Doing the Right Thing
EVERYONE knows who Goliath of Gath was in the Bible story of David and Goliath.1 The account of Goliath's defeat, written after the battle, makes those who were afraid to face Goliath look pretty weak and cowardly. Yet in the middle of conflict and fear it's not easy to sort out what's happening and to decide what's the right thing to do. Pressures and fears confront all of us. People face hard decisions whenever they do something that matters. Nevertheless, having the courage and spiritual insight to know and to do what is right remains basic.
Today I read about a number of people who must have faced tremendous pressure and fear in their work. The wrong decisions each made had tragic consequences. A business person had to decide whether to resort to bribes in order to procure important contracts. Another person is facing tragedy because he was inebriated when called upon to take emergency action. Another report tells about bank officers who made speculative decisions that are leading to bankruptcy. The last account was of an investment broker who believed he could profit through illegal activity.
Sometimes such people become social symbols and celebrities, of a sort -- a status each might be quickly willing to sacrifice now. But what connects them is that each one's life at some critical point came to a moment of decision.
This critical juncture where one has to determine value is central to all of us sooner or later. Unless we understand how the moral capacity is developed that is needed to make decisions, we're largely adrift in a world of unpredictable judgments and events. People can't truly know themselves or make essential progress in life without the stability and strength that come from the moral capacity to make good judgments.
There's no one who was more stable and understanding of his own nature than Christ Jesus, and this may be the best place to start to understand how we can develop our own moral capacity. We never read of Jesus' losing control, panicking, or resorting to deception to cope with life or the people around him. And yet, speaking of his own abilities, he said, ``I can of mine own self do nothing.''2 When we read the whole fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, in which he says this, we discover that he looked to God to show him what to do.
Yet God isn't only the Father of Jesus. He is man's universal Parent. He is our Father, too. In fact, God isn't only Father; God includes all that Mother means as well. The prophet in the book of Isaiah even represents God as saying, ``As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.''3
The dividing line between good judgment, sound decisions, responsible values, on the one hand, and fear, stupidity, greed, tragedy, on the other, is often associated with spiritual ignorance of God. The sin that lies behind wrongdoing and fear is related to spiritual ignorance of God as the ever-present Father-Mother. As we feel and understand God's presence, not only will we feel accountable to do what's right, we'll also find the fear and sin that would impel evil beginning to lose their grip on us.
We may not be able simply to change circumstances -- the circumstances that set up difficult decisions -- any more than the shepherd David could. But we can begin to learn of God and allow this spiritual understanding to shape our lives and decisions.
Wherever we may find ourselves, the reality of God as our real Father-Mother means that we can't ever be cut off from His love and wisdom. Recognizing this, we begin to discover that we can make the commitment to do what's right and find the spiritual and moral strength to do so. God's love then is seen as a law in our lives, and this spiritual understanding undergirds every good idea and impulse.
Man is more than he may appear to be; he is not, in truth, a flawed, overwhelmed, limited, imperfect creation of the flesh. As God's offspring, man is spiritual and expresses His strength and perfection. And regardless of human foibles and mistakes, this underlying truth constitutes our real nature; it determines our capacities.
``The purpose and motive to live aright can be gained now,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. ``This point won, you have started as you should.... Working and praying with true motives, your Father will open the way.''4 Can't we come to expect such care from a real Parent?
This must have been the spiritual truth that guided Christ Jesus' life and gave him such a stable sense of his Father's ever-present love and law. Surely something of this same truth must have been at the center of David's response to his formidable adversary. It's never too late for us to learn this lesson and to find healing and rescue through it.
Obviously there's much to learn for all of us when it comes to issues of decisionmaking and moral courage in difficult circumstances. But we're never outside the love and law of God, even when we may be most ignorant of them. The crucial thing is that we don't have to remain ignorant. We can know God as our real Father-Mother and ourselves as the spiritual child of God.
1See I Samuel, chapter 17. 2John 5:30. 3Isaiah 66:13. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,p. 326.
BIBLE VERSE: Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.... Isaiah 30:21