10 commandments

Reflections on the Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me

What gods might we have? Not literally “money” or “sex” or “power” or “success” or “fame.” No one worships these things directly.

It is the “gods” hiding behind such things. The subtle deals we make with those unseen forces which we barely understand and to which we may really be tempted to pay homage, as though they were the sources of all meaning, blessing, and deliverance. No one thinks that money will save them. But the unseen power behind money might.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

God is spirit. Which is to say, we do not know what he is. 

We relate to Him by trust in what we do not know and in what He chooses to reveal in His way in His time.

In our impatience, we are tempted to make him into something we know, but He resists all such encapsulations.

He will not take the shape of our images, but we see ourselves in His image as we trust and obey. 

The greatest of mysteries: He made us in His image, not the other way around.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain

Words have power. Do not cheapen God’s name with your words.

Beware of hypocritical religion and anti-religious sacrilege, both of which use His name in vain. 

God is the end, never the means.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy

Learn from God and his creation the right patterns of being, and conform yourself to them

Nature and law were made for man, for his flourishing; they are teachers, not lords, to help us conform to the reality of God

Everything in its proper time and rhythm; seek only the good that can be sustainably had.

Perfection includes rest, and therefore is human-shaped, and therefore is reachable in Him.

5. Honor thy father and thy mother

Trust in those who came before you is not optional. You are trusting them now. For everything you have–from language to science to art and music to lunch and dinner to the structure of your house, which you trust though you have no idea who built it–you owe them your respect.

You have a father and a mother, otherwise you would not exist. Your father and/or your mother may be evil. But fatherhood and motherhood can never be.

You have many fathers and mothers; you could live a thousand years and not exhaust all they have given you and all they have to teach you.

Beware of cutting off the branch you are sitting on.

6. Thou shalt not kill

Honor the spirit of every human being, which was made in the image of the spirit of God, and which, like God, you do not fully understand.

You are an agent, a co-creator or destroyer. Your own actions have major and permanent consequences.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery

The institution of marriage and parenthood–the two are almost one–is to be honored and not abandoned

Sex is the Big Bang which creates everything or else the Atomic Bomb which destroys everything. We do not know what sex is.

We are the promises we make and break and keep.

8. Thou shalt not steal

Honor the fruits of others’ labor and their inheritance (both earned and given) as their own

Reject the view of life as a constant power struggle. In this view, everything is already stolen and therefore everything must be stolen again.

Ownership implies the undoing of materialism

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor

Let your yes be yes and your no be no, always counting the cost of truthfulness, but nevertheless persevering in the truth

Do not give quarter to lies in your heart or in your community; the truth, however painful, will set you–and others–free

Learn how to speak and act in such a way that the truth can be heard, received, and understood, so that people around you can be set free. our God is not a God of confusion.

10. Thou shalt not covet

There are two ways to define your own wellbeing: 

According to the gifts you’ve been given, which you generally do not deserve


According to the gifts others–not you–have been given, to which you feel entitled.

The first way is the way of gratitude and sustainable joy. The second leads to permanent unhappiness and the breaking of every other commandment.

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