Tag Archive: choice

When the Rich Young Ruler asked Jesus how to be good, and was told to keep the Commandments, he said that he was doing that already, and asked what else he needed to do.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”-Matthew 19:21.

Was Jesus joking, or did he offer the possibility of being perfect? And what does it mean, to be perfect? We answer these important questions, when we are born again, when we sin no more.

As we discussed last time, being perfect doesn’t mean that we’ll dodge unavoidable accidents. We slip, trip, and fall. I spill every time I pour something. But that is not hate (the every-day word for sin). Hate is our choice, our responsibility; we choose to sin. So we can choose to not sin.

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”-Luke 6:46.

If we aren’t going to do the work Jesus requires, then how can we claim to be his followers?

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”-James 1:22.

Too long have we remained enslaved by hate, believing ourselves powerless against it, yet claiming that Jesus saved us from our sins, and rid the world of evil. We can’t believe he saved us, while we’re actively sinning. We can’t be with him, and against him. To enter the kingdom of heaven, we must choose.

“He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”-Luke 11:23.

Don’t panic. This is a slow process. We’re addicted to sin, and it’ll take a long time, and a lot of hard work, to kick the habit. Review the steps in mindfulness from Part 1, and stay in God’s presence. We can’t hate, when we’re loving God.

Before Jesus asked the impossible of us, God formed a covenant with his ancestor, Abram. The Lord changed the man’s name, symbolizing rebirth, to Abraham.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. // Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”–Genesis 17:1, 5.

We are all fathers of many nations. Whether or not we accept the responsibility, our deeds (good or bad) influence others, who influence others, and so on…until we affect, or infect, the whole world. Our will is insufficient to love all who hate us, or ignore us, and so we shirk the needs of others by hating or ignoring them: allowing the poor to remain poor, the weak to be trodden upon, and the wicked to triumph.

“LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?”-Psalm 94:3.

The answer? As long as we believe it’s impossible to follow God’s will.

Perfect is what I like to call “Bible shorthand.” We take our first step in understanding this daunting concept, by agreeing that God is perfect.

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler [or shield] to all them that trust in him.”-2 Samuel 22:31.

But we can’t be perfect like God, can we? Keep in mind we aren’t talking about avoiding mistakes, or shooting the basketball into the hoop every time. The Lord is perfect because He is without sin. By its most basic definition, to sin is to be apart from God: to hate, instead of love. God cannot be apart from God.

King David further illuminated this for us, passing along his wisdom, as his descendant Jesus did.

“God is my strength and my power; and he maketh my way perfect.”-2 Samuel 22:33.

Alone, we cannot be perfect. Hatred clouds our judgment. Without God, we sin, since that is what sin means: “without God.” But when we realize how insufficient our will is, that we are alone and unarmed, and facing an army, then we choose. Pride fails us at this point; we must let it go. We are outnumbered, out-gunned, out of luck, and out of time.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”-Matthew 6:10.

The kingdom of heaven comes when God’s will is done on earth, that is, by us. So we are born again when our will becomes God’s will. That is how we become perfect.

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”-Luke 6:36.

Here’s where Jesus breaks down the Bible shorthand into something we can approach and understand. Perfect = merciful. Further, everything God is, is perfect, and whatever we do to serve the Lord, in the way that He wants us to do it (not the way we want) is perfect.

Here are some Old Testament synonyms, courtesy of King David.

Perfect = totally sincere (1 Kings 11:4; 2 Samuel 22:33), completely dedicated (2 Chronicles 16:9). And this Psalm of David further clarifies the meaning:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”-Psalm 19:7.

God’s love converts the soul, and causes us to be reborn, if we’re humble enough to receive it. When we admit our ignorance and weakness, and commit ourselves to loving all things, all people, then we simple human beings become wise.

The apostle Peter adds to our list and understanding.

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.”-1 Peter 1:15.

Holy is, of course, what God is. Not only that, but the term points us to the Holy Spirit, which Jesus called “the Comforter.”

