How Do The Ten Commandments Fit In?
“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me an keep my commandments. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it, you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:1-17).’”
We finish our analysis of how Christians should act with the Mosaic (and it’s important to note it as such) covenant that most know as the Ten Commandments. Something we must acknowledge before hand. We live by grace, not by the law. The law condemns us, but grace brings life (2 Corinthians 3:6).
I say that not to negate the law, but to remember that one could obey these commandments to the letter and still fail. Indeed, no mortal man has or can actually live by the letter (much less the spirit) of the law.
The commandments start where every command starts, with the most important law. I spoke about loving God with all your mind, heart, spirit, and strength in a previous chapter. The next two commandments are really just deeper ways in which we show our love for God. If you loved your parents, you wouldn’t make new parents for yourself. If you love your parents, you wouldn’t take their names in vain. A God we love with our entire being is one we don’t try to cram into an idol, and we certainly don’t create for ourselves another god to worship when we already have the one, true God to serve. Ironically, God may be the only name so frequently taken in vain. None of my sons have ever said, “Matthew darn you!” None of my sons have ever used my name as a swear. I don’t imagine any of your children or loved ones have done it either. Indeed, when we speak ill of someone, and that person finds out, we immediately recognize we were in the wrong.
Rather than jump down a rabbit hole trying to understand why people feel so free to use God’s name so flippantly, we must simply recognize that regardless of the reason we may be tempted to do it, we should not.
I’m going to skip over the fourth commandment for just a while because it demands a certain perspective.
The remaining five commandments are simply better ways to love your neighbor, which we discussed in another earlier chapter. We begin by honoring our father and our mother. Indeed God places our parents over us to serve as a representation of the relationship we share with God. Several segments of the Bible (1 Corinthians comes to mind as well as Ephesians) expressed the representative nature of the family in that the father is the head, the wife is the church, and the children are to be trained.
To honor our parents is to honor our God. One may quickly argue some parents are not worthy of such honor. My own biological father was one such parent. But this brings to mind the same paradox we face whenever we encounter temptation. We humans want to live in a world where our obedience to the law is somehow predicated on everyone else also obeying the law. From the time we were children, we proclaim, “But everyone else is doing it,” or “But this is the reason I am the exception to this rule.” There are no conditions to the laws. I am not asserting that we should break one command even if our father and mother tell us to. My parents could never have ordered me to kill any more than I could honor them by doing something so deplorable.
Are some of you remembering how God ordered Joshua to kill? God ordered several deaths of all sorts. Please remember, dear readers, that God is a perfect, holy being. It is his right to judge. Indeed only He could judge rightly who is to live and who is to die, who is to have eternity in Heaven, and who is to have eternity in Hell.
What about war and the military? I can understand one asking this, and it ties to the next commandment we must look at.
I took great detail to talk about murder, but I must address the spirit of this law to show just what murder looks like in the eyes of God.
“‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21-22).’”
While no one ever disputes it’s wrong for one man to shoot another, we must look to the words of Christ to realize that a man who becomes angry at another is in fact guilty of that same crime. Please don’t be ridiculous. I am not saying a person should shoot whoever he is mad at because he is guilty of the crime anyway. Rather I am saying that a man with anger in his heart (a man like me), is in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Such a person as I must seek to change because we can not love our neighbors if we harbor anger in our hearts. That anger isn’t about the person. I assert that anger is quite usually far more about the person feeling the emotion than it is about what the other did. Indeed, if one were to articulate what they wanted to say, they would have to say, “He made me angry!”
First, to say such a thing gives that person authority to change how you feel. Oddly, we cry out our right to feel and think whatever we want while, in the same breath, we give up that right by allowing what others do to change those feelings. If this paragraph has helped you see the paradox, I urge you to reflect on why you feel the emotion of anger. What were you denied, and is it really worth killing over? What was taken from you? Is it really worth killing over?
There are circumstances where one may absolutely say it is worth killing over. But then we place ourselves on the throne of judgement. While I wish anyone wronged justice, I would not meet that justice out myself.
The key to obeying this command demands one search his own heart and ask himself what is most important. For a Christian, this must be God. This means that one of what I may dare to say is only out of a few righteous forms of anger comes when proper worship of our God, the most important being in our lives, is threatened. I should be much more angry about a policy that denies me time to study the word than I am at my wife for wanting to talk to me about her day when I’m trying to read any other book. The letter of this law is obvious, but the spirt of the law is critical to understanding the value of love. Note the remainder of the verse. This same paragraph shows us how to address that issue righteously because Christ knows that we become angry. The commandment then offers the grace in that we can reconcile with our loved ones to save one another. So we should.
But now I must come back to what I previously mentioned about the military. As one who served in the United States, I have always affirmed that I am not a killer. Perhaps I am unique in that viewpoint, but since I am the one writing this book, that unique perspective counts. You see, I never said I was a killer. I saw myself as a defender. I defended my brothers in arms. I defended my country. I never sought to kill. I never sought to harm. Many I served with felt similarly, at least to a degree. Luckily, I never had to kill. But I do not see the act of defense as an act of murder. To protect someone else is not to strike down one in anger, as Christ went on to explain. To protect is just that. There are other dangers in this path, but we are not in a nation that demands we serve in the military. Indeed, even in our military there are ways to serve that don’t require one to make the choice to kill or not to kill. I only offer my perception as one who served his country. Would I have killed in the like of duty? Yes, because I believe in the mission I was ordered to perform. Do those who oppose us feel equally committed under a similar belief? Perhaps. I this regard, I must joyfully seek the guidance of the panel.
