golden Rule, and develop empathy for what others might feel, they will be safe from the self-will that thinks only of its own wants or needs. It would be rare for a person who has embraced the Golden Rule in his or her heart to ever consider murder or killing as a solution or reaction.

For Older Children and Up:

Bullies. There are a number of books and articles available offering practical help on how to deal with bullies. Children need to know there are options to dealing with bullies that do not including fighting back with violent behavior. More importantly, they need to learn not to become bullies themselves, and to learn the power of Love. Often, it is said, children who are bullies have become that way due to being mistreated by others at home. There is a need for healing all around. Children can help to spread Christianity by using love and wisdom in dealing with those who would terrorize them at school or in the community. They need to learn that “You shall not hit or get revenge” is practice for learning “Thou shalt not kill.” Mary Baker Eddy tells us: “Love is the liberator.” (S&H 225)

Violent video and computer games, movies, and television. Studies have shown that there is most likely a connection between the violence found in these sources and the pronounced aggressiveness found in some children and teens today. This may not be true for all of them, but it makes sense that a steady diet of violent images can desensitize a mind to the dangers of real-life violence. One of the Commandments of God, the Second, tells us “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”

By filling young minds with gruesome images of death, torture, and violence, the media industry is usurping the life-affirming qualities of morality and spirituality, which are the natural expressions of God’s children. It is possible that today’s children are having their innocence stolen, and are being set up as avenues of violence and aggression. Parents should monitor what their children watch, and older children can be taught to make better choices. If they understood how these violent images work like poison in their mental atmosphere, robbing them, killing them, breaking the Sixth Commandment, they might stand up to this onslaught, and protect themselves. Do they really find pleasure in watching animated or movie images of violence? Convince them that there is no real lasting satisfaction in this pastime, when the consequences are taken into account.  What seems like harmless entertainment could be sapping their soul. Ask them to consider if they like the idea of their money going to support an industry that glorifies killing, and is therefore breaking the Sixth Commandment of God.  When they find themselves in harm’s way one day, who will they pray to:  God or the game makers?  Who is going to answer them?

Revenge. Have your children study the story of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis. Esau certainly had reasons to take revenge and kill his brother Jacob, but through Jacob’s prayer, revelation, and redemption, Esau was protected from breaking the law of God, and Jacob’s life was spared. Mary Baker Eddy tells us “Revenge is inadmissible.” (S&H 22)  Teaching our children about the joy and value of forgiveness, as opposed to revenge, will save them from the possibility of breaking the Sixth Commandment.

Pre-Teens and Up:

David.   Have your children study the life story of David, the Shepherd Boy and King of Israel. Study the times when he showed mercy when he might have killed, and those times when he broke the Sixth Commandment. What were the consequences that he suffered, and what did he do to repent?

Suicide and depression.  See my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment for the question on suicide, and the answer from Mary Baker Eddy. Teach that suicide breaks the Sixth Commandment, and would have consequences, since suicide does not bring oblivion or true freedom, but merely sends us into another realm of consciousness and probation. It leaves behind horrendous grief and sorrow, and may have to be punished and repented of. Giving your children and students an understanding that we are in reality spiritual beings, and are not mere bodies made from matter and controlled by matter, may help alleviate depression and suicidal tendencies. Learning about man as Love’s image and likeness, our students may see that one antidote to depression is expression. Allowing ourselves to express love for others can lift us out of the magnetic pull of self-absorbed thinking that leads to depression or suicide.

War.   Using the articles written by Mrs. Eddy found in my previous essay on the Sixth Commandment as a starting off point, discuss ideas on how to be peacemakers in today’s world. Open your kids’ eyes to the various motives that are often found lurking in the shadows of war, such as the industries or governments that want to profit from war, the politicians who may seek personal gain in it, and racial or cultural prejudices. They can learn how to pray for peace and goodwill for the whole world. For those who may be interested, “The Story of Christian Science Wartime Activities 1939-1946,” is a book filled with marvelous testimonies of spiritual healing and protection during World War II.

Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. You might want to take this on as a class in-depth study to explore what Jesus accomplished that helps us understand the concept of death today. He not only raised himself from the dead, but he was able to show his disciples the mental nature of body and substance when he walked through walls, disappeared and reappeared at will, provided fish at breakfast without a net, and so on, during the period before his ascension. Read the story of the ascension and get your pupils’ ideas about what they think happened. Find citations in Mrs. Eddy’s writings that explain these events to use in discussion. By understanding fully what Jesus proved in this outstanding demonstration of Life, our children might be able to understand the divine law behind the Sixth Commandment – why God does not want us to kill, why we cannot really be killed, and why we cannot kill others. Life is the only fact to be proved, and Life is Spirit and eternal, as Jesus proved.

Alcohol and drugs.  Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: “It need not be added that the use of tobacco or intoxicating drinks is not in harmony with Christian Science.” (S&H 453)  While there are many reasons behind this, such as the fact that practicing Christian Science requires clear thinking, and we do not want to sacrifice that holy atmosphere to the momentary pleasure of addictions, the reason I bring up the subject under the Sixth Commandment is so that teens can be taught that using alcohol and drugs can impair their judgment to such an extent they may end up as unintentional killers. A car can be turned into a deadly weapon by a teen driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An otherwise loving and caring person can suddenly find themselves in jail for manslaughter by making the unwise decision to “drink and drive.” No matter what punishment is handed down by the judicial system, the guilt from knowing that one has killed or injured an innocent person may linger a long time. Christian Science does teach that such guilt can be healed with the total destruction of the sin that brought it on, but these experiences do not have to happen in the first place.

 

Copyright 2006, 2017  Vicki Jones Cole

The Sixth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Three

What does Christian Science teach about the faulty mortal thinking, or sinful qualities of thought, that tempt men to kill?

