What I’m Thinking: Guide for Human Living

The Ten Commandments aren’t precisely law. They are the foundation of law, but more to the point, they are a guide for human living.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the twentieth chapter of Exodus (Exodus 20:1-20). It is the first of the two places in the Old Testament where we’ll find the Ten Commandments. The second is in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

I’m at something of a loss. What is there to say about the Ten Commandments? Scholars have argued over the years over precisely how to divide up the text of Exodus 20 into ten commandments. Honestly, I’m not entirely certain why. The text doesn’t actually use the number ten at all, but we do, so, there are some places one can take sentences and put them in one commandment or another. And that’s been done.

Honestly, the Ten Commandments speak clearly for themselves. They are a standard for human life: for human life in relationship with God; for human life in relationship with other human beings. The Ten Commandments are not precisely law. They do not specify a penalty for not keeping the commandments. And indeed, they become the foundation for later law which becomes much more specific in Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and, of course, Deuteronomy.

I guess what puzzles me about the commandments – well, what disappoints me about the commandments – is not about the commandments. It’s about us. Because we are tempted not to keep them as human beings. People steal. People lie. People do not keep faith with God. They do not honor their parents. And if there is one commandment that we break over and over and over again, it is that we covet.

How much better would human life be if we refused to steal? If we refused to put other people’s lives at risk? If we kept our word? If we loved God?

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: , | Posted on September 28, 2020

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