The Ten Commandments are also known as “The Decalogue.” In Greek, they are called the “Deka logos” or “The Ten Words.” They are instructions for the good life—the God life. They were proclaimed by God Himself about three months after Israel arrived at Sinai and He literally etched them in stone for Moses and the Hebrew people. This is the only thing that God ever said and did in this particular unique and dramatic way. God wrote it down in black and white in our Bibles so we could read and obey them thousands of years later. As rules that demand our obedience, they are great for memorization.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
God’s Ten Commandments are:
1. Plain common sense from God’s perspective
2. A complete coverage of the full range of obligations of human beings to their Creator.
3. An absolutely necessary document
4. God’s foundational morality code
5. A revelation of God’s personal character
6. The eternal statement of life principles
7. A description of the life style of the Covenant people
8. The legal instrument of covenant-ratification
9. Rules from heaven for life on earth
10. A statement of permanent, personal obligations to God
11. Systematic in arrangement: the first four deal with God Himself; the last six deal with humans
12. A list of prohibitions and responsibilities
13. Mostly prohibitive and restrictive: “Thou Shalt Not”
14. Not an impersonal code of conduct, but a living trust
15. As unchangeable as God Himself
16. An essential summation of divine law
17. Are as eternal as the laws of nature
18. Guidelines for the activities of daily living
19. Meaningful only if those who read them are committed to the one who wrote them
20. Teachings that reach deep into the heart, influencing both motives and actions
21. Clarification concerning what Creator God expects from His created beings.
If God were permissive, He would have given us “The Ten Suggestions,” which might read something like this:
1. I probably am the Lord thy God.
2. You should try not to have any strange gods before you.
3. It is socially unacceptable to take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. However, if you do, be sure it is politically correct.
4. Make an attempt to keep holy the Sabbath day…sometimes.
5. If you so desire, honor thy father and thy mother.
6. It is not nice to murder anyone.
7. You should not fornicate. However, if you have an affair, be discreet.
8. Make a real effort not to steal too often.
9. Thou shalt not slander, unless the gossip is extra juicy.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife or possessions in an obvious manner.
Thank God, He did not appoint a committee to draft the Decalogue!
Jesus didn’t make up any new commandments, but pointed His disciples back to the original ten (Matthew 22). He summed up the entire Ten Commandments in just two: Love God and humans.
We love God by keeping the first four commandants. We love others by keeping the other six.
Love God and human beings. Who else is there to love?
The Ten Commandments are listed in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Select one of these chapters and read them.
The First Commandment – Loving God
These first two are connected in that they show that Jehovah is one God and that He requires love from His people. The connection between the first and second commandments shows not only that God is one but that He is the one and only God. Worship of the one God is a command but to worship one God isn’t the whole answer. The One we worship must be Jehovah God. God will not allow Himself to be just one god among many. As the one and only God, He desires that we should love Him “with all our hearts” (Matthew 22:37), for the heart is the center of love and emotions. Secondly, we are to love Him “with all our soul,” the center of our personality. Thirdly, we are to love God “with all our strength” which concerns our physical bodies. God won’t settle for being reduced to some hazy, obscure image of “the man upstairs.”
Placing this commandment first, loving Jehovah, is foundational to keeping the other nine commandments. Only if you love Him will you keep His commandments. If you want to know who Jehovah is, what He has to say, what He does and how He reacts to sin, read the Decalogue. He etched in stone what is the ultimate sum of what He wants us to know. And the first piece of information He sets forth is that we must focus upon God and give ourselves totally to Him unconditionally and without reservation.
In giving us the Decalogue, The Ten Commandments, God gave a concise statement of who He is and what He requires. Not only did God reveal Himself at Sinai, He backed up His Word throughout these past 3,500 years by His interaction with those who love Him. In Deuteronomy 30:15, we discover that loving God is only verified by doing His will. Loving God is inseparably connected with obedience. Jesus also said “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
In Mark chapter 12, when Jesus was asked which the greatest commandment was, He combined the first commandment with a new commandment. He quoted from Leviticus 19:8 and said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In John 15, Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that ye love one another.”
