The Common Teaching of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

The above very widely-known lyric is believed to have risen from the heart and soul of a Hebrew shepherd, poet, and eventually hero-king, David, who is considered a great teacher in Judaism, who is revered as an ancestor of Jesus in Christianity, and who is honored as a prophet in Islam. Despite man-made surface differences in these religions, adherents of all three faiths strive to live by the inspiration of David's songs, such as the teaching "I shall not want."

But how many grasp the true meaning of "I shall not want?"

Most people believe it means there is nothing we could ever really need that is not provided ... and the corollary, if it is not provided it is not really needed. When one is in ego consciousness the thought goes something like this: "I'm separate from God, but God bestows." "I'm only a sheep, but my shepherd provides."

Holding this thought in mind is indeed a valuable early step in one's spiritual opening process. But prophetic inspiration, as with David's psalms, usually carries much deeper meaning than that which would likely be imagined by our ego awareness. So we watch for further revelation and deeper understanding, and find it provided by Jesus Christ in his revelation for the 21st Century: A Course in Miracles

According to Jesus, our natural state is not awareness of body and bodies. Our natural state is awareness of only oneness, as in "I AM." In our natural state, there is no wanting.

So how do we fall from our natural state into an unnatural state or, as the Bible presents it symbolically, from the Garden of Eden into the world? We don't fall first by eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating the fruit is a result. First we want the fruit. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

"Pleasant to the eyes?" "Desirable?" Wanting precedes eating.

It is wanting that expels us from the Garden of Eden. It is wanting that brings us down from our natural state to an "ungodly" unnatural state punctuated by fear, pain, guilt, sickness, suffering, and death. In fact, the wanting itself is painful. We can experience the absolutely unbelievable joy of God ... or we can experience ... wanting.

Buddhists teach that all suffering is caused by desire. Their teaching is perfectly true if the desire is for something in a world viewed as separate bodies and separate things. Jesus Christ echoes this teaching in his Lesson 128 from A Course in Miracles: "The world I see has nothing that I want."

Here are the words of Jesus Christ:

"The world you see has nothing that you need to offer you; nothing that you can use in any way, nor anything at all that serves to give you joy. Believe this thought, and you are saved from years of misery, from countless disappointments, and from hopes that turn to bitter ashes of despair.

"Escape today the chains you place upon your mind when you perceive salvation here. Nothing is here to cherish. Nothing here is worth one instant of delay and pain; one moment of uncertainty and doubt. The worthless offer nothing."

Yet Jesus also recognizes that he is speaking to those who still see separation, whose habit of wanting is a habit he can turn to good use. His message then becomes (stated in many ways) want only God, want only your true nature. A good example is Lesson 185 from A Course in Miracles: "I want the peace of God."

"To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form; in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized."

Look around in your world and identify those who want only attributes of God, only peace and joy and love, attributes of our true nature. Then notice those who crave and strive and hope for something particular in their world. Who is experiencing heaven? Who is experiencing hell?

Notice that King David failed to live up to the prophesy of his own psalm. He failed to want nothing in his world. Although mostly a good leader, David nonetheless symbolically "lost the Garden of Eden" by wanting Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. David's wanting in this instance led to enormous pain and suffering, which ultimately became in Jewish teaching an illustration of how not to live.

"I shall not want" is a core teaching of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; but is not limited to these three religions. It is a universal spiritual teaching which, if followed, takes everyone all the way home:

Want nothing in your world
Want only God

Each month our Holy Spirit gives a message which helps individuals open spiritually and understand Jesus' teaching.

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"...nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21)

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