Commandment One: Worship the One True God
I am the Lord your God . . . Do not worship any other gods besides me. -Exodus 20:2-3 (NLT)
These Ten Commandments, and the balance of the legal code that followed it, comprised without question the most exalted legal code for human conduct in the ancient world. Nothing in the history of that time has been found to equal it. The wisdom and the practicality of the Ten Commandments attest to their divine origins. As wise as Moses was, nothing in the record supports the premise that he was wise enough to draft the Mosaic Code on his own.
The Ten Commandments fit together as a unified whole. Each commandment can do much good, but the rationale for all the commandments flows from the First Commandment: "I am [Jehovah] your God . . . Do not worship any other gods besides me." (Exodus 20:3)
On the surface, it seems that America has become a nation that runs after many other gods. But the truth is, in America we worship ourselves. To worship something means to hold it in high esteem, to respect it as sacred. If we were truly a people who worshipped God, we would hold Him and His commandments in a place higher than ourselves. But that is often not the case. For some time, a major shift has been taking place in our culture. Where we once worshipped and held in high esteem the God of the Bible and His laws, we now worship another god-that is, the individual. We worship us.
Anyone who speaks against the worship of other gods besides Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is going to rankle his fellow Americans. We are a nation that prizes religious tolerance. In fact, tolerance has become one of the most popular words in our culture. We believe, as a nation where free speech and the right of expression prevail, that every viewpoint and belief should be represented without hindrance.
On the surface, tolerance is indeed a good social stance. We do not want America to become a nation where minority opinions and beliefs are repressed, or where individuals are brutalized for beliefs that run counter to the mainstream.
But tolerance has an extremely unhealthy aspect as well. What we have meant by "tolerance" is a weakening of the lines between good and evil, right and wrong.
Do not make idols of any kind . . . You must never worship or bow down to them. -Exodus 20:4-5 (NLT)
Having successfully muzzled the truth in our universities and the media, the high priests and high priestesses of political correctness have opened the doors in once-Christian America to the onslaught and veneration of Hindu deities, Buddhist monks, Indian Shamans, Satanism, black magic, and occultism. Those who protest are labeled right-wing, fundamentalist, narrow-minded bigots. It is now considered un-American to criticize anyone's religion.
While it seems that God is surrendering the United States and Europe to "shameful desires," His truth is spreading like wildfire in those countries once gripped by idolatry. Christianity is the world's fastest growing religion and is on the way to three billion adherents worldwide. Only in societies where the cultural elites have deliberately suppressed the excellence of the Christian gospel to transform lives has Christianity failed to have explosive growth.
Commandment Three: Honor God's Name
Do not misuse the name of [Jehovah] your God. [Jehovah] will not let you go unpinished if you misuse His name. -Exodus 20:7 (NLT)
It offends many Americans to be confronted about their casual cursing of others in God's name. Ours is a God with whom people do not like to deal, because His very name calls them to account for the wrong they have done and the good they have failed to do. People do not like to have their consciences stirred. If you confront people about using the name of Jesus as an expletive, they will likely consider you "a religious fanatics" or "one of those holier-than-thou Christians."
At the root of their offense lies this fact: Americans do not like to have anyone point out their lack of self-control as they vent their anger, jealousy or frustration in ugly and inappropriate ways. They resent having their consciences stirred by someone who holds a greater respect for God and for His Son.
Recently, the Episcopal Church has shown a particular disinterest in honoring the holy name of God by approving the appointment of its first openly gay bishop-even though God, in many places throughout the Bible, expressly forbids the practice of homosexuality. By going against God's commands, the Episcopal Church has said, in essence, "We take upon ourselves the name and authority of the church of Jesus Christ, in the place of God and place our approval upon an evil thing." . . . In the name of God, they are telling their congregations that it is all right to go against God's express commands.
Even more dishonoring to the name of God are the now widespread reports of clergy who abuse members of their congregations. We are being bombarded with reports of ministers and priests who manipulate and coerce innocent people under their spiritual care to have sexual intercourse with them. The sad, angry faces of men, women and children who were pressured to perform intimate and degrading acts with a spiritual leader who they trusted appear on our television screens almost weekly. What was done to them is beyond tragic. . . . To those who have stood in the place of God and then put others though a living hell, the words "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord" are an offense. Because they have betrayed the sacred trust that comes with representing the name of God, they will pay a heavy price for their sins.
Commandment Four: Observe a Sabbath Rest
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. -Exodus 20:8 (NLT)
Most Americans seem to have the attitude that Sunday is the one day out of seven we get to do exactly what we want without anyone else placing demands on our time. Most of us--those who don't have to work weekends, at any rate--would likely say, "Sunday is my day." To that, God would say, "Yes, and no."
The God who made us knows what will benefit us and what will harm us. Yet in our mad pursuit of money and success, Americans have come to believe that God does not know what He is talking about. We think that His laws stand in the way of our achieving what we believe is the materialistic "American dream." The Fourth Commandment is an offense to commerce, entertainment, and sports.