We love Him, because He first loved us.
The Ten Commandments are mostly in the form of prohibitions, for they presuppose the human tendency to sin. God delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt to serve Him alone, not some dumb idol. They are now free to worship God: but they needed instructions concerning how to do that. So God gave the Ten Commandments.
The first commandment centers our attention on God as the object of our worship. Whereas the first commandment deals with silent, internal worship, the second commandment deals with visible, outward worship. The commandment to love God is placed first, because if you don’t understand this one, you will have no reason to obey the other nine. God knew that if we did not get the first commandment straight, the rest of the commandments would be confusing. It is only when we get worship right that life begins to make sense.
The Second Commandment – Idolatry
The need for the second commandment is obvious when we realize that the people were worshipping the Golden Calf while Moses was on Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. Idolatry ties one to materialism, for idols are man-made substitutes for God. One cannot aspire to the spiritual when tied to the visual, for no one can serve two masters.
Who are the idolaters of our era? What things can become false gods in the 21st century? Self? Money? Friends? Careers? Children? You may not realize you have “other gods” in your life, but if you do, God will know. We tend to worship what we love, whether it is a home, a car or a sweetheart. God does not want our affections divided. So we are told to love the Lord our God with all our being.
According to Romans chapter one, to be an idolater is to change the truth of God into a lie. It is a person who attempts to replace God with something other than Himself. We are forbidden to “bow down,” to worship or sacrifice to false gods, for to bow is to respect or to give homage to someone. An idol worshipper assumes God has a certain body, shape or form. God forbids any graven images in attempts to represent God, for God cannot be interpreted by human beings. To worship a false god degrades both God and the worshipper. Jehovah won’t be copied nor will He share His glory with another, for you will worship what you love with your entire being. God revealed Himself in no visible form until His Son came to earth. Our worship must focus on the One who has redeemed us and on Him alone.
To ensure respect for the first commandment, He gave the second. In both these commandments, God refers to Himself as the Deliverer: not the Creator. With this in view, human beings who choose not to love and obey God are horribly ungrateful.
God took away my bonds and bound me to His heart. Since I owe God my freedom, He has the right to command me. And every further act of grace only increases my obligation to Him. Big gifts of mercy are followed by big demands on us. We owe God everything and He owes us nothing. God makes His appeal in these first two commandments on the basis of gratitude, trusting that thankfulness will inspire our obedience. But He leaves the choice to worship Him totally up to each individual.
The Third Commandment – Oaths and Swearing
In America, it is not unusual to hear people say, “I swear it’s the truth” or “I swear to God” or “ I swear on my mother’s grave.” When I was a child, when my playmates and I wanted to convince the others of something, we would often say, “I swear on a stack of Bibles!” as if this would lend credibility to our words. Why do people make vows and take oaths? Often, it is because they feel that just promising something is not enough. So they make rash vows, take oaths and swear just as children do.
God is concerned about what we say about Him. Another of the Ten Commandments concerns what we say about our neighbors, but this third one addresses God’s authority over your words. To obey this command is to recognize the power of your tongue, that it can be used for good or evil.
This commandment forbids all frivolous, half-hearted oaths. But in a larger sense, it forbids all irreverence toward the things of God. We are to talk about God with a holy fear and with the knowledge He is listening. The third commandment involves God’s authority over your speech in general, represented by how we reverence God’s name in particular. With this in mind, it is easy to see how this commandment is closely connected with the first two.
In a courtroom, lies and perjury often make true justice impossible. To counteract this, swearing “to tell the whole truth,” with one’s right hand on a Bible, became common practice in America’s courtrooms. The end of this vow was “so help me God.” God was called upon as a witness to this vow. This practice has been discontinued in today’s judicial system, because swearing to something does not guarantee that “the whole truth” will be told.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:33, “Don’t swear at all.” But Jesus was not talking about cussing, but about rash vows. The Hebrew wording in the third commandment forbids us to “lift up the name of Jehovah to vanity.” In Matthew 23:16, Jesus forbad people to “swear by the temple.”