The seventh commandment again is obvious on the surface and has deeper meaning.
“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).’”
While I wouldn’t make this a statement where women can wear what they wish however they wish, I would say that a man who’s eye is drawn to a woman with lustful eyes is wrong. This works in the same way for women and men. A person may notice someone is attractive. However, when you stare or long for that person, you become guilty. I say again, modest dress is a consideration one makes to help one who may be tempted avoid such things, but the tempted must be resisted even a willing tempter. Do not ever fall victim to the idea that the temptation is responsible. When we succumb to sin, whatever the reason, however strong the temptation, we are to blame, and only us.
The final three commandments then continue to offer actions we can avoid that will help us be more loving to our neighbor. Indeed, I would affirm that the tenth commandment is critical even though it is placed last. Indeed who commits adultery but the one who covets someone else’s spouse? Why would one steal if he didn’t first covent what another had. I affirm that if one could focus on being content with what he has, no matter how little, he would avoid a great many other sins.
At present, that’s very easy for me to say, and I admit it. I’m not a millionaire, nor do I have such wealth that I can be foolish with my money and not fall into debt. However, I have more than a homeless man and maybe more than some other working husbands. So if you read this and think, “It’s easy for him to say be happy with what you have when he has all he could want,” I must, in my current circumstances, agree.
However, I’ve previously written about need and want. I think anyone can look at others and see what they have. But why? What reason does one have to look at another’s possessions or life if not for the strict purpose of being covetous over what someone has that he doesn’t or even covetous over what he has because others might want it?
Please remember what we should always be seeking.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”
If rather than looking at what we do have or lamenting what we do not have, we instead look to serve and honor the God who created all things, we will be well. I am not promising prosperity. I’m also not declaring a socialist planet where people only have the very least of what they need. I’m simply stating that we will first have the most important thing: the promise of eternal life in God’s abundant kingdom. After this, on this planet, we can trust that, at the very least, God will care for our needs.
Now we return to the fourth commandment and what it implies.
When this chapter began, I had to remind people that this was part of the Mosaic covenant. I had to do that to explain why this commandment is no longer enforced and others still stand.
I must first explain the purpose. You see, while the first three commandments reign supreme as the most essential because we must love God above all, and the bottom five commandments stand firm because we must love our neighbor as ourselves, the fourth commandment is actually for ourselves. It is the one commandment that was put in place for the individual. It was not placed there for others to deny. Nor was it established as a way to honor God. Indeed to work to serve God honors him, so doing nothing for a day only allows us rest, rest God showed is good to take, rest God allowed us to have in the same way that he had it.
How can I say such a bold thing? Christ told us.
“And He said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not the man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).’”
Indeed, if one truly wishes to observe The Sabbath for the Glory of God, then good for him (a very personal paraphrase of Romans 14:5-9).
What I first stress is that The Sabbath was put in place to provide people a chance to rest, but we are not obligated to observe the Sabbath anymore because Christ fulfilled the covenant of Moses so that we might now live in His new and better covenant.
Does this create a paradox? Not in my estimation. In every covenant there were rules put in place for specific reasons that were accounted for in future covenants. Adam only had (from one point of view) one command. He certainly wasn’t given The Ten Commandments. There were reasons. You see, Adam was innocent, completely unaware of right and wrong. Indeed, pointing those things out would have made him aware. Once the fruit of the tree was consumed and Adam’s eyes were opened, that knowledge required further guidance. But we still didn’t receive the Ten Commandments for thousands of years.
The only law that never changes is the original law to love God and obey him, indeed obedience is a demonstration of love and trust. Adam disobeyed, and so the curse fell on man. That disobedience was corrected not by any act of sinful man, but by the obedience of Christ, who died, as was His duty from the Father, and was raised again.
But Christ serves as our example and the Spirt serves as our redeemed conscience. So we follow the example and commands of Christ because we hold fast to his promises. This means we still love the LORD our God and our neighbor as ourselves. This also means that we take the measures listed in The Ten Commandments to help guide us to do so. As for the day of rest? We may set it aside, but we are no longer commanded to do so. Neither should we judge the one who sets it aside for the glory of God. The explanation takes us back to what I said earlier. God didn’t establish that command as a form of honoring Him. He graciously gave us that command to provide for our rest.
We may teach our sons to go to bed at 9 p.m. We do so to teach them good habits (I am here speaking about my own sons). However, my oldest already knows that I will no longer uphold that rule when he turns 16. I trained him to work and rest as is wise, but I did so not for my glory, but so that he had rest and energy to do what he must. He may need to work. He may even choose to stay up late to do something he knows needs to get done. He’s not dishonoring me by staying up to finish his homework or the dishes.
This concludes the analysis of the laws that are either more well known or seen to be more important from my own human perspective. I must conclude by once again stating that one who honors God above all and loves his neighbor will instinctively conform to the lesser laws. For any seeking to honor God and be loving to his fellow man will do well.
In the next (and last) chapter, I will address that which every Christian must know.
For our panel: Is a person who serves in the military guilty of murder if he kills in the line of duty? Why or why not? How would you explain Christ as the fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant? Are there other commandments I haven’t addressed in the previous few chapters that must be addressed?