No Ice Cream Cones Allowed

by Joanna Lutz

1. You may not have an ice cream cone in your back pocket at any time.

2. It is illegal to wake a bear to take its picture.

3. No vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 mph.

Believe it or not, these are actual laws from around the United States (Arkansas, and California). They sound pretty silly, don't they?

The Israelites might have thought the same thing when God gave them some of His laws. For instance, God told them to only meat from animals that had split hooves and chewed the cud (Leviticus 11:3). Huh?

God also required that any clothing with mildew on it must be taken to the priest to "examine the mildew and isolate the affected article for seven days" (Leviticus 13:50). Can you imagine taking your dirty laundry to your pastor?

God, in His infinite wisdom, had good reasons for the laws He gave. He intended them to benefit not only the Israelites but also the world.

Privileged Characters

When Moses gave the people God's laws, he said: "Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations. . . . What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws?" (Deuteronomy 4:6-8).

According to Moses, being given God's laws was not a punishment but a privilege.

Rules Rule

Bad things happen when we sin. We get that icky feeling. Lose privileges. Hurt feelings. Ruin friendships. But God's life laws can help us avoid all that.

Think about the Ten Commandments. They focus on how we should treat God and other people. If we follow them, they provide blessing and protection. In fact, Moses told the people to "observe the Lord's commands . . . for your own good" (Deuteronomy 10:13, emphasis added).

God didn't just give commandments because He felt like bossing us around. His guidelines help us avoid what weighs us down and worship what's worthwhile! Instead of being a burden, God's laws actually free us to live fun and exciting lives.

Suppose you see a kid with a sweet cell phone and begin to feel jealous. If you dwell on what you don't have, will you be happier? God told us not to covet because He knows the most joyful people are not the ones with the most stuff—they're the ones who are content with what they have and enjoy wonderful relationships with God and others who love them.

Marvelous Motivation

Speaking of relationship with God, that's one thing the Pharisees lacked. The Pharisees taught the Law during Jesus' time. They made a big show about following all of God's rules and thought they were better than everyone else. But instead of being pleased with their actions, Jesus said, "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth . . . but you neglect justice and the love of God" (Luke 11:42).

Jesus warned us not to be like the Pharisees. Their actions looked good on the outside, but their hearts were dark. Jesus wants us to follow His commands for one reason: love (John 14:15). We shouldn't obey God because we're afraid He'll strike us with lightning if we don't. We should do as He asks because we want to express our love back to the One who laid down His life for us!

Think about it this way: Mom asks you to clean your room. You do it, while grumbling and slamming things around. What does that say about your heart? Instead, imagine cleaning your room before Mom asks, to give her a pleasant surprise. Which job will make Mom and you happier—the chore done grumpily or the cleaning done out of love?

Terrific Trade

The good news is you can obey God's laws and greatly enjoy life. David discovered how and talks about it in places such as Psalm 16 and Psalm 119. He tells God, "I rejoice in following Your statutes [laws], as one rejoices in great riches" (Psalm 119:14).

Read God's Word to find out how to live; then ask God to help you become more like Him. Every time you follow God out of love and with a pure heart, you'll be amazed at the result!

Copyright © 2010 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission.; Photo © seelensturm/Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.