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THE REWARD OBSESSION AND ITS PALS
There is much to be said for BEING as well as DOING. You can do such enormous amounts of 'good' that Everest might envy your pile of achievements, attainments and selfless service, sacrificial securings and panache of benevolent power. Is it anything in itself ? Would not the hungry rise up to bless you, the naked to declare your greatness and the afflicted to assert, Surely this person is a saint!
Yet while such goods are undoubtedly better things than omissions, leaving the naked alone, the hungry unfed and the powerless without strength from any neighbour, God is a spirit. He surveys the heart: His eyes behold, His eyelids test, says the Psalm, the works of men (Ps. 11:4). The SPIRIT in which you act is expectedly important to One who IS a Spirit!
What if Lady Bountiful effuses her cold charity ? No good, you say, but it is good to be fed. What then ? Is it both good and bad ? Many would die before having her comforts, but some would live, derivative and contained, at her hand...
if Lord Proud confers his arrogant and seemly benefits upon your worthless
hand ? Is it
good ? What if he does it for more glory, on the way to a new grant of fame, or position of importance ?
What if a heartless rogue does it in a Communist system in order to show the world that it works, while knowing in his heart that the poor are oppressed by his very grandeur, and the weak are made yet weaker by his desolation of their souls, controlling them like pawns, for his system, which neither has nor knows nor understands spirit at all! Would you sell it all, at the ultimate, for his benefits, if only you are fed ? Would you work for your mouth and forget your heart ? Would your spirit be prostituted to the grace of the disgraceful, the spiritually depraved, the neophytes of the nugatory, the valiants of the nebulous, the energies of the nubilous, the array of the arcane priests of nullity!
Perhaps you would, but this is merely to ignore reality in the interests of continuing to do so; or worse, in the suppressions required for such continuance.
things we have pondered in part or whole on various occasions, but today
it is a very special salient of the situation which is in view. It is not
the atheist in his irrational arbitrage of what his theory denies him any
possible knowledge or therefore, power to speak: it is the theist of which
we speak. It is the one who even claims to be Christian, and perhaps might
be, caught temporarily in the maelstrom of perilous confusion, like meteors
of the soul, fouling the waters of his heart.
THE REWARD OBSESSION
The disciples were arguing, on one occasion, on a topic of potentially devastating non-grandeur. It was little, like a toad, a cane toad, ugly and destructive. It was not what you would readily publish in the newspapers. It was simply this: who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven ? You read of it in Luke 9:46-50.
You can imagine it. WHO had done the most miracles, WHO received the most personal instruction from Christ, WHO had been appreciated the most, or had suffered more, or had sacrificed more money, a higher position, or had the greater talent, or was the most prominent in discussions, the better organiser or chairman when needed and so on, and on, and on ...
IS the kingdom a place then of parade ? is it for the most talented to domineer, or be robed in magnificence becoming to such talent ? Does not the widow's mite at once answer the material aspirations, whose ALL was so small, but so generously estimated by Christ ? Since God IS a Spirit, is not the spirit of it of more importance than the amount ? Does not even the meanest realise that the generosity of heart is a grace which no private profiteering for greatness as an aim, can reach ? It is his utility in which he trusts, but utility is futility when it is not faithful, when the cost of its exercise is domination of dubious sincerity, direction of self-aggrandising pre-occupation, private seeking for public place for private satisfaction and the like.
one's own part, just let it be clear that a dentist or doctor for example,
is the least bit interested in the reward (probably financial) attached
to the 'case', and the 'case' loses ALL interest in that figure. It is
better to trust in the purity of the heart of God, than in the highest
powers of self-preoccupied mankind. The reason is simple: ANYONE preoccupied
is perilous. One needs to keep the mind on the job. Nor is this all. One
also needs a person, not a manipulee whether of his own powers or hopes
or aspirations, or of someone else.
