The Ten Commandments

The 1st Commandment:  You shall have no other gods.

What is this?  We are to fear, love, and trust God above all things.

            Think!  Read Matthew 5:45.  Jesus makes a promise of sun and rain, that this is always around us—good or bad, human or not.  How does this promise of needs of life help you love and trust God?  What leads you away from the promise, leading you to place trust in other things?

            Act!  Give thanks for 100 things you encounter in creation today as a way to remember that God is source of everything, working forever to bless us all with what we need to live.

 

The 2nd Commandment:  You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.


What is this? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.


            Think!  2 billion people (1/3 of the planet) are Christian.  What a huge difference our prayers could make in this place!  Still, we often think “heaven is my home,” as if we don’t have a part of this world.  How does that view take God’s name in vain for this life?


            Act!  Say a prayer, calling on God presence to be with you today.  Ask this same thing for five kinds of other creatures around you.

 

The 3rd Commandment:  Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s Word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.


            Think!  Read Leviticus 25:1-12.  Not only humans need sabbath.  Why does God want soils also to rest and “all inhabitants” of a place to have the chance to return?


            Act!  Learn about or visit a place that has been used and had a chance to rest – a vacant lot, a Superfund site (http://www.epa.gov/superfund) or Conservation Reserve Program farmland (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/CRP/)

 

The 4th Commandment:  Honor your father and your mother.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we neither despise nor anger our parents and others in authority, but instead honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.


            Think!  It doesn’t just take two parents, or even a village.  Our lives are birthed and nurtured by this whole world.  How would we treat Earth differently if we really honored her as our Mother?


            Act!  Water a plant, bow to the soil, or delight in a weather forecast today.  Serve, love, and respect the planet!

 

The 5th Commandment:  You shall not murder.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all life’s needs.


            Think!  Climate change is already causing what has been called the Sixth Great Extinction, greater than what killed the dinosaurs.  Why might our destruction of biodiversity—of God’s great variety of creatures, from polar bears and coral reefs to dwarf crocodiles and others we haven’t even discovered—why might that be of concern?


            Act!  The impacts of burning fossil fuels are also hurting our poorest human neighbors worst.  Go to www.lwr.org and search “climate” for stories of how Lutheran World Relief is working to help communities around the world mitigate and adapt amid changing weather patterns.

 

The 6th Commandment:  You shall not commit adultery.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we lead pure and decent lives in words and deed, and each of us loves and honors his or her spouse.


            Think!  From the last commandment about not harming a creature, this extends to not harming its closest relationships.  We could think of it as a ripple effect through the ecosystem.  Many orchids, for example, evolved to be pollinated by a single species of insect or bird.  How might our world be different without bees to enable plants to reproduce?


            Act!  Author Michael Pollan says humans have historically eaten 80,000 species but today products of four (corn, soybeans, wheat, rice) amount to 2/3 of our calories.  Spread the love—and the genes!  Buy food or plant a garden with something you wouldn’t normally—especially an heirloom variety. 

 

The 7th Commandment:  You shall not steal.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.


            Think!  If all 7.3 billion people of the planet consumed like Americans, we would need the resources of six planets to sustain us (according to averages at http://sustainability.publicradio.org/consumerconsequences/ — try the game!)  Using or abusing in this way, how are we stealing the planet’s resources—and from whom?


            Act!  Do an online search for “environmental refugees” and learn about how climate change will cause millions of people to be without food, water, or homes.

 

The 8th  Commandment:  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations.  Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.


            Think!  In a harsh climate, it can be hard to speak kindly, with self-righteous tree-huggers versus global warming deniers.  What way today can you gently but firmly encourage care for creation?


            Act!  Become a defender of wildlife and an advocate for justice.  Lobby your government officials to speak out against threats and speak up on behalf of creation, from children to polar bears to clean air.  Or contact the media and ask that climate change be presented not with skeptics’ perspectives but according to the overwhelming scientific consensus.

 

The 9th Commandment:  You shall not covet your neighbor's house.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors our of their inheritance or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead  be of help and be of service to them in keeping what is theirs.


            Think!  This one we could take pretty directly.  According to the US Census, the average house was 1660 square feet in 1973 and 2519 square feet in 2008, more than 50% bigger.  Why have we become accustomed to feeling we need so much and aren’t satisfied without more?


            Act!  Find ways to make your home simpler and less cluttered.  Give something you don’t need to a secondhand store or put it on Craig’s List.   Make your home better with an energy audit or Energy Star appliances and Water Sense products when needed.

 

The 10th Commandment:  You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.


What is this?  We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouses, household workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.


            Think!  Let’s think of habitats others need to survive:  For most of 4 billion years, other creatures didn’t need to compete with us wanting what they’ve got.  Now, whether urban sprawl or using resources, we are changing habitats in our world.  Agricultural land is drifting toward higher latitudes because of warming.  Desertification affects over 2 billion people.  A swath of plastics twice the side of Texas floats in the North Pacific Gyre.  What is the problem with treating this whole planet as if it is here only for us?


            Act!  Fight deforestation by using shade-grown coffees (and eco-palms!).  Look for the Forest Stewardship Council label for sustainably harvested papers (www.fscus.org/).  Plant trees from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/).

 

What then does God say about all these commandments?


God says the following:  “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those that reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”


What is this? God threatens to punish all who break these commandments.  Therefore we are to fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments.  However, God promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandments.  Therefore we are also to love and trust him and gladly act according to his command.


            Think!  Even if we stopped adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and oceans immediately, today’s COwould still be affecting the climate for a hundred years.  How does it feel that God would leave us to suffer at least that long, and perhaps irreparably, the devastating consequences of our actions?


            Act!  Find a way to talk to somebody about how relevant (or how unimportant) you feel your behavior amid creation is for your faith.