Whenever we are confronted by a complex, convoluted problem, there’s always a danger in trying to offer simplistic solutions for them. At least solutions that seem simplistic. But recently I came across a profound quote that made me think, “That pretty much sums it up!”
Have you ever heard of Ravi Zacharias? If you haven’t, you ought to get acquainted with his work – his messages and books. Zacharias is an Indian-born, Canadian-American Christian apologist, a wise thinker and defender of biblical teachings. I’ve never met the man, but have discovered that listening to one of his messages for even a few minutes will provide you with more wisdom than you could glean from watching a month of commentaries on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, 24/7 .
You can Google him and find dozens of his quotations, but here’s just one example – the one that speaks to the conundrum we’re facing today as a society. He said: “The reason we have 17,000 pages in our law books is because we cannot follow 10 lines in a tablet made of stone.”
The stone tablet he’s referring to is the one God gave to Moses bearing the Ten Commandments. I have no idea where Zacharias got the number 17,000, since it seems more laws are being written and enacted every day. There have to be more pages than that. But the point is clear: When the Lord gave us the Ten Commandments, He was saying in essence, “Keep it simple, stupid!”
Like the ancient Pharisees, who took great pride in inventing new laws and adding onto old ones, we seem to have laws governing just about everything. But they don’t keep us from behaving badly. I’m not sure there’s any regulation about blowing bubbles with bubble gum, but I suspect now that I’ve mentioned it, someone will write one.
The sad reality is, if our lives depended upon being able to recite the Ten Commandments – regardless of which version of the Bible we chose – most of us would composing our final farewells. Including many who profess to be followers of Jesus.
For a refresher, here they are, straight from Exodus 20 (and Deuteronomy 5):
- “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
- “You shall not make for yourself an idol (graven image)….”
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (misuse His name)….”
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy….”
- “Honor your father and your mother….”
- “You shall not commit murder.”
- “You shall not commit adultery.”
- “You shall not steal.”
- “You shall not bear false witness (give false testimony) against your neighbor.”
- “You shall not covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Actually, God made the commandments even simpler. When asked what was the greatest or most important commandment, Jesus replied, "“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). In other words, that’s all God asks of us. If we can keep just those two laws, no sweat!
The problems with this – and the reason we have many thousands of pages of laws – are obvious. Simple as they are, the Ten Commandments and the two greatest commandments cut against the grain of sinful humanity. For instance, there are so many other gods to choose from. Not only the imaginary ones for whom idols and statues are made, but also things like money, our careers, our children, our favorite sports teams – even ourselves.
Sadly, in an age of increasingly fractured families and irresponsible lifestyles, too many kids don’t even know their fathers to honor them. As for the “false witness” part, it’s become the operational standard for too many professions. And coveting, it seems have become the national pastime. We could continue going down the list.
So, nope. Let’s just keep churning out more laws, ones that people will continue to ignore or abuse. What’s a few thousand more we can disregard? Why try to do it God’s way when we can do it our way?