The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments, or Decalogue, are usually understood as the set of laws that would lead us to an eventual spiritual death or condemnation to hell, if not observed. As a matter of fact, when God issued Moses His Ten Commandments, His intention was opposite: to prevent men from doing things that were going to keep them away from Him.

God's intention is to help us remain pure and holy for him (read, saints). This is why taking a fresh look at the Ten Commandments under this light can help us understand that, more than being ten old-fashioned prohibitions; the commandments are tenets that help us stay away from dangerous situations.

The ten commandments

The ten original commandments, according to Exodus 20, 3-17 are:

+ You shall have no other god to set against me.
+ You shall not make a carved image for yourself or the likeness of anything in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. (...) You shall not bow down to worship them.
+ You shall not make wrong use of the name of the Lord your God
+ Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy.
+ Honour you father and your mother.
+ You shall not commit murder.
+ You shall not commit adultery.
+ You shall not steal.
+ You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour.
+ You shall not covet.

Now you only need to read what they mean for these modern times. The Ten Commandments were written in a hierarchic order as well.

You shall have no other god

If we believe in one God, it is because this God came and introduced Himself to a man called Abraham. Before this revelation, men were basically inventing gods from everything. As priests, psychologists and other scholars have pointed out; we all have a natural tendency to look for a God (It is like written in our souls.), so in those ancient times, we just did it the best we could.

Now that we know Him, however, we need to make a deep commitment to love him above everything else. How can we show our love for God? Simple: Obeying the other nine rules and teaching the others to do the same.

This is called being God-fearing.

You shall not worship any idol

(Note: Catholics join the first commandment to this one; Protestants keep them separate.)

This commandment reminds us once again that, if we believe in God, it is because He revealed Himself to Abraham. That said, we don't need to have other gods to worship; and we don't need to replace Him by considering some other thing more important than Him.

Thus, this commandment warns us to avoid superstition (as there is no magic), idolatry (as there is only one true God), sorcery (including the use of amulets), sacrilege (which is to profane anything or person which has been consecrated to God), simony (because God cannot be bought), atheism (because God does exist) and agnosticism (as it is an open path to worshipping as a god something else).

However, it also warns us to be very careful not to believe in the true God in a misguided way! If you recall, there have been religions in which you had to sacrifice your own daughter to a god, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

You shall not make wrong use of the name of the Lord your God

OK, this commandment has an obvious meaning: try to avoid using the word 'God' carelessly.

Besides that, it means you should be careful not to turn God into a means instead of an end (or try to use Him), or use the concept of God either to get things from others or to avoid doing things (like when you say you will not help anyone because you are not a charity or the Providence).

Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy

We all need time to rest, and that is right; but from a religious point of view, we also need to work to help God carry out His plan through our actions. Most people do not do that, however. They just work to be able to possess things, enjoy things, or have control over others. From a religious point of view, this is incomplete; this will not give you happiness only enslavement.

There is something else to consider: how often do people who cannot rest a day because they don't have enough money to cover the next day. Are you using your employees as slaves? Are you paying a fair salary? are you not? Remember that, after explaining the first commandment, I mentioned that you could show your love to God by teaching others to do the same.

Honour you father and your mother

This commandment is very special because this is the only one that carries a promise: "Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long, and that it may be well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you." What does it mean?

It basically means three things:

+ It means that you should obey your parents when you are young and under their care.
+ It means that you should follow what they taught you in your daily life when you are on your own, so that you will not bring shame neither over you nor your parents' name.
+ It means you should take care of your parents when they grow old and elderly.

Your name is one of the most important possessions you have. Do you understand what this means? Would any parent ever tell their children that stealing or laziness is right? Any good son or daughter will bring shame to his or her family's name for misbehaving on purpose.

Good keeps His promises.

You shall not commit murder

You have not taken anybody's life... OK, but this commandment is more than that.

By this commandment, God urges you not to be violent, not to be lustful, not to be greedy, not to turn away others when they are in trouble, not to be indifferent to other peoples' pain and not to treat people as objects: manipulating, blackmailing or deceiving them. We were all born free, and we should all die that way.

