Sermon on the Mount
of the Three Parts of the Bible Early
AAs Considered Essential
"Sermon"—What it is, and
What People Say About it
I was a kid, my Uncle Gene used
to say that his "religion"
was the "Sermon on the Mount."
I know that Uncle Gene didn’t belong
to a church and never attended a
church service except an Easter
Sunrise Service once a year. He
never mentioned the Bible, and I’m
pretty sure he never read it. I’m
not sure he had any idea that Jesus
was connected with the sermon. At
least he never mentioned Jesus.
Yet he thought the "Sermon
on the Mount" was the cat’s
first grand-sponsor in A.A. used to
suggest that the men he sponsored
read "the Sermon on the Mount."
Turned out, he meant Emmet Fox’s book—something
I learned when I saw that several
of the men had Fox’s book and said
it had been recommended by my grand-sponsor.
Later, at our Wednesday night meeting,
this man said the "Sermon on
the Mount" and the Bible were
very special in A.A. But he later
confided to me that he had never read
the Bible. On several other occasions,
he warned men that AAs who read the
Bible got drunk and that they should
have been reading the Big Book and
nothing else. My own first sponsor
told me the same things. Together,
these men tried to stop me from taking
my sponsees to a Bible fellowship.
Both talked lots about their "higher
power," a little about Fox’s
"sermon," but never mentioned
Jesus Christ in my presence.
had an A.A. friend come up to me one
day and ask me where the "Lord’s
Prayer" came from. He wanted
to know where he could find it. Of
course, he had been saying it at the
end of every A.A. meeting every day
for months and months. He had expressed
interest in going to a Bible fellowship,
and it’s just possible he put together
the idea that the Lord’s Prayer and
the Bible were somehow related.
to my own knowledge about the "sermon,"
I have to confess that, even though
my mother studied the Bible daily,
wrote me about it frequently, and
used to read to me from the Psalms
when I was ill, I don’t think I knew
very much about the sermon. I think
I believed that Jesus had delivered
the talk to his disciples on a mountain.
Also, I had heard stuff about the
"Beatitudes," the "Lord’s
Prayer," "turn the other
cheek," "love your enemies,"
and the "Golden Rule." But
I had never heard of, or used, a Bible
Concordance. And I am sure I couldn’t
have found those verses or sayings
in the Bible to save my soul!
AAs Heard about it All the Time
Sermon on the Mount had a different
history in early A.A. Both Bill Wilson
and Dr. Bob said several times that
Jesus’ sermon on the mount contained
the underlying philosophy of A.A.
As A.A.’s own literature reports:
"He [Dr. Bob] cited the Sermon
on the Mount as containing the underlying
spiritual philosophy of A.A."
(DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers.
NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services,
Inc., 1980, p. 228). Dr. Bob had no
hesitancy about reading from the Bible
and reading from it this sermon at
meetings. An A.A. Grapevine
article states that at a meeting led
by Dr. Bob, Dr. Bob "put his
foot on the rung of a dining-room
chair, identified himself as an alcoholic,
and began reading the Sermon on the
Mount" (DR. BOB, supra,
p. 218). Dr. Bob pointed out that
there were no twelve steps at the
beginning, that "our stories
didn’t amount to anything to speak
of," and that they [A.A.’s "older
ones"] were "convinced that
the answer to their problems was in
the Good Book" (DR. BOB,
supra, p. 96). Clarence Snyder
pointed out as to Dr. Bob: "If
someone asked him a question about
the program, his usual response was:
‘What does it say in the Good Book?’"
(DR. BOB, supra, p.
144). Bob said quite clearly: "I
didn’t write the Twelve Steps. I had
nothing to do with the writing of
them" but that "We already
had the basic ideas, though not in
terse and tangible form. We got them
as a result of our study of the Good
Book" (DR. BOB, supra,
pp. 96-97). He also said the older
members were convinced that the answer
to their problems was in the Good
Good." Dr. Bob stressed over
and over that the "the parts
we found absolutely essential were"
the Book of James, the Sermon on the
Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 (e.g.
DR. BOB, supra, p.
96). In the Foreword he wrote to Dick
B., The Good Book and The Big Book,
Dr. Bob’s son "Smitty" pointed
to the importance of James, the Sermon,
and Corinthians; and I heard Smitty
repeat his statement at several large
A.A. history meetings, including one
at A.A.’s San Diego International
Convetion in 1995. Dr. Bob’s sponsee
Clarence Snyder, got sober in February
of 1938 and later became the AA with
the greatest amount of sobriety. Clarence
often echoed Dr. Bob’s words about
the Bible and the three essential
parts. Also, in a talk given to AAs
in Glenarden, Maryland, on August
8, 1981, Clarence said: "This
program emanates from the Sermon on
the Mount and the Book of James. If
you want to know where this program
came from, read the fifth, sixth,
seventh chapter of Matthew. Study
it over and over, and you’ll see the
whole program in there" (Glen
Cove, NY: Glenn K. Audio Tape #2451).
course, the Lord’s Prayer itself can
be found in several of the Gospels
and particularly in Jesus’ sermon
at Matthew 6:9-13). This prayer from
the sermon was originally and frequently
recited by the A.A. pioneers at the
close of every meeting (e.g.: DR.
