In our church we are participating the national Just 10 series at the moment. It’s a helpful way of looking at the Ten Commandments as God’s best plan for human living. The material we have been using is incredibly practical and has reminded me that God knew what he was doing all those years ago when the people of Israel were causing Moses a headache and God told him to take two tablets (b’dum pshh – (simulated drums and cymbal crash to mark punchline)).
It seems to me that the problem has been that we have taken the Ten Commandments at face value. We have seen them as a set of restrictions to limit what we can do, like a straightjacket on life. The natural reaction is to want to try to escape from the restrictions and break free.
Freedom is the state that God wants us to enjoy. But freedom without boundaries is either anarchy (where everyone does what they want without worrying about anyone else) or despotism (where I enforce my freedom over yours).
As I have explored the Ten Commandments again I have been reminded about how they are like the lines and the goals around a football pitch. If there were no lines and goals a football match would be impossible. Even the original mass brawls between villages from which football emerged as a game had goals! Because there are boundaries to the pitch we have freedom to express ourselves and enjoy the game fully. Because God has given us boundaries for life we have freedom to express ourselves and enjoy life to its fullest.
So, ‘Do not covet’ becomes, ‘Be satisfied with what you have’ – not a message that consumer culture wants to hear! ‘Do not lie’ becomes ‘be trustworthy’. ‘Do not commit adultery’ becomes ‘enjoy sex in a committed relationship’. And so on.
An oldie, but a goodie – I was reminded of this by a church member this week
Moses had been up the mountain with God negotiating the Commandments. The people watched anxiously from down below as they saw flashes of lightning and heard peals of thunder.
Eventually a weary-looking Moses came back down from the negotiations. “Comrades,” he said (for he was a Union man), “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I have got him down to ten. The bad news is that adultery is still in.”