Our country was founded on the principle of being “one nation under God.” For some, the experiment of government which began in 1776 represented the supreme achievement of humanity, a project that surely had the approval and even power of God behind it.
I wonder what those founders would say about the country we have today. Do we still reflect a nation under God?
As I watched an episode of “Family Feud” recently, I was struck by the number one answer to the prompt that cuts to the heart of this question of our nation’s “godliness.” When asked how many of the Ten Commandments they had broken in the past week, the majority of people said once.
One time, really? As comedian John Pinette might put it, “I say, nay, nay.”
What this response revealed to me was the depth of our self-delusion in a world marked by a strong reliance on a belief system that is really humanism cloaked in religion. Humanism places mankind above all things, going so far as to make man a god. The end goal of humanism is happiness, often achieved by convincing the self that it is the best possible self it can be.
Humanists have a relative moral compass. As long as they don’t hurt somebody else, then they are living good lives. In fact, if their ultimate happiness is achieved by their actions, then even if they hurt somebody, their actions are justified.
Television, movies, the internet, and the unyielding consumerism machine all support the humanistic approach to life. They are pervasive, persuasive and corrosive. They do a great job of lulling us into a sense of security so that we don’t even realize when the lines between religion and humanism are blurred.
But when we get specific, the walls of humanism crumble. Consider the Ten Commandments question. Because we are conditioned to see the best side of ourselves, we really don’t see our own failings. We fall victim to the pride that most severely separates us from the one, true God.
On any given day, we must fight the temptations that would have us breaking the commandments. How often do you allow the cares of this world to get in the way of your relationship with God, whether it be watching television when you could be studying the Bible or trying to juggle your funds because of purchases you should not have made? Are you ruled more by God or by the bills in your mailbox?
Do you really make it through a day without wanting the handbag some woman is carrying in the mall or, even more likely, the kind of life you see blaring from your television screen? You may not follow through on the desire, but you are still coveting.
Were you short with your father or mother this past week? Did they make a simple request you scoffed? Can you not remember the last time you even spoke to them? Honoring your father and mother involves more than just doing what you are told when you are under their roof.
Did you know that God hates a loose, lying tongue? Look for verses on the words we speak, and you will find countless references in the Word warning us to bide our tongues. In Revelation, God equates perpetual liars with those who practice sexual perversions on the sin list. Did you tell the whole truth in the last week? Were your words kind, uplifting and of the Spirit? Did you manage to refrain from gossip, which is usually a half-truth that is still a form of lying?
Do you think my take on the commandments is too strict, too overreaching? Read the Sermon on the Mount. Christ did not come to the world to negate the Law, but to fulfill it. His sacrifice saves us from our own sinfulness, but it does not give us carte blanche to sin. In fact, Christ’s approach to living takes the Ten Commandments to the next level.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ implores us to not only not commit adultery, but to not even think about it. If one part of our body leads us into sin, He tells us, then we would be better served to rid ourselves of the offending body part then risk not making it to heaven.
God loves humility, which the Bible defines as the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 22:4a). A humble heart embraces its own failings. A humble heart sees truth through the eyes of its Maker and not according to its own desires. “Pride brings a person low,” the Proverbs tell us, “but the lowly in spirit gain honor” (29:23). As opposed to humanism, which encourages people to consider the self as godly, Christianity implores us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit; rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
A truly humble heart would answer the Ten Commandments question quite differently. It would know that in a world that is cloaked in the grace of Christ, we still stumble. We continue to strive because of Christ’s example of love, even as we know that we will ultimately fall short. The very definition of grace, the gift of salvation from a loving God that cannot be earned but must be accepted, proves that no person is without sin.
My prayer is that we all can live in the eye-opening state of humbleness rather than the veiled existence of humanism. Only by putting God first in all things instead of ourselves will we truly see ourselves most clearly. Then, we will know that the Ten Commandments are about our everyday lives and not some archaic law to be considered once a week. Then, we will truly understand what it means to live “under God.”