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What's Up With The Ten Commandments?

Updated on August 31, 2013

Multiple Choice Suggestions

The journalist Ted Koppel once famously said: "In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap on the shoulder. Truth is a howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mount Sinai were not ten suggestions."

A sign outside a local business dovetails with that quote: “The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice.” We flinch in significant denial, but in the present relativistic climate that is their de facto status: Just ten multiple choice suggestions.

Were the edicts given to Moses on Mount Sinai absolutes or optional lifestyle choices? To our detriment, we have come to disregard the extraordinary essence of God’s top ten list; to our peril, a cultural mindset disparages all things related to the boundaries or expectations of a Supreme Being.

We have developed a cavalier spirituality that systematically deconstructs God’s Word; we reconstruct it to include passages that warm or comfort, while eliminating those that heighten personal responsibility and virtue.

In the postmodern mix where truth is presented as non-existent or entirely negotiable, we attempt to rationalize the Ten Commandments away as relics from antiquity. Our reasoning plays itself out as enlightened wisdom, but is driven by the conspicuously false premise that people are basically good.

Historical and headline news evidence shreds that assumption into confetti but we persist in putting the idea forward. We cannot face-down the darkness that resides within, so we intellectualize goodness into humanity’s nature. The framework to support that façade is a dismissal of holy law that reveals our moral bankruptcy.

Is there a connection between our systematic deconstruction of God's Word and the breakdown of morality in the 21st century?

See results

Truth & Consequences

The end result of relegating God’s imperatives to multiple choice suggestions is ethical ambiguity and societal chaos.

Why do children routinely have children? Why is infanticide enshrined at the altar of convenience and choice? Why is sexual promiscuity no longer shameful, but rather is an accepted and expected cultural norm?

Why has greed and avarice become badges of honor? Why do marriages get discarded like last week’s pizza boxes? Why does suspicion and mistrust have free reign in our hearts?

Why is bold-faced lying and cheating dismissed or winked at in the public square? Why are guns or bombs regularly carried into schools and workplaces to kill people?

The answer to those questions and a thousand more just like them is quite simple: Choices have consequences. Our society has transformed truth into multiple choice suggestions and as a result is reaping the whirlwind. Having casually denigrated God’s prescription for avoiding the tragedies of destructive living, we ought not to feign surprise or be shocked by the resulting catastrophic problems.

A Top Ten List That Matters

In precise human language God clearly laid out the design for integrity and civic order. Contrary to naysayers, the precepts originally inscribed on stone tablets are not shrouded in primitive superstitions or ignorance. Their supernatural brilliance transcends the ages to be the foundational bedrock of civilization.

In a mere handful of words, the Creator of the universe set forth ten principles - that if implemented and put into practice - produce community peace and harmony: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet.”

No Ifs...No Ands...No Buts

It was active love that motivated God to give us his rules; they are an expression of an eternal compassion.  The One who fashioned the stars desires that we experience true success, measured by our joyful obedience.

God’s definition of success has not changed since it was explained to Joshua:  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.” 

What’s up with the Ten Commandments is this:  They are the howling reproach of truth; they are the underpinning of God’s written revelation of himself.  When our hearts incorporate them we get a glimpse of his character as he molds within us a perspective and worldview that has him at the center.

Jesus of Nazareth modeled what it meant to practically apply not only the letter but also the intent of God’s requirements.  He spelled it out plainly:  “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

That towering standard serves to keep our latent arrogance on a short leash: Love and obedience are inseparable; no ifs, no ands, no buts and no suggestions or multiple choices.

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    • Timothy Donnelly profile image

      Timothy Donnelly 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      "God’s prescription for avoiding the tragedies of destructive living". Well said. The Ethos of God is poignantly displayed in these principles. They inherently focus on His children's health and profit by way of constructive living, with these commandments being the primary fundament of that way of life. In conjunction with the Ten Commandments, further prophesy attests to His continuing commitment and care for His children, as the Master Physician and Saviour. We would all do well to hearken and heed His instruction, which is relevant for all people.