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”-John 14:26.

To be a comforter to those who are poor, brokenhearted, sick, in prison, in the hospital, friendless, and hopeless is to bring to remembrance what Jesus taught.

And one more synonym rounds out our list.

“…as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”-John 13:34.

Here’s what we have so far, as we contemplate what Jesus asks of us, and will give us, when we surrender our will to God. We are to be totally sincere and completely dedicated. No half-measures.

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”-Mark 12:30.

God is love, and love is everything. Give it all. Hold nothing back. To enter the kingdom of heaven is to embrace love; we do this by following Jesus’ teachings. This is a life-changing commitment, a personal covenant, between each of us and God.

Our covenant includes our perspective, experiences, everything that makes us unique. When we surrender, we remain who we are, we lose nothing of ourselves. Rather, our gifts, and our shortcomings, our faults and sins, passions and dreams…We dedicate all of it to the Lord, to life.

So we are completely dedicated, and totally sincere. We are merciful, and love one another. How dedicated, sincere, merciful, and loving should we be?

“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”-Luke 6:36.

How perfect must we be?

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

We must be as merciful as God, as loving as Jesus, as holy as the Lord. Now we see how the Rich Young Ruler felt, when he walked away, shaking his head at the thought of surrendering all that he owned.

Take a deep breath.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”-Luke 12:32.

I know all this is scary: like a nightmare, where we’re a musician on stage, asked to perform on an instrument we’ve never played; or maybe we’re a casual jogger, who has to suddenly run a 10-mile marathon.

Keep in mind, we’re looking at the end, the goal. To reach perfection, we take one baby step at a time. Review the steps from my mindfulness essays. Keep God with you, or, rather, stay with God.

Also, remember that we aren’t alone in this covenant. Jesus blesses his students.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [or allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”-1 Corinthians 10:13.

Temptation is Bible Shorthand for “testing.” It does not mean to seduce or trick, as we use the word today. Now and then, God tests us, to see how well we’ve learned Jesus’ lessons, and to prepare us for more advanced classes.

God will not give us more than we can handle, without also giving us the strength to handle the tests. What does the Lord give us, then?

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”-Joshua 1:9.

God replaces our fears and anxieties with love and hope. Think of it: no more doubt, worry, regret, or shame. How much of our strength do we channel into carrying these useless burdens? How much stronger will we be without them?

We either sail with the wind, or against it. In the latter, we spend all our energy to accomplish our own will. We fight against nature, refusing to go the way life asks of us. But in the former, the wind is at our backs. We barely have to lift a finger. Everything happens naturally, because we have given ourselves over to nature, to God.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. / For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”-Matthew 11:29, 30.

We think loving people who hate us is impossible, that we can’t live without returning their hate. Actually, love is the easiest thing in the world to share. What makes Jesus’ teachings so seemingly difficult is that we’re required to be like him; I don’t mean godly, immortal, or performing miracles; I mean meek and lowly in heart.

Pride is our ultimate defense mechanism: a small animal growling, to scare a larger predator. We are small creatures. Jesus asks us to see ourselves for who we really are. This is the difficulty. Once we surrender our pride, the wind is at our backs, and God is with us.

“And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”-Deuteronomy 31:8.

With God, we no longer need to hate, or take revenge, or judge others. We are no longer jealous and bitter, or, therefore, anxious and depressed. We love, because the Lord rights all wrongs.

“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”-Leviticus 19:18.

When we surrender pride, we rip hatred up by the roots, and throw that vile weed (and all of its effects) into the furnace. Leave these volatile emotions to the Lord; vengeance happens by His time table, not according to our limited, selfish desires, but by His infinite wisdom.

“To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”-Deuteronomy 32:35.

Nature is balance; and the Lord is nature. We do not have to carry the burden of ill will. Instead, with God, all we have to do is be at peace, and love one another.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33.

Remember the world is not evil. The world doesn’t betray us, or hate us for our weakness, trying to devour us at every turn. We people hate; we are responsible for what happens. We cause tribulation in our futile attempts to overcome the nearly 8 billion other people.