BOB, supra, pp. 141, 148,
183, 261)—just as it was in the meetings
of the Oxford Group, from which A.A.
Wilson actually quoted from two parts
of the sermon in the Big Book—though
he never indicated his source. He
borrowed the phrase "Thy will
be done" [from Matthew 6:10]
and partly quoted "Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself"
from Matthew 5:43 (also found in many
other places in the Bible—e.g.:
Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:9; Galatians
5:14; James 2:8).
Bob read and circulated among early
AAs and their families a good many
every facet of the sermon—e.g.:
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
by Oswald Chambers (London: Simpkin,
Marshall, Ltd., n.d.); The Christ
of the Mount: A Working Philosophy
of Life by E. Stanley Jones (NY:
The Abingdon Press, 1931); The
Sermon on the Mount by Emmet Fox
(NY: Harper & Row, 1934); The
Lord’s Prayer and Other Talks on Prayer
from The Camps Farthest Out by
Glenn Clark (MN: Macalester Park Publishing
Co., 1932) and I Will Lift Up Mine
Eyes by Glenn Clark (NY: Harper
& Brothers, 1937). See Dick B.
Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd
ed. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research
Publications, Inc., 1998); DR.
BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
supra, pp.310-311. Many Oxford
Group books discussed the sermon as
did many of the daily devotionals
the early AAs used—devotionals such
as The Upper Room and The
Runner’s Bible. See DR. BOB, supra,
pp. 71, 139, 151, 178, 220, 311 and,
as to The Runner’s Bible, DR. BOB,
supra, p. 293; RHS.
NY: A.A. Grapevine, Inc., 1951, p.
34; Dick B., Good Morning,
2d ed., Dr. Bob and His Library,
3rd ed.,The Books Early
AAs Read for Spiritual Growth,
Study of the Actual Sermon on the
Mount AAs Read
discussion will not deal with a particular
book or commentary on Matthew chapters
5-7. It will focus on the verses in
the Sermon on the Mount itself. For
this Sermon, which Jesus delivered,
was not the property of some present-day
commentator or writer. The fact that
Dr. Bob read the Matthew chapters
themselves, as well as many
interpretations of them, verifies
the A.A. belief that the Sermon was
one of the principles comprising A
the common property of mankind,@ which
Bill Wilson said the AAs had borrowed.
And here are some major points that
appear to have found their way from
the Sermon into the basic ideas of
the Big Book. The points were, of
course, in the sermon itself. In addition,
the pioneers read many books and articles
on and about the sermon which are
thoroughly documented in the author's
title, The Good Book and The Big
Book: A.A.'s Roots in the Bible.
Those items further illustrate
some of the points made in the sermon
and that might have found their way
Lord's PrayerC Matthew 6:9-13
Group meetings closed with the Lord's
Prayer in New York and in Akron. In
early A.A., the alcoholics also closed
meetings with the Lord's Prayer. Moreover,
I have personally attended at least
two thousand A.A. meetings, and almost
every one has closed with the Lord's
Prayer. At the 1990 International
A.A. Conference in Seattle, which
was a first for me, some 50,000 members
of Alcoholics Anonymous joined in
closing their meetings with the Lord's
Prayer. The question here concerns
what parts, if any, of the Lord's
Prayer found their way into the Big
Book, Twelve Steps, A.A. Slogans,
and the A.A. fellowship; and we hasten
to remind the reader that the prayer
is part of the Sermon on the Mount.
Here are the verses of the Lord's
Prayer (King James Version)
as found in Matt. 6:9-13. Jesus instructed
the Judaeans, A After this manner
therefore pray ye@ :
Father which art in heaven, Hallowed
be thy name.
kingdom come. Thy will be done in
earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
forgive us our debts, as we forgive
lead us not into temptation, but
deliver us from evil: For thine
is the kingdom, and the power, and
the glory, for ever. Amen.
Bob studied specific commentaries
on the Sermon by Oswald Chambers,
Glenn Clark, Emmet Fox, and E. Stanley
Jones. And these writers extracted
a good many teachings, prayer guides,
and theological ideas from Lord's
Prayer verses in the Sermon. But there
are a few concepts and phrases in
the Lord's Prayer itself which either
epitomize A.A. thinking or can be
found in its languageC whether the
A.A. traces came from the Lord's Prayer
or from other portions of the Bible.
For example, the Big Book uses the
word A Father@ when referring to the
Creator Yahweh, our God; and the context
shows that this usage and name came
from the Bible. The Oxford Group also
used the term A Father,@ among other
names, when referring to God. The
concept and expression of God as A
Father@ is not confined to the Sermon
on the Mount. It can be found in many
other parts of the New Testament.
But AAs have given the A Our Father@
prayer a special place in their meetings.
