Most people know the Ten Commandments, even if they don’t know them in order. We strive to follow them but for many they become rules from a Lawgiver from long ago. Others may turn to legalism in an attempt to fulfill the letter of the law.
The last six Commandments deal with our relationships with other people. Some people narrow the meaning of these laws to make them easier to follow. They’ll say things like, “I have never done these things.” There are referring to a physical act. “I’ve never physically murdered anyone or committed adultery.”
We have been talking about holiness and how the Ten Commandments apply to a holy lifestyle. We’ve covered Commandments about God (No Flirting, An Exclusive Relationship, Respect His Reputation, and Remember His Rest). And we have talked about the fifth commandment of honoring your parents. So let’s discuss the last five Commandments and how they apply to our relationships to other people.
The Big No-No’s
Just about everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments. Out of all of the laws God gives to Israel on Mount Sinai these Commandments represent the moral code. Many other cultures in the Old Testament held some of these same values and laws.
Christian holiness is more than just morality. Each of these last five Commandments we are talking about today are part of holiness. Holiness goes deeper than morality. Morality is right living, but holiness contains the things we do to have a relationship with God.
God cares about how we treat other people. That’s why He gave us these Commandments. When we follow them it pleases Him because we honor His creation. God did not intend for us to follow these Commandments is strictly. We can’t limit them to the letter of the law.
Jesus referenced many these Commandments and internalized them. He made it a matter of the spirit of the rather than just the physical law. So instead of saying I have never pulled a gun on a person and shot them, Jesus deals with the anger issues behind the desire to murder.
Jesus revolutionized God’s laws on Mount Sinai. Many cultures have the same Commandments as part of their laws and values. But it is mainly to maintain order in society. There is no connection to our relationship with God as far as they use these laws.
Obeying God’s commandments starts in our hearts and ends in our hands. We can break the Commandments without physically doing them. Consider our attitudes and the sins we commit against God and others on the inside.
The commandment to not murder another person refers to more than actions. Jesus expanded this law in His Sermon on the Mount to include anger. Murder starts with the anger and hatred we have for someone. We must look inside at our anger issues before we say we have not committed this sin.
Maybe you feel like someone wronged you and that causes your anger. The Bible speaks against our desire to avenge and defend ourselves (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). Anger and hatred drive us to the point of murder.
We would never think of murdering another person, but in our minds it’s a whole different matter. We can use our imagination, thinking of all kinds of ways someone can die at our hands without committing the physical act of murder.
Some people make a distinction between murder and killing. They suggest that murder is a moral wrong while killing is not. This is often used as an argument in favor of killing on the battlefield as part of a military operation for one’s country.
But those who have taken another life don’t tend to make such distinctions. Murdering another person weighs on a person’s soul no matter what the circumstances. Beginning with Cain and Abel, this is one of the oldest sins in the Bible.
Consider your motivations, the anger or hatred you feel for someone, as you think about whether or not you have murdered a person. Even doing it in your imagination counts against you. We must get to the root causes of our anger and hatred before we can say we haven’t committed this sin against those around us.
A Matter of the Heart
“You heard that it was said, ‘Don’t commit adultery.’ But I myself tell you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you, for it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you, for it is better that you lose then your whole body go into hell.”Matthew 5:27-30 (My Translation)
The next commandment tells us not to commit adultery. Jesus deals with this sin against others in His sermon as well. Jesus said that adultery begins in the heart with lust. How can we guard against it? What is it? We can commit adultery without committing it physically. Jesus expands this law not only to refer to the act of adultery but the lust in our hearts.
When I was in Bible College one of my professors defined lust as, “Taking a long second look at the opposite gender.” This captures the idea of lust it concerns the desires we feel and the temptations of our heart when we look at the opposite gender.
Jesus dealt with it from a male perspective that anyone can lust after another person. Lust falls under sexual sins in the Bible because it breaks God’s high standard of sex only inside the marriage covenant. Any sexual action or thought outside of marriage is sexual immorality.
You may not have committed adultery with another person, but you have allowed your inner desires and thoughts to lust after another. According to Jesus’ expansion of this law, you have still committed adultery, even if it’s only in your heart.
The eighth commandment forbids stealing from others. you will find other cultures observing this commandment has part of their laws. But because it is only a matter of morality and maintaining social order there are some instances where people sympathize with a thief.