But is it a sin to make a vow?
A study of Numbers 30:2-13, Matthew 12:16-22 and Hebrews 7:20-28 will help to clarify oaths from God’s perspective. The third commandment does not forbid one to take an oath, but just make sure you keep it if you make it. Never make an oath that’s impossible to keep.
According to Hebrews 7:2-28, the Levitical priests were ordained into their ministries by oaths. Paul made a vow in Acts but he kept it. Jonah (2:9) swore to pay what he had vowed. God Himself swore by Himself (Hebrew 6:13-16). As God keeps His promises, so must we.
This command forbids all mockery and scoffing at the things of God. The third commandment is closely linked with the first two, for all three demand respect for God Himself. We make fun of God when we swear by His holy name that we will serve Him but don’t. In Matthew 26:74, Peter swore that he did not know Jesus.
We must not “take His name in vain,” for every abuse of His name—any calling of God to bear witness in a light or mocking way—is forbidden. This involves any lightness, flippancy, jesting, abuse, scorn, skepticism, shallowness or superficiality. We misrepresent God when we disrespect His name. By so doing, we demean His holy character. This commandment informs us that He will hold us accountable.
But how is taking God’s name in vain linked with cussing?
To answer this, we must first discover why people curse in the first place. Cussing or swearing is often done in anger and is usually negative. Swearing is often an emotional attempt to control someone, something or some situation. To get mad at your broken car and to ask God to damn your car will not make it go. We are forbidden to invoke God’s name in the vain attempt to somehow get God to help them control a situation. When did Jesus ever cuss?
You and I are His instruments who teach His holy laws, so we must demonstrate respect for the things of God. If you joke about the Bible, Jesus or God, consider your hearers. How do you want them to view God? God won’t hold you guiltless if you disrespect His name. This includes the promise of punishment unless this sin is confessed and forsaken. We will be held accountable for what we say about God and how we say it.
The third commandment may seem out of place, and even to pale in comparison to such sins as idolatry, murder or adultery. But its significance can only be seen from God’s point of view. Jehovah gave Moses a Name that none should abuse: the name of God Himself. Since names represent persons, we show reverence for God and His Son by how we treat their names. One day, all will bow to the name of Jesus. Because we love Him, we respect His holy name. God commands us. He doesn’t just remind us.
The Fourth Commandment – The Sabbath Day
This commandment takes us back as far as the human mind can travel—to the week of creation. God rested from His work of on the seventh day (Genesis 2:3). He established a pattern: we are to rest at the end of our work week as well.
We approach this commandment with God’s thoughts for He is the one who has “sanctified” and set aside one special day each week for us. God’s Sabbath day does no good if we don’t know why God has provided it. People can have a day of “R and R” without truly reverencing and respecting God throughout that day. Unfortunately, for most folks, the Lord’s Day is just an ordinary day. The Sabbath was never intended to be just one of two weekend days. We are told to “remember the Sabbath Day” in this fourth commandment to recall its original intent and purpose.
Some people like to argue which day is the “true” Sabbath: Saturday or Sunday. Although God established Saturday as the original Sabbath, Sunday eventually became the Church’s day of rest. Sunday is called “The Lord’s Day” in the New Testament because Jesus rose on Sunday. The point is not which day is correct, but that God continued to provide a day of rest in the New Testament era. People who are hung up on “sabbatical correctness” miss God’s intention behind this command.
There is a story about a lumberjack who was a hard worker. He took a new job for a man cutting down trees. The first day, he cut down eight trees. The next day, he cut down five trees. The following day, he cut down only two. The boss asked him, “Why are you cutting down less trees every day? Are you sharpening your ax? “No,” said the lumberjack, “I’ve been too busy cutting trees to do that.” In your stressful world, you need to take some time to re-sharpen your ax. God has provided that time by giving you His Sabbath day of rest.