Since that is so, we can, instead, bring good cheer. Breathe in the sin of others, and breathe out the love of God; inhale the false, exhale the truth. Make every breath count toward the betterment of all. That is the only way we win: not by seeking our desires, which is an endless and impossible task, but by joining the choir of life. Sing your hearts out.

“I will sing a new song unto thee, O God: upon a psaltery and instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee. / It is he that giveth salvation unto kings: who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.”-Psalm 144:9, 10.

We don’t have to hate ourselves and others. We can sing a new song. Join with God, with nature, and all things. When we love His world-the trees, rocks, animals, the sky, the earth, and each other-then we can draw strength, courage, and love from everything around us.

This is the covenant that Jesus offers: not eye for an eye, but love in return for love; hope, for hope; salvation, for salvation. The Promised Land is ours for the taking!

Behold the wisdom of Solomon, another of Jesus’ ancestors:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. / In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. / Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear [or revere] the Lord, and depart from evil.”-Proverbs 3:5-7.

We cannot be perfect in every way, but we can love perfectly. We cannot overcome the world, but we can defeat hatred. We cannot forge our own heaven on earth, but we can join the kingdom of heaven, by following God’s will-doing what’s right for all, not some, not just you or me, but feeling love for everyone, everything. This is who we are.

Loving, when we’re used to hating, will not be easy; Jesus promised that it would be like carrying a cross. Be patient. Breathe. Inhale sorrow; exhale peace.

“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. / But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”-James 1:3, 4.

Inhale sorrow; exhale peace. Make every breath count for everyone. This is God’s breath: divine life, the word that has always existed, even before existence, itself. And that word is love.

To be born again is to give all we have to God, to love all, and hate nothing. When we are without hate, then we sin no more. Our love is God’s love for Jesus, which is his love for us.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

And that is the perfect love, the perfect life, the way, and the truth. May the Lord bless and keep you. Amen.


Mindfulness of God: Prayer

The techniques in these mindfulness essays keep God close at hand. Through prayer, we stay aware of God’s omnipresence, forgive as soon as we’re offended, and bless everyone and everything, thereby connecting to those around us, making it harder to hate and easier to love; and we humble ourselves, every moment, before the grandeur of life.

(For full discussions on all these topics, please refer to the other Mindfulness essays in the table of contents.)

The latest technique I’ve been practicing involves prayer. Like all mindfulness exercises, it is simple. Before getting into it, I want to talk about prayer.

First, to whom are we praying? God, of course. But who or what is God? No one knows for sure.

“All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”—Matthew 11:27.

Still, we can approximate a working definition, so we’ll at least have some starting point for building a relationship with God. This is also a great introductory mindfulness exercise.

From the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer, we see that God is in Heaven.

“…When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven…. “—Luke 11:2.

And Jesus said that Heaven is within each and every one of us.

“…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:21.

If Heaven is within, then God is within each and every one of us. Further, God made everything.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”—John 1:3.

And so God exists not only within the people, but within, and as, everything.

As you go through your day, stop as often as you can, and note whatever you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell; all of it is God. This is the definition of infinity. Because, keep in mind, there are many more things in the universe than what’s in front of you. God is all of that too.

Look at your fingers. That’s God. The color of them is God. The sound of you snapping your fingers, their smell, texture, length, width, and so on, all of it is God.

The basic definition that I use in all of these essays is this:

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”—1 John 4:8.

Since God is love, then that’s why we need to love every one and every thing.

“…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Matthew 25:40.

That’s because all of it is God. And since Heaven, and therefore God, is within you, by loving everything, you are doing good for, and loving, yourself. This understanding is the revelation, the a-ha! moment that destroys your world of sin, throws your demons into hell—which is the absence of Heaven, of God—and, therefore throws your demons away from you, causing you to be reborn.

“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”—Revelation 21:21.