Thus the Lord's Prayer seems the likely
source of their use of the word A
phrase A Thy will be done@ is directly
quoted, or is the specific subject
of reference, in the Big Book several
times (Big Book, 4th ed.,
pp. 63, 67, 76, 85, 88). It underlies
A.A.'s contrast between A self-will@
and A God's will.@ The Oxford Group
stressed, as do A.A.'s Third and Seventh
Step prayers, that there must be a
decision to do God's will and surrender
to His will. These ideas were
also symbolized in the A.A. prayer's
A Thy will be done.@
A Forgive us our debts@ or A trespasses@
certainly states that God can and
will A forgive;@ and these concepts
can be found in the Big Book, whether
they came from the Lord's Prayer or
from other important Biblical sources
such as the Book of James.
Full A Sermon on the Mount@ : Matthew
Bob studied, and circulated among
early AAs, an E. Stanley Jones book,
The Christ of the Mount
(Nashville: Abingdon, 1931; Festival
ed., 1985, pp. 36-37) which outlined
the Sermon's contents in this fashion:
The goal of life: To be perfect or
complete as the Father in heaven is
perfect or complete (5:48); with twenty-seven
marks of this perfect life (5:1-47).
wrote of these verses:] The perfect
life consists in being poor in spirit,
in mourning, in being meek, in hungering
and thirsting after righteousness,
in being merciful, pure in heart,
in being a peacemaker, persecuted
for righteousness sake and yet rejoicing
and being exceeding glad, in being
the salt of the earth, the light
of the world, having a righteousness
that exceeds, in being devoid of
anger with the brother, using no
contemptuous words, allowing no
one to hold anything against one,
having the spirit of quick agreement,
no inward lustful thinking, relentless
against anything that offends against
the highest, right relations in
the home life, truth in speech and
attitude, turning the other cheek,
giving the cloak also, going the
second mile, giving to those who
ask and from those who would borrow
turning not away, loving even one's
enemies, praying for those that
persecute (pp. 50-51).
A diagnosis of the reason why men
do not reach or move on to that
goal: Divided personality (6:1-6;
The Divine offer of an adequate
moral and spiritual re-enforcement
so that men can move on to that
goal: The Holy Spirit to them that
ask him (7:7-11).
After making the Divine offer he
gathers up and emphasizes in two
sentences our part in reaching that
goal. Toward others we are to do
unto others as we would that they
should do unto us (7:12); toward
ourselvesC we are to lose ourselves
by entering the straight gate (7:13).
The test of whether we are moving
on to that goal, or whether this
Divine Life is operative within
us: By their fruits (7:15-23).
The survival value of this new life
and the lack of survival value of
life lived in any other way: The
house founded on rock and the house
founded on sand (7:24-27).
own discussion will review Jesus'Sermon,
chapter by chapter. It will pinpoint
some principal thoughts that Dr. Bob
and Bill may have had in mind when
they each said that the sermon on
the mount contained the underlying
philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Here follows our review:
The Beatitudes. The Beatitudes
are found in Matt. 5:3-11. The word
A beatitudes@ refers to the first
word A Blessed@ in each of these verses.
Merriam Webster's says A blessed@
means A enjoying the bliss of heaven.@
The word in the Greek New Testament
from which A blessed@ was translated
means, A happy,@ according Biblical
scholar Ethelbert Bullinger. Vine's
Expository Dictionary of Old and New
Testament Words explains the word
A Blessed@ as follows: A In the beatitudes
the Lord indicates not only the characters
that are blessed, but the nature of
that which is the highest good.@ Dr.
Bob's wife Anne Smith described the
Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount
as A the Christ-like virtues to be
cultivated@ (Dick B., Anne Smith
> s Journal, p. 135).
beatitude verses can be found at the
very beginning of Jesus's sermon and
read as follows:
seeing the multitudes, he went up
into a mountain: and when he was
set, his disciples came unto him:
he opened his mouth, and taught
are the poor in spirit: for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven.
are they that mourn: for they shall
are the meek: for they shall inherit
are they which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness: for they shall
are the merciful: for they shall
are the pure in heart: for they
shall see God.
are the peacemakers: for they shall
be called the children of God.
are they which are persecuted for
righteousness' sake: for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven.
are ye, when men shall revile you,
and persecute you, and shall say
all manner of evil against you falsely,
for my sake.
and be exceeding glad: for great
is your reward in heaven: for so
persecuted they the prophets which
were before you (Matt. 5:1-12)
below are Webster's definitions
for the key words in each A beatitude@
verse, with quotes also from the King
James Version, which was the version
Dr. Bob and early AAs most used. As
the verses appear in the King James,
they state: A Blessed@ are:
poor (humble) in spirit [renouncing
themselves, wrote E. Stanley Jones]:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
(v. 3) ;
that mourn (feel or express grief
or sorrow): for they shall be
comforted (v. 4);
meek (enduring injury with patience
and without resentment); for
they shall inherit the earth (v.
which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness (acting in accord
with divine or moral law): for
they shall be filled (v. 6);
for they shall obtain mercy (v.
pure (spotless, stainless)
in heart [has a passion for righteousness
and a compassion for menB seeks
law and shows love, wrote Jones]:
for they shall see God (v. 8);
peacemakers: for they shall be called
the children of God (v. 9);
which are persecuted for righteousness
sake: for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven (v. 10);
when men shall revile you, and persecute
you, and shall say all manner of
evil against you falsely, for my
sake (end or purpose): for
great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets
which were before you (v. 11).