Manna did not fall on the Sabbath day. If the Hebrews tried to work and gather it, it bred worms. And note that the prohibition to gather manna on the Sabbath was established long before God etched it in stone as the fourth commandment. There was punishment for not showing reverence for that special day even before they came to Sinai. The Israelites were not to carry burdens on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:15 and Jeremiah 17:21) and to plow or work on Saturday was a sin punishable by death.
The Sabbath was made for the benefit of humans, as Jesus taught us. The Pharisees had so perverted the concept of Sabbath that they made it a burden rather than a blessing. They faulted Jesus’ disciples for picking corn on Saturday and Jesus Himself for healing on that day. They even complained about a crippled man Jesus healed on the Sabbath who picked up his mat and carried it! Spiritual blindness is the severest handicap of all.
Let’s face it. You need one day a week to relax, recoup and regroup. Men and women who work seven days a week eventually suffer for it. Such a grueling pace will shorten one’s life, and Satan loves to see you tired and stressed out. If your job demands that you work every day except Tuesday, then Tuesday is your Sabbath. Since your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, God understands that you’ll be healthier and happier if you honor Him one special day each week.
He knows you need a rest and demands it of us for our physical and spiritual refreshment.
The Fifth Commandment – Honoring Dad and Mom
Honoring your parents is about debt.
You owe them. They don’t owe you.
In the Decalogue, God goes directly from our duties to God to duties of children to parents. From this commandment to the end of the list, God deals with the duties of humans to other humans. But it starts with parental authority, for God has established obedience as the norm.
But reverence is a learned behavior.
While it is true that parents are to love and guide their children, the command here is for children to obey their parents. God knows that if children respect and obey their folks, everything else will fall into place. Human beings seem to be born with a desire to disobey authority. If you don’t believe this, give a two-year old child a tomato and tell them not to squeeze it.
Children are to “honor” their parents by their respect and obedience (Leviticus 19:3). Children are never to mock their parents (Proverbs 30:17). It is an often-quoted statistic that most people who are in prison today were rebellious against parental authority. Rebellious children are more prone to get into trouble and often die young as a result. Right in the middle of the commands to obey God, to not murder or commit adultery, is the command to obey one’s parents. And right in the middle of the horrible sins listed in Romans chapter one, this commandment is listed. Although it may seem less important than other commandments, God tells the human race that parental obedience is foundational to a normal, God-fearing lifestyle.
If parenting is done right, the parents represent God to their children. When children are little, parents act as mediators between their children and God. As we train them up by biblical guidelines, they will not depart from these principles later in life. The greatest thing a father can give to his children is his spirit and priorities. And God the Father wants to impart His Spirit to us as well.
Jesus said that a loving father, when asked for bread, will never give his son a stone instead. If a dad builds the boy right, the man will emerge naturally. If a mom trains her girl right, a beautiful woman will develop. With both parents loving and nurturing their children, wonderful men and women will grow up and hand God’s principles on to their descendants. When children in our century bring lawsuits against their parents, it is a direct affront to God and this commandment.
Parental respect is carried over into the New Testament era as well, for Paul wrote to the Ephesians that children are to obey their parents (6:1). The fifth commandment proves that children are expected to submit to instructions and to accept correction. But note what is attached to this command: long life is promised to obedient children. The child that Jesus commended in his parable (Matthew 21:29) was the one who obeyed his parents. Jesus Himself exemplified obedience by being in subjection to His foster father Joseph and His mother Mary. And He always obeyed His the will of His Heavenly Father.
God begins with a child’s obligation to obey parents, for it is so fundamental. A child’s first duty in the world is to obey dad and mom. But in a larger sense, the fifth commandment represents the wisdom of submission to anyone who is in authority over us. And this healthy habit of obedience must begin in the home.
Hold your children accountable. Teach them responsibility. Remember that punishment and discipline is something that you must do for your child’s benefit. And carry your children deep into the heart of Jesus and His teachings. It is the only place where they will be completely safe.
