Introduction: God is a loving heavenly father who desires the very best for His children. He protects us from things that are not good for us and has built into his protection plan an involvement with our choice. If we don’t want His protection and blessing He won’t force them on us. Each of the Ten Commandments is given to us for our good. They are designed for our benefit—not because God doesn’t want us to have a good time, but because he wants us to really have a good time. Each place it says “you shall not . . .” we could read, “it is not good for you,” and if we reverse the prohibition to the desirable positive behavior on the other side of the prohibition, we can say “it is good for you to . . .” and add the desired behavior. “You shall have no other Gods before me” becomes, “It is good for you to have me as your only God.” Following this line of thought, let’s take a new look at the commandments—God’s plan for our protection and blessing.
1.“You shall have no other Gods before me,"
“It is good for you to have me as your only God.”
God is the best of all possible good things and He knows, without conceit He is the best. He does the best possible good for all his friends. In knowing Him they have advantages, access to wisdom, power, assistance, guidance, information, insights, health, and friendship. The very best God can give to anyone is Himself! To know Him is to know the best. To have Him is to have the best. Those who set out to praise God and enjoy Him forever are destined to have the best possible of imaginable lives—here and now and for eternity. That is why a loving, gracious, good God gives Himself to us and says, “It is good for you to have me as your only God.” Seeking sensual or other pleasures, material wealth, fame, or reputation will never satisfy the human heart like knowing and having a relationship with God. This leads us to the next benefit.
2.“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything,”
“It is good for you to fully appreciate who God is and worship God in spirit
Those who appreciate who God is and recognize God is a Spirit, infinitely superior in being than anything material have a powerful advantage. He is capable of creating material by merely thinking or speaking it into existence. He is imminent—near his creation and yet transcendent—separate from and bigger than it and capable of controlling it from a superior position outside of it with authority and power. God is of superior quality to creation and is eternal (permanent) in nature. Therefore, He can only be worshipped as mankind exercises spiritual abilities of worship. Worshippers of God are in touch with reality! Everything else is passing away and those who put their affection on anything else will ultimately be extremely disappointed. Mankind has many different perceptions of reality contingent on different cultures and idiosyncratic personalities—and our perceptions may not be reliable. However, God is a part of the Real Reality. Sometimes we get a glimmer of Real Reality—but never more perfectly than when we are humbly and joyfully worshipping Him in spirit.
3.“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,”
“It is good for you to properly use the name of the Lord your God.”
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Pr. 18:10). There is security, safety, and refuge in the name of the Lord. No demon or evil spirit can come against the power of that name. The name of the Lord is closely related to his reputation. Proper use of the name of the Lord gives great benefit. To misuse the name of the Lord, to curse or swear is not only unnecessary, it is extremely unwise. To use the name of the Lord to affirm something to be true that is not true is a very serious misuse of the name of God. According to Old Testament scholars, to call on God to witness something to be true that is true is all right, but that is not what this verse is about. Paul did that in the New Testament in Galatians 2:5 “—God is our witness.” We should be careful about the flippant, casual, and irreverent use of the name of God as a mere exclamation spoken with surprise or disgust in our daily lives. Those who correctly use the name of the Lord honor it, speak it reverently, and run to it for safety. They know God protects, cares, saves, heals, and answers prayer for his name sake not for ours. This is the correct use of the name of the Lord. His name is great! Let His name be praised—and used only in praise!
4.“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,”
“It is good for you to enjoy the Lord’s day and keep it separated from other days.”
God knows our physiological make up. He knows, because He created us. He is the maker and knows how our machines function. He knows our bodies need periodic rest. He knows our psychological makeup and understands that our minds also need a rest from the pressures of daily responsibilities. He knows our spiritual make-up and that we need to take some deliberate time to nurture our spiritual man. He blesses us with a weekly appointment with Himself, a time for teaching, worship, rest, recreation, fellowship, and prayer. This is good for us. If your job requires work on Sunday, take another day for rest. If you don’t rest, after years of misuse of your body you risk becoming ill. This happens because we would have lived beneath our privilege, violated God’s provision for our health, abused our bodies, and brought physical consequences on ourselves. God wants to spare us that. There is enough time in six days to do the work God intends for us to do. To do more is to do something God does not intend. Rest and enjoy Jesus.
