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Thirty- Five Words

This week we celebrate our Independence Day. Saturday is the Fourth of July, the day we commemorate the signing of The Declaration of Independence, although it was “officially” signed almost a month later on August 2, 1776.

Thomas Jefferson’s most significant work was a little over 1300 words, but the thirty-five that are most often remembered are “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.” Except for God’s Holy Word, never have a few words meant so much.

Someone has said, “You don’t know or appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” I’m afraid that we have all taken for granted the broad and immense freedoms that our founders intended for us to enjoy. Just this year, we have seen how easily and quickly those freedoms can disappear. We should take note.

Of those thirty-five words that constitute the very heart of the Declaration, a few observations come to mind.

Number One. These truths that are self-evident are not ours because Jefferson and the founders of our nation figured them out on their own. The rights defined are given to us, not by our founders, but by our Creator. Freedom is not a governmental gift, but a Godly endowment.

We, the citizens of the USA, are fortunate to live in a nation that has appreciated freedom more than any other nation in the world or in all of history. Too bad we are not living up to the blessings of the Declaration, these days, but instead seem to be intent upon tearing down all the good that our great nation has accomplished.

Number two. There are the words “all men are created equal.” I happen to believe that it would have been better to say “people,” but Jefferson lived in a time when men were predominant. I am inclined to give Mr. Jefferson the benefit of the doubt that he meant all people.

In that same phrase, he says that all are created equal. That can be viewed in more than one way. People are not equal in wealth, intellect or natural abilities, but they are equally loved by God. The God who loves all of us would be very pleased if we would love each other equally.

It’s not news to anyone these days that Thomas Jefferson and other founders owned slaves. No one today would say that was right. Slavery has been called “America’s original sin.”

As a nation, we have paid a huge price for that “sin.” We fought a War Between the States because of that “sin” and have worked hard to overcome. There are many who say we haven’t owned up or worked hard enough to overcome that original sin. I can only say that the promise of the Declaration states it clearly. All men (and women) are created equal.

Finally, a third observation. The document says that these rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness are “unalienable.” What does that mean? I think it means that no government can take these rights away. The rights were given by God and governments are formed, not to take away rights, but to protect our rights.

This has been a touchy subject during this year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The facts are that our local, state, and federal governments have put into place orders that have prevented us from some of our unalienable rights. Their actions may have had good reasoning.

I read this recently. “Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.” Think about that and enjoy your Fourth of July!