Rev. Joseph M. Esper
Originally Published on August 26th, 2018.
One of the scenes of the epic 1956 movie The Ten Commandments shows Moses (played by actor Charlton Heston) at the top of Mount Sinai, receiving two stone tablets from God; upon them are inscribed ten directives, or commandments, for proper living. The first three of these speak of how people are to relate to God Himself; the other seven instruct God’s Chosen People on how they are to treat one another.
It turns out the Ten Commandments are not just a set of basic moral rules for Jews and Christians; they contain the secret to happiness for anyone willing to live by them.
Author Patti Maguire Armstrong writes, “While studying differences in unemployment benefits between European countries, researchers stumbled into the discovery that people who believe in God are usually more content in life. They also found that Catholic and Protestant Christians have higher satisfaction in life and they cope better with stressful situations.” Thus, acknowledging the existence and authority of a Higher Power (“I am the Lord your God”) offers one a greater sense of reassurance, security, and purpose in life.
The Lord commands us to worship Him (“Keep holy the Sabbath”), and, “According to a report from Gallup, the more frequently people attend their church, mosque or synagogue, the happier they are. Churchgoers are especially happy on Sundays while those who don’t go to church on Sunday experience a decline in their moods on that day.”
We are commanded to honor our parents, and this can lead to strong family ties—a source of satisfaction in life, as Ms. Armstrong notes, “Researchers tracked 274 married people over a decade, [and] found that while income did contribute to happiness up to a point, the quality of family relationships was much more important.”
While murder and violence (“Thou shall not kill”) are obviously antithetical to happiness, so are hatred and resentment. Conversely, as shown by hundreds of studies, a willingness to forgive those who wrong or harm us is very beneficial, both physically and emotionally.
Being married—and remaining faithful to one’s spouse—is highly beneficial; according to the International Journal of Epidemiology, “Life expectancies for divorced men and women are significantly lower than for married people (who have the longest life expectancies).”
A psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame, Anita Kelly, conducted an experiment in which 110 persons were tracked (via weekly lie detector sessions) on the number of lies they told that week. Her conclusion: “When they went up in their lies, their health went down. When their lies went down, their health improved.”
If the movie The Ten Commandments were to be remade today, the special effects would undoubtedly be awesome, far surpassing those of the 1956 film—but there would be no improving upon the underlying message: the Lord God exists, and He cares greatly about how we live our lives. As it was over 3000 years ago, so it is today: obeying God’s Commandments gives us the best chance for experiencing health and happiness in life.
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