We are taught the need to recognize when sin is attempting to identify itself as our thinking, and to separate it from ourselves and others. Otherwise, we believe the impulses are our own, and are tempted to act out their suggestions. This is how evil operates. Christian Science teaches that we have the power to challenge sin, recognize its nothingness, and destroy it forever, one belief at a time, until we have overcome the material world, either here or hereafter. Bearing in mind that Mary Baker Eddy’s entire book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, is a full explanation of this process, and is the best source to understand these ideas, here are a few citations regarding the sinful thoughts and beliefs that might lead to acts of murder:

“A wicked mortal is not the idea of God. He is little else than the expression of error. To suppose that sin, lust, hatred, envy, hypocrisy, revenge, have life abiding in them, is a terrible mistake. Life and Life’s idea, Truth and Truth’s idea, never make men sick, sinful, or mortal.” (S&H 289:8-13)

“Genesis iv. 8. Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. . . . The erroneous belief that life, substance, and intelligence can be material ruptures the life and brotherhood of man at the very outset.” (S&H 541:14-18)

“Matter is neither intelligent nor creative. The tree is not the author of itself. Sound is not the originator of music, and man is not the father of man. Cain very naturally concluded that if life was in the body, and man gave it, man had the right to take it away. This incident shows that the belief of life in matter was ‘a murderer from the beginning.’ (S&H 89:25)

“Self-love is more opaque than a solid body. In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, — self-will, self-justification, and self-love, — which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death.” (S&H 242:15)

“The anatomy of Christian Science teaches when and how to probe the self-inflicted wounds of selfishness, malice, envy, and hate. It teaches the control of mad ambition. It unfolds the hallowed influences of unselfishness, philanthropy, spiritual love.” (S&H 462:25-30)

“Evil is a negation, because it is the absence of truth. It is nothing, because it is the absence of something. It is unreal, because it pre-supposes the absence of God, the omnipotent and omnipresent. Every mortal must learn that there is neither power nor reality in evil.

“Evil is self-assertive. It says: ‘I am a real entity, over-mastering good.’ This falsehood should strip evil of all pretensions. The only power of evil is to destroy itself. It can never destroy one iota of good. Every attempt of evil to destroy good is a failure, and only aids in peremptorily punishing the evil-doer. If we concede the same reality to discord as to harmony, discord has as lasting a claim upon us as has harmony. If evil is as real as good, evil is also as immortal. If death is as real as Life, immortality is a myth. If pain is as real as the absence of pain, both must be immortal; and if so, harmony cannot be the law of being.”  (S&H 186:11-27)

“He that touches the hem of Christ’s robe and masters his mortal beliefs, animality, and hate, rejoices in the proof of healing, — in a sweet and certain sense that God is Love. Alas for those who break faith with divine Science and fail to strangle the serpent of sin as well as of sickness! They are dwellers still in the deep darkness of belief. They are in the surging sea of error, not struggling to lift their heads above the drowning wave.

“What must the end be? They must eventually expiate their sin through suffering. The sin, which one has made his bosom companion, comes back to him at last with accelerated force, for the devil knoweth his time is short. Here the Scriptures declare that evil is temporal, not eternal. The dragon is at last stung to death by his own malice; but how many periods of torture it may take to remove all sin, must depend upon sin’s obduracy.”  (S&H 569:11-28)

“The belief of life in matter sins at every step. It incurs divine displeasure, and it would kill Jesus that it might be rid of troublesome Truth. Material beliefs would slay the spiritual idea whenever and wherever it appears. Though error hides behind a lie and excuses guilt, error cannot forever be concealed. Truth, through her eternal laws, unveils error. Truth causes sin to betray itself, and sets upon error the mark of the beast. Even the disposition to excuse guilt or to conceal it is punished. The avoidance of justice and the denial of truth tend to perpetuate sin, invoke crime, jeopardize self-control, and mock divine mercy.” (S&H 542:1)

“The intentional destroyer of others would destroy himself eternally, were it not that his suffering reforms him, thus balancing his account with divine Love, which never remits the sentence necessary to reclaim the sinner. Hence these words of Christ Jesus: ‘Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.’ (Luke 13 :27-28.)  He who gains self-knowledge, self-control, and the kingdom of heaven within himself, within his own consciousness, is saved through Christ, Truth. Mortals must drink sufficiently of the cup of their Lord and Master to unself mortality and to destroy its erroneous claims. Therefore, said Jesus, ‘Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.'” (My. 160:19 – 161:21)

What are Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings on suicide?

Here is her response to a question on suicide that was originally published in the Christian Science Journal:

“If this life is a dream not dispelled, but only changed, by death, — if one gets tired of it, why not commit suicide?

“Man’s existence is a problem to be wrought in divine Science. What progress would a student of science make, if, when tired of mathematics or failing to demonstrate one rule readily, he should attempt to work out a rule farther on and more difficult — and this, because the first rule was not easily demonstrated? In that case he would be obliged to turn back and work out the previous example, before solving the advanced problem. Mortals have the sum of being to work out, and up, to its spiritual standpoint. They must work out of this dream or false claim of sensation and life in matter, and up to the spiritual realities of existence, before this false claim can be wholly dispelled. Committing suicide to dodge the question is not working it out. The error of supposed life and intelligence in matter, is dissolved only as we master error with Truth. Not through sin or suicide, but by overcoming temptation and sin, shall we escape the weariness and wickedness of mortal existence, and gain heaven, the harmony of being.” (Mis. 52:18)

The last 100 pages of Science and Health contain testimonies of healings from those who had read early editions of the textbook. One of them illustrates how the truth contained in this book rescued a reader from thoughts of suicide:

“SAVED FROM INSANITY AND SUICIDE

“A few years ago, while under a sense of darkness and despair caused by ill health and an unhappy home, Science and Health was loaned me with a request that I should read it.