A common example is a person who steals food to feed his family. Many people are lenient on such a poor person who cannot feed his family without stealing. In his case he would state that desperate times call for desperate measures. But there are deeper issues to stealing.
Another example involves shoplifting, stealing merchandise usually for the high of trying to get away with it. This is not often connected to an economic inability to feed one’s family. Those from the poor to the rich have been found shoplifting.
Why doesn’t God want us to steal from one another? Stealing involves at least three principles in the Bible. First, people who steal are not seeking to live and honorable lifestyle, working for a living. Paul set the standard for every Christian who does not work to not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Christians work not for people but as unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:5-7).
In the case of those who shoplift, our desire for more stuff clouds our judgment and understanding of God’s expectations. We don’t need the things of this earth. Materialism, the desire for more stuff, goes against our eternal perspective. It ties us to this earth and this world system. But we have eternal values that guide us toward treasure in heaven instead of here on earth (Matthew 6:19-20).
But there is a third principle at hand here. People who steal are taking matters into their own hands. They are not trusting in the Lord for His provision. God provides everything we need. But those who steal, even to feed their families, are preempting God’s ability to provide everything they need.
Paul taught that we need to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13). Contentment is not a gift of the Spirit. Paul says that he “learned” how to live in plenty end and want. This means that being content in each situation we find ourselves is a learned ability.
It takes us time to learn how to trust God for His provision instead of seeking our own way. Paul gives us the promise, “And my God will supply all of your needs according to his riches in Christ” (Philippians 4:19). Trust in God’s provision and be content in your situation.
The next commandment tells us not to bear false witness. This is a representation of another person in a court of law in the original context. But it goes deeper than that. If we talk about swearing an oath Jesus addressed how we take the character of another person in the oath.
Christians should stand on their own character instead of taking an oath by saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave,” for instance. We are taking the credit of someone else or something else to prove we’re not lying. This should never be a Christian practice. We must let our yes be yes and our no be no (Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).
We don’t have to be in a court of law to bear false witness against another person. Anytime we take the character of another and abuse it in any way, lying about another person or knowingly accusing them wrongly, we assassinate their character.
What we say about others, Christian or not, must be true. We don’t want to slander or quarrel with one another. Talking about others becomes gossip without us realizing it at first. Our words have power and they can tear down another person so easily. Let us use our words to build one another up instead.
How we speak to one another is a matter of our integrity and character. We must not speak falsely about others and take their character hostage. Only speed good things about others. You cannot go wrong with a blessing instead of a curse.
Looking over the Fence
The final commandment of the Ten Commandments tells us not to covet anyone else’s property or things. We look over the fence at the greener grass on the other side from time to time. But there’s a difference between admiring someone else or just looking at what they have and wanting it so bad you are willing to take action to get it.
In the Old Testament, King Ahab wanted the vineyard of one of his Israelite neighbors. His wife Jezebel ended up finding a way to murder the person so his property could become King Ahab’s (2 Kings 21:1-16). There coveting led to breaking Israelite law to get what they wanted. Sometimes we don’t even realize the consequences and how fast we move from wanting someone else’s stuff to taking action to get it.
Coveting shows are envy and attachment to the things of this world. We must look to God for provision, content in whatever season of life we find ourselves. This is the only commandment that cannot be observed until we violate other commandments to get what we want. It’s the only commandment that calls us to look at our desires inside.
We must trust God for all of our provision. We take away his miraculous provision when we try to get on our own. Keep from violating the possessions and personal space of others. Enjoy what God has given you. He wants to bless you beyond measure but he can’t do that if you cannot be content in his lavish blessings. Be satisfied and content in every situation.
We have now looked at all ten commandments as we consider holiness and our relationship with God. Our goal is to grow closer to him and please him because we love him and are grateful for what he has done for us.
We do not observe the Ten Commandments as some moral or legalistic framework to live our lives. We don’t try to do these things on our own. We trust in Jesus who has fulfilled the law for us. As long as we obey the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus’ teachings we have fulfilled the law.
Let us follow all of God’s commandments through the power of the Holy Spirit to glorify Jesus and draw near to him. How do you obey the Holy Spirit in the matter of the Ten Commandments?