The Declaration of Independence, written in Philadelphia in 1776 after months of debate and negotiation, contains a beautiful statement of principle. It was “heard around the world” and it continues to resonate with people today. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is an uplifting concept—recognizing, of course, shared equality in the eyes of the law and before our Creator. Yet from that starting point, equality often seems to evaporate.
As the lives of people unfold, individual outcomes are often very unequal. Accomplishments, contributions to society, levels of economic prosperity, and interpersonal relationships vary widely. Why is this so? It often boils down to the choices that people make in their daily lives.
A truism opines, “The quality of your choices determines the quality of your life.” Certainly, some things are beyond our control, and we may have problems thrust upon us when least expected. Even then, our reaction to adversity often determines the extent of it.
Philosophers wax eloquent and motivational experts make the speaking circuit with sage advice, usually for a fee. Yet a source, often overlooked, contains a wealth of information, wisdom, and understanding regarding many subjects that affect a person’s ability to be happy and achieve prosperity.
As the ancient Israelites were delivered from centuries of bondage in Egypt, God, through Moses, gave the Ten Commandments—rules for living that would gradually guide them to peace and prosperity. Yet He allowed human beings to be free moral agents—that is, He did not force obedience, but promised to provide for and protect those who obey these spiritual laws. It was their choice, and from the beginning, the Israelites were reluctant to obey and often suffered the consequences of their poor choices.
God’s instructions were very plain. He said, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Later, Joshua, who succeeded Moses, challenged the people as they prepared to go into the land of promise: “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14–15). Sadly, the people often made the wrong choice, with disastrous results.
Solomon, wise king of Israel, wrote the Book of Proverbs, which contains pithy nuggets of wisdom designed to make the simple wise. These proverbs are wisdom distilled, and can help one analyze situations involving personal relationships, finance, temperance in food and drink, and what to pursue and avoid while making life’s choices. Everyone, young or old, will find sound advice and instruction in these verses. For example, the importance of one’s choice of friends is emphasized in Proverbs 12:26: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray.”
In the New Testament, we find an example of a woman who made the right choice when Jesus came to her place for a visit.
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38–42).
Mary seized the moment to be near Jesus and learn from him, while less important things distracted her sister.
Daily, each of us have choices to make that determine our course in this life and the life to come. Have you made the choice of Joshua and Mary—to obey God, learning and growing in this age as we prepare for His Kingdom? This requires setting right priorities and determining what is truly important in life. Jesus made it plain in Matthew 6:33, where He acknowledged the basic need for food, clothing, and shelter, but admonished His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
It’s your choice.