The new Jerusalem written of in the Revelation is a new you, a life without the lingering of sin. We extirpate sin by forgiving others, as well as ourselves. And we forgive through prayer.

We must not forget to forgive ourselves. This is crucial.

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.

God will forgive us, but only if we forgive first. So when I am the trespasser, then God will forgive me only after I have forgiven myself. If I don’t, the sin stays with me, the guilt remains. And when Judgment Day comes, God will judge me. Since God is within me, then I will actually be judging myself.

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”—John 5:22.

God has given judgment over to Jesus. And while this is a fine point, Jesus is the word, and the word is God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1.

Jesus is also the light.

“[John the Baptist] came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”—John 1:7.

And the light was made by God.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”—Genesis 1:3.

And Jesus is his commandment.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”—John 13:34.

Love cannot exist without forgiveness. Since God is love, then Jesus (God’s only begotten son) is forgiveness.

“For God so loved the world that He gave the only begotten Son, so that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life. / For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”—John 3:16-17.

Before Judgment Day comes, then, we need to forgive everyone, which is to say, love everyone—including, especially, ourselves.

This is my new mindfulness exercise: Through prayer, I forgive myself when I sin. I also forgive myself for everything in the past, that I haven’t forgiven myself for yet. That, too, I do through prayer.

This requires introspection. While in prayer, look deeply. Remember. Go through the book of your life. Be honest with yourself.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”—Revelation 20:12.

I know my sins. They’ve held me down, imprisoned me long enough! I’ve done my time, paid my debt. So have you. It’s time for parole, a new life.

Stay aware. Keep God with you, through prayer, so you’ll see your sins as they happen. Then forgive yourself.

I developed a little equation that helps me to know when I’ve practiced forgiveness: Understanding + Acceptance = Forgiveness.

To forgive someone, even ourselves, we have to understand (or empathize with) them. Why did they sin? Was it a matter of survival? We are all liable to do anything if we are desperate enough. Survival doesn’t need to be taken literally, as life or death, but as their way of life—the loss of which can be just as scary as death.

Did they sin out of pride? What all have you done to maintain your pride?

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”—Proverbs 16:18.

Pride is a basic weakness. We all experience it. We all sin. Stay mindful through prayer.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”—John 8:7.

Keep God with you, so you will be less likely to slip into hypocritical, self-righteous indignation.

“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”—Luke 6:42.

If you walk, then you can’t (or shouldn’t) blame others for walking. We all walk differently, so we shouldn’t blame others for keeping their own pace.

Did they sin just to be mean? This is probably the hardest one. Sometimes we’re mean just to be hateful. Face it. Understand that anger builds like steam in a kettle. If we don’t deliberately, purposefully, release the pressure, then it will escape on its own, with or without our consent.

We must remain aware, through prayer, of our sins, and forgive ourselves so that our debts don’t pile up.

God exists in all of us, individually and as a whole. Therefore, we are tethered to each other—sharing breath, time, space, dreams, desires, and a need to be respected and accepted for who we are. We are all a manifestation of God, a particular expression that is unique in the universe.

Understand this, and you will be reborn.

Acceptance is the second term in the forgiveness equation. For it, we need another equation: Love + Humility = Acceptance.

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”—Matthew 23:12.

We must humble ourselves before God. The sea is so vast, powerful, and beyond understanding; and my boat is so small.

“For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.”—Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When the Bible tells us to fear God, what it means is that we should respect and humble ourselves—as we do when we‘re afraid—before the awesome, unfathomable universe, and the one true God that/who/whom is even greater than the universe.

As your eyes and ears are a part of you, we are all parts of the universe: aspects, archetypal traits of God. Though every one of us is a vicarious substitute for God, a way for the universe to know itself—or, at least, a part of itself—we are not, actually, God.

In Eden, the first temptation is the desire to be God.

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”—Genesis 3:5.

This temptation caused the fall of humanity, the expulsion from paradise. Don’t underestimate our will to power. The shame caused by our weaknesses—our inability to conquer, or even stand before the overwhelming universal hurricane—provokes an ironic, unrealistic perspective: that we are in control.

