In our lectionary cycle this Sunday Moses’ encounter with the Lord on Mount Sinai will be read. When this comes up I can’t prevent the imp in me who remembers the controversies regarding whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed on property owned by government. I grew up in a household where separation of church and state was extremely important. Dad was an English history major and he had strong feelings about any requirement by the government of its citizens regarding their religious beliefs.
Anyway, here in Minnesota some lovely person created those little plastic yard signs with the two tablets and the commandments boldly displayed so we could put those expectations right where they belong! At home! What would it be like if every single household and every church displayed the big 10? We certainly wouldn’t need them on the city-hall lawn, would we? And what if every man, woman and child who displayed the big 10 would actually keep them? Ah. The world would be transformed.
But alas. We are all human and most of us can’t get through a day without transgressing at least one! I try to respect my mothers and fathers but sometimes they are more naughty than my kids were when I was mothering them! I’ve struggled with a habit of saying “Oh, my God,” when I see something amazing or horrifying. And that 10th one about coveting...I get into trouble with that one on a regular basis; other people have such nice stuff!
One of the things I like doing is teaching the big 10. I relate it to Jesus’ summary where he assures us that the most important promises we make to God involve using our heart, our mind, our soul and our strength to love God and to love our neighbors. Jesus is so clever! This is exactly what the big 10 are about. The first four: Love the one true God who was and is and will be ever. Worship no idols. Speak no oath by God. Set aside one-seventh of our life for God. So the first four are all about staying tight with the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth!
The next six I teach this way: Respect and care for our fathers and mothers (all our fathers and mothers). Spill no innocent blood. Break no vows we make. Steal no possessions. Speak no lies about anyone, anywhere. And don’t even think about wanting other people’s stuff. Of course these are all about staying in good stead with those folks who surround us in our daily lives, our family, our neighbors, our friends and co-workers, the kids at school. Love all these as we love God and ourselves.
I’m convinced that if I am treating all those folks in my life with respect and affection that means I’m doing pretty well with the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I’m also convinced that if folks in my life annoy me, trouble me or seem to dislike me that means I need a little more time in prayer. I need to bow down to the Lord God Almighty and ask for the heart, soul, mind and strength to follow the promises we made through Moses all those centuries ago.
I recommend household displays! Perhaps you have one already. We all need reminders of these 10 best ways to live. Maybe if they’re on our refrigerator it will make it easier to teach to our children or our grandchildren. Maybe if everyone could actually follow them it would transform the world!