My daughter, Sami, has been bucking the system since she was a toddler. At 2 years old she would slip her hand out of mine and attempt to head for the hills. At 5, she refused to believe my word that crayons didn’t taste like “blueberry” and “boysenberry.” At 10, it took a great deal of convincing that going to bed on time was to her advantage. Teenage life is just around the corner. What next?
I understand her rebellion. I’ve done it myself. I’ve looked at the rules God expects us to live by, and I have grumbled at what seems so constricting. Before I began to understand God’s character, life as a Christian seemed governed by too many “don’ts.”
Then I began to see something—the love behind the commandments. God doesn’t design a way of life to rob me of joy. He describes choices that will draw me closest to Him and give me a life defined by hope, abundance and health. Think about these rules, and notice God’s heart behind them:
Take care of your body; it is a temple.
God calls us to take care of our bodies. He tells us to remain pure in our relationships and keep our bodies healthy. To many that seems unreasonable. “I love this person,” some might say, “and we’re in a committed relationship. Why not express our love physically?”
Or maybe we don’t consider how important it is to eat well and exercise. “If I want to eat a five-gallon tub of ice cream, why would God care?”
And yet what seems restrictive is meant for our protection. God doesn’t want us to engage in sex outside of marriage for many reasons: It distracts us from what is really happening in the relationship; it can bring life when we are not prepared; it opens our hearts when the relationship is not strong enough to protect that vulnerable place; it can bring heartache and remorse.
And, no, God doesn’t want us to eat that five-gallon tub of ice cream—not because He wants to steal our fun, but because He knows that a chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-sugar-high crash is anything but pleasant.
When we remain pure and when we take care of our bodies, we know joy. What feels restrictive ends up being for our best.
Tithe the first 10 percent of our income.
This is one rule that many of us work our way around. We give what we can, if we give at all. “God knows my financial situation,” we say. “He understands that I just don’t have the money right now.” Yes, God understands, but we are the ones who lose out. We miss the blessing that comes when we trust Him with our most basic needs. When we give, God delights in our trust.
When I began tithing as a single parent, I was making less than $10,000 per year. It was hard to give, but do you know what our God did? He provided food, clothing and all that we needed. Early on, I felt like He was asking too much of me. Yet as I obeyed, He poured out more than I could have imagined.
These are just two examples of the way God works in our lives. As a loving parent, He provides boundaries for His children. He doesn’t do it to be mean or to rob us of “fun.” He does it out of a heart of love. Just as we care for our children by setting rules, God cares for us. And rather than being the huge sacrifice we imagine, obedience brings us His best.