The Big Ten – part 2

Last week we began our look at the Ten Commandments.  We broke the Ten Commandments into two parts because this is what Jesus has done as well, summarizing the commandments in Matthew 22:37-40:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Ten Commandments break down along these lines as well so it’s no coincidence that Jesus summarizes them this way.  The first four commandments concern our love for God.  They are to have no other gods before the Lord, to worship no idols at all, not to take the Lord’s name in vain, and to keep the Sabbath holy.

This week as we move to the last six commandments, we move from love for God to love for others.  Without first loving God it is impossible to truly love others.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t do good things for people but ultimately your motivation for doing good comes from guilt, a desire for good publicity, a tax write off, or some other reason.  Those who love God will be motivated to love other people.

We don’t often think about commandments in terms of love.  But the truth is that we must look at the motivation behind the commandments.  Although I wouldn’t choose this passage as my first option for a Valentine’s Day message, what we’re going to talk about this morning really is suitable as a Valentine’s Day message because obviously as we should be showing love for others, this goes double for our spouses.

Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Why do we start with honoring one’s father and mother?  I believe that there are a few reasons for this.  To start, God created the family.  It is part of His plan.  We could have been born and grown to maturity any way that God chose but God chose the family.  Throughout all of the animal kingdom we see family relationships.

The difficulty with honoring one’s family is that families aren’t perfect.  Families weren’t perfect in the beginning and it is perhaps no surprise that the first murder in the Bible is between two brothers.  It has always been a problem that children do not always agree with or even respect their parents.  Today it has increasingly become a problem that parents are not worthy of respect.

We have thousands upon thousands if not millions of neglectful parents in the United States alone.  Many children grow up without knowing a father or mother because that parent has abandoned them.  There are many people who have a hard time understanding God as a Heavenly Father because the only father they have known has been neglectful, drunken, abusive, or not there at all.

This is why I believe we start with honoring our father and mother.  It is the most important earthly relationship that we have but it is also the most difficult at times.  We can find new friends, we can get new coworkers.  But we only get one family and that’s why it’s so important to keep working on that relationship.

Honoring your father and mother doesn’t mean that you always do what they want you to do however.  Your parents may want you to become doctor but you really want to be a mechanic.  It is your responsibility to live your own life but be respectful to your parents and at least hear them out.

On the other hand, there is at least one instance where family ties need to be broken.  It is over the question of Jesus.  In Luke 14, Jesus is discussing the cost of being a disciple.  In verse 26 He states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. “

Jesus does not mean hate in the way that we think of hate.  What He means is that sometimes we must make a decision between honoring family and honoring God.  When that time comes, we must honor God above family.  If you’re a Muslim who chooses to follow the Lord, this verse is very pertinent because you can’t honor your father and mother and follow Jesus.  Just like in the order of the Ten Commandments, God comes first.

Exodus 20:13 –  “You shall not murder.”

Do not murder seems like a simple enough command.  It’s the big one that we like to point to and say “at least I haven’t murdered anyone.”  But this is where we really start talking about love.  In order to maintain the letter of this law, we just need to contain our hate just enough that we don’t strike out and actually kill the person that we can’t stand.  Is anyone really expecting God to say “Congratulations, you’re a good person, you’ve managed to control yourself enough to not murder anyone”?

Jesus gives more commentary on this command in Matthew 5:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[c]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

What  Jesus is saying here is that the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is wrong.  The truth is that we kill people every bit as much with our words and our actions as we would if we tried to physically harm someone.

This is where the love issue starts.  It’s not just enough to keep from physically attacking someone, anything that is done or said that is unloving is done with the same intent as murder.  We talk about someone behind their back – even if what we are saying is true – it’s assassinating their character and their person.  We call someone an idiot or a moron, two or my favorite personal attacks, it’s more than just empty words.  The intent is to hurt someone with those words.

In relationships we’re often loose with the words we say.  Sometimes we say something without thinking and say something nasty.  Sometimes we let things build up and build up until things finally burst out and we spew out something hateful and venomous.

Let me tell you something that is applicable to marriages, families, friendships, and every other kind of relationship.  It’s not a matter of if something hurtful is said by someone, it’s a matter of when.  There’s a stereotype that women will remember everything wrong that you say and I believe that there’s some truth to that stereotype – sorry ladies.  But that doesn’t make men immune from this.  In some ways guys are actually more vulnerable to this than women.

This applies mostly to marriage but is applicable in other relationships as well.  Women are used to men saying stupid and hurtful things.  Sometimes you’re immune to it because men are stupid and other times it really hurts.  Guys on the other hand aren’t used to being attacked verbally by the one they love.  They don’t pay a whole lot of attention when other guys call them every name in the book but when their wife says something mean to them, it cuts deeper than it could from anyone else.

Is this a rule?  Of course not because men and women have different levels of sensitivity to things that are said.  Something you say to one friend might really hurt them and not phase another one at all.  Ultimately, our sensitivity to the words of other people isn’t the issue.  We’re not responsible for what other people do.  We’re responsible for the actions we take and the words that we say that are intended to harm other people.

Exodus 20:14 – “You shall not commit adultery.”

This is another seemingly straight forward command that really isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface.  Jesus gives commentary for this as well in Matthew 5:27-28

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

This is another case of our outward actions not being the only thing that matters.  God looks at the heart and our intentions as well.  By the letter of the law, the only thing that counted as sin was the actual act of adultery.  But the truth is that there is a lot of harm that can be done to a relationship long before adultery occurs.

