The Ten Commandments – A Reference Guide to Christian Life

The Ten Commandments – A Reference Guide to Christian Life

Author: Jancy James   26 Nov 2021

 The  Decalogue, popularly known as The Ten Commandments are a set of biblical principles pertaining to morality and devotion that function as the foundation stone to Christian ethical life. For most Christians, The Ten Commandments are a reference guide to fundamentals of Christian living and accepted behavioral patterns to create a harmonious social life.

The Ten Commandments were inscribed on two tablets of stone, and handed over to Moses at Mount Sinai. It is now kept in the Ark of the Covenant 

The very familiarity of these laws has made us undervalue them as rules set forth by the Almighty, with his own mighty hands.

Do The Ten Commandments hold value in today’s times?

Though the Ten Commandments are a rigid directive from God our father, and need to be followed till the end of the world, many controversies and misinterpretations exist regarding the laws and its feasibility in following them in today’s world.

The commandments are divided into two sections. Commandments 1 to 6 direct us to shape our relationship with the Almighty; commandments 7 to 10 on the other hand tell us about our relationship with one another. These commandments were instructions from God to the people of Israel as to how they can remain close to Him and escape His mighty wrath.

We see that all throughout the Exodus the people of Israel have disobeyed every commandment from idol worship to murder to coveting. Very few remained true to His laws and were deemed eligible to enter the ‘’PROMISED LAND’’.

Let us assess the rules set forth by God and how they are relevant in our life today.

The Ten Commandments

  1. I am the Lord your God, You shall have no other Gods before me

 The first commandment holds its privileged position due to reasons manifold. It isn’t as simple as it sounds. One must not consider it just as a call to reproach all other Gods or idols and honour only our Father in heaven.

Worship or preservation of self/material things, in effect puts us in the level of prioritizing other Gods or objects other than our Almighty God. Placing the desires of our flesh, career, dreams, relations, life etc. in the forefront, or giving importance to anything else that occupies a major part of our heart, mind and soul immediately make us vulnerable to disobeying the first commandment, as we are idolizing these desires more than our God.

No other ‘’Gods’’, except God our Father should be a way of life to attain Heaven.

  • 2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain

The second commandment is unfortunately treated most irreverently by present day Christians. We so often tend to make exclamations as ‘My God’, ‘Oh My God’, ‘By God’ etc. without realizing that we are actually going against the second commandment given to us by God.

In Orthodox Jewish custom, God’s name was too holy that it could not even be written down, let alone said. The reverence associated with this commandment was too stringent during olden times.

Philippians 2:12 says we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Jesus’ name should command appropriate reverence and not be used as an exclamation or lament as and when we please. The son of God is our Saviour. He has sacrificed His life on the cross for our salvation. We must therefore attach utmost reverence to the Name of God and His Son.

  • 3. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy

A day of rest and faithfulness to God will ensure that you have a week full of blessings and gains to look forward to!

Unfortunately we function the other way round. We invent excuses to not keep the Sabbath day Holy. We skip church rituals citing reasons which are worldly and seemingly unavoidable. We conveniently forget days of obligations. The sins associated with the 3rd commandment are many.

God alone is the reason behind our existence .Everything we were, are, and will be, is entirely because of the fact that God gave us life and breath. When we fulfill our worldly desires on Sabbath Day, we are indirectly sending a message to the Almighty that He is no longer prominent in our lives.

However, one must remember not to refrain from doing good on Sabbath Day.

In Matthew 12, When Jesus heals a man with the withered hand, he says, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!

  • 4. Honour your father and your mother

 Being the first commandment which talks about our relationship with one another, honoring people is a basic characteristic that has to come naturally, irrespective of any laws or rules of a religion or a country.

Holding someone in high esteem, or giving them the respect they deserve comes only when we can humble ourselves and know that we are bound to make mistakes, and there are others who can guide and correct us in the process.