The Sixth Commandment – Don’t Kill
The last five commandments all deal with our “heart condition.”
In the first five commandments we are told to look upward to God. In the last five we are told to look outward to other human beings, thus they all deal with actions, words and thoughts that affect relationships. Each of these teaches respect for others and concern life, home, property and character.
These last five commandments all concern sins against other human beings. If I love others, I won’t steal from them, covet their possessions or fornicate with them. I will not exploit them, cheat them, slander them nor take advantage of them. I certainly will not kill them, for that is the ultimate taking of what another holds the most dear—their life. In the mind of God, as this commandment verifies, there is no such thing as a “justifiable homicide.”
God gave us commandments not reasons. This commandment is what can be termed a “no brainer” for no one has the right to take the life of another. Yet God includes it in His Decalogue for the sanctity of life is foundational to all human societies. Every country on earth has laws forbidding homicide. Life is sacred, for man was made in God’s image.
When David had Uriah killed, it was an act of murder. When Herodias had John the Baptist killed, it wasn’t an execution, it was murder. Read Leviticus and you will find that murder always carried the death penalty. But does the command to not kill mean that war is always wrong? No, for the Hebrew words in this commandment verify their true meaning: we are to “do no murder.” When David killed Goliath, it was an act of war. To kill another in wartime is not considered homicide.
The Bible forbids open violence for revenge, for murder often results from sins of the temper. This commandment is also a prohibition against vindictiveness. God dealt harshly with Cain because he killed Abel. Jehovah did not acquit him, pardon him or throw his case out of court.
Bible chapters such as Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 22 even deal with accidental killing, for all life is sacred. Although homicide is equally condemned in the New Testament, Jesus takes it a step further. You can commit murder in your heart (Romans 13:9 and Matthew 5:21).
We often hear expressions such as, “He has blood in his eyes” meaning that he is so mad he could kill. It is the murderous spirit that God forbids. If we love people as God does, the ultimate act of hatred—homicide—will never trouble us.
The Seventh Commandment – Do Not Fornicate
The last five commandments deal with our relationship with others and how we treat them. If I love my neighbor, I will not steal, covet what they have, slander, kill or ruin them morally through sexual sin. The command to not fornicate means that I have a responsibility to protect my neighbor’s chastity as well as my own. It is important to realize that adultery and fornication are in essence the same sin. One refers to sexual sin when a person is not married and the other involves sexual sin while one is married. In both the Old and New Testaments, however, these two terms are often used interchangeably in both Greek and Hebrew.
In America, this is perhaps the most common sin of the twenty-first century. It has become such a popular sin, adulterers are often seen as heroes in our culture. But God never gauges sin on the basis of its social acceptability. Just because American society has accepted adultery as part of its “DNA” does not mean that punishment is avoidable. God feels no need to elaborate on this commandment. He simply states, “Thou shalt not.” Adultery has reached epidemic proportions because Americans have believed the lie that a new sexual partner can solve problems. It is a Satanic lie, for it only breeds more sin. Under Old Testament law, adulterers and fornicators were simply executed. God expects human beings to see the seriousness of breaking His laws of morality and to trust that our “Father knows best.”
Throughout the Bible, God continually gives illustrations of the terrible consequences of this sin. Even in the first book of the Bible, we see God destroying Sodom for their sexual sins. We read on and find Samson’s situation with Delilah. We read further and see the king of Israel sinning with Bathsheba. But the Bible always makes it clear that the end result of sexual promiscuity carries terrible, self-destructive consequences. God is serious about this sin, for in Revelation 21:8 we find that all whoremongers—male and female—will end up in the lake of fire.
This commandment is binding on both genders, for God will judge all adulterers (Hebrews 13:4). The marriage bed is absolutely never to be defiled by an extra-marital partner. A married couple is “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). To violate God’s command is serious, for it directly involves another individual. No one has ever been won to God while engaging in sexual sin. To the true Christian, adultery is never an option.