We’re not. Face it. Accept it, through humble prayer. You and I are not the captains of our small boats. Even if we are, the frothing, towering waves take us where they take us, which is often nowhere near our planned destination.

Be mindful, throughout your day, of what becomes of your plans—of how many times you must alter, adjust, and reconfigure them, in your desire to maintain your chosen course. The sea takes your tiny boat where it wills. You are the observer, chronicler, subject, and worshiper, not the captain.

I once asked my grandfather, the now-deceased Southern Baptist preacher, whose Bible I use to research these essays, what the Bible said about determinism and fatalism. Are we in control, or are we not?

He told me to imagine a big circle. This is God’s will. Then imagine a smaller circle inside of the larger one. This is your will.

Be mindful, through prayer, of this difference, and the similarity. Your will is God’s will, since God made everything, and exists within everything. But, at the same time, it is your will.

Did God really think that Adam and Eve wouldn’t eat the apple? Of course not. God made the apple and serpent, as well as Adam and Eve. God made the apple appear succulent and desirable. God made desire, invented temptation, and our weakness to the will of power.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”—Genesis 3:6.

Eve chose to eat it. Adam chose it as well. Therefore, we choose to suffer by living apart from God. We prefer the slums of Earth to the rich, verdant garden of Heaven. But since that is our choice, then we can choose, instead, to be reborn. Through prayer and mindfulness of God, we can be like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Joshua, Jesus, Peter, and St. John the divine (author of the Revelation). We can leave the homes of our fathers, and make the pilgrimage to the promised land.

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”—Genesis 12:1.

We must be humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything. We must be mindful enough to accept that we are off course: full of anger, hatred, and doubt, and the delusion that we are God, instead of a small, but necessary part of God.

Once we understand our position in this vast ocean, then we can follow the stars to the port of our Heavenly Father, and be reborn.

The Tower and the King

Imagine yourself back in the time of the gospels. You walk beside the Sea of Galilee—all is wide-open green, brown, and blue—and you listen to stories that promote love and forgiveness above all else. And then, the man who calls himself the Son of Man, the one who speaks to you only in parables, says this:

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:26.

The murmurs would surely wake those who were dozing in the back, staring dreamily across the sea. Everyone would be asking, what did he just say?

My term for this teaching technique is “shock therapy.” Sometimes I’ll learn things incorrectly: bad postulates, faulty assumptions, thinking with my ego instead of my heart, or my heart instead of my brain. Whether correct or not, I’ll hold onto my beliefs because they are mine. And I won’t compromise even if it means the heavens fall. This is the point when shock therapy becomes necessary.

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”—Matthew 13:15.

Jesus was an ace at performing shock therapy, a real showman.

‘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.

He walked on water, turned water into wine, resurrected Lazarus (and himself); he smashed up the exchange tables in the temple, threatened to destroy the temple, and on, and on.

When we are shocked, we’re scared, vulnerable…like children.

“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”—Luke 18:17.

Before the crowd by the sea could murmur for too long, Jesus launched into the first of two back-to-back parables.

Parable of the Tower:
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? / Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, / Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”—Luke 14:28-30.

One minute the crowd is wondering why they should hate their mother and father, and how that’s against the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), which Jesus mentioned as essential to the Rich Young Ruler: “Honor thy father and thy mother….”—Matthew 19:19.

The next minute, they’re in a hypothetical scenario, wondering what it means to be able to afford to accomplish their goals. Do I have enough money to build the tower, hire the contractors and engineers? If I do, fine; if I don’t, then where (or from whom) can I get the cash?

Before going too far with any interpretation, I want to skip ahead, so that we know the point of these parables. Jesus didn’t often spell out his parables to his followers. So this is a key note moment.

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”—Luke 14:33.

If you’ll remember, that was the high price the Rich Young Ruler couldn’t afford: surrendering everything. This is probably the most important lesson Jesus taught, symbolized by his death on the cross. It is the first commandment.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”—Exodus 20:3.