However, one wonders if one must honour one’s parents even if they commit wrongful deeds, are abusive, and are prone to commit sin themselves. Through Jesus, God shows us that suffering and humiliation for the sake of God will reap rich rewards in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Honor your parents irrespective of their ill deeds and God will shower his abundant blessings on us. This should be our mantra in life. The 4th commandment is the only one that comes with a promise attached to it.

Ephesians 6: 1-3 tells us- “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

  • 5. You Shall not kill

 All religions and cultures list murder as wrong. Taking the life of a person cannot be justified under any circumstance and should be condemned outright.

Killing a person puts us in a position of judging another and taking away the life that God has gifted him on earth.

Murder throws us into the hateful territory of hell, and snatches from us the prospect of entering the kingdom of God. We must understand here that all our hatred towards each other has already been taken upon by the Saviour and was submitted on the cross. Every act of killing is a nail that pierces the heart of Jesus again and again.

Murder is akin to hatred, which is the opposite of love. God has asked us to love one another just as we love ourselves.

6.  You shall not commit adultery

This commandment was expanded upon by Jesus to include lustful desire towards a man or a woman other than your husband/wife as equal to committing the very act of adultery itself. All kinds of sexual sins can lead us to destruction and hell.

All kinds of desires of the flesh, pornography, nudity, unholy relations etc. after marriage falls within the sin of adultery and must be seen with grave seriousness. God meant the intimacy between a man and a woman as something pure and deep than any other human bond on earth. Abusing this through unholy desires can cause us to disobey the sixth commandment and bring destruction to our souls.

There is no short cut to this law of God. Either obey or face the fire of hell.

Mathew 5:28- But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

7.  You shall not steal

 We must be honest human beings in all areas of our lives. Theft does not just involve stealing things that are tangible. It involves all kinds of dishonesty right from wasting time at work to even bringing home stuff that are freely available at your workplace for personal use.

There is no justification even for the smallest of things that we decide to take, if it does not belong to us.

 8.   You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour

 Another very grave form of dishonesty that we are prone to commit in our daily lives is bearing false witness or lying.

Slander, omission of facts to protect our name, hiding facts to protect sinners, spoiling the name of another for our own benefit etc. are all within the category of sinning against this commandment.

All kind of manipulation of facts that lead us to lie should be dealt with utmost care in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.

  • 9. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife

 The grass is always greener on the other side. God provides the best for us, and as children of God, we must be satisfied with what we have. Coveting your neighbor’s wife or husband is tantamount to committing adultery, and hence we are breaking two commandments at the same time.

All kinds of desires of the flesh are pushing us to idolizing lust, which is one of the seven cardinal sins, and must be avoided like plague. One must exercise self-control by controlling lustful passions and channeling this energy for the betterment of others.

2 Timothy 2:22- Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

  •   10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods

Greed is the result of jealousy over someone else’s achievements and possessions. Coveting others’ goods is the direct result of not being satisfied with what you have. As God’s people we must be happy with what He provides, and practice gratitude to praise Him.

Mathew 6:33 says- But strive first for the kingdom of Godand his  righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The 10 commandments can be summed up into two main commandments

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Ten Commandments in Today’s perspective

As Jesus said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17) we must all focus on obeying the rules set forth by God for His chosen people.

Jesus points out five of the 10 Commandments – murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, and honoring your father and mother as the most relevant commandments to follow.

To follow the Ten Commandments require huge control on your desires and mental faculties. Many a time we are in a dilemma as to whether a commandment can be applied to a particular circumstance if it has a negative impact on the people involved.

At times, we see people steal when they are desperately hungry and poor; people fall into unholy relations because they are struggling to get out of abuse and accusations within a marriage; children cannot respect parents as they live in sin. Such situations cause a lot of confusion and heartache.

How do we apply the code of Law in these circumstances? Aren’t we bound to make flawed conclusions here?

Dear friends, when in doubt and misery; when life throws you into realms of self doubt, temptations, despair and dissatisfaction, we must look towards Jesus as the greater authority, and seek His will in being guided towards a life of purity and honour.

May the good Lord bless you all and keep you free from sin.







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