If we are not really free (addictions) or are unhappy … let the Commandments limit our actions, and joy will return
In these days of cultural change all over the world, FREEDOM seems to be the dream but, often, chaos seems to follow. If one wants to upset a group of people, you could just paraphrase the first reading, and dictate a set of rules for people: especially teenagers and people in their 20/30’s… although grumpy old men don’t like them either! Ha, ha
“Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding.” There seems to be something within us that does not like rules! In the last week, some politician in the USA was complaining about his Civil Rights being violated after new rules demanded all citizens “wear a mask.” It highlights why rules are important:
We are individuals, but we breathe common air! Almost everything we do and say will affect someone else. So, my freedom cannot be absolute. Everyone is quick to agree verbally, but many do not realise what it means in practice. The politician above could complain about traffic lights – but we need a set of common, universal rules, so all will be safe on the roads.
So, what is it about the 10 Commandments that is so important? In fact, despite the objections of many non-religious people to having “Christian” rules in national Law, it only emphasises how much the 10 Commandments are above religion and above nations.
The 10 Commandments provide a framework of how I am to respect other people. It’s not about “keeping God happy”, but they are a gift to help human beings to be happy on earth.
Within the framework, then, each society (and religion), can make their own rules, which concretise the SPIRIT of the 10 Commandments:
- I am the Lord thy God: thou shalt not have strange Gods before me: what UNIFIES us?
We have a Constitution, and laws against TREASON, to protect our country (people).
- Thou shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain: equals respect for our ‘symbols’ – Police, our Flag, the Prime Minister, etc.
- Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day: This is about respect for people –
all workers must have at least one REST day per week.
- Honour thy father and thy mother: This is about respect for the older generations –
so we can learn from their wisdom, and not repeat the mistakes of the past = more happy!
- Thou shalt not kill: This protects our lives –
we have laws against 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree murder, etc.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery: This protects the family –
we cannot have a healthy, happy community if families are betrayed.
- Thou shalt not steal: This protects our possessions & allows us to live with TRUST –
we have laws against theft, etc.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour: protects our name & integrity –
We have very serious laws against perjury, to ensure justice for all = possibility of happiness.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife: this helps us live in freedom and without fear –
we have laws against STALKING other people, or harassing them at work;
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s goods: this helps us avoid breaking laws –
desiring other people’s property is the first step to STEALING them.
Coveting Thy Neighbours Goods also applies to the drug pushers who desire the money of young people, especially; causing great harm to the “victim”, their family and local community.
Paradoxically, all of the Commandments create true freedom, by pushing us to love one another, and helping us become the best that we can: we NEED each other.
Sadly, in our world today, there seems to be two other “commandments” at work:
11. Don’t get Caught = do whatever you want, as long as no one discovers; and
12. Be Strong Enough = take what you want, so you cannot be touched.
How many people in our community/ nation– including ourselves –really live up to our Constitution? Taxation? Extortion/Corruption? Sexual abuse of others? Employment rules?
This is why Jesus warns the Pharisees (who are Strong Enough), “This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.”
We are Strong Enough as employers: do we treat employees fairly: wages and a day off?
We are Strong Enough as employees: do we pay fair taxes?
We are Strong Enough as officers: do we demand bribes? Do we give a fair days work?
We are Strong Enough as older people: do we bully/ abuse younger people? (old can be 20)
St Paul said: “Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.”
If we can be honest about our behaviour, and make steps to correct it, we will receive more peace and joy in our lives. Rules help to limit our “control” of others and build true freedom.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI