Oftentimes we see the 10 commandments as laws to follow to avoid sin. Actions and things not to do so we can obey God’s teachings. When we view the text this way we miss the point of what God is truly trying to convey in the scripture. Obviously these are good rules to follow but we must look deeper to find the meaning, speaking to us in the word. If we look closer we will find Exodus 20:1-20 speaks about character. In fact, the commandments reveal the nature and character of God and who God is in this world. We learn what God values and who God hopes us to be. It’s a powerful scripture because we get to identify attributes of the divine and know that we too can live them out.
Let’s go through the list to identify the characteristics of God revealed in the 10 commandments.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me. - God is loving
The first commandment reminds us of the love God has for each one of us. It is a response to our love that we have for God which is shown throughout the Torah. God is saying just love me. Love me with your heart, life, and soul. God is loving and commands us to love the divine and others wholeheartedly.
2. You shall not make idols. - God is loyal
God demands us to follow the example set through Jesus. To be loyal disciples that focus our attention on God not other things in this world which grab our attention and pull us from the word. Work, sports, physical bodies, politics, social media, etc. We must figure out what those idols are in our own life and work toward worshiping God first. Ask yourself what do you fear losing the most? We must put God first in all aspects. God is loyal and commands us to show loyalty to the divine.
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. - God is respectful
When I hear this I always chuckle a bit because I think about which name. God has many names, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, etc.; God’s respect shows God’s love for creation. God created each of us and called us by name. It is in the name of each individual in which God understands there is something more. A name is who we are and that should be respected because we are God’s creation. Isaiah 43.1 - Don't be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. God is respectful and commands us to live with respect for others and self.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. - God is restful
God understands the need to refocus and find rest. This pandemic for some has forced us to find rest and identify what makes our lives work. I have heard numerous stories of people who have taken various things off of their plate understanding it was impacting what was important. They have had time to sit, reflect, and rest in the moment. We all need to find a work/ life balance that works for our lives. God wants us to be our best selves which means meeting our own needs by resting and recuperating. Genesis 2:2 - And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day. God is restful and commands us to rest.
5. Honor your father and your mother. - God is about relationships
God believes in creating deep relationships with others. As an example the love of fathers and mothers for their children. We have individuals who are lonely, isolated, and feel unworthy to be in relationships with others. This commandment calls us to do the work of being present with the people around us. Notice who they are and listen to their story. This is where God is and who God is. Deep relationships are at the core of the divine. God longs for a relationship with you. God is about relationships and commands us to focus on relationships.
6. You shall not murder. - God is peaceful
God values life and expects us to take actions that are peaceful and loving toward one another. It is through actions of peace where the holy spirit of God can work among us and our communities. God wants us to pursue wholeness, reconciliation, and justice in all aspects of life. Our daily prayer of peace is just one example of our church living out this characteristic of God. God is peaceful and commands us to be peaceful.
7. You shall not commit adultery. - God is faithful
God wants us to be steadfast in our promises to one another. To give respect by using our words and actions to match our beliefs. When we make commitments we need to follow through with them. We want to wholeheartedly follow through on our duties because it is good for us and others. The less we follow through the more and more control we lose over our lives. It becomes easier to fall into irresponsible behaviors and actions that harm our world. God is faithful and commands us to be faithful.
8. You shall not steal. - God is generous
God wants us to be sincere with one another and generous in nature. It’s not about stealing but giving to one another when there is a need. We must open our eyes and see the impoverished among us. Let your heart be broken and allow it to change your perspective allowing you to be generous with what you have. Being generous is about giving from our bounties so there is not a need to steal to make ends meet. It’s about going beyond our capacity to impact others in ways beyond our understanding. God works within our generosity. God is generous and commands us to be generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. - God is truthful
God is truth; We need to speak truth to our world and be honest in nature. Being truthful with one another is at the heart of God. Relationships are built on trust. If you cannot trust then you have nothing. Build trust with those around you by being sincere, genuine, and truthful. God is truthful and commands us to be truthful.
10. You shall not covet. - God is thankful
Often when we are thankful when we are content and happy with what we have. We forget about what we don’t have and can live in the moment with how things are. Thankfulness is an amazing characteristic as it brings us joy. The divine is telling us to live with gratefulness. Truly hold it in your heart every second of every day. God is thankful and commands us to be thankful.
It's About Community
As I indicated earlier these characteristics are both in God but what God expects out of us as disciples. He expects us to make responsible choices in our life by living these principles. But more than anything God sent Moses back with these laws for the community to live out. You see that is where the real heart of this message takes another yet deeper spin. It's about community, about supporting, loving, and being with one another just as God is with us.
So the question is how are you going to live these commandments within your community? I believe the change that is needing to happen starts with us and embodying these principles in our own lives and work.
A few people asked me to pass on these words after my message a week ago and I thought maybe others may benefit from this perspective. Thanks for everyone who follows our blog.
This week think about these characteristics and how you are living them out in your life.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.