    • profile image

      Sanctuary 3 years ago

      I believe in the creation of Sanctuary. Oddly, I find that violating the ten commandments are the ones that completely destroy Sanctuary. Much is taught in a very different context in terms of my beliefs but it makes more sense to me. The difference between a bad decision and sin, is the fact that sin multiplies if you do nothing to fix it. Recognizing sin is the same as recognizing a problem. The work is not what you achieve in this World but what you do in order to mature spiritually in this life time. Looking at how short life is, I do not think that I have enough time to save myself. Oddly the more I practice my beliefs regardless of the consequences of those who oppose Gods teachings, my example teaches others more then I will ever teach them by trying. The grand comparison is the fact that we all know what is good and what is evil regardless of if you believe in God or not. The fact that so few are building Sanctuary in their own lives is the reason we are failing so miserably. It is all chance in this evil World but my odds are improving. Protect your Personal Sanctuary, your Home and remember some things have to be lost in order to mature.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 5 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      pastorjerryl - You're welcome. Thanks for stopping in & sharing here.

    • pastorjerryl profile image

      pastorjerryl 5 years ago from Cincinnati, Ohio

      We have similar messages but different writing styles. I really like yours and may incorporate some of your constructions into mine as I transition more to a blog/news focus as I post on www.theeffectivelife.com. BTW, thanks for the follow.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      prairieprincess - Thank you. Your comments are much appreciated. Blessings.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 6 years ago from Canada

      Amen, brother! The Ten Commandments are basic .... very easy to understand .... and straying from them is dangerous for our survival in this world. Great hub!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you for stopping in & sharing your thoughtful & affirming comments. Blessings to you.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 7 years ago from the short journey

      Excellent hub. Am so glad for the focus on truth. Thanks especially for encouraging the whole counsel of Scripture rather than the "liberty" to pick and choose what suits our particular wishes in a given circumstance. Have to be a follower now! Very much looking forward to your other hubs.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      quietnessandtrust - Thanks for stopping in & sharing your comments. Peace & blessings to you.

    • quietnessandtrust profile image

      quietnessandtrust 7 years ago

      Great hub...When people tell me they have no use for any of the commandments...I tell them to look them all up...then go out and break them and see how your life goes and mark the day you started...I give them one to start breaking right away..."go have sex with your parents and relatives"...you should see the looks I get...I tell them that I was just agreeing with them...they tell me the thought is disgusting...I tell them so is your "non use for the commandments"...the conversation is over by then and I no longer hear them bragging about the "enlightenment" they have.

    • profile image

       7 years ago

      To have no other G_d, but the Lord thy G-d, summary of all the commandments and what is necessary to be successful, happy and well adjusted in this world.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Hxprof - Thank you for your good words. Your observations are exactly right. Peace & blessings to you.

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      Hxprof 7 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

      This is an excellent piece. The Ten Commandments are absolutes-so much so that when Christ came he was proclaimed as the Word which became flesh. While on earth Christ said that He came to fulfill every aspect of the law. Yep, God takes sin seriously. Question is, why is it we often fail, despite our deep desire, to live out these commandments? The answer is that the commandments were given to us to show us the darkness in our hearts. We all fall short and always will except by being transformed from within by Christ.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks for stopping by & sharing your comments, Michael. I do not think Mr. Koppel was addressing his words to you, so I am not sure why you are feeling "reproached."

    • Michael Cosgrove profile image

      Michael Cosgrove 7 years ago from France

      Ted Koppel's words are precisely what is wrong with religion. I do not appreciate being "reproached" because I do not buy the ten commandments, although if others do buy them I have no problem with that.

      I would never pretend to have more than suggestions. My ideas are mine and engage nobody.

      May organised religion do the same thing and stop telling me what is to be reproached in me and what the "truth" is.

      I grew up a while back, and so should Koppel.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Christiane - Thank you for stopping by & sharing your comments. Good words of counsel.

    • Christiane53 profile image

      Christiane53 7 years ago

      I forgot to sign in before commenting. Above comment is mine. I am Christiane Marshall.

    • profile image

      Christiane Marshall 7 years ago

      Dear someonewhoknows: A thought in response to your comment: To honor your father and mother in an abusive situation might mean telling the truth about what is going on. Not keeping secrets is being honest. Not enabling evil often leads to individuals facing who they are and sometimes to a turn around, a discontinuation of a cycle. Although Proverbs recommends 'covering a matter' at times, in the case of chronic evil, a more straight-forward approach may be needed. Honoring someone could mean tough-love. It could mean removing yourself from the possibility of abuse.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Chin chin - Thank you for your comments. Your words about knowing Jesus are exactly right. Blessings to you.

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 7 years ago from Philippines

      Tough words but they are just what we need in a world full of "mess". Praying more people would come to know Jesus as we cannot fulfill the Ten Commandments nor make the world better apart from him. God bless you!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Hi-Jinks - Thanks for your comment/question. Not sure I follow your intent, but my answer is a loud NO, I am not now or ever writing laws about anything. The "do no harm" is I believe the first rule for physicians to follow.

