Though our definitions may vary, success is something we all crave. With that in mind, I would like to reach back—WAY back—and remind us all of the principles that make human life great and provide a foundation for the future. I am referring to the ten commandments, which are as relevant to us today as they ever have been.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Bob Dylan said it best: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody!”
For those who first heard these words, the choice was clear. They been delivered from decades of harsh bondage in Egypt as slaves to Egyptian masters. The DELIVERER was reminding the “deliverees” that they were called OUT to be called IN. Out of bondage and into the freedom of God’s loving protection. That protection comes at a cost. The principle here is LOYALTY to God above all else. The fact is, life can never be lived in a vacuum. We’ve all gotta serve somebody.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”
While we all have heroes and mentors we admire, the temptation is to try and put that admiration in a box, put a pedestal under it, and keep it for our own comfort and pleasure. Idol worship is a spiritual form of favor seeking that will lead to disillusionment and in many cases have disastrous consequences. We are all created to be followers, but there is only ONE who deserves our worship.
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…”
God’s name is sacred–an expression of His character. The principle here is clear: understand what is sacred and respect it. Trivialize the sacred and you demean and trivialize yourself.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Time is life’s most precious commodity. With the passing of each day our clock ticks down. What we do with our time is the greatest indicator of what we consider valuable. For this reason, great care should be taken to reflect regularly on how we live out our days. Deep in our heart, we hold core values that God has deposited that hold the key to our fulfillment and purpose in life. Reflection dials us in to these values.
I wrote in a previous blog, “Without a doubt, all members of the “human race” seem to be sprinting toward the finish line of life from the time we’re born until the day we die. It’s as if we fully expect to arrive, yet when the race of life is over, we all settle on the final conclusion that the search has just begun.”
Whenever we set aside time to reflect, we reward ourselves with roses we can smell along the way.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
Our attitude toward our parents has carried tremendous weight in our lives: influencing our attitude, our responses, our choices. Not all of us were blessed with parents we find easy to love and honor. BUT our response to our parents–whether it be one of forgiveness or admiration, is KEY to our living a long and fruitful life. Prisons and psychiatric wards are full of people who experienced serious breakdown in their relationship with mom and/or dad.
“You shall not murder.”
This principle goes far beyond the malicious taking of a human life. It extends, as well, to the malicious words and actions that kill dreams, hopes, relationships, or anything we don’t agree with or that we see as a threat to our little world. Jesus equated murder with anger toward your brother (Matthew 5:21-22). We can take away from this comparison that (1) anger is the root of murder and (2) even if an angry person doesn’t commit the act of taking a physical life, he or she, by maintaining anger in the heart, murders a relationship. This is what makes forgiveness so “divine” (as Shakespeare called it): it restores dead relationships back to life. Life promoters are the happiest people on earth.
“You shall not commit adultery.”
Marriage is the one shot life gives us to be genuinely intimate with another human being. It is, as well, a relationship designed by God to mentor us in the fine art of working things through. Adultery is a betrayal of that covenant relationship, and a death blow to the intimacy that is the crown jewel of marriage.
Anyone who has been involved in adultery and has suffered and caused others to suffer the consequences will testify to its destructive character.
“You shall not steal.”
Anyone who has ever had something stolen from them knows what it feels like. To inflict this feeling on anybody is wrong. Stealing is the opposite of giving–it is a cheap act of betrayal. It betrays a stingy, mean spirit and demeans the victim, whose life and feelings are far more valuable than the item stolen. The best anti-dote for stealing is: give what IS yours.
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38)
“You shall not bear false witness.”
Committing to truth, honesty and openness is hard work, because everything in society seems to work against it. “The heart of man is desperately wicked,” says the prophet, “and deceitful above all things. Who can know it?” Most of us lose our grip on the truth regularly, and need to keep finding it for ourselves. And even when we find it we are often not true in the way we distribute it out to others. God help us all!
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Covetousness has been rightly called the root of all sin. It is a strong desire to have something that is not yours to have. It comes from inordinately comparing yourself with others. Paul implies this in Romans 7. The original sin involved Eve entertaining the idea of having what belonged to God alone. We are not to compare ourselves with others because (1) it is a futile exercise, (2) we are unique by God’s design and (3) covetousness ultimately leads to all kinds of sin, unraveling the fabric of our lives.