The 10 commandments. As a child, they were the first of many Sunday school lessons. Then they became the dreaded list of expectations that as teens we found we could never live up to. And finally, they followed us to our graves as the ultimate to-do list of a “perfect Christian”(exaggeration intended towards the end).
But was this truly the intent of God? Are these collections of shall and shall nots, simply meant to be a randomly selected group of orders forced upon us as humans? Or, could there be a far greater meaning to their warnings between right and wrong? I believe that a closer look will reveal a far great longing for mankind, from the very heart of God.
Observing this list form Jewish tradition, that being not a list of commandments but instead statements, can help us better understand the true intent of the one who gave them.
“And God spoke all these words saying, I am the Lord thy God which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
When we learn the 10 commandments in the Christian culture the first “command” doesn’t appear until verse 3, skipping completely over this vital statement. Yet in these first two verses lies the very significance of the entire passage. “God spoke all these words”. If this were a list given by a mear man then the reliability would be nothing more than that of an opinion of a mear man. If someone says “thou shall not steal” then it is their opinion that one’s objects are valuable, but that does not mean that every other person will agree with them. One man’s opinion is simply one man’s opinion. Unless the command is given by a power above all men then it cannot stand as absolute truth. Whether you are Christian or Athiest, this is a concept that you should value and hope that others do the same. Regardless of your religious view, the fact that these commandments are given by God and therefore cannot be overridden by man, means that you can live a safer life. If God says “thou shall not kill, lie, steal, ect..” then that means no man who acknowledges these commands and the God who gave them, can rightfully come and take your life, belongings, or deceive you. The more people who believe in these commandments and their God-given authority, the safer and freer our world will be.
The second part of this statement ” out of the house of bondage” takes the significance of the first part and adds personal meaning. God could have introduced Himself as the Creator of the Univers, the great I Am, “Phenomenal Cosmic Powers” (Robin Williams voice indicated). Yet He instead chose the title of Rescuer from bondage. This shows the personal desire of the heart of God, that all men be free. These 10 commandments are not a list of requirements that He expects us to toe the line with, for He knows we cannot. But they are instead the guidance of a loving God as to how we are to maintain a free and stable way of life for every human.
The greatest commandment according to Christ is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and the second is like unto it, that we love our neighbor as our self. In this commandment hangs all the law and prophets.
Love the Lord and love others. If one follows these two greatest commandments then the to-do list of the 10 commandments will simply come about as a result of their love in action. Someone who loves God will love others. What better way is there to love others than to place worship where it is due and not in objects, people or ideas that cause deviation. Love is abhorring the very idea of using the Lord’s name to justify evil. It is valuing the life of every human and beast by setting aside one day in 7 to rest from all work. It is honoring your mother in father, creating a strong family bond. It is valuing the gift of life given to every human. It is the act of faithfulness to your spouse alone, creating a safe secure family heaven. It is respecting the property of all mankind, including objects, life, and ideas. It is giving only honest and trustworthy reports. And finally, it is exercising gratitude for one’s own blessing, not seeking the objects of another’s.
The 10 commandments are not simply a Sunday school lesson, an unaccomplishable to-do list, or a “perfect Christian” standard that will haunt you to your grave. It is a way of showing love and respect to others, creating a free world for all.