The Ten Commandments

This sign was posted on the wall at the City Hall in Pikeville, Kentucky. It is entitled “The Hillbilly's Ten Commandments” and reads as follows:
(1) Just one God
(2) Put nothin' before God
(3) Watch yer mouth
(4) Git yourself to Sunday meetin'
(5) Honor yer Ma & Pa
(6) No killin'
(7) No foolin' around with another fellow's gal
(8) Don't take what ain't yers
(9) No tellin' tales or gossipin'
(10) Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff

Well, friends even though this is not a very accurate translation of the original Hebrew text (and would get an F from any English teacher) it is a good reminder that these ten commands from God are very practical. They are not just words of historical interest for someone studying the religion of ancient Israel, but commands which are very relevant in 21st century American society. They are not just words to be etched on a courthouse monument, but words that remind us how God expects us to live. They are not just words children memorize in a Sunday School or Confirmation class, but words that can serve as a guide for our entire lives.

I am delighted when I see someone with a sign in their yard displaying the Ten Commandments. Though secularists claim the Ten Commandments is a religious document which has no place outside of the church or synagogue, many folks recognize that this summary of God’s laws provides the foundation for our entire legal system. Yet it is a mistake to think that displaying or memorizing the Ten Commandments is some type of substitute for obeying them. I like the story of the husband who said to his wife, “Honey, why don’t we take a trip to Israel this spring? I would love to stand on top of Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments out loud.” His wife responded, “Dear, how about if we just stay here in Chisholm, and you start working on keeping those commandments.”

Yet, even those of us who are in favor of the Ten Commandments displays often miss a very important truth. Though God does expect us to strive to obey them (they are after all, the “Ten Commandments,” not the “ten suggestions”), none of us is successful in doing so. We have all violated God’s law many times. Even if we have never killed another human being, Jesus tells us (Matthew 5:22) that if we hate someone, we are guilty of murder in our heart and have violated commandment #6. Even if we have never physically committed adultery, Jesus says (Matthew 5:28) that if we have lustful thoughts about someone to whom we are not married, we have broken commandment #7. Yes, the Ten Commandments do provide a guide for living, but even more importantly they are a mirror that shows each of us that we are guilty of sin and have fallen short of God’s standards. They proclaim a powerful warning that, in ourselves, we can never be good enough to experience God’s salvation. Thus, what we need to do is flee to Jesus Christ for mercy and by faith receive Him as Lord and Savior. Then, like the Apostle Paul, we can say “I no longer consider myself having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ Jesus, the righteousness of God based on faith.” (Philippians 3:9) Friend, if you are not doing that, you don’t really understand what the Ten Commandments are all about.
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Dan Erickson