They are the basis of all western law. Putting aside any spiritual or religious meaning, the 10 Commandments are what most of western law is based upon. The 10 commandments are carved in stone on the walls of the United States Supreme Court. Taking a closer look, four of the commandments deal with man’s relationship to God, while the other six deal with man’s relationship to man. For this discussion we will focus on commandments 5-10.
The Supreme Court and the 10 Commandments
A group of people were having dinner outdoors at a small cafe. The conversation got around to a grievance one of the people had concerning the United States Supreme Court.
A man expressed his displeasure, disgust and outright anger over the fact that the 10 Commandments are carved in stone on the walls of the court. He viewed this as a serious violation of his freedom from religion. He went on to say that the very fact that someone would put them on the court’s walls was immoral.
When he was reminded that our laws were based on the commandments, he became combative and and refused to listen to the alternate point of view. Another man, a close friend, spoke up and told him that the 10 Commandments were in fact, the basis of our laws, as we understand it in the West. This troubled him and he did not argue the point further, as he saw the evidence was substantial.
Commandments are logical
Think of it this way, the 10 Commandments make sense. They are logical. According to the Bible, the 10 Commandments were given to the Israelites by God (Exodus 20). There were over two million Israelites and at the time God give the commandments, they had only been out of captivity in Egypt for three weeks. It was necessary to structure an orderly society and, logically, there needed to be rules.
The first four commandments deal with man’s relationship to God. We will not discuss those in this article. The last six deal with man’s relationship to man, so we will stick to that for now.
Honoring our parents
We begin with the fifth commandment: Honor your father and your mother. One of the ties that holds societies together is the family unit. In modern society the value of family is not as strong as it was in past generations. But the common sense directive clearly advances the value of family. Honoring can mean showing respect, or obeying your parents’. It can also mean loving your parents as they age and need your help. Or it can simply mean being respectful to your elders. Western societies tend to discount experience that comes with age, as everything is geared for youth.
The sixth commandment means exactly what it says. Do not kill. Courts of law will argue what is acceptable taking of life, such as self defense, war. But for everyday life, having respect for someone else’s right to live goes a long way in achieving order and harmony. It’s difficult to justify any other position.
Do not commit adultery
The seventh is also straight forward: Do not commit adultery. Men and women are meant to be joined in marriage, for life. This means not going with someone else. When taken a little deeper, it would include not wanting to be with someone else.
The eight commandment prohibits stealing. People may think they follow the commandments, but they still have to lock up their house, their car and take preventative measures to insure that no one takes their property.
Don’t lie about your neighbor
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor is the ninth in our list. Don’t lie. Some versions of the Bible use the word witness instead of testimony.
The last one is very, very difficult. Do not covet. That means do not wish you had something that belongs to someone else. Everyone wants food, clothing and shelter. People get jealous of other people’s possessions, or their spouse or their children. They want a bigger and better home, and they want more money and better social standing. They want, they want, they want. That can lead to killing, stealing, false witness, lies, deception, fraud and the like.
We all should review and try to live by these ancient rules
Here is a complete list of the commandments that God has given us. If we do our best to follow these our lives are likely to be lived well.
1 “You shall have no other gods before me.
2 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
4 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
5 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
6 “You shall not murder.
7 “You shall not commit adultery.
8 “You shall not steal.
9 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”