I can only speak for guys here, but it is absolutely impossible not to notice the way some women dress.  And many women dress that way because they want to attract attention.  Noticing inappropriate dress is not an issue, it is when thoughts linger and wander to places that they shouldn’t.  These lustful thoughts are every bit as bad as the act of adultery.  Now, they don’t carry the same consequences and don’t do the same harm necessarily but they can hurt a relationship.

Here’s a bit of a secret that maybe can prevent a fight or two.  We’re all guilty of this unfortunately.  Guys are visual and they’re going to notice inappropriate things.  And because we’re sinful, we’re going to have inappropriate thoughts from time to time.   This is not an excuse and every man needs to constantly be on guard against this.  My point is that just because a man notices another woman, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love his wife or that he wants to leave her.  It’s just that we’re shamefully sinful.

On the other hand, ladies are just as bad as men.  It just manifests itself in different ways.  For the most part, lust for women doesn’t come in the form of fantasizing about the men in trashy romance novels.  Instead it seeks to fill other needs that they don’t feel are being fulfilled by their husband.  This can be fulfilled through a sensitive friend who listens or by a fantasy.

In short, lust by either of the sexes is sinful because it seeks to fulfill needs that should be fulfilled by the spouse and goes outside of the marriage to do so.  The stereotypical belief is that adultery is about sex but in most cases it is not.  Studies have been done on spouses who cheat and overwhelmingly have learned that it’s not about wanting someone younger, more attractive, etc.  Instead it usually starts by simply trying to fulfill a spouse should be fulfilling and going outside of the marriage to do so.

Exodus 20:15 – “You shall not steal.”

This is probably the most straight forward of all the commandments.  We know what stealing is.  It is taking something that doesn’t belong to us.  It is taking something that we didn’t earn.  Now most of us aren’t going to break into someone house or shoplift from the store, so this one doesn’t feel like too big of a deal.

But what about when the restaurant doesn’t charge you for something that you ordered?  Do you bring it to their attention?  This happened to me just two days ago and I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t bother to ask for a new bill.  It’s easy to justify – they overcharge me another time and I didn’t want to waste the time then to correct it, so this just makes up for it.  If I had remembered my coupon I would have saved just as much.  I had lousy service so this makes up for it.

What about anyone who gets paid by the hour.  If you get paid for 8 hours, are you working the whole time?  Maybe you get in a few minutes late or take an extra ten minutes for lunch.  Maybe you waste half an hour a day talking about sports or the previous night’s reality show.  Whatever the case may be, do you work the entire time that you are paid to work?  From my experience in offices at least, the case is no.

This is one of sins that’s easy to justify.  And one of the reasons it’s easy to justify is that this goes both ways.  You might take an extra ten minutes at lunch but the company cheated you out of a raise that you legitimately earned the last year.  Or you don’t care that something didn’t get scanned at the register because you know that you’re getting charged a 700% markup at the supermarket and they’re still making money off you anyway.

How does this relate to love?  It’s the golden rule, “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.”  If you don’t like being cheated, taken advantage of, or stolen from, don’t do it to others.  It doesn’t matter if they’re thieves or cheats, it doesn’t make it right to do it.  We need to treat others fairly even if we’re not given the same courtesy.

Without wading too far into politics, this is what is going on between the two sides.  Democrats blame the rich for taking advantage of others and want to tax to make things more fair.  Are the rich taking advantage or a lot of loopholes and things they can get away with?  Absolutely yes.  Republicans say that it’s unfair to take money away from people who have worked to earn their money and give it to those who haven’t earned it.  Are there people on this end who are taking advantage of a system designed to help the unfortunate and who are using it to avoid work that they are capable of doing?  Absolutely yes.

In a perfect world everyone would be paid a fair wage, pay a fair price for their products, work hard to earn everything they receive, and then seek to take care of those who can’t for whatever reason.  This isn’t a perfect world however and theft is a big part of the reason why even though we wouldn’t call it that too often.

Exodus 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

I’m not going to spend much time on this one because I probably don’t have much to add to what you’ve likely heard before.  We all know the difference between the truth and a lie.  Lies also come about when the whole truth is not given, when it is misrepresented, or when it was omitted.  A lie is anything that we say that is an attempt at deception or a prevention of the whole truth coming out.

What I won’t get into this morning are little white lies and things of that nature.  We all know that the age old question “Does this dress make me look fat?” is a trap.  It is not a question that wants an honest answer and certainly no man has been dumb enough to say, “No dear, the dress is fine, it’s your butt that makes you look fat.”

Exodus 20:17 – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

I believe that this command is last because it is the beginning of a lot of sins.  Why do people steal?  Because they want something that someone else has.  Why does adultery occur?  Because someone has coveted another person who is not their spouse.  You can break any of the other Ten Commandments because you first coveted something that wasn’t yours.

Because coveting ties is so closely to the other commands I can easily spend an entire sermon on it.  Instead, I’m going to bring this back to love one final time.  The only way to avoid this sin is to love.  You have to love yourself and love your life.  You need to find happiness in whatever God has given you at this moment in your life.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

The second part is love other people.  If they have a nice car, a beautiful spouse, green grass, just be happy for them.  Treat them the way you’d hope to be treated in the same position.  Even if things aren’t as great for you, God still has a plan and purpose for you and your life.  What other people have does not detract from what God has given you.

Next week we’re going to look at some of the finer points of the law and the reasons that God gave what might seem like some very strange laws.

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