Recently, my town installed a large decorative fountain in the local park in an effort to spruce up the neighborhood. About a week after the fountain was built, this sign appeared next to the fountain.

I believe this sign is a strikingly honest reflection of the nature of the law, aka, the “ought’s” of life. The law presents itself to me under the guise of safety (“Please keep off the fountain”). The law says that I would be happier and less stressed if I were to follow it. I would be a better person, I would no longer have any strained relationships, I would have career success, etc. The law says it’s simply looking out for me.

But beneath this veneer of charity always lies the curse of conditionality (“Violators will be prosecuted”). Were I to falter in any way, were I to violate the simple statutes in place for my benefit, then I cannot expect to get off with a warning. No, transgression of the law demands prosecution.

The same thing is true when one offer a simple suggestion or piece of advice to a friend. It may be that such advice is told to them for their own good. That new girlfriend may be totally wrong for him, that tie may not go with his shirt and that college may be worst place she can go. But when one’s advice is not followed, anger, indifference, passive-aggressive manipulation, or the self-righteous “I told you so” will always follow.

All this demonstrates that what seems to be given for my good (advice) only leads to destruction. Or as St. Paul says: “for if a law had been given which could make alive , then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Galatians 3:21).