Dr. Bob, Anne, Bill, or Henrietta
Seiberling study and draw specifically
on these beatitude verses as they
put together A.A.'s recovery program?
The author can neither provide nor
document any answer. But there are
some ideas common to A.A.'s spiritual
principles in the beatitudes as you
see them expressed above. These are:
HumilityB overcoming self;
Comfort for the suffering;
Patience and tolerance to the end
of eliminating resentment;
Harmonizing one's actions with God's
Compassion, which Webster defines
as A sympathetic consciousness of
others distress together with a desire
A Cleaning house@ B which means seeking
obedience to God and, based on the
principles of love, straightening
out harms caused by disobedience;
Standing for and acting upon spiritual
principles, whatever the cost, because
they are God's principles.
foregoing are Twelve Step ideas that
can be found in the Beatitudes; and
A.A. founders probably saw them there
as well, and they can most certainly
be found in the Big BookB humility,
comforting others, patience and tolerance,
A Thy will be done,@ compassion, amends,
peacemaking, acting on the A cardinal
principles of Jesus Christ@ as virtues
to be cultivated.
Letting your light shine. Matt.
5:13-16 suggest glorifying your Heavenly
Father by letting others see
your good works. That is, A Letting
your light shine@ does not mean glorifying
yourself, but rather glorifying God
by letting others see your spiritual
walk in actionC to see the
immediate results of your surrender
to the Master. These ideas may be
reflected in the Big Book's statement:
A Our real purpose is to fit ourselves
to be of maximum service to God. .
. .@ (p. 77).
Obeying the Ten Commandments.
In Matt. 5:17-21, Jesus reiterates
the importance of obeying the law
and the prophets, specifically referring
to Exod. 20:13 (Thou shalt not kill),
but obviously referring as well to
the other important commandments such
as having no other god but Yahweh
(Exod. 20:2-3), worshiping no other
god (Exod. 20:4-5), eschewing adultery
(Exod. 20:14), refraining from stealing
(Exod. 20:15), and so on. And even
though some of these commandments
may have fallen between the cracks
in today's A.A., they very clearly
governed the moral standards of early
A.A. that Dr. Bob and the Akron AAs
embraced. The Ten Commandments were
part of early A.A. pamphlets and literature,
and (for example) Dr. Bob and the
Akron AAs would have nothing to do
with a man who was committing adultery.
The Law of Love in action.
In Matt. 5:17-47, Jesus confirms
that the Law of Love fulfills the
Old Testament Law. He rejects anger
without cause, unresolved wrongs to
a brother, quibbling with an adversary,
lust and impurity, adultery, retaliation,
and hatred of an enemy. The author's
title The Oxford Group & Alcoholics
Anonymous covers many of these
ideas as roots of A.A. principles.
And the foregoing verses in Matthew
may very well have influenced A.A.
Overcoming resentments—Matthew 5:22:
A . . .I say unto you, That whosoever
is angry with his brother without
a cause shall be in danger of the
judgment. . ." See Alcoholics
Anonymous 4th ed.,
p. 67: "God save me from being
Making restitution—Matthew 5:23-24:
"A Therefore if thou bring thy
gift before the altar, and there rememberest
that thy brother hath ought against
thee; Leave there thy gift before
the altar, and go thy way; first be
reconciled to thy brother, and then
come and offer thy gift;@ See
DR. BOB, supra, p. 308:
"We learned what was meant when
Christ said, ‘Therefore if thou bring
thy gft to the altar. . . "
Avoidance of retaliation for wrongdoing
by others—Matthew 5:38-39: "A
Ye have heard that it hath been said,
An eye for an eye, and a tooth for
a tooth: But I say unto you, That
ye resist not evil: but whosoever
shall smite thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him the other also;@ See Alcoholics
Anonymous, 4th ed.,
p. 67: "Though we did not like
their symptoms and the way these disturbed
us. . .We avoid retaliation or argument.
. . at least God will show us how
to take a kindly and tolerant view
of each and every one.".
Making peace with our enemies—Matthew
5:43-44: "A Ye have heard that
it hath been said, Thou shalt love
thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you. Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you, do good
to them that hate you, and pray for
them which despitefully use you, and
persecute you." See Alcoholics
Anonymous, 4th ed.,
pp. 67, 70: "When a person offended
we said to ourselves, "This is
a sick man. How can I be helpful to
him? . . . Thy will be done. . . .