In some cases, it appears as a merely emotional substitute, so that if the emotions do not continue to be fed, in their own peculiar way, then the 'love' ceases or is 'modified'. In pseudo-marriage, that enormity of horror with which the world is increasingly visited, the end of the process is now often found: the party who found in the other a butt for desire or a cove for security, now finds that this is not the case. Hence, minus maybe some 'kids', it departs. It seeks some place where perhaps the satisfaction level can be higher, the tittivation return of a better figure, or the ambience of pleasure the more recherché. Thus the person is prostituted for the ingredient, and the character is sold for the charm.
Commitment is absent; appreciation does not appear in the equation. Nobility is unknown and mutual regard is ephemeral. Less than personal procedures between persons is mere evacuation for nullity of the essential life of the soul of man.
Soul ? It is the life-related term for the person. It is the ignoring of its cruciality that leads to so much contortion, disproportion and disporting, to such calamities of emotion with the psychiatric prosthetics of powders and potions. It is the failure to see its outlines which leads to accidents in the dark, divisions of personality, mood swings in insecurity, like troubled waters simply waiting for some vagrant wind, to make its unchartered depths swell and dip.
However, if you are not in the Macbeth line for spiritual reward, as a sort of substitute empire for his, there is always Lady Macbeth to consider in the spiritual parallel to his merely mundane endeavours. Some parent may desire for her son/daughter, a spiritual prestige. Thus in Matthew 20:20-28 we read of the mother of the sons of Zebedee, having the notion of seeking that her two sons should sit on the right and left hand of Christ ... "in Your kingdom". Presidential aides ? White House Chiefs of Staff ? Now even if the desire was less disquieting than this, it was still for EMINENCE.
When the disciples, as seen earlier above, were contesting the matter on their own part, Christ put a child in their midst and indicating its significance, made it clear that receiving one such little one was receiving Him, and thus Him who sent Him, God the Father. He proceeded: "For he who is least among you all will be great." The inconspicuous is the conspicuous, the little is the large, the unassuming is the preferred. The first will be last, the last first: this is the same situation.
How can these things be so, then - for we all respond to pride with little delight, to arrogance with scant regard, to scheming for superiority of emplacement without delight, to self-affirmation with but modest joy! IF your heart is in what you do, NOT for reward but in that combination of sincerity and integrity which sings; and IF your motives are not soiled by specious preoccupation with your own size in the situation (which tends to cast a shadow on your discernment and a shade on your light, if indeed it be not 'darkness' as Christ put it in the Sermon on the Mount); and IF your motive is the things of God because of love, so that your priorities and perspectives are objectively right, then the love of God is not tainted, the purity of purpose is not corroded and the oil of a contented heart soothes the situation, or corrects it as the case may be. In this case, being illuminated with the light that lasts, strengthened with the purpose which is actually what it is ostensibly, you are pleasing to God. There is no tarry residue, no sickly taste. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, says the same Sermon on the Mount.
But what did Christ say to the mother of the sons of Zebedee, when it was SHE who sought this eminence not for herself, but for her sons ? "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptised with the baptism that I am baptised with ?" It is at this point that we realise that her sons were actually with her, as indeed it is expressly stated in Matthew 20:20. THEY answered His question, just cited: "We are able."
Christ, perceiving these disciples to be true, told that them that they would indeed receive these things (that is, the baptism He faced - meaning the covenantal crushing in the interests of the love of God, in His case, as Redeemer, in theirs as redeemed). It is interesting to note that instead of significance, suffering was imparted in the response, for the facing of these things was no pleasure! It was the opposite of pomp. It lacked all ceremony. For Christ, the cross itself was the acme of atrocity.
give to sit on My left hand, He proceeded, or right, is not for Me, and
indeed He declared:
"It is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father." It is not a matter of jobs for the boys, positions for the preferred, posts for the pleasing. It is a spiritual thing and in a spiritual realm it is spiritually determined. The whole pre-occupation is astray, then, in this seeking for eminence, even some pre-eminence. It is a null question in this setting.