5.“Honor your father and your mother,”
“It is good for you to honor your father and mother.”
God knows that close personal relationships are important to our character development as social beings. He has placed children in families so these personal relationships can be developed and we can learn to respect others. Older people have more life experience than young people. Having served in Asia since 1973, I see the advantages built into Asian family systems wherein age is revered—though, unfortunately that is changing. It is a weakness in American culture that with our emphasis on youth we devalue maturity. However, whether we live in the West with its social problems or in Asia with changing social influences attacking family unity, we Christians don’t want to let the world’s cultures squeeze us into their molds—especially on points wherein it is clearly inconsistent with Scripture. If we honor our parents, we will find they have a lot of wisdom from which we can benefit. God wants to bless offspring with the wisdom of their parents, but children must be willing to receive it. Most of us can find things about our parent’s role model that we don’t want to imitate. However, it is possible to identify and reject certain weakness in their lives and still honor them as persons. I reject my father’s anger—but I subscribe to how he respectfully and lovingly treated my mother. I honor him as my father.
6.“You shall not murder,”
“It is good for you to value human life.”
Life is God-given. We should value our own and other’s lives. Respect for others and respect for life creates an atmosphere of mutual respectability wherein our creative gifts can flourish. The next person’s life and dignity is just as important as yours. Murder might not be so much of an issue in modern, “civilized” America except for the subtle and constant occurrence of murder scenes in today’s movies and TV programs! Every time we watch a murder, even in a story, there is an effect on us. Life is not cheap. Life is extremely valuable, precious, and sacred. Respect, value, and esteem each life.
7.“You shall not commit adultery,”
“It is good for you to enjoy companionship, friendship, and intimacy with just your spouse.”
The human act of love is very intimate. The very parts of our bodies which we carefully keep from the view of others become featured in sexual intercourse. In this experience at a deep psychological level, two human personalities are knit together in an intimate, dynamic, intense, physical, psychological, and spiritual union of two persons. One cannot have that kind of experience with multiple partners without it adversely affecting a person’s mind and spirit at a deep level. This kind of intimacy was deliberately intended to be pleasurable, intense, and exclusively reserved for you and your spouse. It is a wonderful gift of God which gives married partners unity and satisfaction at a very deep level. When enjoyed properly, love-making is a wonderful bonus to the friendship and pleasures God wants His children to enjoy. Let us neither cheapen nor overemphasize it. Let us enjoy it with our spouses and keep our happy sex lives and our secrets to ourselves. We men somehow have a false notion that we either marry a Proverbs 31 wife who is virtuous, business like, efficient, knits mittens, and fixes a nice hot breakfast for the family every cold morning, or we marry a Song of Solomon 7 wife whose shapely stature is likened to a palm tree and whose breasts are like clusters of fruit—the tree ready to be climbed and the fruit ready to be enjoyed! We think we have to be either spiritual and prudish or sinful and sexy. Enjoying sex and being highly spiritual are not mutually exclusive. When we wait until marriage, enjoy sex in marriage, keep it in marriage, honor our vows, and keep the thousands of secrets about our pleasures that wise couples keep, because of the trust between spouses, there is powerful sexual fulfillment and deep spirituality. When we do that, keeping this commandment becomes much much easier.
8.“You shall not steal.” -
“It is good for you to experience personal satisfaction from working for what you have and enjoy ownership while also respecting others’ rights of ownership.”