“At that time my daughter was given up by material medica to die of lingering consumption, supposed to have been inherited. My own condition seemed even more alarming, as insanity was being manifested, and rather than go to an insane asylum, it seemed to me the only thing to do was to commit suicide.  Heart trouble, kidney complaint, and continual headaches caused from female trouble were some of the many ailments I had to contend with. My doctor tried to persuade me to undergo an operation as a means of relief, but I had submitted to a severe operation ten years previous, and found only additional suffering as a result, so I would not consent.

“When I began with Science and Health, I read the chapter on ‘Prayer’ first, and at that time did not suppose it possible for me to remember anything I read, but felt a sweet sense of God’s protection and power, and a hope that I should at last find Him to be what I so much needed, — a present help in time of trouble. Before that chapter on ‘Prayer’ was finished, my daughter was downstairs eating three meals a day, and daily growing stronger. Before I had finished reading the textbook she was well, but never having heard that the reading of Science and Health healed any one, it was several months before I gave God the glory.

“One by one my many ailments left me, all but the headaches; they were less frequent, until at the end of three years the fear of them was entirely overcome.

“Neither myself nor my daughter have ever received treatments, but the study of the Bible and Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook by Mrs. Eddy, has healed us and keeps us well.” (S&H 637:14 – 638:19)

What are Mary Baker Eddy’s teachings on war, peace, and national defense?

In an article titled “Prevention and Cure of Divorce” published in the Boston Herald newspaper in 1905, Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote:

“Divorce and war should be exterminated according to the Principle of law and gospel, — the maintenance of individual rights, the justice of civil codes, and the power of Truth uplifting the motives of men. Two commandments of the Hebrew Decalogue, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ and ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ obeyed, will eliminate divorce and war.” (My. 268:11-17)

There is a chapter in the book First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany (pages 277-285) titled “Peace and War” which contains reprints of a number of Mrs. Eddy’s remarks on war published in newspapers. Near the end of her earthly career, Mrs. Eddy was a famous and distinguished citizen, known world-wide. As head of a growing religious movement in Boston, her views were often sought by the editors of various newspapers and magazines. Here are a few selections of
her letters to editors, which show her strong feelings about war:

“[Boston Herald, March, 1898]
OTHER WAYS THAN BY WAR

“In reply to your question, ‘Should difficulties between the United States and Spain be settled peacefully by statesmanship and diplomacy, in a way honorable and satisfactory to both nations?’ I will say I can see no other way of settling difficulties between individuals and nations than by means of their wholesome tribunals, equitable laws, and sound, well-kept treaties.

“A bullet in a man’s heart never settles the question of his life. The mental animus goes on, and urges that the answer to the sublime question as to man’s life shall come from God and that its adjustment shall be according to His laws. The characters and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity, and life of nations. Killing men is not consonant with the higher law whereby wrong and injustice are righted and exterminated.

“Whatever weighs in the eternal scale of equity and mercy tips the beam on the right side, where the immortal words and deeds of men alone can settle all questions amicably and satisfactorily. But if our nation’s rights or honor were seized, every citizen would be a soldier and woman would be armed with power girt for the hour.

“To coincide with God’s government is the proper incentive to the action of all nations. If His purpose for peace is to be subserved by the battle’s plan or by the intervention of the United States, so that the Cubans may learn to make war no more, this means and end will be accomplished.

“The government of divine Love is supreme. Love rules the universe, and its edict hath gone forth: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me,’ and ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ Let us have the molecule of faith that removes mountains, — faith armed with the understanding of Love, as in divine Science, where right reigneth. The revered President and Congress of our favored land are in God’s hands.”

“[Boston Globe, December, 1904]
HOW STRIFE MAY BE STILLED

“Follow that which is good. A Japanese may believe in a heaven for him who dies in defence of his country, but the steadying, elevating power of civilization destroys such illusions and should overcome evil with good. Nothing is gained by fighting, but much is lost.

“Peace is the promise and reward of rightness. Governments have no right to engraft into civilization the burlesque of uncivil economics. War is in itself an evil, barbarous, devilish. Victory in error is defeat in Truth. War is not in the domain of good; war weakens power and must finally fall, pierced by its own sword.

“The Principle of all power is God, and God is Love. Whatever brings into human thought or action an element opposed to Love, is never requisite, never a necessity, and is not sanctioned by the law of God, the law of Love. The Founder of Christianity said: ‘My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.’

“Christian Science reinforces Christ’s sayings and doings. The Principle of Christian Science demonstrates peace. Christianity is the chain of scientific being reappearing in all ages, maintaining its obvious correspondence with the Scriptures and uniting all periods in the design of God. The First Commandment in the Hebrew Decalogue — ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ — obeyed, is sufficient to still all strife. God is the divine Mind. Hence the sequence: Had all peoples one Mind, peace would reign.

“God is Father, infinite, and this great truth, when understood in its divine metaphysics, will establish the brotherhood of man, end wars, and demonstrate ‘on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

“[Boston Globe, August, 1905]
PRACTISE THE GOLDEN RULE
[Telegram]

“‘Official announcement of peace between Russia and Japan seems to offer an appropriate occasion for the expression of congratulations and views by representative persons. Will you do us the kindness to wire a sentiment on some phase of the subject, on the ending of the war, the effect on the two parties to the treaty of Portsmouth, the influence which President Roosevelt has exerted for peace, or the advancement of the cause of arbitration.’

“Mrs. Eddy’s Reply
TO THE EDITOR OF THE Globe:

“War will end when nations are ripe for progress. The treaty of Portsmouth is not an executive power, although its purpose is good will towards men. The government of a nation is its peace maker or breaker.