We have begun to learn tolerance,
patience, and good will toward all
men, even our enemies, for we look
on them as sick people."
Anonymity. Matt. 6:1-8, 16-18—urging
almsgiving A in secret,@ praying A
in secret,@ fasting A in secret,@
and avoiding A vain repetitions,@
and hypocrisy. These verses could
very possibly have played a role in
the development of A.A.'s spiritual
principle of anonymity. Jesus said,
A your Father knoweth what things
ye have need of, before ye ask him@
and A thy Father, which seeth in secret.shall
reward thee openly.@ The vain practices
which Jesus condemned were acts focusing
on self-importance, inflating the
ego, and manifesting self-centeredness--something
A.A. disdains. Making a public
display of gift-giving, praying, fasting,
and repetitive prayers was something
Jesus criticized because of the
pointless hypocrisy of showing off
feigned piety to men whereas God was
it object and already knew the heart
of the hypocrite. See Alcoholics
Anonymous, 4th ed.,
p. 62: "Selfishness—self-enteredness!
That, we think, is the root of our
troubles. . . . Above everything,
we alcoholics must be rid of this
selfishness." Early Oxford Group
and A.A. literature often spoke of
A God-sufficiency@ versus A self-sufficiency,@
and A God-centeredness@ versus A self-centeredness.@
We have located no direct tie between
Jesus’ teachings of Jesus on anonymity
and A.A.'s Traditions on this principle.
But the concepts are parallel; and
The Runner's Bible and other
A.A. biblical sources that AAs studied
do discuss their significance at some
length. Also, see Alcoholics Anonymous,
4th ed., pp. 76, 77, 93:
"Our real purpose is to fit ourselves
to be of maximum service to God and
the people around us. . . . We will
lose interest in selfish things and
gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking
will slip away. . . . To be vital,
faith must be accompanied by self-sacrifice
and unselfish, constructive action."
Forgiveness. Matt. 6:14-15
refer to forgiving men their trespasses;
and Emmet Fox's forceful writing about
these verses exemplifies the A.A.
amends process. Fox said:
forgiveness of sins is the central
problem of life. . . . It is, of
course, rooted in selfishness. .
. . We must positively and definitely
extend forgiveness to everyone to
whom it is possible that we can
owe forgiveness, namely, to anyone
who we think can have injured us
in any way. . . When you hold resentment
against anyone, you are bound to
that person by a cosmic link, a
real, tough metal chain. You are
tied by a cosmic tie to the thing
that you hate. The one person perhaps
in the whole world whom you most
dislike is the very one to whom
you are attaching yourself by a
hook that is stronger than steel
(Fox, The Sermon on the Mount,
is no assurance that Fox's writing
on the sermon's forgiveness point
specifically influenced the Big Book's
emphasis on forgiveness. To be sure,
at least two A.A. history writers
have claimed that Fox's writings did
influence Bill Wilson. However, other
books that were read by early AAsB
books by such authors as Henry Drummond,
Glenn Clark, E. Stanley Jones, and
Harry Emerson FosdickB used language
similar to that used by Fox in his
discussion of forgiveness of enemies.
And Jesus'sermon on the mount is not
the only place in the New Testament
where forgiveness is stressed. Thus,
after, and even though, Christ had
accomplished remission of past sins
of believers, Paul wrote:
one another, and forgiving one another,
if any man have a quarrel against
any: even as Christ forgave you,
so also do ye (Col. 3:13)
also the following verse, a favorite
often quoted and used by Henrietta
SeiberlingB the well known early A.A.
teacher who was often thought of as
an A.A. founder:
a man say I love God, and hateth
his brother. he is a liar: for he
that loveth not his brother whom
he hath seen, how can he love God
whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20)
any event, the Big Book, Fourth Edition,
states at page 77:
question of how to approach the
man we hated will arise. It may
be he has done us more harm than
we have done him and, though we
may have acquired a better attitude
toward him, we are still not too
keen about admitting our faults.
Nevertheless, with a person we dislike,
we take the bit in our teeth. It
is harder to go to an enemy than
to a friend, but we find it more
beneficial to us. We go to him in
a helpful and forgiving spirit,
confessing our former ill feeling
and expressing our regret. Under
no condition do we criticize such
a person or argue. Simply we tell
him that we will never get over
drinking until we have done our
utmost to straighten out the past
A The sunlight of the Spirit?@
Speaking of the futility and unhappiness
in a life which includes deep resentment,
the Big Book states: A when harboring
such feelings we shut ourselves off
from the sunlight of the Spirit.@
One often hears this A sunlight@ expression
quoted in A.A. meetings. Yet its origins
seem unreported and undocumented.