The gradual accumulation in life of necessary personal possessions which gives satisfaction in work, personal fulfillment in accomplishment, and enjoyment in using what one has worked for, is a God-given gift. To work with our hands, possess, and enjoy the result of our labors is psychologically healthy and God knows that. God made it that way. Ownership is a valuable right to humans. Enjoying and having our own things and recognizing the rights of ownership of others is a significant way for us to demonstrate our respect for others. What about other forms of possessions such as your time when you are under employment by your employer? When we are on the job our time belongs rightfully to our employer; he has purchased it. If we take time which belongs to our employer and use it for ourselves without his approval we are taking something that does not belong to us. We don’t enjoy what we steal. We enjoy what we earn.
9.“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” -
“It is good for you to believe and tell the truth about your neighbor.”
To slander our neighbor is to rob him of his reputation and violate truth. God is a God of truth. Christianity is good, not only because it comforts, but because it is true! God does exist. Jesus did come to die for our sins. He does live in heaven to pray for us. We are sinners until he cleanses us. God wants to forgive our sins. We will live with God forever if we seek Him. These statements are wonderful. They bring great comfort. But they are good for us mostly because they are true. God tells us the truth, and He wants us to value the truth and tell each other the truth. You can’t make good decisions unless you know the true state of things. Neither can the other person. Tell the truth. Whether at home, in the classroom, gym, on the tennis court or in the grocery store, it is good for you to believe and tell the truth . . . including telling truth about your neighbor. We wouldn’t want to defame a brother or sister. In Othello, Shakespeare says, “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing; ‘twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands; But he that filches (steals) from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him And makes me poor indeed.” Don’t destroy the reputation of another. We want to say what is true, but even truth if used unkindly can become a violation of a deeper principle. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit and in some instances is no violation to the principle of upholding truth regarding the good reputation of another.
10.“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, worker, animal or possession.”
“It is good for you to enjoy your own mate, workers, and possessions without comparing what you have with what another has.”
The comparison game is devastating. If I have more than another I could become proud. If I have less than another I could become jealous. Both of these are serious problems which rob me of my joy in the Lord. I have experienced much greater contentment in recent years by learning several very simple things. (1) It is God who places people where He wants them to be and gives them the gifts and possessions He wants them to have. God is in control of these things. Psalms 75:6 & 7 says, “No one from the east or from the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges; He brings one down, he exalts another.” (2) Everyone should know he is where he is to be and is doing what he is to do. This frees us from wanting anther’s position, ministry, or possession. (3) Everyone should be thankful for what he has and not be concerned about what he doesn’t have no matter how much someone else has. Commercialism and materialism are twin cancers which eat away at godly contentment. Paul warns Timothy of persons “. . . who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:5-10). (4) The things we have are tools. We are to enjoy them; use them, but not misuse them as status symbols or just selfishly enjoy them. The things God gives us are tools to be used as responsible stewards. If I get caught up in the covetous game there is no end, I cannot win, I will lose. I refuse to play. I want to be so busy thanking God, appreciating, and enjoying what I have that I have no time to covet what another has.
As an aside, I do not agree with those who suggest we should not enjoy eating just because there are people somewhere in the world who cannot. I will carefully use what is given to me. I will neither flaunt nor waste it. I will not allow the enemy by deception to rob me of God-given joys, material goods, good food, or good health.
Conclusion: I have tried to demonstrate how keeping the Ten Commandments is God’s plan for our protection and blessing; that it is good for us. If God is selfishly demanding we keep the commandments only for Him then the egocentric psychological factor might lead us to also seek what we want and deny Him what He wants. But in this matter, doing what He wants is actually also the very best for us, too. When I can I like to snow ski. What if I decided to not ski because the ski lodge was making a profit from my skiing? Skiing is fun! Let them make their profit; I ski because I like the wind in my face, the thrill of the challenge, the excitement of the race, the victory over the slopes and the soreness of exercised muscles. Let them make a profit! I ski for me! I am glad God is glorified when I keep the Ten Commandments, but even if I wanted to be totally selfish, I believe the Ten Commandments are totally beneficial to me. They protect me from terrible losses and introduce me to a safe, fulfilled, and completely satisfying life. They are one of the ways God protects and blesses us and shows us his great love.