(watch here: https://youtu.be/sxD0rIU7ksk)
12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13You shall not murder.
14You shall not commit adultery.
15You shall not steal.
16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
These week we shift into the commandments that help govern our relationships with each other. It is by no means an exhaustive list but rather a summative list. Our relationships with each other are complex relationships…we are complex beings. We have complex ways of interacting with each other and over the millennia since we’ve received this list we’ve come up with countless rules to govern our interactions with each other. But you’d be surprised at how most of those rules and laws could fall under the general categories of these commandments. They’re short and sweet but oh so encompassing!
Before we dig in with reflecting on these five commandments, I thought I’d lift up another funny list of rules to prepare us for dwelling in God’s less-than-funny rules. So far we’ve looked at lists pertaining to dogs and dieting. Since we’re looking at commandments governing our interactions with each other, a list pertaining to managers, those who manage our relationships, is somewhat appropriate:
1) Never arrive on time, or you will be stamped a beginner.
2) Don’t say anything until the meeting is half over; this stamps you as being wise.
3) Be as vague as possible; this prevents irritating the others.
4) When in doubt, suggest that a subcommittee be appointed.
5) Be the first to move for adjournment; this will make you popular – it’s what everyone is waiting for.
Again, a list that is less truthful than it is funny. But managing people is difficult work to do and sometimes it needs a little dose of humor. All the great leaders from scripture (Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, Jacob, Jesus) knew just how difficult a job it was to manage and lead God’s people. People are complex! What motivates and guides one person might be completely different than what motivates and guides another person. Universal rules, rules that apply to everyone to ensure everyone’s satisfaction, are hard to come up with. Lucky for us, God did the hard work and gave some of them to us through Moses. God knew we needed some universal rules to govern our interactions with each other if we are going to survive and thrive the way He wants us to. We are blessed to have his commandments governing our relationships.
In his 4th commandment, we are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers. This is an interesting commandment for a couple reasons. First, we must ask ourselves what it means to “honor” our parents. Does honoring simply mean to obey or is it more? I’d argue that obeying is only one way to honor our parents. How we live our lives is another way to honor them. How we treat ourselves and those around us is a reflection of the treatment we received from them. How we work or play is a reflection of the values they instilled in us. Honoring can involve bringing recognition and praise upon them. Yes, obeying our parents is important for honoring their authority and wisdom but our lives should also honor them. And I understand not all parents are good parents. Not all parents treat their children well or instill strong values. Not all parents are involved in the lives of their children. But that is no excuse for not living honorable lives. After all, our heavenly Father most certainly was involved and deserves to be honored by our lives. You see, all of us have at least 3 parents: our biological parents and our heavenly Father. If we can’t (or won’t!) honor our biological parents, we most certainly must honor our heavenly Father…which gets us back to the 1st commandment.
This commandment is also interesting because of the reasoning added to it. Why should we honor our parents? “So that our days may be long.” We can interpret this to mean that we will live longer if we honor our parents by obeying them and living honorable lives. But we could also interpret it to mean we will live fuller, more complete, more satisfying lives by honoring our parents. Some days are longer than others, not because there are more hours to them but because they are more filled and fulfilling. Living lives that honor our parents, especially our heavenly Father, brings such richness and satisfaction that our days seem to be more rewarding and longer. This is an interesting commandment indeed.
Not to say the others aren’t equally interesting. In his 5th commandment, God commands us not to murder or kill. We know there are many ways we can kill each other, not just bodily. We can also kill each other mentally and spiritually through a variety of ways. And God isn’t opposed to death. If anything, death brings us closer to him. What God is commanding against is the break in relationship. We are meant to be in relationship with each other and with God. God exists in relationship as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must live in relationship if we are to live at all.
In his 6th commandment, God commands us not to commit adultery or have intimate relations with each other’s spouses. God sanctions marriage as a holy relationship between two people. Adultery severs that relationship. In his 7th commandment, God commands us not to steal from each other. Again, there are many ways to steal from each other, either bodily, mentally, or spiritually. Taking that which we have not earned, don’t deserve, or isn’t ours is yet another way to sever our relationships with each other. In his 8th commandment, God commands us not to lie to each other. Who can trust someone who lies to them? Who can build and sustain a relationship with someone without truth? In all these commandments, God ensures that relationships aren’t broken. God designed us to live in relationship and provided us with rules to keep us in relationship.
Recall how a rich, young man came to Jesus and asked him, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22) Jesus responded that if he wished eternal life all he had to do was keep the commandments. “Which ones?” responded the young man. And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said he had kept these commandments and still didn’t feel a sense that he had received eternal life. Jesus told him to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. The young man went away discouraged. Why? Because he didn’t understand the importance of relationships. He didn’t understand that the commandments were meant to keep him in relationship with those around him. His possessions were ultimately what was keeping him from being in relationship and Jesus tried to offer a solution.
Jesus added another commandment to that list he offered the young man: “also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He develops this commandment a little further when he offers it to his disciples: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) Not only must we love our neighbor as we love ourselves but also as Jesus loves us. I don’t know about you but Jesus does a much better job of loving me than I do! His love is much more assuring and steadfast. We love our neighbor because God commands us to. We’re able to love our neighbor because God gives us these commandments. Let us give thanks for his command and the ability to keep it. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.