This commandment exhorts us to be responsible for our actions. We should not behave recklessly, take drugs, apply euthanasia, abort a baby, defame a reputation, and ill-treat anyone with gossip or criticism. Furthermore, we should not even allow ourselves to think these are proper behaviours under any circumstance.

You shall not commit adultery

This commandment starts with a very remarkable definition. Adultery is understood as having intercourse with someone who is not our spouse. So, as it seems, God didn't even consider the possibility of sex before marriage.

Why is God so strict about sex? Here an answer one priest gave me: Because the natural consequence of having sex is bearing children; and every child deserves to be born and raised within a family: a loving responsible father and a loving responsible mother, with his brothers and sisters, preferably.

But what has happened? Nowadays, people seem to have forgotten this basic rule and believe that sex is just a tool to feel pleasure. Sexual revolution? Here God's sexual revolution:

+ Sex before marriage is bad because you expose a baby to be born without a family to support it.
+ Sex outside marriage is bad because you made a promise to your spouse and you have to keep your word.
+ Homosexual sex is bad because men were created to form families with women, and not with another man and vice versa.
+ Sex with prostitutes (or gigolos) is bad because love is not something to trade.
+ Sex for pleasure (including the use of contraceptives) is bad because that was not part of His plan.
+ Sex alone is bad because He created us to feel pleasure with somebody else.
+ Pornography is bad because it reduces the dignity of sex as a union of a man and a woman who love each other.
+ Rape is bad because you violate a person's most intimate freedom.
+ Divorce is bad because you expose married people (who have sworn lifetime love, respect and care) to have intercourse with others.
+ Polygamy and polyandry are bad because the concept of family is abandoned in them.
+ Incest is bad because it is a return to animal behaviours.
+ Free union (living together) is bad because people who love each other should not be afraid of committing themselves to form a family.

It is clear that God's idea was to help us have a free clean sexuality, and understand sexuality as a part —and not the core— of a relationship between a man and a woman. When you break this rule, sex tends to become pretty stressful: "Will she get pregnant?", "Do I really need an HIV test?", "Oh, no! Now he says he wants to leave me!". No one deserves to undergo these or similar situations. That's why God wants us to form a family first.

I will finish this with a quote I like: "When friends start doing things that boyfriend and girlfriend do, and boyfriend and girlfriend start doing things spouses do; then when spouses, they realize that they were nothing more than friends and soon want to divorce."

You shall not steal

Again, this commandment means much more than simply taking another person's possessions. Stealing includes theft, identity theft, kidnap, fraud, bribery, abuse of other person's ignorance or weakness, exploitative payment of labour, demanding more work than what has been agreed, overpricing people who are obliged to use certain services, laziness, carelessness, unpunctuality, deliberate hindering, creating 'phantom' positions, abuse of public property, and corruption.

God again uses this commandment to warn us. Stealing is wrong, but not sharing is wrong too. Many people struggle with starvation while others enjoy needless luxuries.

You shall not give false evidence against your neighbour

This is definitely the commandment most-commonly broken. A lie comes from fear, and fear is a way to prove your own ignorance or weakness... so, why do we lie? 99% of the time, we lie to avoid the negative consequences of something we have done or we are going to do.

Telling a lie includes more than stating something which is not true. It includes being two-faced, slanderous, pompous, treacherous or seductive as well as promising what we don't want to fulfil.

Tradition, additionally, warns us of two very perilous ways of life: There are people who live by lying to themselves, and there are people who live by taking everything they read, watch or listen in the media as true. Besides being distressing, this can be very time-consuming.

If you think it over, thanks to lies, we now have to demonstrate everything we state with proofs, and we have to run errands to certify what we will present as proof is true. Sadly, a man's word has almost no worth these days.

You shall not covet

The last commandment, fortunately, is self-explanatory and has less confusion. To covet is to want something that our neighbour has... as if you couldn't get something better for yourself!

Covetousness is a way to show our vanity, our lack of self-esteem, our distrustfulness, our will of showing that we are better than someone else... as if someone was comparing.

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