Reflections on the Ten Commandments

What does it take to live wisely? I believe that to live wisely, you need to remember that you are connected. You are connected to other people- they affect you and you affect them positively or negatively. You know that you have to get along to get by in this world. For example, if you want to keep your job, you have to get along with your co-workers, your boss, and your customers. You understand the idea of connection with other people and I want to help you understand the implications of this connection even better.

There is another connection you need to remember to be able to live wisely and that is your connection to God. How are you connected to God? You probably heard people talk about God as the man upstairs, or our father, or the voice inside, or my friend, or some other name. These names reflect how people think about God. Some names are rooted in the bible while others are not. We will use the bible as we think about God, human beings, and our world.

Another way to talk about being connected to God is to talk about being a part of a big story. We have our individual stories and we are also part of a big story that involves God, creation, and human beings. I invite you to look beyond your story to this big story. In this way you will find healing and comfort in the present, reconciliation with your past, and direction for the future. How does this story go?

In the beginning, God created everything- the skies, the waters, the stars, the planets, the plants, the animals. Everything came through God’s will, nothing came by chance. At the end of creation, God created human beings and he was satisfied, creation is complete. All of creation was made for the benefit of human beings. God commanded people to take charge of creation; to take care of it and make it their own. God intended people to exercise their powers to shape his creation in a good way. But people have often done the opposite, and shaped the world in a bad way. That is one reason God allows bad things in our lives. This is the general story of creation.

There is also a more detailed story of creation. God created man first and placed him in a garden (Eden) to take care of it. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. The man needs help in taking care of creation and he also needs a companion. Therefore God created woman to be his partner in taking care of creation and to be his companion. They are to cooperate with each other in caring for creation and also to complete each other. What are some things we learn from this big story?

  1. We, as human beings, are special. We are not accidents and in fact God made us special, above all of his creation. We are to take care of it and use it for our benefit. We have been given a great task- to take care of and shape God’s creation in cooperation with each other. Despite what others have told you or how they treated you, you are God’s special creation. You are not worthless but someone God entrusted his creation to. Your value comes not just from being God’s creation, but also as a caretaker and shaper of creation.
  2. God’s first connection with human beings is that of their creator. Other connections follow as God continues to reveal himself in people’s stories. As our creator, God is the source of our lives. We are not our own but we belong to God. Living wisely includes living in gratitude and acknowledgment of God’s ownership of us. Our loyalty and obedience are our thanks for his gift of life and our acknowledgment of God’s ownership of us.

What is the obedience God requires? “To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and to love your neighbor (other people) as yourself”(Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18). The way to love God and other people is described in the Ten Commandments. I want to tell you a little more about the Ten Commandments before we look at them individually.

The ten commandments, recorded in the bible, is proclaimed by God directly to a people called the Israelites, the people through whom he chose to make himself known to all the world. God chose to reveal himself through one people so that all people may know who God is and how God is like. God is the one true god of the universe but to know him, we must look to his story in the bible.

The Ten Commandments are given to the Israelites so that they could be a model of how human society should be like (See Note 1). God set apart a group of people to show the world how to live at peace with him and with each other. The Israelites were to be a model of what it means to “love God with all our hearts, souls and minds; and to love our neighbor as ourselves”. Love is the obedience that our creator requires and living wisely is living in obedience to our creator. Here are the Ten Commandments and we will look at them individually in the next sections (See Note 2).

  1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house.

The first four commandments are focused on loving God. The other six commandments are focused on loving people. As we discuss each commandment, we will look at some truths about God, human beings, and the world. We will also discuss the character that God wants to develop in us. This is because God wants us to be obedient not just in our actions, but also in our thoughts and feelings. God wants to rule both our hearts and our bodies.

This reflection on the ten commandments ends with a reflection on the gospel.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the statement "This is my body, I can do with it as I want"
  2. Do we need the bible to know God?


  1. My position is that, in calling a people to himself and shaping them by his law, God was creating a milieu in which love can flourish. The law makes love possible but it does not create love. See Grenz, Stanley J., Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 256. An analogy for the law is a splint. A splint makes healing possible but a splint itself does not heal.
  2. The Ten Commandments list is from the Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 92. I am using the reformed numbering and order out of preference for the Reformed tradition. Other groups number the commandments differently.

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