The Big Ten

A long time ago I learned that we use the ten digit system because we have ten digits: eight fingers and two thumbs. Now we may wonder why God so designed us this way. Everything we do that involves numbers is based on the Base 10 system, meaning that we have 10 numbers, 0-9, for which we apply value. For example, when someone says, “I have 123 friends on Facebook!” they mean that they have one times one hundred (ten times ten) plus 2 times ten plus 3 parts of ten in counting their friends. It’s as old as using our fingers to count. The Base 10 system drives everything we do, from getting gas at the gas pump ($3.74/ gallon!) to paying our bills. It is the very foundation of our number system, and so it is with our law.

God gave the Israelites ten basic laws to govern their behavior with one another. The first five deal with the subject of the first great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Those first five explain what loving God means: Not to worship other gods, not to build idols of God, Not to misuse God’s name, Not to misuse God’s day, and not to ignore God’s representatives. The second five explain what God meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Don’t kill your neighbor, don’t break up your neighbor’s marriage, don’t steal from your neighbor, don’t lie about your neighbor, and don’t desire your neighbor’s stuff. Is it any surprise when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He chose these two? (Mark 12:28-31)

More recently, the Ten Commandments have come under fire for being posted in public places (forget the fact they are etched in stone in the U.S. Supreme Court) because they advocate a particular religion, though Jesus is nowhere mentioned in the Ten. It has been the foundation for English and America law for centuries, and has never needed explaining, because everyone knows them, either inherently, or by faith. Of particular concern for us is where Christians ought to stand on the issue. Since we stand on Christ and the New Testament, should we support the movement to post the Ten Commandments? What do the Commandments represent?

Take a moment and consider the Ten Commandments written positively.

#1 – Respect the One True God

#2 – Respect God’s Uniqueness

#3 – Respect the Name

#4 – Respect the Sabbath

#5 – Respect Your Parents

#6 – Respect One Another’s Life

#7 – Respect One Another’s Marriage

#8 – Respect One Another’s Property

#9 – Respect the Truth

#10 – Respect Your Neighbor

A few nights ago our dog got out. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s a challenge to get him back. I could tell where he was by the sound of other dogs barking for all they’re worth. My dog tends to attract the attention, and one of my neighbors was furious, for his dogs were barking ferociously at my canine intruder, and he was no less fierce. What he shouted to me over the creek was not especially encouraging, and included language I’ll not include here. But all I could say in response to his especially sage advice about keeping my dog on a leash was simply, “Thank you!”

As much as these laws help us understand our relationship to God, they also govern our relationship to one another. What happens when these laws are ignored? Our neighbors are strangers, who feel no compunction to shouting profanity across a creek at you when they don’t even know your name. Not only do these laws govern civil behavior, but they provide an important basis of interaction between neighbors. When we all know what the basic rules are, we don’t have to live in fear, but in freedom. Even when I don’t know who you are, I know there will be a certain civility in our conversation and a reasonable expectation of mutual respect.

It’s difficult for us to love our neighbors when we live in fear of them. We dare not tread on their property because they will lean out the back porch and shout at us. We dare not touch their front door, or they will warn us off the property. If we lose the Ten, we stand to lose so much more. What can you do to make sure the Ten are a part of your life? And encourage it in others?

If you had to put together a top ten list of laws and commands for people to follow, what would you list? Maybe common sense would be on that list somewhere, along with getting a job and supporting your family. Maybe you would add something in there about marriage and divorce, and who ought to participate in it. But would we have come up with the list that God gave us?

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I've been in ministry in the Christian Churches/ Churches of Christ for 20+ years. Finished my doctorate in Biblical Studies in 2015. Serve today as a Hospital Chaplain.

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