We know that our bodies belong to God (II Corinthians 5:16) and that we can use our bodies for good or evil. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that lusting over another person is the same as performing the sexual act itself (Mathew 5:27). God wants to govern our entire nature, including our thought life. This is the reason why internet porn is so terribly destructive. Discipline yourself to log on to things that will help you grow spiritually instead.
Humans are born with a natural sex drive, but it is a controllable appetite. The commandment is a guardian, a fence and a barrier to protect us. But like any warning sign, it is only beneficial when it is obeyed. Staying sexually pure brings dynamic blessings, whether one is married or not.
The Eighth Commandment – Don’t Steal
A man might say, “What’s mine is mine!” But the thief says, “What’s yours is mine!”
This commandment is really a positive duty in a negative form. The related commandment is, “Thou shalt not covet.” Since human beings tend to desire things, there is always the danger that coveting will eventually result in taking what is not theirs. In the book of Acts, we find that a spirit of generosity prevailed. When there was a need, other disciples met that need. An attitude of selflessness helps to prepare us for eternity, for we can take no material possessions to Heaven with us. We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we will carry nothing out.
Since the basic reason behind these last five commandments is to love, protect and help others. Stealing from them should never enter our minds. We are constantly reminded throughout the Word of God, to respect the rights of others (Lamentations 3:35). We are not to take advantage of others or exploit them (Exodus 23). We must not accumulate possessions unlawfully (Proverbs 10:2). Exodus 19:14 gives us an interesting insight. It is unlawful to move the posts of surveyed land in order to increase the boundaries of your own property. We are forbidden to oppress the poor (Exodus 23:26) and we must be honest in all business transactions (Leviticus 19:35).
With this in mind, let’s look at credit card debt.
Indebtedness is the number one cause of divorce in America. The lure of easy payments entraps millions of couples every year. The stress and pressure from creditors often becomes so great, divorce seems a quick fix. When we buy on credit, we set ourselves up to become thieves, for it is stealing to not make every effort to pay them off. (Read Leviticus 19:13 and Proverbs 3:28).
Not everyone can live a debt-free life. Most couples have car and house payments. But as Spirit-filled Christians, we have a financial Advisor who never makes a single mistake. The Holy Spirit will never lead you down the road to irrecoverable indebtedness. Herein lies the basic problem: most Christian couples do not tithe. If they do not listen to the voice of the Spirit in this basic area of their finances, how can they expect to enjoy financial freedom?
While it is true that the eighth commandment says nothing about tithing, Malachi 3:10 does. This verse asks us if we would dare to steal from God Himself. When we withhold what belongs to God, we become thieves, and blessings are never attached to thievery. Jesus repeats the command to tithe: we are not to leave it undone (Matthew 23:23). The New Testament does not make tithing optional.
There used to be a bumper-sticker that read. “Honk if you love Jesus.” Later, one appeared that read, “If you love Jesus, tithe. Anyone can honk.”
It is the continual testimony of millions of believers that tithing is the key to their financial success. Begin to tithe this week and enjoy the blessings of the “windows of heaven” being opened and poured out upon you.
Stealing from other people is not an option. Neither is stealing from God.
The Ninth Commandment – Bearing False Witness
“You will not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:14
Are we as quick to guard the reputation of others as we do our own? This commandment is one that protects our own reputation and the reputation of others. Exodus 23:1 commands us not to repeat or to listen to false reports concerning someone else. It forbids all racial and gender prejudice as well. It does not allow for the slanderous ravings of vengeful persons.
One might ask, “Well, suppose what I have to say is true?” Jesus tells us to be short with our answers for evil can evolve from pondering negative sentiments (Matthew 5:37). He also summed up all the Ten Commandments in just two: Love God and others. If I really love God, as per the first commandment, I will love those He created and not dwell on their negative characteristics.
Slander is dangerous, for it always exalts oneself at the expense of another. Even secular wisdom reflects the dangers of harsh words, gossip and slander:
<>Keep your words tender, soft and sweet: you never know which ones you’ll have to eat.
