Are they practical common sense or ...

Are the Ten Commandments "Religious"?

A recent law-suit in the US demanded that a monument in a public park, inscribed with the Ten Commandments, be demolished. It apparently offended the civil rights of atheists! But what is so heinous about this body of law? Is it indeed "religious"?

Here are the Ten Commandments, from Exodus 20:3-17 in the "Amplified Bible":
1. You shall have no other gods before or besides Me.
2. You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it], or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, But showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.
3. You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
4. [Earnestly] remember the sabbath to keep it holy [withdrawn from common employment and dedicated to God]. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, your daughter, your manservant, your maidservant, your domestic animals, or the sojourner [visiter] within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heavens and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it [set it apart for His purposes].
5. Regard (treat with honor, due obedience and courtesy) your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land the Lord your God gives you.
6. You shall not commit murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not witness falsely against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.

The Ten Commandments, of course, are in the Bible - in Exodus chapter twenty. Most in our western society have heard of them, although few follow them. And as they are termed "commandments" few obey them! But just because they are in a religious book, are they religious? Can society at large just ignore them? If we are of a faith that doesn't use the Bible are we any less bound by "the terrible ten"?

Lawless Consequences

Even a superficial look at this concise body of law must stir some measure of agreement. Would you, for example, quarrel with "You shall not steal" (The 8th Commandment)? All of us do our best to protect our personal property. We spend multiple millions on security! If this law were removed from the nation s statute book there would be massive insurrection. And if it were not human nature to covet another's possessions (forbidden in the 10th Commandment), look at the cost savings! So - is this a "religious law"?

Then there's the 6th Commandment "Do no murder". What would your reaction be to the abolishing of this law? Is this a "religious law"? And what about the 9th Commandment forbidding perjury ("false witness")? How much more smoothly would our justice system run if nobody lied in court - or received the Biblical punishment if they did so! Again - is it "religious'?

And how many husbands and wives have longed for a strengthening of another of those "Bible laws": "You shall not commit adultery" (the 7th Commandment)? Vast heartache would be saved if wife-swapping, secret trysts, open adultery and all forms of sexual aberration were outlawed - and dealt with. Imagine the huge benefit to society: divorce would plummet, one-parent children would be rare, lawyers would diminish, billions of dollars redirected to productive use.

Then there's that law (the 5th commandment) the breaking of which has caused endless heartache: "Honor your father and your mother" with its direct promise that if this law is honored the nation would thrive. Today the elderly are despised and often abused, abandoned, murdered - even by their own children!

So far- no religious bias in any of these laws. Just plain common sense. Just sound regulation of human society. Indeed that's what "The Ten" are. These Laws were imparted to human society at its very beginning, and later, at Israel's foundation as a nation, they were written at the heart and core of their Constitution. We are their heirs!

But what of the first four commandments?

Operating Manual

These four say: No gods before the Lord. No bowing down to other gods. No "Christianizing" of pagan religious practice. No violation of the seventh-day Sabbath. Surely this is religion ? Only if you don't believe there's a Creator God!

All ten Commandments originated when man was first created. They are the basis of the "Manufacturer's Operating Manual". Man was created by God with a specific physical, mental and psychological profile. His Law was the optimum way for us to operate. Failing to recognize His sole authority, His sovereignty - as outlined in the first four commands - over every aspect of our being destroys the individual, the family, the nation - and ultimately the world.

God's Law is not "religious"! In reality there's no conflict whatsoever between law and true religion . Yet our nation's leaders show a strong distaste for it. And, perhaps surprisingly, many of our religious leaders are intent on doing away with the divine Law!

The End of Civilization

Today we face the end of human civilization. Man has ignored the Manual and sneered at the Maker. The "machine" is disintegrating and is ready for the scrap-heap. Until the United Nations, National Governments, Local Governments and our families base our Law on the Ten Commandments, society will continue to decay - and will surely die.

And until you personally base your life on this Law you will continue to suffer all that life throws at you. For the Ten Commandments define sin - again, not truly a "religious" word! Sin is the transgression of what the apostle Paul called "the holy and just and good" Law of God (Romans 7:12). But sin simply refers to all that's wrong with individuals and society. Ignore God's Law, destroy it or disobey it - the end result is the same - death. Death for every society, every culture, and for you.

Write for our free booklets What Do You Mean - "Repent"? and Coming To Baptism . They clearly show you how to get on the narrow road to abundant life - now, and for all eternity.

To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.

For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 1 Issue 6, November/December 1997. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.

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