Word Magazine October 1962 Page 4-5
THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN
by Very Rev. Father Michael Baroudy
The first half of the twentieth century saw two tragic world wars with all the horrors and struggles attendant upon wars. Now that we are in the second half of the twentieth century, the prospect of peace is just as remote from us, poor mortals, as it ever was. The belligerent attitudes of the world’s leading nations are not conducive to peace. The agitation is ever going on to arm ourselves for any and all eventualities, to be prepared for the worst which might steal on us as a thief in the night. What is wrong with humanity? Are we insane to the extent that we cannot reason our way out without resorting to brutal force? What is the underlying reason for this sorry state of affairs? Aren’t there men somewhere in the world, who are capable of leading us to a better and more profitable way of settling our differences and thus remove the strain of fear and have it replaced by hope and faith for the future?
I take the stand now, as I always have, that, despite the seriousness of the hour, the situation is not hopeless. Any situation will be considered hopeless when we ourselves have lost hope, when we become the victims of fear, when we are unable to think sanely, constructively, and righteously. Fear will reduce us to mere machines, and dictates to us a course of action destructive and detrimental to ourselves and others, unbecoming of men and women who bear the image and likeness of God.
History, both ancient and modern, reveals the fact that no matter to what extent men have trespassed the laws of God and man, no matter what depth of degradation he has gotten himself into, he would fight his way back to sanity and proper behavior, gather the fragments and rebuild the world which his own hands had been instrumental in destroying.
Not only does history shed light upon the ways and methods of man, but also the written word of God has always been, “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway.” Therein the Sacred Writer informs us, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
The above statement, if taken for what it means, and followed in practice, will see us through any difficult problem facing us today or any day. Let us look into it carefully for it is the clarion call to clear thinking. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God . . .”
These words of wisdom, voiced twenty-eight hundred years ago, throw much light upon the tough spot we are in. They are as fresh as the morning dew and as full of force as dynamite. The very first thing they call to our attention is to make no hasty statements relative to any difficulty, to make no resolutions or draw any conclusions about the present or the future which do not envision and contemplate the will of God. It is saying to us, in other words, the final question is not what the world leaders are going to do, but what God will do. Man can only propose but it is God who will dispose. Men’s destinies are in God’s hands, His decision is final and there will not be, cannot be, any appeal from it. Therefore, do not be frightened by newspaper headlines or radio and television commentators: their conclusions and definitions of world events, in the final analysis, are of no moment. Weigh their words in the light of God’s words and then you can take them for what they are worth.
I sometimes sit down and try to figure out how brazen and proud we humans are: we draw our own conclusions about people and things: we judge this or that person, this or that group, this or that nation according to our own biased, misguided estimation of them. We think that when that is done, we have then and there solved all problems and so we feel greatly relieved.
Have you ever tried to consider how very patient and gracious God must be? Or how grieved His Father’s heart, and hurt too by our wayward behavior? If you are puzzled and bewildered at times and grieved too because of the wayward ways of your child, multiply that by the number of people in the entire universe and then consider how compassionate the Father of all people must be and how grieved He is.
We learn further that the conclusion of all matters must be resolved by the fear of God. Let the eyes of your understanding be fixed on God, and God alone. Let no fear of men, any man, or condition, detract your attention from giving the kind of fear, devotion and adoration to the Alghty. Let your confidence rest there, find an abiding place in the knowledge that in God one finds an ever-present help in time of need, a deep, unshaken reliance, an eternal Rock higher than the highest of men. Say with the Psalmist and mean it. “Oh God, thou hast been our dwelling place from generation to generation. From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Say to yourself. “If God be with me, who can be against me.” Let your heart and mind be saturated by that sweet, inspiring reverence, born of your love and appreciation of God’s goodness and you will discover that fear of men and events have utterly disappeared.
The Sacred Writer further advises us to “Keep God’s commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” The whole duty of man, then is not only in knowing the commandments but in keeping them. These commandments, it should be remembered, point out our obligations to God as well as man. Christ reduced the commandments to only two. First, to love God with the whole heart, mind and soul and second to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. The sphere of the whole duty of man lies within the orbit of these two commandments, and the key which unlocks the door of God’s heart as well as man’s, is love.
The whole duty of every man, therefore, is to reckon with God and man and not to leave out either. The conclusion of the whole matter is to consider the kind of attitude we maintain toward both. Are we giving to God the things that are God’s? Do we at any time slight Him or flout His will? Do we consider Him a factor in human affairs? Do we, at any time, side-step the issue and ignore Him altogether? What about our fellow human beings? Do we hate, or are we envious of anyone? Do we treat people, any people, with consideration and respect? Do we envision people in terms of what they mean to us in dollars and cents? Do we offer a helping hand when someone is going through severe trials, or do we rather increase his woes? The only part of your religion which is real is the part which you express in your daily life. Religion is not only a set of beliefs, it is a set of actions which express the beliefs that you possess.
Although William Wilberforce was sickly all his life, he was aroused by a cause that strengthened his very cells of vitality. He was convinced that slavery was an outrage to British society. After Boswell heard him speak he made this comment, “I saw what seemed a mere shrimp mounted upon a table: but as I listened, he grew and grew, until the shrimp became a whale.” And the shrimp of English society became the emancipator of the slaves of Britain. More than any person, he was responsible for freeing the British slaves. Wilberforce practiced the religious principles that he believed.
The part of religion that is real is not the part that you loudly profess but the part you express in your daily life.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, “Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”
Did you ever listen to a radio program through a receiving set that was equipped with F.M.? These receivers eliminate all static so that the program is heard clearly and distinctly. In radio terms, F.M. stands for “frequency modulation,” but in our terms it stands for “free men,” for if we equip our personal receiving sets with the F.M. of God’s love, we will be free men. When we love God completely, we will eliminate all static from our lives. We will eliminate all static of fear, resentment and of greed. We will tune in to the harmony of God’s program of melody and happiness and love. Indeed, we will tune in to the Kingdom of Heaven right here on earth!
No, we cannot take the Kingdom of Heaven by storm. But we can have it right here and now because we know that it is so!