By Devin Donnell
Have you ever wondered “God, how do you want me to live my life?” If you have, then Exodus 20 is for you. In this chapter, God gives perhaps the most explicit description of how He wants us to live in the entire Bible. Before continuing, grab a Bible and read through this chapter. And, at first glance, these seem pretty simple and easy to follow. But, these ten rules are a lot deeper than what we see at first glance.
In order to understand the Commandments, we need to start in verse 2. Here, God does three things: He introduces Himself, shows that He values Israel, and establishes His authority. This is vital. If you don’t know who is giving the rules, or don’t know that they care or have the power to enforce the rules, are you going to listen? Probably not. So, first, God tells the Israelites why they should listen to Him, then He tells them the rules.
1. One God (Exodus 20:3)
God tells us to not put anything else before Him. Not family, not money, not work, not even ministry. This commandment flows from verse 2. Because of who He is, and what He has done, He rightly demands to be number one.
2. Don’t bow down to idols (Exodus 20:4-6)
This commandment is really the litmus test of the first. God is to be number one, but how can we tell if He is to us? We can tell by what we worship. We worship what is most important to us. Now, I’m going to assume that whoever is reading this doesn’t have small statues that they physically bow to in their home. But, worship is the act of giving worth to something. You can tell that by how you spend your time and money. Do you spend more time watching football than meditating on God’s word? Do you spend more money entertainment than you do on expanding the kingdom? Anything that becomes more important to us, more worth our attention, than God is an idol.
3. Don’t take the Lord’s Name in vain (Exodus 20:7)
Names are important, and God takes His name very seriously. Vain means “having no real value, idle, worthless.”[i] When we use the name of our Creator in a manner not referencing Him, or worse, attaching it to things contrary to His nature, we are showing by our actions that His Name, and ultimately Himself, has no real value to us.
4. Keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8-11)
God designed us with rest in mind. He gave us the Sabbath as a time re-center our lives on Him. This one is important to God; it’s the longest commandment in the list. We need to have intentional time built into our schedule where we can disconnect from the world and connect exclusively with God. This helps us stay focused on the main thing, God.
5. Honor your parents (Exodus 20:12)
This is a commandment that we love to throw at children to get them to listen. But, while obedience is certainly part of this command, it more fully means to respect[ii] your parents and applies to adult children perhaps more then youngsters. This includes how we talk about them to others (including their grandkids and child-in-laws). This respect isn’t derived from their worthiness, but rather because God has told us to regardless of how we feel. This is the only commandment that comes with an incentive. If we follow it, God says that He will bless us.
6. Don’t Murder (Exodus 20:13)
People are created in God’s image; therefore, murder is the destruction of God’s image.
This one’s easy. I’ve never shot someone, check! Not so fast. Murder begins in the heart, and steams from hatred. When we hate, we are devaluing what God has created to be like Him.
7. Don’t Commit Adultery (Exodus 20:14)
Marriage is a binding covenant before God and a living witness of the Gospel message, not a convenience or passionate fling. When that covenant is broken, it not only destroys the foundations of the family, but it destroys the witness of the Church. God has chosen to use marriage as the visible representation of His love for us and it needs treated as such.
8. Don’t Steal (Exodus 20:15)
By right of being Creator and Lord, God owns everything, and He allows us to steward what He gives us. Stealing, then, is taking what God has given to another person, and is rooted in selfishness. God desires us to live with selfless generosity, and thievery is the exact opposite.
9. Don’t bear false witness (Exodus 20:16)
God desires honesty and wants us to live lives defined by truth. Even the “little white lies” that seemingly don’t hurt anyone are detrimental to the character that God desires us to have.
10. Don’t covet (Exodus 20:17)
Coveting is really when stuff becomes more important to you than people. Wanting something that someone else has isn’t bad. I saw a motorcycle and wanted one, so I saved up, and bought one. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is when someone else has something we want, so we begin to hate that person because they have something we don’t.