“I believe strictly in the Monroe doctrine, in our Constitution, and in the laws of God. While I admire the faith and friendship of our chief executive in and for all nations, my hope must still rest in God, and the Scriptural injunction, — ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.’

“The Douma recently adopted in Russia is no uncertain ray of dawn. Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, nations are helped onward towards justice, righteousness, and peace, which are the landmarks of prosperity. In order to apprehend more, we must practise what we already know of the Golden Rule, which is to all mankind a light emitting light.

MARY BAKER EDDY”

“The Christian Science Journal, May, 1908

“WAR

“For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughtering of our fellow-beings; prayed that all the peoples on earth and the islands of the sea have one God, one Mind; love God supremely, and love their neighbor as themselves.

“National disagreements can be, and should be, arbitrated wisely, fairly; and fully settled.

“It is unquestionable, however, that at this hour the armament of navies is necessary, for the purpose of preventing war and preserving peace among nations.”

Conclusion of The Sixth Commandment essay:

The Sixth Commandment is based upon a divine law which holds man secure in God’s love and protection. Humans experience this whenever they put themselves in the “secret place of the Most High.” (Ps. 91)  This “secret place” is the lofty height of spiritual understanding, which destroys the erroneous suggestions and illusions of mortal mind. As we also read in Psalms:

“He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.”   (Psalms 18:48)

That “violent man” may, at times, be our own selves. God can lift us up to that secret place of spiritual understanding, where we will know for certainty that we are protected from others, as well as ourselves. We will see that God, Truth, does deliver us from the temptation of the self-will that is at war with Spirit. This evil will lose the battle in its own inevitable self-destruction. Man will shine forth in freedom from fear and the terrorism of evil beliefs. There will be no more violent man, only the spiritual, perfect man, made in God’s image:

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalms 37:37)

In Christian Science, we are not only expected to obey the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” but to prove that, in spiritual reality,  it can never be broken!

“The dream of death must be mastered by Mind here or hereafter. Thought will waken from its own material declaration, ‘I am dead,’ to catch this trumpet-word of Truth, ‘There is no death, no inaction, diseased action, overaction, nor reaction.’”   (S&H 427:29)

Copyright 2006, 2017  Vicki Jones Cole

 

The Sixth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part Two

Christian Science and the Sixth Commandment:

Holding before us this ideal of forgiveness as taught by Jesus, how could Christians
ever justify killing? Alas, there are many issues relating to “killing” that the world still
struggles with:

War
Suicide
Abortion
Genocide
Capital punishment
Euthanasia or mercy killing
Killing in self-defense or protection of others
Driving while under influence of alcohol, drugs, or anger

As mankind grapples with how to apply the Sixth Commandment to these issues,
some of which may seem justified at times, we must never lose sight of the original
ideal put forth by God to Moses, and then by Jesus in his teachings of mercy and
self-sacrifice. Simply put: Thou shalt not kill. One day, humanity will have grown
spiritually to the place where there is no longer a need to justify any form of killing.
Yielding to God’s will, we will find a better way to peace and harmony.

We are taught in Christian Science to literally obey the Sixth Commandment. How
this is applied in today’s society to the various issues listed above is something
each individual must pray about and demonstrate on his or her own. There is no
official church stand on political and social issues
. However, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, had strong views about war, in particular, as we shall see in upcoming citations.

The main thrust of Mrs. Eddy’s teachings regarding “Thou shalt not kill,” is the spirit
of this law: We must destroy the hate and anger which erupt in thoughts and acts of
violence. There are many ways to kill morally and spiritually, in addition to physically.
It is not enough to simply resist physically killing someone, if we are assassinating
his or her character in our conscience. We should also resist killing reputations,
opportunities, livelihoods, worthy goals, or anything that rightfully belongs to another.
We do not control or manipulate the lives of others for personal power. We do not
break or kill the “spirit” of anyone, especially children.

The world needs to grow into the spiritual maturity which will fulfill the Sixth Command-
ment. If someone stands in the way of what we think we want, we must learn to bow
in humility to God’s will, and wait for the proper flow of events that will bless everyone.
We must recognize the power of Love in the law behind the Golden Rule. Christian
Science gives us the mental tools to work with.

For a complete presentation of Christian Science, I recommend you read Mrs. Eddy’s primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” This is necessary to understand the basis upon which the citations and statements in this essay are based.

What does Christian Science bring to an understanding of the Sixth Commandment that is unique?

Christian Science, discovered by  Mary Baker Eddy in 1866, reveals the truth about God and man that has been demonstrated by thousands of spiritual healings. Research within the published testimonies of healings will show that many people have found Christian Science an aid in forestalling violence or recovering from the effects of it. Many have been healed of the hate and anger which could have exploded into harmful acts. People in wartime have been protected by an understanding of the ever-presence of divine Life and Truth and Love.

One truth that Christian Science proves is that God is infinite Spirit and is perfect, and man, His “image and likeness” (as the Bible teaches), is therefore spiritually perfect. God’s creation is therefore spiritual only, leaving what is called “matter” to have no real substance, life, or intelligence, except in the realm of mortal mind beliefs and illusions. Therefore, in spiritual reality (the only reality) man cannot kill or be killed. While that statement may seem delusional to those unfamiliar with how Christian Science works, it is the basis for demonstrating God’s power over evil.

Also, according to Christian Science, any attempt by a mortal to kill will be proven ineffective, since man never really dies. Life is eternal, because God is eternal. Man reflects this eternal Life as God’s “image and likeness.” If, from humanity’s earthly point-of-view, a loved one is killed, we can take comfort in the fact that God has preserved his or her life, in spite of what we seem to experience. This may be a tough fact to grasp, but many people have been healed of severe grief by accepting that Life is eternal. Jesus proved this for all time through his resurrection from the grave and his ascension above all material beliefs. Ultimately, mankind will be able to prove this as well. “Thou shalt not kill” means also “Thou cannot kill.”

