The Heart of Money: The “Fine Print” Commandments We Give Ourselves
Columnist Paul Sutherland offers a new path that embraces inclusivity and truth.
No one asked, but I have been thinking a lot lately about what might make a “Christian nation.” What I see from so-called Christian leaders—whether in church, government, or business—has little in common with the words of Jesus and how a person should follow them.
I live in Uganda, the most Christian nation in Africa, but what I see are buildings called “churches” that fill on Sunday with people dressed up in the best outfits—yet who seem to find unity in exclusion and bad behavior. These people condemn homosexuality, but seem indifferent to rampant corruption, spousal abuse, child abuse, selling girls for cows, and rape before marriage. Last month, while I was doing a parenting and literacy event, one man had just married off his seven-year-old daughter because he needed the equivalent of $10 to pay his son’s school fees. The local parliamentarian, who spoke that day, did not mention such atrocities in the everyday life of Uganda; instead, she railed against homosexually, supposedly brought to Africa by American and European colonizers.
It’s hard to know where to begin to confront such hurtful and ultimately self-defeating nonsense, but somehow we must. Until a country, society, or individual gets beyond victimhood, and its manifestations of blaming and complaining, to look at the truth—that we set our own destiny—we will make no progress.
One good place to start is church. The Bible doesn’t talk of crystal cathedrals, stained-glass windows, red carpets, theater seating, or five-ton organs. St. Paul refers to the church as a body of believers. So, ultimately, a Christian church is not a physical place. And it is certainly not a place to pray or do good acts to show off for others. Quoting Matthew: “So that your giving [helping] may be in secret. And your father [God], who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew goes on: “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full [already].”
This is what I mean by setting your own destiny. It’s like the joy of dancing as if no one is watching. It’s the joy of living as if no one is watching—on the path of Jesus, the path of love.
Right now, I’m wrestling with writing a book to help create more successful, resilient, and self-reliant East Africans, and I’m trying to work within the Christian culture as it is expressed here, while looking to what can be called the “fine print” of the Bible. I came up with what I call The 10 “Fine Print” Commandments that we give ourselves. My hope is to get people thinking and calling each other to truth. I would like to hear how you would tweak or change the Fine Print to make it better.
The 10 “Fine Print” Commandments
- I will live a love-centered life: open to connection to all of [God’s] creation, with my heart open to the intuitive, the creative, the mystical, and the holy.
- I will see the good in all; I will love first and value [God’s] creation and people over possessions. I will place positive relationships with people, animals, plants, and meaning over material things. I will treat others and the world as I would wish to have others and the world treat me.
- I will be impeccable with my words; I will speak the truth with honesty and respect, being mindful that how people understand my words is what ultimately counts. I will focus on gaining wisdom and truth, not just opinions.
- I will nurture my spirituality; I will take time to allow each of my breaths to connect me to creation, my highest self, joy, others, my inner calm, [and God]. My relationship with [God] fills me with joy, humility, wonder, courage, virtue, happiness, and a desire to be engaged as a spiritual activist and helper.
- I will act from my spirituality; I will forgive myself and others and let go of comparison, envy, judgment, regret, worry, guilt, fear, anger, competitiveness, indifference, shaming, blaming, complaining, victimhood, bad habits, and laziness.
- I know I am not [God]; I will protect and nurture life. Ending someone’s or something’s life is not my right. I believe killing and war is evil. I will be fearless in the protection of life.
- I will keep my commitments; I will be faithful and act responsibly to those who look to me for love, care, comfort, guidance, and security, even when I don’t feel like it or “something better comes along.” If I wish to undo a commitment, I will do it with grace, honesty, openness, and love.
- I will share and care, a brother/sister/mother/father to all; I will be generous in my actions, thoughts, deeds, behaviors, intentions, and spirit to all of creation—not just those that I like, that believe as I do, that belong to my tribe, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, or that look like me.
- I will connect; I will walk in my neighbor’s shoes, seeking to understand their real needs and asking, “How can I love you better?”
- I will be happy! I will not be addicted to anything except living a spiritual life of love, growth, discovery, joy, and gratitude. I will avoid sloth, gluttony, alcohol, intoxicants, unhealthy food, and selfish relationships. To know and understand creation [God] is to live a spiritual life that will make me happy and full of joy and will put a smile on my face.
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