It has been a while since I’ve posted anything. I’ve wanted to. I’ve had ideas. I just haven’t found the time (when I wasn’t entirely exhausted) to actually do so. I spent this morning cleaning out my email inbox (got it down from 2500 entries with 350 unread to only 50 and none unread.) Along the way, I came across the following which I wrote in response to an assignment given to Anna’s confirmation class—and their parents.
For full disclosure: I am Lutheran. I have been so all my life. So, when asked to write in my own words what the Ten Commandments mean, I could not help but follow Martin Luther’s template for answering this question. I also note that my thoughts build on top of what I have been taught.
An Explanation of the Ten Commandments
1. I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
How does this apply to me? Everyone must make decisions in their lives. When making a decision, we expose our priorities. Our priorities define the god we follow. By aligning our priorities with Love, we allow ourselves to be the best possible humans we can be.
In addition, with this commandment comes a promise that no matter how far we stray in our lives from the God of Love, it is always possible to return.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
How does this apply to me? Every word we speak is a reflection of how we think, what we believe, and what we hold important. When we use God’s name in a flippant manner or to justify causes antithetical to our core values, we undermine ourselves. By reserving the use of “God” in our conversations to apply only to that which is holy, we maintain our credibility as followers of the God of Love.
3. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
How does this apply to me? Everybody’s lives are fully dominated with the act of living. For some this may be a hectic drive. For others this may be a painful monotony. In both extremes (and everywhere in between), it is very tempting to focus on how our lives affect us and how our lives could be made better. By purposefully taking time to focus on that which is holy, that which is outside and beyond our selves, we recenter our minds on that which is truly important in our lives.
4. Honor you father and your mother.
How does this apply to me? Nobody lives in a vacuum. We are social creatures; we depend on (so very many) others in our lives. We begin learning this fact from the very moment we are born. For our formational years, our parents (which may or may not be our biological parents) are chiefly responsible for this process. Along with our parents, there are many others who are involved in our development and our lives. By living a life that appreciates, and thus respects, the contributions to our lives made by those who support us, we enrich our lives and the lives of everyone our lives touch.
5. You shall not kill.
How does this apply to me? Everyone who has ever lived, is living, or will someday be born shares a common fate. We will die. Our lives are a finite gift and as such must be treasured. By living a life that treats all life with sanctity (that enriches and embellishes this gift in everyone and every living creature we meet and avoids diminishing it in any way), we are reminded of the preciousness of our own lives and the God that gave us this gift.
6. You shall not commit adultery
How does this apply to me? Of all the commandments, this one stands out as unique in that what it protects is both universal (in the abstract) and diverse (in the particulars). At its core, it seeks to protect the sanctity of marriage, and thus the universal need for a safe and secure relationship. Yet, in our current age, the definition of marriage is not as simple and clear as it once was. For those who live within a marriage commitment, remaining faithful to our spouses yields the reward of a lifelong companion, confidant, and friend. For those outside of marriage, this commandment serves as a model for obtaining the same reward.
7. You shall not steal.
How does this apply to me? Everyone in this world has talents to offer and needs to be fulfilled. When we take by force, stealth, or deceit that which is not ours, we, at best, deprive others of that which they have earned and, at worst, what they need. In either case, we deprive them of a sense of personal security and instill in them a sense of vulnerability and violation. This leads to the erosion of our social fabric. Moreover, we steal from ourselves an understanding of our proper place in society and we squander our talents.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
How does this apply to me? Everyone will eventually find himself or herself in a situation where they must speak to the nature of someone else. We must always speak the truth about this person in the best possible manner no matter what the ramifications to ourselves—hiding no good qualities and relating flaws only in the kindest fashion. By being truthful and kind in all situations the nature of those around us, we strengthen the trust and respects others bestow on us.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor servants, nor animals, nor anything that is your neighbors.
How do these apply to me? Everyone spends much, if not most, of their time and energy fabricating the structure of their lives. This includes the material goods that meet our basic needs, our friends, family, and associates we know and love, and the creature comforts that make life more bearable. When we live a life of jealousy for what others have built for themselves, we drive a wedge between them and us. By focusing on the gifts we have been given rather than on the gifts others have been given, we can live a life of contentment and thanksgiving.