B: I believe I mentioned before that one of perhaps many purposes of God’s commandments is to help us enjoy His happiness; in fact, I believe this to be the primary purpose. This might seem a bit odd to people, since His commandments seem to be remarkably difficult to keep at times; how could something so difficult be considered “happiness?”
Some questions to consider: does God keep the same commandments that He gives us to keep? That is, might He Himself actually be a liar, a traitor, and a cheat, though He commands us to be otherwise? Do we believe that He intends us to painfully endure a stoic lifestyle throughout our years on Earth so that He can reward us with an everlasting “party” full of sexual promiscuity, drug-induced highs, and constant indulgences in self-entertainment? Is this what we think happiness is?
Doesn’t it seem that such an idea is pure silliness? It would render all efforts for “healthy living” meaningless in this life, aside from the ridiculous presumption that they are rewarded with the rioting and reveling that we supposedly really want in the next life. Consider the notion of physical exercise: yes, it is painful at times, but it’s easy to see how repetition of certain mundane tasks can strengthen our muscles and reduce unhealthy amounts of fat. If for an example, then, practicing habits of honesty are a form of “spiritual exercise,” would it make any sense if regular exercise of this sort enabled us to become, say, adept liars?
What seems to me to be a more likely scenario is that as God knows all things, including Eternal Truth and its consequences, like a well-worn explorer forging and mapping the way before us, He has discerned what practices lead to the kind of everlasting happiness that He has. Perhaps He knows from experience or observation that while a lie may spring one out of temporary discomfort, it leads to further lies, and the general practice of dishonesty eventually leads to the breakdown of societies. Furthermore, holding to the truth while risking embarrassment gives one the fortitude to withstand mockery and perhaps other prospective inconveniences, and one’s character is generally strengthened because of it.
The same kind of thing evidently goes for an indulgence such as sexual immorality; else why would God command against it? While it may be a thrilling pleasure for a while, it too breeds distrust and lack of self-control; people become less able to resist the urge to indulge in pleasures of any type and soon become enslaved by them – that is, they become literally unable to cease their indulgence in them in a moment when it may be necessary, which inevitably comes sooner or later.
It’s not that He gives us rules, or “commandments,” to exercise His power and authority over us. It’s that only by obedience to those commandments can we experience His happiness. It’s not like He can say, “go ahead and do whatever you want to, without regard to moral law,” and in the end He can just magically transform us into being happy like He is. And yet this doesn’t take away from His omnipotence; He still has all power that exists. It’s just that this magical transformation power simply doesn’t exist.
Example. Most people love their children more than they love just about anything else, it seems, if their statements about them are to be taken at face value. With all that love, they usually want what’s best for their children, perhaps because nothing makes them happier than to see their children happy. So then what happens if they see their children experiencing the ecstasy that seems to come when one indulges in things like drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, unlimited video games and TV? That ecstasy probably looks like they’re happy. But the results can be disastrous: addiction, death (both to oneself and others), illegitimate children, laziness, years of wasted life, and much more. Is that really happiness? And yet some parents seem to see only that one moment of ecstasy, wherein their child looks so happy, and refuse to interfere, without considering the long-term consequences of misery their children will inevitably face.
How can such parents’ feelings toward their children be described? Is it really love? If it is, it’s without much consideration or thought, since their children will surely be miserable later. But how can it be love if the parents aren’t considerate? More likely, it seems to me, the parents are afraid of how their children will see and react to them. In short, the parents are really only thinking of themselves. It seems only just that the parents of children suffering such unforewarned misery should be punished for their negligence; indeed, they will be 1.
Parents, then, who bar irresponsible behavior with predetermined and appropriate rules, are really looking out for the long-term welfare of their children, and are (hopefully) doing so out of their genuine love for them. For the rules to be effective, parents will have to hold to them rigidly, even when it’s not popular with their children, and heaven knows there’ll be plenty of those times. Parents simply have to play the party pooper from time to time.
Why, then, if God loves us perfectly, even more than any of us love our children, and is omniscient besides, should we be surprised when He gives us commandments to do things we may not want to do, or vice versa? Wouldn’t He want the best for us, and to warn us of common, unforeseen pitfalls of sin? Sure, these commandments restrict us from certain behavior, in the which we may wish to indulge every so oft, but it’s as if God has said to us, “if you want to be happy, then you need to keep these rules; quite simply, you won’t be happy otherwise.” He knows that these rules lead to happiness, and anything outside of them leads elsewhere, but yet He allows us to find it all out ourselves, by our own experience, through our agency of choice. Similarly, children don’t have to obey their parents, usually – but it’s better when they do, if their parents truly love and want the best for them. Otherwise, they must learn from their own, often sad, experience, breaking the hearts of their parents and many others in the process, unfortunately. □