Theological hedonism, one of the worst of all the offenders in this spiritual dimension and perspective, does not heed this. It is heedless hedonism. It is putting pleasure, or satisfaction or some psychological substitute, in the place of service, and self-assessment, which after all is what it is in the end in such a case, instead of God-bestowal. It is still SELFISH. It is spiritual selfishness. It is estimating the crown jewels for glitter not meaning.
does all this readily become ? It is nothing less than a spiritual covetousness
for reward, a transplant from the ways of this world, hoping like some
grasping creeper, its seeds blown from the mainland to an island, to take
hold here as formerly there! But it is out of place! THIS is a spiritual
realm in which purity of heart, and loving GOD with all one's heart and
soul and mind and strength is the nature of the case, not loving oneself.
If you love God with ALL your heart, what is left for
Is all then but a part ? If on the other hand, you love God in fact with all your heart, it is not that this removes the love of the brethren, but it rather gives it a perspective which is chaste, careful, righteous but not self-righteous, true and with a kinship derived from one Father (I John 5:2).
LAY UP TREASURES ...
If this were to be taken to mean, 'covetously seek to acquire them in heaven, or to store them with covetous complacency, knowing how safe they are', what then of the tenth commandment, which prohibits coveting ? It is not limited in this, that if what you seek to gain is what another thereby loses, and this is the nature of the motive, you break the spirit of it. Further, Paul makes it clear even as if to the blind, that there is such a thing as "coveting of every kind" (Romans 7:8), the concept being overworked desire, zest on the wrong quest.
This he relays from the last commandment! Being the last of them, is it then to be ignored ? Try that with the police when driving, if you are stubborn, and let them teach you. Commands are not diluted because of placement, unless dilution is dictated. Even if it were, to diminish one relative to another is not to dismiss it. Commands are not suggestions.
Further, with God who is a Spirit, the command but enshrines the desire, the value and the reality.
What then is the MOTIVE - gain or giving ? It is statedly "more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). Paul declared this when, desiring to serve God inHis own way, he made his perilous way to Jerusalem, leaving those among whom he had long laboured. "I have shown you in every way, by labouring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Paul had minimised his own cost to them by labouring not only in word, but with hands to help his support. He went knowing and stating that "after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock."
In other words, not all seek the kingdom first, but rather their own ways, witness and works, to delight in them, their products, profits or privileges whether of dominion or direction, of desire or of means to some end. Again, this love is not possessive: Paul was willing to leave those whom deeply he loved because his understanding was that the King of the kingdom had other works for him to do, and other places to reach, other sufferings to endure and other witness to make. It is not a matter of one's own life at all, for as Christ stated, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" - Luke 14:26-27.
This from its "his own life also" makes it clear that the potency of ANYTHING to interfere with the needs of Christ and His kingdom, His values and His focus is to be so discounted that in comparison with the duty to Christ it is annulled, could even by metaphorical extension, be deemed ‘hatred’. Of course it is not loathing the good, but preferring the better which is actually in view. Such devotion is deadly when given to anyone other than God, for it is precisely appropriate with the One who is limited neither in love towards mankind, nor in knowledge of individuality and the nature of the human soul, whose words are pure and whose ways are beyond comparison. Idols replace it; and these also replace the destiny of the heart. It is to God only that divine honour is fitly accorded, not merely in form, but in fact.
Directability, dedication and delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), these are the requirements; and in Psalm 37 we there find that if one delights oneself in the Lord, trusting in Him, and doing good, then He will give the desires of one's heart. Again, such is the subtlety and shrewdness of the human heart when its pangs are unchastened and unchaste (Jeremiah 17:9), that someone might even ask, Could one not then delight in the Lord and trust in Him, doing (the then requisite) good, and so get the desires of one's heart; and since these are precious to the heart, would this not be a good thing ?
Thing ? Deal ? No, it is impossible as well as immoral. To seek to do things in LOVE for an ulterior motive is the impugning of love, its pollution, the testimony of its unreality. LOVE does NOT seek its own. IF I do this and so, and thus get so and so, then MY OWN will be achieved. Wonderful, says the afflicted. Moreover, you cannot delight, nor can you find the heart with which to delight yourself in the Lord, in God who is a SPIRIT, when your spirit is preoccupied with other things: using the ways of God as mere fodder for feeding another heart, and adding to the corporicity of another stomach, the gourmand gluttony of other desires in other ways, for a self not spiritual, not spiritually led, always alert with equations of desire, and hence not able in summary style to sacrifice all for Christ. There is the EQUATION LIMIT. It must WORK.
