I’ve Broken All Ten

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 – The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 5, 2014

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must have no other gods before me…” (Exodus 20:2-3)

Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt, (1659)
Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments, painting by Rembrandt, (1659)

When teaching classes in churches, I occasionally tested students on the Ten Commandments.

Write ‘em down.

Right now.


No sneaking a peek at the twentieth chapter of Exodus. No furtive glances at your neighbor’s efforts. No searching the Internet. No asking leading questions of me, the guy giving the pop quiz.

The Ten Commandments are easy to remember. There’s only ten, and so you never exceed the need for the readily available opposable thumbs (2) and flexible fingers (8). Furthermore, even the most verbose of the commandments can be crash-dieted to a reasonable handful of words.

The post-quiz review was enlightening . . .

Which one(s) did you forget?

What order did you put them in?

Did you add a “new” commandment? (In my experience, youth and adults often substituted a variation of the golden rule—treat your neighbor as yourself—for one of the traditional Godly edicts in Exodus.

Isn’t #3 all about not using four-letter curses with God’s name at the beginning, middle, or end? (Nope, not at all . . . unless you disagree with me! What do you believe #3 means?) Continue reading →

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No Homemade Idols In My Backyard

Exodus 20:1-17 – The 3rd Sunday of Lent – for March 11, 2012

“You shall not make for yourself an idol…” (Exodus 20:4)

I experience a mix of reactions whenever I reach the 20th chapter of Exodus.

There they are again . . . The Ten Commandments.

These "idols" are not located in my backyard...

Charlton Heston invariably drifts across the far corner of my view. I’m not sure what he’s doing or saying, but he’s Hollywood handsome. I doubt he looks or sounds anything like the “real” Biblical Moses, but I can’t shake Heston’s image when re-reading Exodus. It’s probably a baby boomer curse.

I’m bored . . . oh, yeah, those old laws. On some occasions, I’ve tested myself—or others—to determine how well I remember these statements I’ve known since I was a fresh-faced, smart-mouthed kid in Sunday school. I might miss one or two, but I generally know them so well I never sweat the final grade. Ho-hum. (And I’m not one of those fools in surveys mistakenly claiming, “Love your neighbor as yourself” or “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” is a Commandment.)

Then there’s a superior attitude that slouches along with me. If the Ten Commandments are a checklist—and who doesn’t like a checklist to accurately discern the accumulation of knowledge or the increase of spiritual awareness—I’m in darn good shape.

#1 – God’s my main Divine squeeze. I’ll proudly sit in the bleachers of life, waving a foam YHWH’s #1 for all to see. (For proof, see #2.)

#2 – No homemade idols in my backyard (like those stone faces on Easter Island or a Mayan temple…in spite of this being 2012).

No Mayan temples in my backyard, either...even though there's that 2012 "prediction." Hmmm?

#3 – I keep God’s name out of my personal promises. Never once has my bank heard me declare, “I swear to God I’ll pay that mortgage.”

#4 – Maybe I’m not attending church like I once was, but I’m still well over a .500 lifetime hitter for Sabbath-keeping.

#5 – Mom and Dad never filed a lawsuit against me. I’ve known people who can’t say the same!

#6 – No murder convictions . . . and by the way, the bearded guy with the scowl who looked like me on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” . . . only a coincidence.

#7 – With adultery, sorry, I’m a bum, a louse, a loser. But Jimmy Carter’s 1976 Playboy interview is my go-to excuse: “I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times…. This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it.” I’m not any better than the 39th President of the United States, but lots better than any Kardashian . . . right?

#8 – Stealing? Maybe a few hearts or smiles. Well, fine, there was that pack of cigarettes I permanently borrowed from the supermarket when I was ten. My older sister and I wanted to experiment and I volunteered for the dastardly deed. The Ten Commandments surely don’t apply to childhood misdemeanors.

#9 – Bear false witness? I’ve seen bears . . . right next to my tent. And that’s the truth!

#10 – Darn, I was doing well until #10. Wait, the Holy checklist has a sub-checklist at #10. So maybe once or twice I’ve coveted someone’s house or wife (isn’t my honesty refreshing?), but not slaves, an ox, a donkey and only a small percentage of my neighbor’s belongings. All in all, I’m above average here at #10. Continue reading →

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