The ONE Commandment Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Famous Moral Code: The Decalogue i. I AM your God…Have no other gods before me. (Exodus’ view of God is that the Hebrew God is the BEST God, not until later do we encounter Genesis’ God as the ONLY God…Exodus story is older than creation myths). But I […]
The ONE Commandment
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Famous Moral Code: The Decalogue
i. I AM your God…Have no other gods before me.
(Exodus’ view of God is that the Hebrew God is the BEST God, not until later do we encounter Genesis’ God as the ONLY God…Exodus story is older than creation myths). But I AM is the divine name…the higher meaning of the command may be to not place the divine so far beyond you that you forget your own sacred value. You are the Temple of the holy. Don’t forget that God is where I AM. If we can see God in ourselves we can more easily see God in others, and will not wish to hurt those whom we see to be the Temple of God.
ii. Have no idols (don’t worship the past…Apis the bull-god was a tribute to Egyptian enslavement, which is why Moses became so angry when his people made an idol of a golden calf…it was a tribute to the past, to oppression, to a system that didn’t value his people’s humanity. Idols are always limiting, and anything that points to itself is an idol. If it points beyond itself, it is a symbol; if it points to itself, it is an idol. The omnipresent I AM can’t be limited or contained by any name or image…what have we elevated to idol status? Money? Career? Youth? Beauty? Privilege? bibles, sacraments, male images for the divine, crosses, heterosexuality, binary gender norms, capitalism, nationalism, the Decalogue itself…).
iii. Don’t use misuse God’s name (not about profanity. To use religion to justify bigotry, war, violence, privilege, prejudice against other religions, etc. is to misuse God’s name; additionally, I AM is God’s name. Whenever we say “I am” something negative, we are misusing the divine name).
iv. Keep the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday..whoops! But regardless of the calendar, a time to rest and spiritually recharge is wise).
v. Honor your parents (a commandment to adults for their elderly parents).
vi. Don’t murder your NEIGHBOR (they had a list of capital offenses, and war was common…killing of enemies or even of those who disobeyed certain conventions was often celebrated, there were infractions that could cause one to seek to destroy one’s own spouse or child even…but to kill a fellow member of the community without justifiable provocation is what is forbidden, and what is considered justifiable provocation would rightfully horrify those of us who occupy the 21st century).
vii. Don’t commit adultery (in a polygamous culture, what’s adultery? Dissuading men from trespassing on another man’s female “property”; in our contemporary world, it encourages us to keep our promises).
viii. Don’t steal.
ix. Don’t slander (or give false testimony in court which could cost someone their liberty and/or good name).
x. Don’t covet (don’t covet someone else’s stuff, don’t deny universal Abundance, don’t begrudge anyone’s honest success, let it be a reminder of what is possible for you…meanwhile, notice what is included as “stuff”…women, and “slaves”…a challenge to moral thinking, for sure..
1-3: Relationship to the Holy
5-10: Relationship with others
Thou shalt not doesn’t mean “don’t”, it means “you will not”…as in, “if you love then you will not willingly commit injustices.” So…
If you love God, then you WILL NOT have other gods,
let anything become an object of worship, or
misuse Religion to condone injustice
If you love yourself then you WILL NOT fail to set aside time for reflection, rest, and communal sharing.
If you love others then you WILL NOT be uncaring about the elderly,
break your promises,
do damage to others’ reputation or hurt then with false testimony, or
begrudge people their good fortune.
Commandments 1-3 are about loving God,
Commandment 4 is about loving yourself, and
Commandments 5-10 are about loving others as we love ourselves….and they are all interconnected: to love self is to love God and others; to love others is to love God and self; to love God is to love God is to love self and others.
(“Anyone who says they love God but hate a brother or sister is lying, for those who can’t love people they’ve seen can’t love the invisible God.” 1 John 4.20…In other words… We are God’s temple; we see God in life, in love, in human compassion…if hatred or greed or vengeance or bigotry are what motivate us…then we can’t claim to be God-focused.)
The Ten Commandments then are 10 Suggestions on how to fulfill the One Commandment.
Matthew’s Jesus sums up the 10 Commandments:
Love God (Dt 6.5) and Love people (Lev 19.18)
And if God is Love (1 John 4.8), then sharing love must be the highest form of worship.
Matthew’s Jesus even gives a simple demonstration of what sharing love looks like:
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Matthew 7.12
The Apostle Paul, also, sums up the 10 commandments:
“The entire law is summed up in a single phrase, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Galatians 5.14
The Buddha told his disciples to teach this triple truth: “A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of compassionate service are the things that renew life.” The ten commandments in a single sentence.
Someone once told a rabbi that if he could explain the meaning of the Torah while standing on one foot, he would convert to Judaism. So, Standing on one foot, the rabbi said, “what you would find hateful if done to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah; all the rest is just commentary. Go and read it.”
Don’t ruin the lives of gay children and blame it on God.
Don’t try to keep loving couples from enjoying legal equality.
Don’t pretend your bigotry is faith.
Don’t launch preventable wars, don’t assassinate someone’s character, don’t slander people, don’t create economic systems that keep people from enjoying life, don’t destroy the environment which sustains us all.
Be mindful of the vulnerable, the marginalized, the stranger, the different, the sick, the weak.
Take good care of yourself, and then wish for everyone else all the good you wish for yourself.
This is the message of the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments are very simple…you don’t have to memorize them, you don’t have to hang them on walls of schools or court houses, and you certainly have a more generous understanding of them than the ancients did. To honor the spirit of the Ten Commandments, just don’t be a jerk!
And that’s a code worth living by; and this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2014
I love the God within me.
I love the God within all others.
As I love, I fulfill the one and only divine command.
And Love blesses my life abundantly.