You cannot serve two masters. It is as simple as that. Listen to the Lord on this.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other." This, true of mammon, is however in the Lord's statement not limited to this illustration. TWO masters is not the notion for spiritual service.
Therefore you CANNOT lay up treasures in heaven in order to enjoy them in your selfish ulterior way, as a treat for self, as a coup for the life that seeks its own*1. That is, if anything ever was, SEEKING YOUR OWN. Love does not, says I Cor. 13, do that. God is love (I John 4:7-8). This is not of God.
what WAY, then does one obey the COMMAND to lay up treasures in heaven
? It is in this way. One does in spirit and in truth the things, loves
the things, esteems the things, is occupied with the thoughts of the things
(Phil. 4:8), has as ultimate aim the ways and presence and good pleasure
of the Lord, so that these things be so. There is no other so that!
God is the rock, not the rocking boat on the waves of a journey for some
other destination. Heavenly treasures come from God who told Abraham this
felicitous fact: "Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." Protection
and reward ? The reward is GOD HIMSELF! I AM, He said, your exceedingly
great reward. This of course was said to Abram before his new name attesting
new life in a covenant, was given.
Using a woman's body in prostitution, a thing past reckoning in the debasement of man and of woman, this is the parallel. You use God's word to avoid God's ways! It is horrendous. Those who, in passing one might add, seek to legitimise prostitution, forget that concern for life does not stop with children. If child abuse is foul, what is woman abuse ? Is a woman not to be considered because she may be misled, or does she cease to have significance because she may betray herself ? Being of adult years is not being without peril, and to co-operate in destruction of the realities of life by misusing them is not a proper thing because the victim is willing.
But God is no victim in this: it is one's own soul that suffers through such spiritual sacrilege as would lower its life to making use of God. As victim, Christ died, the just for the unjust, but it was not to enable prostitution of purity that He enabled release.
Being led by God is not being led into temptation or debasement of the image of God in mankind.
It is being in spiritual things, endued, in these ways imbued. If "Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness" (8:10). This does not mean that the body is alive and kicking, and that the Lord is subjected to the ways of 'flesh', that self-seeking, that self-declaring, that God defaming, that way of life that asserts its own, seeks its own and whether it be moral or immoral in its own eyes, has its own constructions as its constrictions, and its own thoughts as its directors.
There is one only Master; and it is not oneself. There is one only basis of service, and it is not the good pleasure of the self. As to that, in this life for the Christian, it is in a permanent state of being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20 cf. Galatians 5:24, Romans 8:13); and the crucified are not in the throes of profit and loss statements, to the glory and fulfilment of the life already given up for another. "I protest" says Paul, "by our glorying which we have in Christ Jesus, I die daily" - I Cor. 15:31. In the Greek order, it is yet more emphatic: "Daily I die, I protest by our glorying which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord."
is like an oath, a solemn affirmation of a fact, and this fact is this:
that daily he dies, and it is affirmed not in some slump and defeat, but
as integral with the rejoicing, the delight, the glorying in Christ Jesus
that this is so. THIS is life on earth for Christ. It is Christ affirmatory,
not self-seeking nor is it squandered in self-directed pursuits, no, not
of any kind, not even with the transforming nullities of spiritual appearance,
whereby darkness of heart becomes a glamorous glow of pretence (as in II
Cor. 11's pathological personas). The nugatory is not the ground, nor are
the artifices of the heart, the rock. No, they are not even the glow beyond
the horizon. Death is like that; and life is like that. Its purity is derivative,
and only then is it abundant (John 10:10).
PERSPECTIVE FROM PROVERBS
Proverbs, naturally enough, is not without its contribution to these matters.
