Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Genius of the Ten Commandments

Sometimes the best advice, the wisest counsel we can receive is what we have already been given. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” has always been one of my favorites. “Look before you leap” is another all-time goodie. And I’ve grown to appreciate the adage, “If you can’t be happy where you are, you certainly can’t be happy where you’re not.” But over the years I’ve become convinced the best advice by far can be found in that good old book called the Bible.

Occasionally I’ll hear someone make a comment like, “The Bible is an outdated, irrelevant religious book.” Or they might call it, “just a collection of stories and fables.” At those times, it’s all I can do to keep from bursting into hysterical laughter. Because I’ve learned – via much experience, trial and error on my part – that if there ever was anything written with timeless significance, importance, usefulness, and truth, it’s the Bible.


I could cite countless examples, but there’s no need to go any further than the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20:1-17, and (just in case we missed it) repeated in Deuteronomy 5:1-21. Ten simple mandates which, if adhered to, could resolve and remedy much of what ails our once proud land – and our personal lives.


Going through each one would require far more words than allotted for this post, but let’s briefly consider some of the commandments Moses carried down from Mount Sinai. 


The first three, “…You shall have no other gods before me,” “you shall not make any graven images…and worship them,” and “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” (Exodus 20:2-6), can be summarized by six simple words: “I am God – and you’re not.” It was author Anne Lamott who wrote, “One of the biggest differences between you and God is that He never thinks He is you.”


Commandment No. 4 deals with that pesky thing called the Sabbath. “How dare God tell me how to use my Sunday?!” some protest. Or, if you’re Jewish or a Seventh-Day Adventist, that would be Saturday. But Jesus clarified that when He declared, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). This, in fact, is one of the most practical commandments. Everything needs rest – animals, fields, and human beings. In effect, God is telling us, “I’m giving you this command to rest, because you need it.”


The commandments about murder, adultery, stealing and lying seem self-explanatory, but every day we see reports and read stories about people flagrantly violating each. Perhaps more than ever before. This is one reason it would be a good reason to boldly and ostentatiously display the Ten Commandments publicly again. Since easily we forget so easily.

In past posts I’ve written in regard to the commandment that instructs us to honor our fathers and mothers, which also seems to have gone out of fashion with our “woke” and “progressive” society. But what about the 10th commandment, the one that says we shouldn’t covet – or envy, or be jealous of – other people’s stuff.


This seems to be one of the foundational principles behind the growing popularity of socialism: Folks want more, and they want others to have less. We want what others have got, even if they worked hard and long to earn it – and we have been disinclined to do the same. We want the rewards without the sweat equity required.


As a result, there’s misery all around. We have people agonizing because they don’t have what others have – wealth, nice houses, expensive cars, the latest and greatest gizmos and gimmicks. And we’ve got the people who have those things, desperately afraid of losing what they’ve acquired.


When I read the Ten Commandments, whether it’s No. 1 or No. 10, it’s like God telling me, “If you want to be truly happy, experiencing a meaningful, fulfilling life, do what I say. And don’t do what I tell you not to do.” It’s simple, really. But then, why choose simple when we can make things difficult, right?

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