One unique Christian Science interpretation of the Sixth Commandment can be found in Gilbert Carpenter’s book “Mary Baker Eddy: Her Spiritual Precepts, Volume IV.”  In it he writes:  “Once Mrs. Eddy interpreted the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill, ‘ as ‘. . . shall not kill our insight into spiritual things — it would be the commission of the greatest sin, to kill the spiritual insight.'”

The whole of Christian Science itself is unique to other teachings and systems, not just in its Founder’s interpretations of the Commandments and other Bible verses.  Mrs. Eddy explains:

“What is the cardinal point of the difference in my metaphysical system? This: that by knowing the unreality of disease, sin, and death, you demonstrate the allness of God. This difference wholly separates my system from all others. The reality of these so-called existences I deny, because they are not to be found in God, and this system is built on Him as the sole cause. It would be difficult to name any previous teachers, save Jesus and his apostles, who have thus taught.”  (Un. 9:27)

Does God cause death?

People often suggest that someone’s death may be “God’s will.” This is not a teaching of Christian Science. God is Love and Love never kills. We read in Science and Health:

“God, divine good, does not kill a man in order to give him eternal Life, for God alone is man’s life. God is at once the centre and circumference of being. It is evil that dies; good dies not.” (S&H 203:31)

“Does God send sickness, giving the mother her child for the brief space of a few years and then taking it away by death? Is God creating anew what He has already created? The Scriptures are definite on this point, declaring that His work was finished, nothing is new to God, and that it was good.

“Can there be any birth or death for man, the spiritual image and likeness of God? Instead of God sending sickness and death, He destroys them, and brings to light immortality. Omnipotent and infinite Mind made all and includes all. This Mind does not make mistakes and subsequently correct them. God does not cause man to sin, to be sick, or to die.” (S&H 206:19-31)

“In one sense God is identical with nature, but this nature is spiritual and is not expressed in matter. The lawgiver, whose lightning palsies or prostrates in death the child at prayer, is not the divine ideal of omnipresent Love. God is natural good, and is represented only by the idea of goodness; while evil should be regarded as unnatural, because it is opposed to the nature of Spirit, God.” (S&H 119:17-24)

What is “death” according to the teachings of Christian Science?

As we learn in Christian Science, man is more than what he appears to be to the five physical senses.  He is not mortal, but has a spiritual identity. We can also say of death that it is not what it appears to be to the physical senses.  Life cannot be destroyed by death, even though it seems that way to those experiencing it from a mortal viewpoint. Death is a mortal belief to be destroyed by spiritual understanding, just as sin, sickness, and disease are.  Jesus commanded that his followers “raise the dead.”  Christian Science shows us how to do that.

The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, explains and develops this concept much better than can be done in this short space, but here are a few citations that touch upon the concept of death.  Each one tackles the beliefs of death from different angles, and require careful study to understand.

Mary Baker Eddy responds to this question by a reader:
“After the change called death takes place, do we meet those gone before? — or does life continue in thought only as in a dream?

“Man is not annihilated, nor does he lose his identity, by passing through the belief called death. After the momentary belief of dying passes from mortal mind, this mind is still in a conscious state of existence; and the individual has but passed through a moment of extreme mortal fear, to awaken with thoughts, and being, as material as before. Science and Health clearly states that spiritualization of thought is not attained by the death of the body, but by a conscious union with God. When we shall have passed the ordeal called death, or destroyed this last enemy, and shall have come upon the same plane of conscious existence with those gone before, then we shall be able to communicate with and to recognize them.

“If, before the change whereby we meet the dear departed, our life-work proves to have been well done, we shall not have to repeat it; but our joys and means of advancing will be proportionately increased.

“The difference between a belief of material existence and the spiritual fact of Life is, that the former is a dream and unreal, while the latter is real and eternal. Only as we understand God, and learn that good, not evil, lives and is immortal, that immortality exists only in spiritual perfection, shall we drop our false sense of Life in sin or sense material, and recognize a better state of existence.”  (Mis. 42)

“DEATH. An illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of Life . . . Matter has no life, hence it has no real existence. Mind is immortal. The flesh, warring against Spirit; that which frets itself free from one belief only to be fettered by another, until every belief of life where Life is not yields to eternal Life. Any material evidence of death is false, for it contradicts the spiritual facts of being.” (S&H 584:9-16)

“Matter has no life to lose, and Spirit never dies. A partnership of mind with matter would ignore omnipresent and omnipotent Mind. This shows that matter did not originate in God, Spirit, and is not eternal. Therefore matter is neither substantial, living, nor intelligent. The starting-point of divine Science is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all, and that there is no other might nor Mind, — that God is Love, and therefore He is divine Principle.” (S&H 275:1-9)

“Man in the likeness of God as revealed in Science cannot help being immortal.  Though the grass seemeth to wither and the flower to fade, they reappear. Erase the figures which express number, silence the tones of music, give to the worms the body called man, and yet the producing, governing, divine Principle lives on, — in the case of man as truly as in the case of numbers and of music, — despite the so-called laws of matter, which define man as mortal. Though the inharmony resulting from material sense hides the harmony of Science, inharmony cannot destroy the divine Principle of Science. In Science, man’s immortality depends upon that of God, good, and follows as a necessary consequence of the immortality of good.” (S&H 81:17-30)

“The fact that the Christ, or Truth, overcame and still overcomes death proves the “king of terrors” to be but a mortal belief, or error, which Truth destroys with the spiritual evidences of Life; and this shows that what appears to the senses to be death is but a mortal illusion, for to the real man and the real universe there is no death-process.