Anne Smith referred frequently in
her journal to the verses in 1 John
which had to do with fellowship with
God and walking in the light as God
is light. So did A.A.'s Oxford Group
sources. And the following are the
most frequently quoted verses from
1 John having to do with God as A
light@ and the importance of walking
in the light (rather than walking
in darkness) in order to have fellowship
which we have seen and heard declare
we unto you, that ye may have fellowship
with us: and truly our fellowship
is with the Father, and with
his Son, Jesus Christ.
these things write we unto you, that
your joy may be full.
then is the message which we have
heard of him, and declare unto you,
that God is light, and in him is
no darkness at all.
we say that we have fellowship with
him, and walk in darkness, we lie,
and do not the truth:
if we walk in the light, as he is
in the light, we have fellowship
one with another, and the blood
of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth
us from all sin (1 John 1:3-7).
this particular discussion is concerned
with the Sermon on the Mount, we have
mentioned also the foregoing verses
from 1 John 1:3-7 (having to do with
walking in God's light as against
opposed to walking in darkness). For
very possibly those ideas in 1 John,
together with the following verses
in the Sermon, may have given rise
to Bill's references to the alcoholic's
being blocked from the A sunlight
of the Spirit@ when he or she dwells
in such dark realms as excessive anger.
Matt. 6:22-24 (in the Sermon) state:
light of the body is the eye: if
therefore thine eye be single, thy
whole body shall be full of light.
if thine eye be evil, thy whole
body shall be full of darkness.
If therefore the light that is in
thee be darkness, how great is
man can serve two masters: for either
he will hate the one, and love the
other: or else he will hold to the
one, and despise the other. Ye cannot
serve God and mammon.
Seek ye first the kingdom of God.
Matt. 6:24-34 seem to have had
tremendous influence on A.A. The substance
of these verses is that man will be
taken care of when he seeks first
the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Verse 33 says:
seek ye first the kingdom of God,
and his righteousness; and all these
things [food. clothing, and shelter]
shall be added unto you.
Bob specifically explained the origin
of our A.A. slogans A Easy Does It@
and A First Things First.@ (DR.
BOB and the Good Oldtimers,
pp 135, 144). When he was asked
the meaning of A First Things First,@
Dr. Bob replied. A Seek ye first the
kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added
unto you.@ He told his sponsee Clarence
Snyder that A First Things First@
came from Matt. 6:33 in the Sermon
on the Mount. And this verse was widely
quoted in the books that Dr. Bob and
the Akron AAs read and recommended
(Dick B., The Good Book and The
Big Book, p. 125, n.119; That
Amazing Grace, pp. 30, 38).
page 60, the Big Book states the A.A.
solution for relief from alcoholism:
A God could and would if He were sought.@
(italics added). This concept is one
of A seeking@ results by reliance
on God instead of reliance on self.
And this is a bedrock idea in the
Big Book. See Alcoholics Anonymous,
4th ed., pp. 11, 14, 25,
28, 43, 52-53, 57, 62. In view of
Dr. Bob's explanations as to the origin
of A First Things First,@ the Big
Book's emphasis on A seeking@ very
likely came from the A seeking the
kingdom of God first@ idea in Matt.
to Dr. Bob, the slogans A Easy Does
It@ and A One day at a time@ came
from the next verseB Matthew 6:34.
See Dick B., The Good Book and
The Big Book, pp. 87-88, and other
citations therein. The Big Book glowingly
endorses "three little mottoes"
which are "First Things First;
Live and Let Live; Easy Does It"
(Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th
ed., p. 135). Two of the three very
clearly have their roots in Matthew
Taking your own inventory.
Much of A.A.'s Fourth, Ninth,
Tenth, and Eleventh Step actions involve
looking for your own part, for your
own fault in troublesome matters.
This self-examination process (as
part of the house-cleaning and life-changing
process in the Steps) was expected
to result in that which, in Appendix
II of the Fourth Edition of the Big
Book, became described as A the personality
change sufficient to bring about recovery
from alcoholism@ (Big Book, p. 567).
Matt. 7:3-5 states:
why beholdest thou the mote [speck]
that is in thy brother's eye, but
considerest not the beam [log] that
is in thine own eye?
how wilt thou say to thy brother,
Let me pull the mote [speck] out
of thine eye; and, behold, a beam
[log] is in thine own eye.
hypocrite, first cast out the beam
[log] out of thine own eye; and
then shalt thou see clearly to cast
out the mote [speck] out of thy
verses from Matthew were frequently
cited by A.A.'s spiritual sources
as the Biblical foundation for self-examination
and thus finding one's own part, one's
own erroneous conduct, in a relationship
problem. Anne Smith specifically wrote
in her spiritual journal that she
must look for the "mote"
in her own eye.
Ask, seek, knock. Matt.
and it shall be given you; seek,
and ye shall find; knock, and it
shall be opened unto you;
every one that asketh receiveth;
and he that seeketh findeth; and
to him that knocketh it shall be
what man is there of you, whom if
his son ask bread, will he give
him a stone? Or if he ask a fish,
will he give him a serpent?
ye then, being evil, know how to
give good gifts unto your children,
how much more shall your Father
which is in heaven give good things
to them that ask him?
Wilson's spiritual teacher, Rev. Sam
part [in the crisis of self-surrender]
is to ask, to seek, to knock. His
[God's] part is to answer, to come,
to open (Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr.