While that could be interpreted literally, no graven images, we can also think of it as putting nothing before God. On the list of all the important things in our lives, God is (or should be) number one. That means our parents would come after God; even our own lives are not as important.

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”—Matthew 6:24.

Mammon is the way of the world. It is material greed, something that Jesus warned against.

“And he said unto [the Pharisees], Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”—Luke 16:15.

My greed and lust for things in this world are abominations because they are just for me, not God; Mammon is the love of my will, and not God’s. That’s how you can tell whether or not a choice follows God’s will. If it benefits only you, then it is not God’s will, but yours.

I think of my will as the currency to build my tower. I want to look out over the world, and understand, and appreciate, and grow wiser from the effort, so that I can teach the path to others who are lost. But do I have enough in the bank to afford my dream? Since my dream is my whole life, I would certainly surrender everything I have now, in exchange for what I want later…eventually, once the tower is finished.

“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”—John 8:29.

I don’t have to build my tower on my own. I’d probably go bankrupt, get all stressed out. I should have a partner. And if that partner knows how to build the whole thing, and wants to design it in the most perfect way possible, why not surrender my pride and ego, and accept this as a wonderful gift?

Parable of the King:
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? / Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.”—Luke 14:31-32.

While the first parable asked if we had enough funds to afford the tower, this one tells us that we do not. It’s a lost cause; we can’t overcome the sins of the world, not without sinning ourselves.

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. / These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”—John 16:32-33.

We don’t have enough men, so to speak. We cannot accomplish the Golden Rule on our own. When I have tried, the result was twisted into this: Do unto others as they have done unto you. I have to look out for myself first, right?

No, actually, I fell into that trap for years. By looking after myself, I never had enough time or energy for anyone else.

“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. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”—Matthew 6:33-34.

God looks after us. This frees us to look after each other. And so I have come to the most shocking idea of all: How do I let my will become God’s?

“Jesus said unto [the Rich Young Ruler], If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”—Matthew 19:21.

Could a person really do this? I think of Pope Francis, and I know that we can. Why don’t we live more by God’s will? I know that we all have our good moments, but we have bad ones too.

When I consider surrendering my life to God’s will, I remember the definition for God that I’ve used in all these essays.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. / He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”—I John 4:7-8.

In trying to understand what love was, I realized it was God. And God is inside each and every one of us.

“…The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: / Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:20-21.

Love connects us: By loving one another, we love God, who loves us in return. Whatever we do to one another, we are doing that to God.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: / But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”—Matthew 6:14-15.

“…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Matthew 25:40.

Therefore, I’d be surrendering myself to the love that connects all things. I can do it through mindfulness meditation: avoiding choices that are done for me alone, or for destructive purposes, and instead focus on what will improve the lives of others. I don’t mean to imply that I’ll refuse to eat or sleep. Quite the contrary: I’ll stop smoking. Cold Turkey.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”—Psalm 23:4.

It won’t be just my willpower against those cigarettes, but God’s. What would be impossible for me, will be easy for God.

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. / When his disciples heard it, they were amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? / But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”—Matthew 19:24-26.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

My New Year’s resolution is to surrender myself to God’s will. All of my choices will be based on the Golden Rule. Even if the heavens fall, and I doubt they will—It’ll be party time!—I promise to stick to this, and see where it takes me. What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen?

I choose the leap of faith. I invite everyone who reads this to consider the difference between your will, and God’s. Note the choices you make and why (or for whom). Ask yourself if you can accomplish your goals on your own. Count your men. And if you can’t overcome the world, there is a way you can. But you’ll have to surrender the life you thought you wanted, for the life that is waiting.

Back in the time of the gospels, this was what it took to become Jesus’ disciple. (Don’t confuse the term disciple with apostles, of which there were only twelve.) It’s the same choice today. We are still walking thoughtfully by the Sea of Galilee, pondering whether or not it would be better to surrender all that we have for all that we want.