“The belief that matter has life results, by the universal law of mortal mind, in a belief in death. So man, tree, and flower are supposed to die; but the fact remains, that God’s universe is spiritual and immortal. “The spiritual fact and the material belief of things are contradictions; but the spiritual is true, and therefore the material must be untrue. Life is not in matter. Therefore it cannot be said to pass out of matter. Matter and death are mortal illusions. Spirit and all things spiritual are the real and eternal.  (S&H 289:14-30)

“Mortal belief says that death has been occasioned by fright. Fear never stopped being and its action. The blood, heart, lungs, brain, etc., have nothing to do with Life, God. Every function of the real man is governed by the divine Mind. The human mind has no power to kill or to cure, and it has no control over God’s man. The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness. The human mind is opposed to God and must be put off, as St. Paul declares. All that really exists is the divine Mind and its idea, and in this Mind the entire being is found harmonious and eternal. The straight and narrow way is to see and acknowledge this fact, yield to this power, and follow the leadings of truth.” (S&H 151:14-30)

“If you or I should appear to die, we should not be dead. The seeming decease, caused by a majority of human beliefs that man must die, or produced by mental assassins, does not in the least disprove Christian Science; rather does it evidence the truth of its basic proposition that mortal thoughts in belief rule the materiality miscalled life in the body or in matter. But the forever fact remains paramount that Life, Truth, and Love save from sin, disease, and death. ‘When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality [divine Science], then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (St. Paul).’” (S&H 164:17-29)

While not every student of Christian Science has been able to prove that death is unreal by “raising the dead” as Jesus did, we accept that his resurrection and ascension demonstrated that death can be overcome. Our present demonstrations should at least consist of what Mrs. Eddy describes as “raising the dead, — those dead in trespasses and sins, satisfied with the flesh, resting on the basis of matter, blind to the possibilities of Spirit and its correlative truth.” (S&H 316:29)

That citation tells us that the healing of the sins of the flesh is chipping away at the
belief in death, and we can have faith that we are working toward the goal of
destroying the “last enemy” of death. That said, there are accounts of Christian
Scientists, including Mrs. Eddy, having brought people back from death’s door,
and perhaps a few steps beyond.

Even though today’s Christian Scientists may not be raising the dead on a
consistent basis at this period in history, the fact that “Life is immortal” is the
spiritual law that underlies the thousands of physical healings that have occurred
on a daily worldwide basis over the past century and more. As mankind grows
spiritually — both individually and collectively — there will be more and more proofs
that death, including attempts to murder, has no power to rob us of the life that
God has given us, and that He eternally sustains. Already, there have been
millions of people (according to Gallup Polls and other studies), who have
experienced “near deaths” (NDE’s), and have reported that life does indeed
continue after leaving their mortal bodies. The writer’s mother had such an
experience, which had a great impact on how she lived her life. She said she
never feared death after being allowed to make the choice to return in order to
care for her family.

While many people of various faiths also believe in an afterlife, students of
Christian Science have added to the proof that Jesus gave us, through an
understanding that man’s spiritual identity does not end because of a material
sense of death by those of us left behind when someone appears to die. This
truth, or law, can heal the belief of death here and now, just as it heals sickness
and sin, however modest that proof may be. Sooner or later, mankind will prove
that God’s kingdom is come on earth, as it is in heaven.

Does this teaching of Christian Science — that death is an illusion — mean that we can be indifferent to impulses to lash out in anger, or even to kill? After all, some might argue, we cannot really hurt anyone if matter is unreal!

No, this is not how Christian Science works. In our human experience, we must
discipline our thoughts and lives to conform to the laws of the Bible and the Christian
morals taught by Jesus. We must rebuke sin in ourselves and others, and we must
pay the penalties for sinful thoughts and acts until we cease sinning and destroy the
belief in its pleasures and pains. We must pray to understand the spiritual facts of
God, Truth. We use the truth about the unreality of sin to destroy it, not to justify it!
We do not indulge in sin and then claim it is “unreal,” pretending that we have
nothing to feel guilty about or be punished for. That is “mental quackery” and not
Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy comments:

“The evil-doer receives no encouragement from my declaration that evil is unreal, when I declare that he must awake from his belief in this awful unreality, repent and forsake it, in order to understand and demonstrate its unreality. Error uncondemned is not nullified. We must condemn the claim of error in every phase in order to prove it false, therefore unreal.” (Message for 1901 14:30-6)

“The notion that one is covering iniquity by asserting its nothingness, is a fault of zealots, who, like Peter, sleep when the Watcher bids them watch, and when the hour of trial comes would cut off somebody’s ears.” (Mis. 335:21-24)

Are there any specific directions about applying the Sixth Commandment to
impulses to kill, including self-defense?

Here are a few below. Mrs. Eddy’s statements on war and suicide are in separate sections.