If then we look at Proverbs 10:2,15 we find two areas fit for synthesis. On the one hand, "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death." Indeed, in Proverbs 12;28, we find that "IN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IS LIFE, AND IN ITS PATHWAY THERE IS NO DEATH." This absolute cleavage is clear.
Now in Proverbs 10:15, it is written:
rich man's wealth is his strong city;
The destruction of the poor is his poverty."
It is then righteousness which is the effectual treasure, as in Proverbs 8:18, where we find this of wisdom (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 27):
"Riches and honour are with me,
Enduring riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yes than fine gold,
And my revenue than choice silver.
I traverse the way of righteousness..."
It is only when we find in Proverbs 13:8 - having been introduced to the enduring and actually valuable riches - that "the ransom of a man's life are his riches", that the position is clear in this regard, from this book. As always in interpretation, we regard the value structure and priorities proclaimed, in estimating any particular aspect. Principles, when stated, precede applications and determine them. Thus, in those terms, the result is as follows:
1. Actual gold and silver, in the perspective of wisdom, are nullities, evanescent glimmers compared with the priceless treasures of wisdom.
2. Such riches constitute a place of defence and protection.
3. They have also the role of redemption, buying a man's life back from destruction.
In Barbs, Arrows and Balms, cited above, we find that wisdom represents Christ in this case (Proverbs 8); and thus, it is Christ, the Redeemer who by the unsearchable riches which are His (Ephesians 3:8), His purity and plenary deity, is able to put paid to guilt and godliness as a gift to the believing receiver.
It is these riches which above all are to be "laid up", or as in the case of Abram, for GOD HIMSELF is the "exceedingly great reward". What is the good of worrying about the stove when the house is open to you, and you share it. Do you want to 'own' it ? Now your life is not a possession, but if it is possessed, then it is gone already, unless the possessor is Christ who, as Creator and Saviour, is its liberator; for where the Spirit of the Lord is, as Paul declares in II Cor. 3, there is liberty. You are then free to be what you are made to be, and that is twofold, a person and a child of God.
relationship with God is far more precious than other riches; and the spirit
of adoption (Romans 8:15-16) is more desirable than the riches of some
mansion, or the heap of dirt of some ownership. It is not that individuality
is wrong, anything but that; it is not that allocation of a private place
is improper, far from it (John 14:1ff., Revelation 3:5, 2:17). Sons and
daughters ARE individuals, in the role of and as children of their father.
It is that the Father is more precious than the fatherland, and the fatherland
is precious because it is that of the Father.
also , SMR Ch. 4.
Rewards do happen. They are basically intrinsic, so that GOD is Abraham's shield and exceedingly great reward. However, they are also extrinsic, as in the parable of Matthew 25:14ff., when a man is made "ruler over many things", in the parable, for his treatment of talent, or in terms of the parable, the talents. The aim, if self-exaltation, deletes the result in this, that it is the case that UNLESS you humble yourself, even as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom. If you are not in, how then would you be great within that from which you are not to be found!
But why is the man, granted the case is covered, why is he made ruler over many things ? It is apparent that the skill, faithfulness of spirit, conviction of heart, determination and capacity were such that, this being a SPIRITUAL assessment, not a 'success' one where the world's paw rewards, then such governance, administration is suitable. It fits.
In this parable, the relationship is of functionality with varied talents leading to MUCH abundance in the result or reward. In the cognate case, found in Luke 19:11, a variation leads to a different emphasis. In this case, it is not the direct proportion between the amount given, and the amount attained as before, but the difference between results with the SAME initial grant. Here the greater result is given the greater recognition.
Since in the kingdom of heaven, it is not as with the Gentiles, where lordliness is often correlative to being a lord (Matthew 20:25), but he who is greatest will be the servant of all, it is not prestige item, but a service function which is in view. Communism's cant about 'to each according to his need' (Acts 4:35), taken ex-God from the Bible, leaves the non-heavenly Red executors being MORE lordly than the lords of old. Why is this even WORSE than before ? It is for the very simple reason that there is precisely NO balance, no check, all things being under control of the Party. They hesitate not to use psychological warfare, drugs to the point that the international society of psychiatrists had to protest; they scheme for hardship, deprivation, carefully orchestrated efforts to break down the personality, distort the good name and so forth, as if gods. But they will die like men.