Commandment Five: Honor Your Parents
Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you . . . . -Deuteronomy 5:16 (KJV)
Consider the example of a nation that chose to honor their patriarchs. When he was 68 years old, my wife's father . . . went overseas to Beirut, Lebanon, where he established Sipes International Paint Company. . . . My father-in-law was an active man who wasn't content to sit in an office but enjoyed getting out on the factory floor with the men to lift the bucket of pigments, oil and solvents that made up each batch of paint.
However, in the Middle East, he found that this was not possible. His Middle Eastern employees had such a respect for a seventy-year-old man that as a mark of honor they refused to let him do any menial work. . . . a man of age is considered to be a repository of wisdom and therefore a venerated treasure.
Such honor is not unusual. It is built into the very fabric of the society of many civilizations. Shouldn't this honor also be our heritage in America?
Commandment Six: Respect Human Life
You shall not murder. -Exodus 20:13
The liberty of self-actualization, not life, has become the most important right an individual can have. In America, a woman's personal freedom, her "right to choose," has taken priority over the right of the child in her womb to live its life. Whereas the founders of our nation took God's sixth commandment seriously, recognizing that life is the single most important personal gift He gives, the liberal faction today insists that the right to personal freedom is preeminent.
The same self-centered attitude generally prevails in our culture when it comes to making decisions about caring for our elderly. Though it is true that some elderly parents need constant monitoring by skilled medical professionals, most really do not. But it seems that fear prevails. In the American mind, it has become a given that caring for an elderly parent is going to demand too much of our time, energy, and financial resources and that it will diminish our quality of life.
All told, the Sixth Commandment affirms that an Almighty God is the Creator of life and, therefore, He has ultimate authority over the issues concerning life and death. By extension, God holds the ultimate ownership of our bodies. These concepts are heinous to the liberal mind that holds sway in America, and anyone who supports life is considered oppressive.
Commandment Seven: Maintain Sexual Purity
You shall not commit adultery. -Exodus 20:14
Leaving aside the corrosive effect that breaking the Seventh Commandment has on our society, consider the blessing of keeping it.
Think of the peace of mind that comes to a woman who can say, "My husband has chosen me as his unique partner and companion for life. He loves and cherishes me and I can rely on his faithfulness to me." Or the husband can say, "My wife has chosen me as her husband for life. Together we will build a home, raise our children, and labor together for the mutual good of our family. I love her and she loves me, and neither of us will give ourselves to any other."
That marriage is built on trust, not jealousy and suspicion. God's commandment gives complete peace of mind that each partner can be secure in his or her marriage-the most precious of possessions other than life itself. Husband and wife build on a secure foundation. Their children never have to face the tragic consequences of a broken home. And they, in turn, have an example to follow when they marry and build a secure home of their own.
Commandment Eight: Respect Others' Property
You shall not steal. -Exodus 20:15
America under the influence of today's liberal thinking is about entitlement. Whereas the biblical world-view on which our country was founded promotes diligence and work as the road to success, we have become a nation of people who believe we should have that for which we have not worked. The "American Dream" was once founded on a principle: Hard work will get you what you want. Today that dream has transformed into an illusion, a form of mental derangement. We think that because we live in the wealthiest nation on earth, someone should give us what we want regardless of the quality of our work or the level of our achievement.
We hear every major Democratic presidential candidate beating the drum for class warfare. Despite the disturbing disparity of wealth that exists in America, the simple truth is that the bottom 25 percent of the income earners pay no income tax at all. The top 1 percent pay 34 percent of all taxes, the top 5 percent pay 53 percent, the top 25 percent of income earners pay 83 percent of all taxes, and the top 50 percent pay 96 percent of all taxes!
Commandment Nine: Tell the truth
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. -Exodus 20:16
The Ninth Commandment clearly was given to protect reputations from slander. "You shall not give false testimony" about someone's life, character or activity to destroy that person's reputation.
It's truth, and the virtue of truthfulness, that paves our public dealings and our private relationships with stability. And it is God's Word alone that tells us, when a lie would be easier, to tell the simple truth-and to live by eternal truth instead.
Commandment Ten: Be Content with What You Have
You shall not covet . . . anything that belongs to your neighbor. -Exodus 20:17 (NLT)
The first Iraq war began because of coveting-first the thought, then the deed. The armed forces of Iraq invaded Kuwait and quickly took over. Hopeless Kuwaitis saw their lives destroyed, their women raped, and their men killed or imprisoned and tortured.
Of course, had Saddam's mind not been blinded by covetousness, he would have realized that the nations of the world were not about to permit a megalomaniac to gain hegemony over the key source of the world's oil. Soon a great force was assembled that drove the Iraqis from Kuwait, crushed their military and imposed punitive sanctions on the nation. Saddam's refusal to abide by the United Nation's mandates led to Gulf War II, the downfall of his regime, the death of his sons, and the occupation of his country . . . all because Saddam violated the Tenth Commandment.
Coveting precedes shoplifting, grand theft auto, and armed robbery; coveting precedes adultery and rape; coveting precedes breaking and entering and murder; and coveting can lead to perjury under oath in a court of law. Coveting can lead to trafficking in narcotics, counterfeiting, money laundering, and white-collar crime, or it can lead to identity theft and fraudulent use of credit cards. Coveting can even lead to blood feuds and wars.