Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ten Commandments: Overview

God’s Law shows how we fail to live up to its standards. Jesus fulfilled the Law for us. His death for our sins changes the Law from a message of guilt and terror, to an invitation to seek God’s forgiveness. For Christians, the Ten Commandments are also a guide for loving God and our neighbor as God has loved us.

Here are the Ten Commandments as they have been traditionally numbered by Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran Christians. If you learned them a different way, this may be because the Eastern Orthodox and many Protestants use a different numbering system.

1. "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:1).
2. "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain" (Exodus 20:7).
3. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).
4. "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you" (Exodus 20:12).
5. "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13).
6. "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14).
7. "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15).
8. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16).
9. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house" (Exodus 20:17).
10. "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17).

Each of these commandments tells us what we are to do and what we are not to do, how we are to be and how we are not to be, in order to please God. In each of these commandments we fail every day. To make us pleasing to God, therefore, Jesus fulfilled all of these commands, as we will see in the upcoming devotions on each individual commandment.

Even though Jesus has fulfilled these commandments for us, they still have a purpose in our lives. Rather than inventing our own rules, or looking around for other ideas about how to live, we can now use the Ten Commandments as a guide for living in response to the love and forgiveness God bestows on us. Because God gave them to us Himself, we can rely on them to show us how He would have us live. And because He gives us nothing that is not, above all, for our good, we will also find that each of these commandments is a gift from God, safeguarding all the good things God wants us to enjoy.

What are the gifts God wants us to have? Here is what the Ten Commandments suggest:
1. The gift of having God as our heavenly Father.
2. The gift of knowing God the Son, the Word made flesh: Jesus Christ.
3. The gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us through Word and Sacrament.
4. The gift of a nurturing family and a stable society.
5. The gift of bodily health and life.
6. The gift of a faithful husband or wife.
7. The gift of every material thing we need in life.
8. The gift of a good reputation.
9. The gift of justice and legal rights.
10. The gift of vocation: the relationships and situations where each of us belongs.

IMAGE: Tissot, James Jacques Joseph (1836-1902), and Followers. Moses and the Ten Commandments. c. 1896-1902. Gouache on board. 10 11/16 x 5 5/8". Gift of the Heirs of Jacob Schiff, x1952-190. Photo by John Parnell. Location: The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, U.S.A. Photo Credit: The Jewish Museum, NY / Art Resource, NY

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