The remaining six commandments show us how we can love our neighbours and we should never lose sight of the fact that when we love our neighbours that is also for God’s glory. If we lived in a society where everyone kept the Ten Commandments there would be no need for a police force or security, we would pay less for our insurance premiums and for items we purchase from stores. We would have no need to lock our homes, cars and bikes and we would have no need for a safe because everywhere would be safe. The reality is that we are incapable of keeping God’s law and that demonstrates exactly how we are all law breakers and need the Saviour.
Honour Your Father and Mother
Order in home life is essential for order and stability in society. When we honour our parents we are honouring the Lord. Failing to honour our parents inevitably results in rebellion and chaos. The resulting promise concerning “that your days may be long in the land that the Lord is giving you” is foremost relating to inheriting the Promised Land. Would the Israelites also spend forty years wandering in the wilderness like their parents had? If we fail to honour our parents we may also find ourselves aimlessly wandering through life far longer than necessary.
Note that honouring our parents does not equate to blind or foolish action. Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but his father Hoshea did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Sadly Hezekiah’s son Manasseh also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord but his father Amon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and Josiah’s son also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. This shows that we need to love and serve God first and foremost and as long as it does not contravene God’s commands, we are to obey our parents, but either way we must honour them.
You shall not murder
It took little time for the first murder to be committed. Cain killed Abel. Even more worryingly and in the same chapter Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I have to say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:22-23). Do you see why the Ten Commandments were needed and the abysmal inclination of human nature? Before God flooded the earth it was corrupt and filled with violence (Genesis 6:11). In the Noachic Covenant, the Lord would require the blood of those who shed another, for God made man in His own image (Genesis 9:6).
How can we apply loving our neighbour in the context of ‘you shall not murder’? Chizkuni reasons that the absence of any qualifying adjectives or adverbs means that murder by hand, speech or even silence is forbidden.[i] By means of example he uses the instance of being aware someone is about to be murdered but not warning the victim.[ii] Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua had strong words and explained that murder begins in the heart. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgement.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22a).
Human life is valuable since we are created in the image of God. Just law, fear of the judgement, loving our neighbour and avoiding murder in the heart before it is acted out, are good incentives to avoid this.
What is the opposite of murder? Preserving life which is a gift from God. One application is a pro-life position and refusing abortion. That is a great blessing of doctors whose basic remit is to preserve life and that is for the glory of God.
You shall not commit adultery
Adultery rarely just happens and I always remember one sermon concerning this. First there are thoughts and then the conversation and casual interactions and then one thing leads to another. Adultery is damaging to families, yourself and is dishonouring to God. It leaves behind a trail of destruction, wrecks relationships, often has financial implications, regret and heartache. What did Joseph do when Potiphar’s wife tempted him? He did what we should do. If you are tempted to commit adultery, run! Yeshua also spoke of adultery in the heart. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The perceived joy of an adulterous affair is a lie that leaves a bitter and deadly aftertaste. Remembering that God sees everything we say or do and even in secret will help us to avoid that not merely because of the fear of judgement, but out of love for God and those the Lord has entrusted to us.
What is the opposite of adultery? Marital fidelity. God desires that we should be faithful to our spouse and in doing that we are loving them to the glory of God. It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). God is absolutely faithful and wants us to be faithful and put our faith in Him.
You shall not steal
Taking what is not ours is not loving our neighbour. Ultimately everything belongs to the Lord and when we steal we offend Him as well as committing a crime against our neighbour created in His image. Stealing from wealthy corporations is an offence as is stealing from a less affluent individual. In ‘shame cultures’ the incentive not to steal is the fear of bearing the shame if one is discovered to be a thief. In ‘guilt cultures’ the incentive is that stealing is inherently wrong and it is an offence to God and the victim. Being accountable to God is a strong incentive not to steal rather than being careful not to get caught! That is why it is necessary to call sin, ‘sin’ rather than merely wrongdoing since God sees everything we do and we are accountable to Him.
What is the opposite of stealing? It is good to give and as well as blessing our neighbour, it is honouring to God. As believers we should seek opportunities to give rather than to steal. Where do all our good gifts ultimately come from (James 1:17)? The Lord. Can you imagine what society would look like if people were seeking an opportunity to give rather than to steal. We will also have to give an account to God with how we have spent our resources.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
In a court of law, emphasis is placed on telling the truth. Bearing false witness is an offence against both our neighbour and towards God to whom we will have to give an account. What is the opposite of bearing false witness? A true witness, serves justice and is loving their neighbour as well as honouring God.
Yeshua is described as the truth (John 14:6), the Bible is truth and sanctifies us by His truth (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides and leads us into all truth (John 16:13). Love rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). As believers we are to be highly committed to the truth in everything that we say and do.
You shall not covet
The dangers of coveting cannot be overstated since they are the root of other sins. Sforno mentions that once one begins coveting it is only a short step until one commits robbery and that when Achan sinned, he admitted that it began by coveting (Joshua 7:21).[iii]
High street stores have security guards because of coveting. Prisons are filled through coveting. Materialism is fuelled by coveting. Some people are in debt through coveting. Families are destroyed through coveting someone else’s spouse. People are killed through coveting.
We must remember that wrong thoughts as well as wrong actions are sins, hence the sin of coveting. Coveting shows ingratitude for what we have and is neither being grateful to God nor trusting in Him. The solution is not to be found in Buddhism by attempting to free oneself of desire.
“Rabbi Hirsch notes that this last commandment is one that only a Divine Lawgiver could have decreed. A mortal ruler can legislate against murder and theft, but only God can demand that people sanctify their thoughts and attitudes to the point where they purge themselves of such natural tendencies as jealousy and covetousness.”[iv]
What is the opposite of coveting and what is the cure? “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). If we seek the things of the Lord we will not be preoccupied with coveting carnal things and furthermore the Lord knows what we need.
When all the people saw the thunder, lightning, smoke and the sound of the trumpet they were afraid and wanted Moses to speak to them instead of the Lord, lest they died. The terrifying sight of the mountain ablaze was not simply for effect. Sforno recalls that Rabbi Yehoshua responded to the Roman Emperor’s request to be shown God by asking the Emperor first to look at the sun. The Emperor could not, since he knew he would be blinded, so Rabbis Yehoshua stated that if he could not look at one of God’s creations, how could he expect to look at God Himself?[v] Moses told them not to fear since the Lord would test them so that they would fear Him and not sin. In short, having a healthy fear of the Lord, stops us from sinning and makes for a better society.
We see then that the Ten Commandments are for our good and are integral for a moral and functional society. The commandments reveal much of God’s holy and perfect character and how we can live for Him and please Him. No matter how hard we try, we have all broken God’s commandments at some point. That is why we need to repent of our sins and trust in the Saviour. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbour as ourselves and on these two commandments hang the law and the prophets to the glory of God.
[i] Chizkuni on Exodus 20 https://www.sefaria.org/Chizkuni%2C_Exodus.20.13.1?lang=bi
[iii] Sforno on Exodus 20 https://www.sefaria.org/Sforno_on_Exodus.20.14.1?lang=bi
[iv] Tanakh The Stone Edition Edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman (Mesorah Publications, 2000; New York), p185
[v] Sforno on Exodus 20 https://www.sefaria.org/Sforno_on_Exodus.20.17.3?lang=bi