In exercising our rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," we probably spend most of our time concentrating on the "life" and "happiness" clauses. They tend to fit into our everyday lives pretty easily. To sustain life, we eat, sleep, and seek shelter. To be happy, we make choices that we hope will result in our happiness, although the formula for success in that equation is not always clear.

But how often do we focus on the pursuit of liberty? In fact, as a nation of people freed from the various constraints placed upon our ancestors (religious persecution, slavery, economic bondage) what does the continual pursuit of liberty mean to us?

Perhaps the best way to understand an intangible concept like liberty would be to consider the words of those who paid the greatest price to establish it: our founding fathers. They certainly knew what they fought for, just as we should understand how to maintain it.

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."
Benjamin Franklin

"Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul."
John Adams

"The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence."
Alexander Hamilton

"[A] free government . . . cannot be supported without Virtue."
Samuel Williams

If the founding fathers considered our national and personal liberty to be dependent upon a national and personal virtue, the best place to start is with ourselves.

But do we comprehend the notion of virtue sufficiently to act upon it? The Webster's Dictionary definition of virtue includes two main concepts: morality and power (effectiveness.) As Christians, we have a wealth of scriptural support for the heart-centered issues of morality. Colossians 4:13 lists the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness, all of which are exercised with love. We receive regular reminders of these from the pulpit, from the Bible, and from fellowship.

However, the "powerful" or "effective" components of virtue are often overlooked because they seem to contradict the moral notions of virtue ascribed by the Bible. In reality, the Lord has warned that matters of the heart are inherently connected to the power wielded by finances, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

Our efforts to be more effective as members of society are dependent upon the tools God has given us to spread his word. In a world where "Money talks," (sometimes calling us louder than even the Lord himself,) the finances God bestows upon us for daily living are probably our most effective tools. If you consider all of your financial transactions as an opportunity to uphold liberty through your personal effectiveness, the importance of each decision becomes evident. Every day that you spend money, you make daily choices to become a consumer of certain products. When you save, you choose to provide for your own welfare and that of future generations. When you invest, you have the choice to only capitalize those corporations which uphold your values. When you give to the Lord, you choose which organizations or individuals you will support. Each transaction becomes an opportunity to be effective as a child of God.

The notion of virtue transcends everything we do, and in order to uphold the liberty that has made America grow from a national experiment to a viable force in this world, we must begin by extolling all aspects of virtue in our own lives. May your 4th of July be full of virtue, because, as it is told in Proverbs 14:34:

"Righteousness exalts a nation."