Day 36 – Honour Your Father and Mother
“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long on the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12 ESV
This commandment begins the section that has to do with our relationships with fellow human beings. Of course, since it is a command from God, it also surely concerns our relationship with God – will we obey Him in these areas (Exodus 20:12-17) as well as the ways covered in the previous verses?
This commandment has much reinforcement throughout the scriptures – including in the New Testament. Jesus repeated it in Mark 7:10 and Paul in Ephesians 6:1-3 (also see I Timothy 5:4). Moses reinforced it strongly in the next chapter – Exod. 21:15, 17 – saying that verbal or physical violence against one’s parents was a capital crime. It is also often pointed out that this is the only commandment with a promise – long days in the land God gave the people.
“Honour”is a word we understand without difficulty. The Oxford dictionary says “regard with great respect” or “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement)”. We are to respect our parents and show that respect publicly. We owe an obligation to parents who look after us from infancy (even pre-natal days) through childhood and adolescence, and even later when they support us in a variety of ways and sometimes come to our rescue in our adult years. Our parents also contribute to our reputation by maintaining a good one of their own. They give us memories and family customs and an example to follow. I can happily say this is true of my parents.
It is easy to respect such parents, but, sadly, some parents leave a poor example, are neglectful of their children, and some are even cruel and hurtful. The world has horrific indications of child labor, child trafficking, child marriage (usually arranged by parents), etc. Though neglect and abuse of children goes back no doubt to the beginning of humankind, it is surprising that child abuse as an academic discipline dates back only to the 1970s. If a parent harms a child, how can that child “honour” his or her parents? Perhaps the child will need to be removed from such a home and maintain only minimal contact with the parent(s) for years to come. Yet, there may be some one or two positive things that even such a parent has taught the child and that child can honour those. Or, there may be others inside or out of the family circle whom the child trusted and respects (a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a family friend, a school teacher, a Sunday School teacher, etc.) and these folk can become the subject of the child’s respect.
Disrespect by the child of a parent often continues throughout adulthood. Many children take advantage of a loving parent’s generosity in a variety of ways, then neglect (or even abuse physically and emotionally) those parents when they become aged and need some help themselves. This commandment remains in effect for a lifetime, not just for the first 20 years of dependency. So, for myself, as of this writing, I need to think of ways in which I can honour my 97 year-old mother, living in a nursing home some distance away, as well as ways to honour the name of my deceased father and parents-in-law, and of ancestors further back in time, who have contributed so much to my life.
- Read Exodus 20:12; Mark 7:9-13Ephesians 6:1-3.
- Can you think of a practical way to honour your parents, whether still living or deceased? How did they honour their parents (your grandparents)?
The promise is of long life in the place God puts you. How can parental respect contribute to long life and to retaining the inheritance (whether material or spiritual) your parents leave?
Day 37 – Do Not Murder
“You shall not murder” – Exodus 20:13
Once every minute of every day in the world we live in, someone is killed (one-and-a-half million each year). The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reports that there are 6.2 homicides for every 100,000 people in the world (the rate for the United Sates is 16.2, for Canada 1.68, for Brazil 26.7, for Russia 11.31, for Australia 0.68). The first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain, killed the second child born, Abel (see Genesis 4:8). The newspaper I read on the day of this writing reports the intentional killing of ten people by someone who used a van to run them down on a city street. No wonder there is a commandment that says, “You shall not murder.”
The Hebrew word in Exodus 20:13 is “ratsach”, meaning to dash to pieces, or to kill or murder. It is also used of causing death through carelessness or negligent behaviour. Murder was considered a crime deserving of capital punishment, and is distinguished from accidental killing for which there were exceptions to such punishment (as in the cities of refuge to which a person could flee and be protected if the one who caused the death did so unintentionally).
The Lord Jesus spoke of murder in Matthew 5:21-26, saying that to harbour anger in one’s heart is to commit murder in principle. Both anger and murder are subject to God’s judgment. He added that the reason murder is taken so seriously by God is that humans are made in God’s image. This implies, to me, that when murder is committed it is as if the perpetrator struck out at God Himself.
