6 Great Life Lessons of the Bible From Rabbi Mahir Reiss
You don’t have to be religious to draw life lessons from the Torah, the Bible, or any other religious text, according to Rabbi Mahir Reiss, a philanthropist and Bible scholar. In fact, according to a study from the American Bible Society, “six out of 10 Americans (59 percent) who have no faith or who identify as atheists own a Bible.”
After all, while the Bible is a religious text, many of the stories in it are simply tales of individuals making tough moral decisions. Here are six lessons from the Bible that Rabbi Mahir Reiss says anyone can all learn from, no matter what your background.
Rabbi Mahir Reiss’s Life Lessons From the Bible
These six lessons aren’t necessarily religious — but they are timeless lessons that can change your life.
1. Things Are Not Always What They Seem
The underdog story of David and Goliath is one of the most popular tales in the Old Testament. When most of the Israelite fighters were scared to face a hulking giant in one-on-one combat, a small shepherd boy wielding a slingshot volunteered — and to everyone’s surprise, he won.
Recently, author Malcolm Gladwell took another look at the story of David and Goliath, explaining that the classic underdog story might not be exactly what we think — not only was David’s slingshot capable of launching a projectile with the same force as a gun, but some scientists believe that, based on the description of Goliath in the Bible, that he might have had a health problems that caused him to be slow-moving.
According to Rabbi Mahir Reiss, both versions of this story teach the same lesson — that things are not always what they appear to be, and we should never underestimate others, or ourselves. While we’re unlikely to run into physical combat like this in the modern world, there are plenty of times when we feel like we’re going up against insurmountable odds. Just remember in those situations that things are not always what they seem, and that we are often stronger than we give ourselves credit for.
2. Don’t Take on Debt
Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave to the lender.”
And really, if you’re in debt, you’re not just a slave to the lender — you’re also a slave to the debt itself. Debt costs you money, and it ties you down. When you’re working on paying back debt, it’s harder to save and spend your money on things that matter to you, like travel or education.
If you currently have debt, make it a priority to pay it off as soon as possible. Not only will you save money because you’ll spend less on interest over time, but you’ll also gain freedom.
3. Volunteer to Do the Dirty Work
When God was looking for a prophet, Isaiah spoke up, “Here I am; send me!” God even warned Isaiah that he was in for hard, thankless work — and still he volunteered. Today, he’s an integral part of the Old Testament. And the guys who didn’t volunteer? Well, nobody remembers who they were.
The lesson here is that volunteering to do hard work — things other people don’t want to do — can come with some of the greatest rewards, according to Rabbi Mahir Reiss. For example, taking on a difficult project at work might impress your boss and eventually lead to a raise or promotion. And sometimes, volunteering to do difficult work is its own reward — think of how wonderful it feels when you can help a friend or family member who’s in a tough spot.
4. Making Good Things Takes Time
According to Genesis, God — a supreme being, capable of creating the entire world — still took six whole days to make the Earth and populate everything on it. The lesson here, says Rabbi Mahir Reiss, is that even when you’re good at what you’re doing, doing it well still takes careful time and consideration. Not only that, but when you put in that difficult work, it can pay off with something even more wonderful than you might have originally imagined.
5. Do What You Believe Is Right, Even If You Do It Alone
When God spoke to Noah and told him to build his ark to prepare for the flood, Noah followed his instructions. He even built the ark in a public place, so everyone else could see it, be warned of the flood, and be given time to repent for their sins. But Noah’s peers didn’t repent — instead, they made fun of Noah and his faith.
Of course, we all know how the story ends. Noah was correct, and the flood came and washed away everyone and everything that wasn’t on the ark.
It’s not always easy to do the right thing, said Rabbi Mahir Reiss, especially when everyone else is doing the opposite. But the knowledge that you’ve done the right thing can be its own reward.
6. Things Won’t Make You Happy
In Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
“Things won’t make you happy” is a truth that we can all appreciate. And now, we even have scientific research to back it up.
As researcher Marsha L. Richins wrote in a piece in The Journal of Consumer Research, “the positive emotions associated with acquisition are short-lived. Although materialists still experience positive emotions after making a purchase, these emotions are less intense than before they actually acquire a product.”
This doesn’t mean that money cannot buy happiness. The secret is to make the right purchases. According to Harvard social scientist Bella DePaulo, PhD, there is a wealth of scientific evidence showing that we are much happier when we spend money on other people instead of ourselves. In a worldwide survey, in 120 out of 136 countries, people who were more charitable were also happier.
“Finding happiness by giving to others is the central theme in most religious texts,” Rabbi Mahir Reiss said. “It is a great way to live your life regardless of your religious affiliation.”