“‘Thou shalt not kill;’ that is, thou shalt not strike at the eternal sense of Life with a malicious aim, but shalt know that by doing thus thine own sense of Life shall be forfeited.” (Miscellaneous Writings 67:10-13)

“The Christianly scientific man reflects the divine law, thus becoming a law unto himself. He does violence to no man.” (S&H 458:23-25)

“Love metes not out human justice, but divine mercy. If one’s life were attacked, and one could save it only in accordance with common law, by taking another’s, would one sooner give up his own? We must love our enemies in all the manifestations wherein and whereby we love our friends; must even try not to expose their faults, but to do them good whenever opportunity occurs. To mete out human justice to those who persecute and despitefully use one, is not leaving all retribution to God and returning blessing for cursing.” (Mis. 11:14-23)

“As I now understand Christian Science, I would as soon harm myself as another; since by breaking Christ’s command, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ I should lose my hope of heaven.” (Mis. 311:19-22)

“The Jewish religion demands that ‘whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ But this law is not infallible in wisdom; and obedience thereto may be found faulty, since false testimony or mistaken evidence may cause the innocent to suffer for the guilty. Hence the gospel that fulfils the law in righteousness, the genius whereof is displayed in the surprising wisdom of these words of the New Testament: ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ No possible injustice lurks in this mandate, and no human misjudgment can pervert it; for the offender alone suffers, and always according to divine decree. This sacred, solid precept is verified in all directions in Mind-healing, and is supported in the Scripture by parallel proof.” (Mis. 65:30-66:13)

The Sixth Commandment – A Christian Science Perspective, Part One

The Sixth Commandment – “Thou shalt not kill”

INTRODUCTION

Christ Jesus did not seem to spend a lot of his time preaching “Thou shalt not kill.” Instead, he went right to the root of the problem and pulled it out of the soil of material thinking. We read in his Sermon on the Mount:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
(Matthew 5:21-22) 

Self-righteousness, self-will, self-love, anger, and prejudice are what Jesus condemned. These loveless, nonspiritual attitudes toward God’s children – our brothers and sisters – are the killers. An outward murder is the result of an inner motive, as our courts of law recognize. It is the inner motive, the heart of man, that breaks the Sixth Commandment. Murder is the un-restrained physical expression of qualities such as hate, fear, envy, jealousy, lust, or greed.
In the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the author, Mary Baker Eddy, writes:

“Our courts recognize evidence to prove the motive as well as the commission of a crime. Is it not clear that the human mind must move the body to a wicked act? Is not mortal mind the murderer? The hands, without mortal mind to direct them, could not commit a murder.

“Courts and juries judge and sentence mortals in order to restrain crime, to prevent deeds of violence or to punish them. To say that these tribunals have no jurisdiction over the carnal or mortal mind, would be to contradict precedent and to admit that the power of human law is restricted to matter, while mortal mind, evil, which is the real outlaw, defies justice and is recommended to mercy. Can matter commit a crime?  Can matter be punished? Can you separate the mentality from the body over which courts hold jurisdiction? Mortal mind, not matter, is the criminal in every case; and human law rightly estimates crime, and courts reasonably pass sentence, according to the motive.” (S&H 105:3-15)

The term “mortal mind” is meant to convey what the Apostle Paul called the “carnal mind.” In Christian Science, it is the term for the beliefs of material sense as opposed to the spiritual sense of man bestowed by his Creator. Mortal mind is not part of God’s creation – His spiritual ideas – but is a false negative sense of what is divinely real and positive. It is the source of evil motives as opposed to the natural graces of love that spring from man’s spiritual identity. Mrs. Eddy writes:

“As of old, evil still charges the spiritual idea with error’s own nature and methods. This malicious animal instinct, of which the dragon is the type, incites mortals to kill morally and physically even their fellow-mortals, and worse still, to charge the innocent with the crime. This last infirmity of sin will sink its perpetrator into a night without a star.”  (S&H 563:3-9)

Biblical Background:

The Commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” has evolved in its meaning over the centuries. As civilized society has developed morally and spiritually, it has gained new perspectives of this Law that were not necessarily shared by the nation of Israel at the time of Moses. One Bible commentary describes what the Sixth Commandment meant to the early Hebrews:

“The commandment is concerned with the protection of human life within the community of Israel, against destruction by fellow Israelites. The verb is not limited to murder in the criminal sense and may be used of unpremeditated killing (Deut. 4:42). It forbids all killing not explicitly authorized. This means that in Israelite society it did not forbid the slaying of animals, capital punishment, or the killing of enemies in war. It had no direct bearing, either, on suicide.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1, pg 986)

For a commentary on the Sixth Commandment that includes information on how the Jewish nation applied it to their system of justice, you might wish to read William Barclay’s book on “The Ten Commandments,” originally published in 1973, and republished in 1998 by Westminster John Knox Press. Here are a few citations from his 31 page essay on the Sixth Commandment:

“The Hebrew verb implies . . . ‘violent and unauthorized killing,’ not killing in general.” (page 52)

“. . . the real reason for the commandment, as the Bible sees it, is the story of the words of God to Noah after the flood: ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.’ (Gen. 9:6) Since man is made in the image of God, then the taking of a single life is the destruction of the most precious and the most holy thing in the world.” (pg. 52)

“Within the Jewish legal system it was never even suggested that this commandment forbade what may be called judicial killing.” (pg. 53)

“Jewish law made special provisions for what might be called non-deliberate killing, killing which happened by accident, or as the result of a blow or an attack which was not meant to kill. For men involved in this, six cities of refuge were set apart to which they might flee if they killed ‘without intent,’ but, if the killer was not inside one of these cities of refuge, the avenger of blood might take his life. (Numbers 35:9-28)” (pg. 53)

Barclay’s essay describes the various ways of carrying out judicial death sentences, such as stoning, burning, beheading, and strangling, but then notes:

“We must go on to see how the mercy of Jewish law in fact made it next to impossible to carry out the death penalty at all.’ (pg. 55)

“The all-important thing was the motive. If it was deliberate killing, coming from acknowledged hatred, then the killer’s life was forfeit.” (pg. 56)

“No man could be condemned on any evidence less than that of two eye-witnesses. Circumstantial evidence was not valid in a Jewish court.” (pg. 56)

The rest of Barclay’s essay offers information, history, and opinion on such subjects as capital punishment, euthanasia, suicide, and “just wars,” all of which he personally renounces as anti-Christian.

