Preparing to read Exodus 20:12-17
I’m going again suggest you read Exodus 20:1-2 before reading these commands. The story gives us power to keep the commands.
The first four commands center on Israel’s and our relationship with God. The next six commands center on flourishing human relationships.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
The very first command given from God about flourishing human relationships is to honor our fathers and mothers. In the same way God carries Israel out of slavery as a parent, so a bond of love and obedience is required between children and parents for human flourishing. Breaking these bonds results in many of the deep wounds and injustices we see in the world today.
13 “You shall not murder.
The way Christians read and act on the Ten Commandments is this: read and keep them as Jesus read and obeyed them. How do we do that? One important way is to read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. You can read blogs on this by searching Matthew or Sermon on the Mount tags. In the sermon, Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said to the people long ago (Ten Commandments), ‘You must not murder. Anyone who commits murder will be in danger of being punished.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be in danger of being punished. Anyone who says, ‘You good for nothing idiot!’ to his brother must answer to the Jewish Ruling Council. Anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of being punished in hell fire.”
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
We commit adultery when we break the covenant with our spouse we married and vowed to love and be faithful to the rest of our life. When we lust for another person, when we have sex with someone other than our spouse, when we are violent physically and emotionally, these actions break covenant. Some people think only having sex with someone other than your spouse constitutes unfaithfulness or adultery, but Jesus said when we want sex with someone else and nurse that thought over and over, that’s adultery, too. When we divorce someone trivially and marry someone else, Jesus says that’s also adultery. Our desire is to water down our definition of adultery and make it a big sin committed only by those having illicit sexual affairs, but adultery comes in these other forms, according to Jesus. Can God forgive us? Does He forgive us? I believe God is gracious, judges the human heart better than we do, and is a merciful and just God.
15 “You shall not steal.
Seems so easy. Stealing is for criminals, right? Ever stole time from your employer? Ever steal office supplies? Ever stole dignity from a person you ignored as if they were not human? Every stole empowerment from someone by assuming they are too inept to do something for themselves? Ever steal power from someone by helping them instead of insisting they help themselves? Ever fail to tithe to the work of God in the world through a local church? As comedian (and serious thinker!) says, “Tithing is just not stealing!”
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
When we represent ourselves in the workplace, to our neighbors, to our church as one thing and represent others in a dim light, we are giving false testimony about our neighbor. We are making ourselves look good and our neighbor look bad, we are promoting our false self and putting others down.
Ever cheated on your taxes? Ever fudged the value of a car when getting a new tag so you won’t have to pay as much in taxes?
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
American (and any nation’s) consumerism is built on coveting. Advertising is built on coveting. You must never be satisfied with what you have. You need more. How much is enough? When our goal is continued consumption, wealth, possessions, enough is never enough.
We are touched by the fallenness of human relationships, children (of any age) dishonoring parents. We ask you to melt our hearts toward our parents and parents toward children. Where there are deep blistered wounds of unforgiveness, bring us to cool waters of forgiveness. God, who in Christ on the cross showed us how to choose mercy rather than eye-for-an-eye judgment, was murdered for this. Give us courage to live this way of life Jesus taught. We are not faithful but You are. We want to be faithful like you. Teach us faithfulness in our human relationships, so we may flourish in our relationships. You created us in your image and made us to be faithful to you and our neighbors, to make faithfulness visible in an unfaithful world. Show us how to stop stealing from you, from others. Forgive us for coveting our neighbors’ possessions, for lying, for cheating. Purify our hearts and help us keep your commands in new ways.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.