Such is the acme of adulation for what is unworthy of it. This is vainglorious and inglorious glory for the non-glorious ways of the earth. That is the nature and trend of the case, however much variation may occur in those who are involved.
the divine Kingdom, however, not merely is need met, but it is correctly
construed, being first of all spiritual and moral, and then mental and
talent-related, and then physical; and the need includes peace and seemliness,
with recognition of the divine image in every man, so that none is a manipulee,
all are to be loved, under the living Lordship of the present Christ (Ephesians
2:19, 4:16, Matthew 18:20). It is mixed with humility: for corrections
occur even for the actions of the apostles! (II Cor. 1, Galatians 2:12-14),
but in terms of the word of God, not the ways of men! It is to bring forth
abundance of life, not abundance of repression, as with those who apparently
flee Islam for example, and seek Australia (where reportedly the Taliban
wanted the land to receive them, and said so!), apparently not with a sense
of profound loss! This is likewise attested in the West-bound traffic so
exceeding the East-bound flow, in the case of the cognate oppression of
Communism in the days of the Berlin wall.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, GOD being the judge, what is fitting is what is to be, and rewards are functional, not fictitious acknowledgments of brutalities for the Party, cunning contrivance or manipulation! It is a kingdom of love. What is the way of it ? Rather it is this: The last shall be first, for boasting and self-display is not the point, when the cross is the way.
Thus in this Chapter, we have been concerned with ATTITUDES and PRIORITY, that the AIM is not the reward, except to the extent the aim is GOD HIMSELF. This of course is not to deny in the smallest degree, the reality of rewards, though God being spiritual, they do not lead to domineering, self-regard, but to service and responsibility. They are spiritually apt, sovereignly given and not a basis for that portentousness which is automatically excluded from the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4, cf. 20:27-28, where the service of the Son of man was to GIVE His very life as a ransom).
Nor is the reference in Hebrews 12:2 some sort of exception. What IS the reward that was set before Christ, for the sake of which He endured the cross and the sham of shame so bountifully granted to Him by His persecutors and murderers ?
It is stated in Isaiah 53 what that is (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 9, No. 8). Thus:
"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him:
He has put Him to grief.
When you make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed,
He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
He shall see the labour of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities..."
Again, in Isaiah 53:8 and 10, we find this:
"He was taken from prison and from judgment,Clearly, lacking natural children because of death, He gains them when His sacrifice is performed and His salvation is available, and, being received, leads to spiritual children.
And who shall declare His generation ?
For He was cut off out of the land of the living...
When you make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed,
He shall prolong His days..."
WHAT, moreover, is the labour of His soul ? It is bearing their iniquities: that is HOW He shall justify many (as attested by the conjunction "for"). Thus does the pleasure of the LORD prosper in His hand, and thus shall He be satisfied. The bearing of sin and the provision for the life of those sought and for whom He came, the salvation and its counterpart in children, these are the things which CONSTITUTE the satisfaction, the prosperity.
It is in GIVING life to the lost, in GAINING eternal life for those lacking it, that His profound distresses and griefs are transformed into victorious delight. THAT is what He was about. GAINING it is what is the delight. HIS gaining is to give.
for Christ, ontologically, in regality and power, deity and felicity, it
was His to the uttermost before, the eternal word incarnated, He came to
this earth at all. His restoration with the victory sought is gain for
the lost and fulfilment of the love of life in giving; He could not be
greater than He was BEFORE! Thus "being in
the form of God, He thought it not a thing to be grasped at, to be equal
with God" (Philippians 2:6). What therefore
was His coming ? It is of this kind: "He humbled
Himsel." Thus He exemplified Paul's exhortation:
nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of
mind." This, it is not in the kingdom
of heaven, a matter of mask but of matrix: it follows from the One God