The word independence in Hebrew is etzma'ut. It is connected to the word etzem, which means bone. What is the connection between these two ideas—bones and independence?
The answer is found in writings of John Locke. He was the British political philosopher who most influenced Thomas Jefferson and America's other founding fathers.
Locke said property rights emerge out of our ownership of our bodies. Independence begins within our own bones.
From that truth emerges the idea of individual freedom. No one can enslave another human being because our bodies and the labor they produce belong to us.
Now a biblical perspective might argue that our bodies belong to God. We inhabit them in this world and return them to God in the world to come.
We can reconcile these two perspectives, however, when we understand life itself as a gift from God. Everything ultimately belongs to God, but when we are responsible for stewarding it.
Like life, ownership does not last forever. And we can't do whatever we want with the gift of life God gave us. We need to treat our life and bodies with holiness.
Think about it this way: If your father gave you a car, would you show respect for him by destroying it? The same is true with life. We cannot destroy the greatest gift our Father gave us.
Life is a gift. America is a gift. And our promise is to preserve and celebrate these gifts God gave us.
The Declaration of Independence, signed on the fourth of July, extends this promise to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
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Happy Independence Day.