So, there is a societal application of this commandment – murder is to be severely punished – and a personal or individual application – we are not to excuse our anger. Anger is frequently rebuked in the Bible. We are to be slow to become angry (James 1:19), and to be quick to deal with it when it is found in our hearts: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). We should put away anger (Colossians 3:8). At times, God is said to have been provoked to anger by the sins of the people (Isaiah 5:25; Jeremiah 44:8), but also that He is slow to anger (Naham 1:3).
We are cautioned that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). I would have to agree – the anger I have been guilty of has not been pretty or becoming in any way. How about you?
- Read Matthew 5:21-26.
- We usually feel that our anger is a form of “righteous indignation”. Honestly review an instance of anger in your life. Can it be said to have been “righteous”? did it accomplish a good purpose or exacerbate a problem?
- Note: God knows what really occurred when a person died violently. We may have insufficient evidence, unanswered questions, or we may accuse and put on trial and even convict the wrong person. This makes it a matter of extreme caution for our judicial systems to implement capital punishment, and partially explains why some jurisdictions have chosen to eliminate the death sentence and instead sentence convicted murderers to life in prison.
- Getting back to the application re. anger, we read that while God was provoked by the sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32, He also showed slowness to anger when He accepted Moses’ plea to spare the Israelites in Exodus 32:14. Will you accept the pleas of the Holy Spirit to refrain from anger the next time someone’s sinful words or actions are used against you?
Day 37 – Do Not Commit Adultery
“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Legally, the term adultery applies to sexual relations between a married person and someone to whom he or she is not married. That definition also is at the essence of the biblical teaching on this topic, but Jesus explained that in His view, the commandment goes much further than this:
27 “You have heard that it was said,‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So, we have to think of more than one specific offence as we try to come to grips with the seventh commandment.
In today’s world, laws that remain on the books regarding adultery are rarely enforced (excerpt as a justification for divorce). In fact, it is plain that sexual exploitation in popular culture is rampant, though, interestingly, most people would agree that a couple should be faithful to one another. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of American adults indicated that 93% of those surveyed listed faithfulness as the most important factor to a successful marriage. A Zoost.com (a social dating site) worldwide survey found that even among single people who are in a relationship, monogamy is the preferred relationship for 94% in Sweden, 93% in the United Sates, and 92% in Canada.
So, the ideal of the Old Testament commandment is widely accepted, at least as long as the particular relationship exists. In October 2017 the Me Too Movement began as a call to end sexual harassment and assault (though the actual term goes back to 2006). Though there are potential risks (e.g., people may be falsely accused), the widespread endorsement of this cause might be seen as a positive reflection of something closer to Jesus’ ideal. Yet, the world has a long way to go to honour the Lord’s teaching on lust versus purity of heart. Many studies show that sexual depictions on TV continue to rise and psychologists express concern over the impact such content has on teen audiences.
We are called to guard our hearts, examining our motives and intentions while avoiding influences that will feed on our selfishness.
John Piper writes, “The heart is what you are, in the secrecy of your thought and feeling, when nobody knows but God. And what you are at the invisible root matters as much to God as what you are at the visible branch. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). From the heart are all the issues of life.” [https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/blessed-are-the-pure-in-heart]
- Read Matthew 5:27-30 and I Thessalonians 4:1-8.
- Notice in I Thessalonians 4 the contrast between God’s high ethical and moral standard and the world’s passionate lusts. In what ways do you show your choice of standard to live by?
- Notice also that to follow the world’s lustful pattern is to “transgress and wrong” (or defraud) one’s brother or sister (I Thess.4:6). How does immorality “defraud” or exploit another person?
Day 39 – “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
If the Lord Jesus had commented on this commandment as He did on murder and adultery, what would He have said? Perhaps it would have gone something like this:
“You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not steal,’ but I say unto you, ‘Let not your life consist in the abundance of what it possesses. Rather give and it shall be given unto you. Love one another. Sell what you possess and give it to the poor.’ “
Of yes, He did say those things!
When we think about theft, we usually think about things, objects, personal property of some kind. But intangible things can also be stolen – like a person’s livelihood or reputation or honour or dignity or identity. Stealing is an assault on another person.