Realizing Religion. NY: Association
Press, 1923, p. 32).
Runner's Bible (one of the most
important of the early A.A. Bible
devotionals) has an entire chapter
titled, A Ask and Ye shall receive.@
Another favored devotional among the
A.A. pioneers was My Utmost for
His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.
Chambers says, about the foregoing
verses beginning with Matt. 7:7:
illustration of prayer that Our
Lord uses here is that of a good
child asking for a good thing. .
. . It is no use praying unless
we are living as children of God.
Then, Jesus says: A Everyone that
foregoing verses, and relevant comments
by A.A. sources, underline all the
requisites in the asking and receiving
concept. First, you must become a
child of God. Then, establish a harmonious
relationship with Him. And only then
expecting good results from the
Creator, Yahweh, our God—"Providence@
from Him as our Heavenly Father who
cares about His children’s needs..
the emphasis in early A.A. on the
Sermon, those verses from Matt. 7
very probably influenced the following
similar ideas expressed as follows
in the Big Book's Fourth Edition:
what we have learned and felt and
seen means anything at all, it means
that all of us, whatever our race,
creed, or color are the children
of a living Creator with whom we
may form a relationship upon simple
and understandable terms as soon
as we are willing and honest enough
to try (p. 28).
will constantly disclose more to
you and to us. Ask Him in your morning
meditation what you can do each
day for the man who is still sick.
The answers will come, if your
own house is in order. But obviously
you cannot transmit something you
haven't got. See to it that your
relationship with Him is right,
and great events will come to
pass for you and countless others.
This is the Great Fact for us (p.
164, italics added).
this same vein. Dr. Bob's wife, Anne,
wrote, in the spiritual journal she
shared with early AAs and their families:
can't give away what we haven't
got. We must have a genuine contact
with God in our present experience.
Not an experience of the past, but
an experience in the presentC actual,
genuine (Dick B., Anne Smith's
Journal, 1933-1939. 3rd
ed, Kihei, HI: Paradise Research
Publications, Inc.,1938, p. 121).
Do unto others. The
so-called A Golden Rule@ cannot, as
such, be readily identified in A.A.'s
Big Book though it certainly is a
much-quoted portion of the Sermon
on the Mount which Bill and Dr. Bob
said underlies A.A.'s philosophy.
The relevant verse is Matt. 7:12:
all things whatsoever ye would that
men should do to you, do ye even
so to them: for this is the law
and the prophets.
the following two Big Book Fourth
Edition segments bespeak that Golden
Rule philosophy as Bill may have seen
have begun to learn tolerance, patience
and good will toward all men, even
our enemies, for we look on them
as sick people. We have listed the
people we have hurt by our conduct,
and are willing to straighten out
the past if we can (p. 70).
you will know what it means to give
of yourself that others may survive
and rediscover life. You will learn
the full meaning of A Love thy neighbor
as thyself@ (p. 153).
his last address to AAs, Dr. Bob said:
"Our Twelve Steps, when simmered
down to the last, resolve themselves
into the words ‘love’ and ‘service’
(DR. BOB, supra, pp.
now know from my extensive research
of the United Christian Endeavor Society,
to which Dr. Bob belonged as a youngster
in the North Congregational Church
at St. Johnsbury, Vermont, that Christian
Endeavor also stressed "love
and service" and that the original
Akron fellowship’s principles and
practices seem very much patterned
on those Dr. Bob embraced from his
Christian Endeavor days. Christian
Endeavor’s magazine was called the
"Golden Rule"—which further
highlights the significance of this
concept in Dr. Bob’s life and legacy.
He that doeth the will of my Father.
There are several key
verses in the sermon on the mount
which could have caused Bob and Bill
to say that Matthew Chapters Five
to Seven contained A.A.'s underlying
philosophy. The verses are in the
Lords Prayer itself (Matt. 6:9-13),
the so-called Golden Rule quoted above
(Matt. 7:12), and the phrase A Thy
will be done@ (Matt. 6:10). In addition
to these three roots, however, I believe
that the major spiritual principle
borrowed by the founders from the
sermon on the mountC can be found
in Matt. 7:21:
every one that saith unto me. Lord,
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of heaven; but he that doeth the
will of my Father which is in heaven.
Wilson said clearly in the Big Book
and in his other writings that the
key to success in A.A. is doing the
will of the FatherB the Father Who
is the subject of the Lord's
Prayer, Almighty God Whose will was
to be done, and the Creator upon whom
early AAs relied. Note that Wilson
was to sit quietly when in doubt,
asking only for direction and strength
to meet my problems as He would
have me (Bill's Story, Big Book,
4th ed., p. 13).
humbly offered himself to his MakerC
then he knew (Big Book, 4th ed.,
. . praying only for knowledge of
His will for us and the power to
carry that out (Step Eleven, Big
Book, 4th ed., p. 59).
