Section C: God’s Truth and You
In the last lesson, we studied how God’s commandments, spoken by Him on Mount Sinai, are not restrictions of our freedom but rather promises of God to us – promises of freedom from the bondage of sin. We examined the first four commandments, which show our duty in terms of our relationship with God. All of these duties are given to prevent our separation and alienation from Him. The promise in the second commandment is that the Lord will show mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Now we will examine the last six commandments to find more of God’s promises.
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that the days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12.
This commandment, even more clearly than all the rest, has a promise directly connected with it. It was amplified by the apostle Paul: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4. This commandment assures and promises a happy, harmonious relationship between parents and their children.
From the promises delineated in this commandment, it can be clearly seen that God’s commands are of a positive nature, not just a series of “Thou shalt nots” which they appear to be at first glance. Each one is a positive promise of “obey and live” – live life at its fullest!
For this reason, it is incomprehensible that God could ever remove this law with all its promises. Christ Himself clearly stated that His mission was not to destroy the law but to show mankind how it was to be kept. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19. The consistent teaching and life of Jesus were a direct fulfillment of His prophesied mission, which was to make the law more visible and easily understood. “The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” Isaiah 42:21.
God was not satisfied with even the exacting obedience to the letter of the law exhibited by the Pharisees, for He stated, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20.
This magnification of the law by Christ is also noted in the sixth commandment. It states simply, “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13. But Jesus showed that its meaning extends much farther than the overt act of taking another person’s life. He showed that murder begins in the heart, and that is where the sin occurs. Anger toward his brother was what caused Cain to take Abel’s life. See Genesis 4:3-8. Jesus emphasized the spirit of the sixth commandment when He said that being angry with another person is the first step toward committing murder. Read Matthew 5:21-24. God will not be able to hear our prayers and petitions if we harbour animosity toward our fellowmen. How easily we can become guilty of the crime of murder by just hating someone!
Let us pursue this commandment even further. Few of us would want to be guilty of actually taking the life of another human being, but for many people the issue becomes fogged in time of war. Nationalism, pride, and old animosities build up over many years; every nation on earth has a certain amount of national pride. Each sees its own deeds in a good light and considers those who are opposed to it as evil. How is the Christian to react to such situations? “Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:43,44. God’s people will have no part in national disputes. They are good citizens of their respective countries, but they realize that their true citizenship is not on this earth but in heaven. Their heavenly citizenship transcends all earthly boundaries. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27, 28. Because of this fact, God’s people are not to take part in warfare.
Jesus taught that it is not our prerogative to take up arms even in defense of a good cause. When He was being taken captive by His enemies, one of His disciples tried to defend Him. “And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Matthew 26:51, 52.
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.” John 18:36.
A Christian is to be a perfect example of good citizenship. See1 Peter 2:13-17. He is to promptly and honestly pay his taxes and fully obey the laws of his country up to the point where those laws conflict with God’s universal, eternal law. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Mark 12:17.
When confronted with the choice of obeying God’s law not to kill or the law of a country to take up arms, our answer must always be similar to the reply of the early apostles: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29. This commandment, the sixth, promises the safeguarding of our lives as well as those of our dear ones.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14.
The seventh commandment is the safeguard of marital and family happiness. God gave it to protect the home life from the ravages of the great enemy of God. The marriage institution is one of the two institutions given to man at his creation, the other one being the Sabbath. Adam was given one wife; and Eve, one husband. It was never God’s will for anyone to have several wives or husbands. In the creation of Eve was demonstrated the closeness that is to exist between husband and wife. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof; And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:18, 21-24.
God made woman from a bone taken from Adam’s side, showing that she was to be an equal with her husband, to stand at his side. She was not to be trodden under his foot, nor was she to be his head.
The world is filled with unhappy marriages and broken homes. This is the result of disobeying God’s commandment – “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Such great heartaches as are found in homes today would never occur if man would only abide by God’s will. Jesus taught that adultery begins in one’s imagination. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:27, 28. If we allow our emotions and thoughts to run rampant, we are permitting Satan to feed thoughts into our minds and are opening the door to sin. Only in undeviating obedience to the seventh commandment can we be assured of true joy and happiness for ourselves and our children.
The eighth commandment is also one which is very short but full of deep meaning. It says simply, “Thou shalt not steal.” Exodus 20:15. What a blessing this commandment has been to the human race! But its violation has brought much suffering and misery, as well as expense, to man. Theft is one of the greatest evils in our world. How sad it is that so much money and time must be needlessly spent to protect one’s property from another. In the cities especially, it can be seen how far men have had to go to protect themselves; theft insurance, multiple locks, bars, burglar alarms, and sophisticated warning systems, in addition to fear, are the price being paid for breaking this commandment.
But is breaking into someone’s home and taking his goods the only way one can be a thief? How about that day you were given too much change at the store? Or that day you “borrowed” something from your neighbour and did not return it to him? Or those evil words of criticism which you spoke, thus stealing the good name of your fellow employee? Any time a person is cheated, or a product is misrepresented to make a sale possible, this commandment is violated. Obedience to this commandment would assure a fair deal for all, for it contains the method for proper handling of all transactions between individuals. Remember that violating one commandment generally means we are violating one or several of the others.
The ninth commandment affects the words we speak and those spoken by others. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Exodus 20:16. The Lord demands strict honesty and in so doing promises to be honest with us. It is not necessary to make a completely false statement for it to be a lie. Truth told in a way designed to deceive is a lie. It is the purpose behind one’s words which determines their truthfulness. Even claiming to be a Christian while being a hypocrite is bearing false witness to the world. Our only safety is in always being completely truthful. We should be as transparent as sunlight. One falsehood leads to another, and still another, until a person does not even know the difference between truth and falsehood. Obeying this commandment gives promise of a clear conscience, an openness which has nothing to hide – in short, freedom.
The last of the Ten Commandments strikes at the root of virtually every other violation. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17. Covetousness lays the foundation for theft, adultery, and murder and is like a cancer which must be removed before it grows so large as to destroy the person.
Eve sinned by coveting the forbidden fruit. See Genesis 3:6. This same sin made the rich young man turn away from Jesus. See Matthew 19:16-22. He held on to his possessions, wanting the things of others also. Coveting extends further than only wanting the things of another. It also includes covetously holding fast to the wealth we have, not realizing that it really belongs to God and He has entrusted it to us for the purpose of blessing others.
The parable of the rich farmer shows the end of such covetousness. See Luke 12:16-21. By contrast, when we keep God’s ten precepts, we lay up our treasure in the heavenly bank, which pays back a contented life in this world as well as a final everlasting new home in the new earth.
“Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14 See also Revelation 12:17; 14:12.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13.