There are various ways of looking at stealing.
The web site quora.com exists to provide a forum for the sharing of knowledge. In one posting, quora asked, “What is wrong with stealing?” One person replied, “You can only steal from someone you do not love. Stealing is a form of hate. You will only think of yourself when you steal. Stealing is a form of self-worship. You will destroy someone’s love for something when you steal. Stealing is destroying good. Stealing is anti-good… A person who has earned and bought/created what he owns is pure and good. A person who stole that pervert[s] it. Ultimately, perversions seek to destroy the good in yourself, more and more perversion equals less and less good in you. Stealing can get you there.” [https://www.quora.com/Why-is-stealing-wrong]
Paul commented on this commandment in Romans 13:9 when he said that it could be summed up in another command, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Romans 13:9). The next verse adds, “Love does no wrong to a neighbour.”
In Ephesians 4:28, Paul gave an alternative to stealing: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”
Jesus Christ used the metaphor of stealing when He spoke of the spiritual care He provides for His followers: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).
The Apostle Paul asked, “While you preach against stealing, do you steal?” (Romans 2:21). We need to ask ourselves if we are guilty of theft in any of the ways spoken of in scripture. I lived in western Canada in the 1970s when there was a time of revival in many places. One result was that some folk who had shoplifted or cheated someone of objects or funds, went into businesses and confessed their wrongdoing and reimbursed the surprised merchant. Revival works that way. Perhaps we have failed to give to a person in need when we had the means to help. It may be that we owe another person praise that we took for ourselves. It could be that we dishonoured Christ in taking glory for ourselves when it really belonged to Him. Now is the time to ask, “Do you steal?”
- Read Romans 13:8-14.
- Read James 2:1-13. How is our poor treatment of others a form of theft?
- If the Spirit is convicting you of some form of stealing, how might you follow the example of Zacchaeus in generously restoring what isn’t yours to someone you have defrauded? See Luke 19:8.
Day 40 – False Witness
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
“The whole truth and nothing but the truth”
The oath taken in court goes back a long way. It became a staple in English courts by the 13thcentury. Similar oaths were used in Roman times. And in the Bible there is a requirement found in Deuteronomy 19 of having two or three witnesses in order to establish the veracity of a charge against someone, with strict punishment for anyone who was found to be a “malicious witness” (Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Besides these legal requirements, there are many biblical injunctions to speak the truth in our everyday interactions. Here are a few:
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace.” (Zechariah 8:16)
“For my mouth will utter truth;wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” (Proverbs 8:7)
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians $:15, 25)
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” (Revelation 21:5)
“…he who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:2)
This last verse is found in a Psalm that is worth considering further:
Psalm 15:1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
The Psalm expands on the nature of truth-telling. Truth begins in the heart and is an outgrowth of a person’s relationship with God. (v. 1) God shares His company with those who walk blamelessly and truthfully. (v. 2) Truth-speakers do not slander, do evil, or take up a reproach towards a neighbor or friend. (v. 3) Persons of truth reject vile people and honour God-fearing people. (v. 4) An individual characterized by truth take promises seriously and handles money ethically. (v. 5)
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). Truth is part of the very essence of God.
- Read Psalm 15.
- Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether someone is telling you the truth or not. What do you look for in making such conclusions? Are these traits of a truthful person evident in your own life?
- Think of some synonyms for “bearing false witness” – for example, slander, falsehood, dishonesty, deceit, two-faced, exaggeration, fiction, distortion, misinformation, white lie, whopper, humbug, fib, fable. tale. Do any of these help you process the presence of untruth?
Day 41 – Coveting
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’swife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
I’ve wanted many things in my life – toys, model car kits, a bicycle, cars, a colour (then later, a flat-screen) TV, stereo equipment, gadgets of various kinds, etc., etc. The desired objects have changed over the years. Some of these things consumed me for a time. Many of them were objects others possessed but I didn’t, so, in a sense, I coveted my neighbour’s [name of object]. In Romans 7, Paul said that in him were “all kinds of covetousness”.
With this last commandment, we have descended a long way from “You shall have no other gods before me.” It shows how far down we go when we place another god before the one true God – down all the way to being consumed with a desire for not just a person but even a shiny trinket.