I do Thy will always (portion of
A Third Step Prayer,@ Big Book,
4th ed., p. 63)!
will be done (Big Book, 4th ed,
pp. 67, 88).
me strength, as I go out from here,
to do your bidding. Amen (portion
of A Seventh Step Prayer,@ Big Book,
4th ed., p. 76).
is God, our Father, who very simply
says, > I am waiting for you
to do my will'(Alcoholics Anonymous
Comes of Age, p. 105).
a long string of literary heritage,
the Oxford Group, Rev. Sam Shoemaker,
and Bill Wilson gained the simple
idea that God has a plan, and man’s
chief end is to accomplish that plan.
In his treatise, The Ideal Life, published
in 1897, Professor Henry Drummond
(also the author of The Greatest Thing
in the World—to be discussed in a
moment) wrote these influential words:
Drummond quoted from Acts, Chapter
13, which reads as follows:
afterward they desired a king: and
God gave unto them Saul. . . And when
he had removed him, he raised up unto
them David to be their king: to whom
also he gave testimony, and said,
I have found David, the son of Jesse,
a man after mine own heart, which
shall fulfill all my will. Of this
man’s seed hath God according to his
promise raised unto Israel a Saviour,
Jesus (verses 21-23)
theme was "The Man After God’s
Own Heart: A Bible Study on the Ideal
of a Christian Life." He took
King David as the example because
God said David was a man after His
own heart—who "shall" fulfill
my will. Eloquently, Drummond wrote:
we are going to ask to-day, What is
the true plan of the Christian life?
We shall need a definition that we
my know it, a description that we
may follow it. And if you look, you
will see that both, in a sense, lie
on the surface of our text. "A
man after Mine own heart,"—here
is the definition of what we are to
be. "Who shall fulfil all my
Will."—here is the description
of how we are to be it. These words
are the definition and the description
of the model human life. The describe
the man after God’s own heart. They
give us the key to the Ideal Life.
The general truth of these words is
simply this: that the end of life
is to do God’s will" (Henry Drummond.
The Greatest Thing in the World.
London and Glasgow: Collins Clear-Type
Press, n.d., p. 203).
Bob owned all the Drummond books.
I saw them as I poured over his books
in the attic of his daughter Sue Smith
Windows, in the lists she and her
brother Smitty wrote to me in their
own hand, and in the books Smitty
donated to Dr. Bob’s Home in Akron.
Dr. Bob read them. His name and address
were in most. And Sue even phoned
me shortly before her death to confirm
the importance of Drummond’s Natural
Law in the Spiritual World which we
had reviewed in her attic. And what
about Bill? Well, we know for sure
that he at least heard all the Oxford
Group ideas. We know he said that
he and Dr. Bob felt they had seeded
A.A. And Bill probably talked more
about "Thy will be done"
and doing God’s will than any other
Biblical concept he borrowed for the
then, was the source of the underlying
philosophy of A.A. in the Sermon?
Take your choice. It could have been
the Lord’s Prayer. It could have been
"Thy will be done" in the
Lord’s Prayer. It could have been
the Golden Rule, and Dr. Bob hinted
at this at one time. It could have
been the Beatitudes. It could have
been "love thy neighbor, and
even thine enemies." It could
have been "First Things First:--"seek
ye first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness." But the most
forceful of the sermon statements
everyone that saith unto me, Lord
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
of heaven; but he that doeth the will
of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew
idea can be found in Ecclesiastes
us hear the conclusion of the whole
matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments:
for this is the whole duty of man
like some of these words about Bob
of course, was an important part of
Dr.Bob’s faith. According to Paul
S., "Dr. Bob’s morning devotion
consisted of a short prayer, a 20-minute
study of a familiar verse from the
Bible, and a quiet period of waiting
for directions as to where he, that
day, should find use for his talent.
Having heard, he would religiously
go about his Father’s business, as
he put it" (DR. BOB, supra,
Gospel of Luke tells us that, at age
12, Jesus "tarried behind in
Jerusalem" after his parents
had left. Three days later, they found
him in the temple, sitting in the
midst of the doctors, both hearing
them, and asking them questions. They
all were astonished at his understanding
and answers. His parents saw him;
chewed him out for tarrying; but heard
Jesus reply to them:
is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not
that I must be about my Father’s business?
(See Luke 2:43-49)
BOB continues with the report
that Dr. Bob, when he was conducting
surgery and wasn’t sure, would pray
before he started. Bob commented,
"When I operated under those
conditions, I never made a move that
wasn’t right". . . . Whenever
he got stuck about something, he always
prayed about it. . . . He prayed,
not only for his own understanding,
but for different groups of people
who requested him to pray for them,"
said Bill Wilson . . . "Bob was
far ahead of me in that sort of activity’
(DR. BOB, supra, pp.
are not always held in high regard
in today’s A.A. But I’ll have a shot
at this one: I believe that endeavoring
to do the will of the Creator, as
set forth in the Bible or as God may
reveal it to the individual, constituted
the underlying philosophy in the Sermon
on the Mount, of which Bob and Bill