Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All

Commandments or Suggestions?

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Do you remember some of the rules you were taught as you were growing up?   “A stitch in time saves nine, a soft answer turns away wrath, respect your elders, don’t go to bed angry, always wear clean underwear?”   Were they helpful in shaping your behavior?  Do you still follow them?  Do you find yourself sounding like your parents as you say the exact same things to your children?

Most of us learned the Ten Commandments as youths in Sunday school. (Exodus 20:1-17)  The commandments are “the terms of God’s covenant.  They provide a structure for our lives, and how we relate to God and those around us.  They also affirm God as the basis for morality and the dignity of persons.1

I remember when I was in about sixth grade and was getting ready to go to camp at Stronghold, a Bible camp located in Oregon, IL.  We had to memorize The Lord’s Prayer, The 23rd Psalm, the Apostle’s Creed, the books of the Bible and The Ten Commandments.

If you learned the Ten Commandments as a child, can you still name all 10 without looking?  I came up with 7 right away, but had trouble with “do not covet thy neighbor” and “do not testify falsely against your neighbor.”

I imagine most of us would say that upon reading the Ten Commandments that they are pretty good rules to live by.  But, have you ever taken home items from your workplace for use at home?  Do you use God’s name inappropriately?  Have you ever told a white lie?  How do we feel about war, abortion or capital punishment?

Do we try to live by these rules, or as the highway road sign says, consider them suggestions?


(As an aside, as I was searching for a photo of the billboard sign that featured messages from God, particularly the one about the Ten Commandments NOT being suggestions, I ran across several blogs which discussed the Ten Commandments.  There were a good number of people who found the signs to be offensive.  One brought up the fact that these signs were putting “words in God’s mouth.”   That the commandment which instructs us “Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God,” really is about this exact thing and NOT about using God’s name when you swear, etc.  My Study Bible explains Exodus 17:7 this way:  “God’s name is special.  Using it frivously or in a curse is so common today that we may fail to realize how serious it is.  The way we use God’s name conveys how we really feel about him.  We should respect his name and use it appropriately, speaking it in praise or worship rather than in curse or jest.”)

1 Troublesome Bible Passages, by Douglas E. Wingeier and David Lowes Watson, Abingdon Press, 1994, p.10-12


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