Of course, Exodus 20:17 speaks of more important desires than gadgets – someone else’s wife, another’s servant – human beings. Maybe when it gets to a donkey (or the ’57 Chevy pictured above), or “anything” – working animals and things – it gets closer to the little gadgets on my list. Coveting anyone or anything is a dangerous preoccupation because it can involve other sins like displacing God in one’s life, dishonouring parents, lust, stealing, or even killing. Coveting, as used here, is a desire gone wrong – such desire is clearly in competition with what should be our supreme focus. Luke 12:23 reminds us, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
It is one thing to realize the dangers of coveting, but how do we overcome this temptation? In Luke 12:15, Jesus our Lord said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”And a few verses later (v.23), He added, “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Jesus encouraged His disciples to consider the flowers and the birds who have what they need supplied. Similarly, God provides our needs. We have to distinguish between needs and wants and make a point of counting the blessings God has already given us. Hebrews 13:5 adds, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Appreciation of God’s current provisions leads to contentment and victory over covetousness.
- Read Luke 12:13-34.
- One way to “count your blessings” is to meditate on Philippians 4:8-9. Thinking about what you can find in your life and the world around you that is honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, things of excellence, and things worthy of praise is a great help towards peace and contentment
- Read on to verses 18 and 19 of Philippians 4. Notice how the Apostle (who was in prison at the time of writing) could feel “well supplied” .
Day 42 – The Greatest and Next Greatest
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”– Matthew 22:36-40 ESV
In the past ten days, we have been considering the Ten Commandments. Now, we can sum up these teachings by reflecting on Jesus Christ’s words found in Matthew 22:36-39 and Mark 12:28-31.
First, loving God should encompass the whole of our heart, soul, and mind. The heart speaks to our affections and deep motives. The soul involves who we really are – what’s important to us and reflective of our true nature. The mind suggests that our thought-life is centred on God and pleasing to Him and our decision-making processes are dependent on what He has revealed to us about Himself. When God is everything, we have no problem fulfilling the commandments to have no other gods before Him, not make an image to worship, avoid taking His name in vain, and observing the Sabbath/Lord’s Day. To break any of these commandments is to show that we do not truly love Him with everything we are.
Second, Love for others should be commensurate with how we love ourselves. Most of us show that we love ourselves by guarding ourselves and serving our needs and desires. Now, of course, some people have a low self-image and may even say in a moment of desperation, ‘I hate myself.’ Do they really? The problem of low self-esteem is a complicated one which I am probably not qualified to explain. But sometimes, at least, it can be an expression of too much self-focus, or too often being concerned about what others think, or a disregard or ignorance of what God says about how much He values us. God is love and gave His beloved Son to be our saviour. We are to take proper care of ourselves and in turn those around us for whom we have some responsibility.
Loving self the biblical way is not selfishness. Charles Swindoll explains, “Well,there’s a difference in accepting who I am, warts and all, and focusing on “it’s all about me.” That’s narcissism. And life is not about that. Freedom says that God made you who you are. Don’t try to hide the fact that it includes weaknesses and strengths. See, to deny that I have strengths is ridiculous . . . just as is denying that I have weaknesses. Somewhere is the balance. Grace allows me the freedom to know the difference.” https://www.insight.org/resources/article-library/individual/grace-allows-us-to-accept-ourselves-warts-and-all
So, Jesus says that we are to love others as we love ourselves. If we do that, we will honour our parents, and we will not hate and murder, lust and commit adultery, steal, give false testimony about others, or covet. It’s easy to see how these injunctions and prohibitions are understandable applications of loving our neighbor.
You may forget one of the Ten Commandments, but it is hard to forget “love God and love your neighbour!”
- Read I John 4:7-21.
- In a sense, the Apostle John reduces the two greatest commandments to one in I John 4. “Live one another.” If we live in love, he says, we have been born of God and know God. Loving one another means we also must love God. How else does this passage link the two great loves – love of God and love for one another?
- When you are reading or studying other parts of scripture, remember that Jesus said ALL the Law and the Prophets depend upon the two great commandments!