I struggled for years to understand the purpose of the Ten Commandments. The whole story of God showing up through thunder and lightning and then bellowing out these commands of how we should act is, as the Israelites thought too, terrifying. I’ve probably told this story before, but in case you missed it, I grew to understand God’s purpose in instituting the Ten Commandments a little better one night during my Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). We’d studied the Ten Commandments and passages from Exodus and Deuteronomy that day, and I was baffled as to why God went to what seemed like controlling measures to get His people under His thumb. So, I prayed to understand before I went to sleep, and in the middle of the night, I awoke to a single thought, “Because I love you.” And in that second, I realized that every commandment is just simple common sense and can be summarized in a couple words: be nice. Later in the New Testament, Jesus will sum it up in just one word: love. There is nothing hard about following the Ten Commandments (I mean theoretically, of course). All you have to do to stay in God’s good graces is not cheat on your spouse, lie, steal stuff or kill people. What’s hard about NOT doing those things? Well, we all know it’s not easy to not do some of those things, but we can also admit that the Ten Commandments are just common-sense rules for life. There is nothing scary about them, but God also needed to “put the fear of Jesus” (as my Grandma Mabel would have said) in the Israelites so that they didn’t forget to use their manners. Moses even tells them in verse 20 that God is delivering His laws this way “so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” God doesn’t scare the devil out of them because He wants to terrify them. He scares them because He loves them and doesn’t want to see them get hurt by committing stupid, selfish acts like thievery and murder. It’s kind of like the speeches we give our kids about learning from our mistakes before making them themselves: don’t do this, or you’ll feel really crappy about it later. Unfortunately, our kids listen about as well as we and the Israelites did.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about one commandment in particular and that is the commandment to observe the Sabbath, to take a day of rest. I wrote a little about it in a past post, but it just keeps coming up, so I thought it worthy to address again. What if we really truly observe a Sabbath, not just as Christians, but as a global endeavor to replenish the Earth? We’ve seen proof during the COVID-19 quarantine how waters can clear and air can be cleaner just by giving ourselves a rest. What if every nation on the planet instated a day of rest? It wouldn’t have to be a mandatory global shut-down, but we’ve learned the difference between “essential” businesses and “nonessential” businesses during this time. I know many people are complaining about the terms being not-so-flattering to “nonessential” workers, but it has shown us that we as humans don’t NEED the things we’ve become accustomed to having. We’ve survived restaurants closing and not being able to go to the store every single day. We’ve conquered toilet paper shortages, making chili without tomato paste and not being able to step around the corner for a Thai massage. Let’s face it, many of our lives are privileged to a point that we, even at what we think is the lowest of the low, should be ashamed of ourselves. We’ve proven we can live without the convenience of many things. I pray this “new normal” includes less stuff and more rest, for us and the entire planet.
Writing prompt: entitlement
I’ve noticed a lot of people – myself included – struggling with having to give up “things” during the quarantine. What is something you feel a little entitled to and have struggled with during this time? As you write, think about others who don’t even have access to whatever it is you’re missing, and ask God to reveal to you any sense of entitlement and selfishness.
(Written April 30, 2020)