The Old Testament offers a number of stories and lessons on the consequences of breaking the Sixth Commandment. A good one to study is the life of David. Here is a man who killed for both “just” reasons and very wrong reasons, yet at times showed great mercy when others might have taken revenge. You can read about David in the books of I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles. Other suggestions for Bible stories to study relating to “Thou shalt not kill,” will be found in the section on “Teaching the Sixth Commandment to Children,” (coming up in a later post).

Jesus and the Sixth Commandment:

Jesus brought fresh inspiration and spiritual insight to the all of the Ten Commandments, which, over the centuries since Moses, had become weighed down with burdensome and endless rules. Harsh punishments were meted out by hypocritical Pharisees and others authorized to administer the Jewish law. As we read at the opening of this essay, Jesus warned his followers not of killing, but of anger and self-righteousness. But that did not mean Jesus was going to let people ignore the original intent of the Commandments. Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt. 5:17)

As with all his teachings, Jesus demonstrated these laws of God for his followers. With gentle exhortations, as well as strong rebukes, he set forth the requirements for those who would be called Christians. These included the qualities and actions that would prevent killing.

In the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to be merciful and to be peacemakers, promising the rewards of mercy for ourselves, and the honor of being called God’s child. He also said in the Sermon:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”  (Matthew 5:43-45)

In the Lord’s Prayer, he urged us to pray daily to forgive those who may owe us something, and to pray to be delivered from the temptations of evil. By forgiving others, rather than seeking so-called justice for “debts” not paid, and by turning away from the temptations of human will, we can help put out the fires of anger, greed, or fear that would burst into acts of murder – physical or mental.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

Could not the “thief” be the carnal, or mortal, mind that Paul spoke of, which seems to be the avenue for evil thoughts and motives? Jesus is here telling us he has brought the good news that it is not God’s will that anyone should have their life destroyed or depleted.

In spite of his divine source, Jesus had a human side which also struggled briefly with a personal will. Self-will is often the engine that drives us to murder, and it needs to be challenged and subdued. In the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus had his greatest war to wage with self-will on the night of his arrest, Jesus asked God to “remove this cup.” Mrs. Eddy comments on his victory over self:

“When the human element in him struggled with the divine, our great Teacher said: ‘Not my will, but Thine, be done!’ — that is, Let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me. This is the new understanding of spiritual Love. It gives all for Christ, or Truth. It blesses its enemies, heals the sick, casts out error, raises the dead from trespasses and sins, and preaches the gospel to the poor, the meek in heart.” (S&H 18)

This “new understanding of spiritual Love” is what will eventually dissolve all desire to murder, to hate, to be angry, and to be unforgiving. Love will destroy the fear that others might harm us. Mrs. Eddy writes: “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.” (S&H 571:18-19)

Following our Master, Christ Jesus, we will see that Truth, God, is all we need, whether to defend ourselves from others, or to prevent ourselves from acting aggressively or violently:

“Judas had the world’s weapons. Jesus had not one of them, and chose not the world’s means of defence. ‘He opened not his mouth.’ The great demonstrator of Truth and Love was silent before envy and hate. Peter would have smitten the enemies of his Master, but Jesus forbade him, thus rebuking resentment or animal courage. He said: ‘Put up thy sword.'” (S&H 48:17)

What gave Jesus such courage? Why did he not take revenge on those who would harm him? Jesus knew that life is eternal, that it can never be destroyed, no matter what the material senses, or mortal mind, would claim.

“‘This is life eternal,’ says Jesus, — is, not shall be; and then he defines everlasting life as a present knowledge of his Father and of himself, — the knowledge of Love, Truth, and Life. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.’ The Scriptures say, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,’ showing that Truth is the actual life of man; but mankind objects to making this teaching practical.”
(S&H 410:4-13)

As mentioned earlier, Jesus provided a new and improved version of the Commandments. His life provided a model for how to live them. Mrs. Eddy describes it this way, especially as it relates to so-called justified killing:

“Rabbi and priest taught the Mosaic law, which said: ‘An eye for an eye,’ and ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ Not so did Jesus, the new executor for God, present the divine law of Love, which blesses even those that curse it.

“As the individual ideal of Truth, Christ Jesus came to rebuke rabbinical error and all sin, sickness, and death, — to point out the way of Truth and Life. This ideal was demonstrated throughout the whole earthly career of Jesus, showing the difference between the offspring of Soul and of material sense, of Truth and of error.” (S&H 14-25)

At the end of this earthly career, Jesus demonstrated how his refusal to call down “legions of angels” to assist him escape his ordeal of crucifixion, and his forgiveness of all who played a role in this crime, would lead to his resurrection. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ: complete self-abnegation in the service of God and mankind. We are to bless and help reform those who fall prey to the sin of hate, anger, greed, and murder. We are to also help those who may be suffering from depression or mental illness that would prevent them from thinking rationally about suicide or murder. If we are not in a position to offer practical help, we must at least show mercy for their struggles. We are to champion Love, not war or revenge.

This is not to say that kind of universal brotherly love is easy. It takes self-sacrifice and commitment to discipline those animal instincts which mortals wrestle with, that would cause us to react in fear and anger. In spite of his teachings and examples of mercy, Jesus had to rebuke his own disciples when they thoughtlessly forgot about the law of the Sixth Commandment. For instance, we read this episode in Luke:

“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” (Luke 9:51-56)

Jesus also had to rebuke Peter when he slashed off the ear of the high priest’s servant who had come with the soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had already been given the lesson he needed to use in this moment, as we read in Matthew:

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21-22)

It is said that the number seven in the Bible symbolizes “completeness,” in which case Jesus is telling Peter, and us, that we must always forgive. We must always restrain ourselves from using violence to get even or harm another.

End of Part One