<>If your lips you would keep from slips, five things observe with care: to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and how and when and where.
<> The liar and the listener should both be hung: one by the ear and the other by the tongue.
<> The ears of the gossip, being soft and thin, will quickly burn off in hell.
<> Your tongue has no bones but it can break the bones of others.
<> He who throws dirt at another soils himself.
<> If you sow thorns, don’t go around barefoot.
<> God built your teeth as a stockade around your tongue.
<> No flies can enter a clothed mouth.
<> Were there no listeners, there would be no backbiters.
<> Slander is the most dangerous of all wild animals.
<> Slander kills three: the speaker, the one spoken to and the one spoken of.
<> Slander is a verdict of guilty, pronounced in the absence of the accused, by a prejudiced judge.
The Bible is filled with lessons about gossip and slander. Jesus told us that Satan is the father of all lies (John 8:44). Satan twisted and distorted God’s Word to Eve and questioned God’s character and motives. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, thousands of years later, he showed that his tactics haven’t changed. Two thousand years after Calvary, we are not ignorant of Satan’s slander and schemes (II Corinthians 2:11).
The ninth commandment concerns the true attitude behind our words. Jesus taught us in Matthew 7:37, “By thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be judged.” Perhaps this sin is listed as one of the ten because it is one most often broken. James told us that if you can master your mouth, you can control the rest of your body (1:26) and its passions.
God clearly tells us in Proverbs 10:18 that the one who utters a slander is a fool. But on the positive side, God tells us that a good word, spoken at the right time, is a dynamic blessing! (Proverbs 15:23) As we obey this commandment and practice loving, constructive conversation concerning others, we bring glory to God.
The Tenth Commandment – “Thou Shalt Not Covet”
The American Dream—to get rich quick, as reflected in lotto and gambling—is really a nightmare. With this in mind, it is amazing how quickly gaming is destroying our Native American cultures. The Indian Gaming Act of 1988 began the final and the worst exploitation of Native peoples. It was greed that drove Europeans to acts of genocide, destroying entire Native American tribes in order to possess this continent. It was their lust for land that prompted their atrocities. They coveted and took what did not belong to them.
As believers, we are taught to be content with the simple things in life (I Timothy 6:8). This final commandment deals with wrong material desires. All greed and coveting is condemned by God, for He knows how coveting will destroy marriages and families. And the dangers of greed are the same in any era. Coveting concerns the attitude of attempting to grasp what is always beyond our reach. In American society, easy credit is often the hardest lesson for young couples to learn. The concept of living a debt-free life often never enters their minds.
The tenth commandment forbids the self-destructive desire for possessions. Although it is a natural desire to provide for one’s family, God is dealing here with this desire carried to extremes by coveting what belongs to others. God knows that discontentment always results when we lust after the neighbor’s new car. Here are some old maxims concerning greed:
<> In the casket, all pockets are empty.
<> No hearse ever pulls a U-Haul.
<> Extra gold attracts extra demons.
<> There is no gate that a key of gold cannot unlock: except Heaven’s.
<> Cash cannot cure cancer.
To want to have things seems like such a natural desire, we would never know it was an unhealthy urge if the last commandment did not forbid it. Coveting is wrong and this final commandment proves it.
But is the command to forsake greed a New Testament concept also? Absolutely, for Paul warned Timothy that, “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6:10). And, “godliness with contentment is great gain” ( I Timothy 6:6).
God instructs us that the motive to amass wealth leads to sin. And when the desire to own what we can’t afford gets out of control, it leads to radical credit card debt. Millions of couples in America are so far in debt they will die in debt. If you have a problem with credit cards, do some “plastic surgery” and cut them up!
The history of humankind absolutely proves these ten commands deal with the most problematic of all human attitudes. Read them again. Post them where you can read them everyday. As human beings, God knows we need to be told what to do and what not to do. Consider the Decalogue well and receive the blessings of God as you obey them.