    • Hi-Jinks profile image

      Hi-Jinks 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      Are you now writing laws about the first three commandments?

      How about"Do no harm?"

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Pseudonymous - Thank you for your comments. Jesus actually said that the commandment to love God was top priority, followed by the command to love our neighbor. My sense is that if we pursue those two - love God & love our neighbor -then all the rest falls into place. Peace & blessings to you.

    • Pseudonymous profile image

      Pseudonymous 7 years ago

      Every society and time period in history has thought that they were going through a decline of some kind, be it moral or otherwise. I think certainly in the case of Europe and America it's difficult to argue that we're worse off now than a couple of hundred years ago where people routinely died of starvation or war.

      Moreover, as a Catholic I think that many of the problems today come from sections of society that view themselves as embodying Christian virtues. In America it seems as though the Religious Right is constantly blocking positive change that would help their fellow man (e.g. healthcare reform).

      As important as the ten commandments are I believe the commandment from Jesus to love thy neighbour is more important and sadly too many self-professed Christians use their religion as a crutch for intolerance and even hatred of other peoples.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      tony0724 - Thank you for the affirmation & encouragement. Blessings to you.

    • tony0724 profile image

      tony0724 7 years ago from san diego calif

      Ken that was absolutely eloquent and completely true . Only the most myopic could not see the paralells between rising secularism and moral breakdown . Well done .

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      PinanShodan - Thank you for your encouraging words. And yes, anything can become an idol. Peace to you.

    • profile image

      PinanShodan 7 years ago

      Hi Ken,

      Wow, what a powerful writing. I am studying Exodus in NKJV Application Study Bible. Last night Exodus 32 was studying about the Golden Calf that Aaron made from the people's gold earrings and told the people of Israel to make it their idol. Anything can become an idol if we allow ourselves to be strayed away from the truth, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. :-) Thanks

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      creativeone59 - Thank you for your encouraging words. Very much appreciated.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      someonewhoknows - Thanks for your comments. No disagreements here. Blessings to you.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you Ken for very eye opening hub, that's uplifting and enlightening. Thank you for sharing it. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      I believe the ten commandments are valid when they are looked at for their true meaning.

      The commandment below is one that comes to mind ;

      "Honor thy father and thy mother"

      This commandment can be seen by children who are being abused by either one or both parents or the other way around,parents being abused by their children or anyone in their family or outside their family as being one that is not possible for them to follow ,because of what has happened to them as children.It can be a visious cycle that can only stop by breaking the cycle.

      Islamic religious fanatics being seperate from true islamic beliefs certainly have made their version of islam seem to be a forced religious dogma much like the inquesitions of the spanish and English Catholics in centuries past.Intolerance is their credo.They would rather force everyone to accept their beliefs even if it is not whole harted.Rather than seperating themselves from unbelievers the are hell bent on controlling others beliefs.It is obvious that the need for power over others beliefs is more important to them than their own.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks, Jim. Appreciate your words & affirmation. Blessings & peace to you.

    • profile image

      JimLow 7 years ago

      For lack of a better term, the Ten Commandments are engenious because they cover every negative action that men can act out, causing injury to themselves and others. Some of what we see written as laws in addition to the ten commandments is often referred to as "the law of Moses" that has more specifics in it, pertaining to the society of that day, just as we have in modern times. With that said, all laws still fall under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments whether society as a whole still recognizes that fact or not.

      Great Hub - thank you for it!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      IslandVoice - Thank you for your good observations. I agree completely. It is a sad but true situation with many promoting a health/wealth based theology that is a mile & a half wide & an inch deep. Blessings to you.

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 7 years ago from Hawaii

      Sad to say, I think much of the tarnishing of God's truth is coming from His own people, what with the emergence of 'celebrity preachers' who run mega churches (seen and heard on TV), promoting half truths, shallow Christianity, and the prosperity gospel. If we don't walk our talk, we have no voice, nor influence. Another fine writing!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Vladimir - Thanks for your note. Blessings to you.

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

      I never seen any moral codes outside of Then Commandments

      which were able to create anything new or more. The atheists have the same but removed God from it. It is poorly design counterfeit.

      Thanks for great hub.

    • Ken R. Abell profile image
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      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thanks for that point. They are foundational to a civil society.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      The ten commandments are pretty basic. I suspect many ancient cultures had very similar rules.