THE TEN COMMANDMENTS,
AND THEIR IMPORTANCE TODAY
by Lawrence Wilson
© September 2012, The Center For Development, Inc.
The critical themes of this article are:
1. The Ten Commandments of Moses are a set of common sense rules that are extremely important for everyone today. By themselves, they are not a “religion”, as some believe. However, they are the basis for the Jewish and Christian legal systems that today govern most Western nations.
2. The Ten Commandments of Moses are about loving others properly, first of all. They are not just prohibitions and regulations, except in the sense of helping us understand the grand plan of the universe and how we fit into it, so that we may live properly and happily.
3. Modern societies ignore the Ten Commandments at its great peril. In other words, the rules work very well, and must be taught widely or a society degenerates into tyranny, false religions, and lawlessness.
4. The Ten Commandments can be interpreted in different ways. In other words, their meaning is not always that simple, and it is worth discussing and thinking about them clearly.
5. One can evaluate a person, a community or an entire society by how well they follow the Ten Commandments.
Let us now discuss the Commandments one by one in this light. Note: In different translations and traditions, such as the Talmudic, the Augustinian, and the Philonic traditions, the Commandments are not in the identical order. While perhaps confusing, this is not too important because the ideas matter more than the exact order of the Commandments.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS EXPLAINED
FIRST COMMANDMENT. You shall have no other gods besides the Lord, Thy One God.
1. There is only one Source, one Creation or one God. This Commandment is about the integrity of our universe and how to worship. In this case, the word integrity means oneness, wholeness and completeness. The Commandment means that in one Source or idea is found everything you will ever need.
2. Put God first in your life, above all. The Commandment is about your priorities. The idea is expressed in the New Testament of the Bible in the statement, “Seek first for the Kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added thereto.” All else in your life must be secondary, in other words.
1. We are all subsidiary to the grand scheme of the universe called God or the Creation.
2. We are all brothers and sisters. A deeper meaning of the First Commandment is that since there is only one central God or Source, all people on earth are related. In other words, we share our humanity with every other person on earth, no matter who they are. We are all, in a sense, brothers and sisters.
SECOND COMMANDMENT. You shall not make any graven images or idols of God, and you shall not worship any idols or objects. This Commandment means that:
1. Do not worship graven images, which are pictures, photos or idols, which are objects. These can be so-called religious images and idols, or secular ones such as large buildings, beautiful or talented women or men (either photos or living people), money, and other modern “idols”.
2. Proper worship is to worship only the one God, Source or Creation. “Worshipping” the family, money, the body, sex, love, children, friends, spouses, lovers, occupations, cars, vacations, homes, or anything else is always incorrect. Even worshipping the angels is wrong.
This was a new concept in the time of Moses, as every other nation and group worshipped many confusing gods, each of whom served in a different area such as agriculture, the weather, financial support, love, and so forth. Many religions in Africa, Asia and South America, in fact, still worship many gods. The First Commandment is thus a great simplification of religious concept and worship.
The secular humanists particularly dislike this Commandment. They want to worship the earth, for example, or the environment, or perhaps worship the animals, or people who need their help. Some worship sex, or perhaps friendship, above all else. They dislike being told that these are all secondary to worshipping the One God, Source Of All Life, or Creation.
Implication. The emphasis in today’s modern society on making a lot of money, for example, or on appearance, or on having a lot of friends, or even on saving the earth, is very wrong. The emphasis must be on living in accordance with the principles outlined in this article, and that alone. That must be the standard, not so-called modern standards of happiness, wealth or “goodness”.
This does not mean that one should be selfish or unconcerned with one’s appearance, or that it is fine to pollute the earth. It simply means to keep your priorities clear, and things will work out for the animals, the environment, and for you as well.
THIRD COMMANDMENT. You shall not misuse the name of God, or take the name of God in vain. This means do not swear an oath in the name of God and lie about it. If you swear an oath to God, you must mean it.
The word to swear, as used in the bible, means giving your powerful intent and commitment to something. This is an older use of the word. In modern times, the meaning of the word to swear has been reversed, in fact, to mean the use of coarse or slang language. This is most unfortunate in some ways.
This Commandment is about your integrity of intent, and that you honor the name of the Creator or Creation.
Why is this important? For at least two reasons:
1. God should be the center of your universe or thoughts at all times. The name God or whatever name you use should therefore be a holy word and everything connected to Him must be praised, loved and lauded. Any other attitude is harmful in the extreme.
Mocking or hating the name of God, for example, will cause illness and death because it is so central to our lives. Using the name of God to invoke anger, rage, or harm is also a terrible thing to do. This is sometimes called satanic, and for good reason. It is when someone uses the name or concept of God, Source or Creation to hurt others.
Someone might say “God made me do it”, after doing something evil. This is just one small example of taking the name of God in vain. God never commands anyone to harm another, although it is okay to harm another in self-defense only.
2. At a practical level, swearing an oath to God was one of the few ways that society had and has to assure itself that a person is telling the truth. It is fine to tell a judge, a jury or just a friend that “I am telling you the truth”. However, invoking the name of God or the Creation is a further stamp of approval, or proof, that you mean what you say. This is why the punishment for taking the name of the Lord in vain was death.
For example, swearing an oath to God is required in America when someone is a witness in a court case. It is also required of all elected leaders in America at the federal and state levels. They are required to place their right hand on a bible and pledge their allegiance to the United States and the Republic for which it stands. They must also swear to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of The United States.
Sadly, many elected officials today do not like the Constitution and they seek to destroy it. This is a horrible contradiction and lie that these politicians must live with. They will someday have to answer for their attempts to circumvent and destroy the US Constitution, and for their mocking of the name of God. If they do not like America, they should go and live elsewhere, or at least they should not be public servants in the government.
3. Another possible and deeper meaning of this Commandment is that one must not “use” God or the Creation for greedy, lustful, violent, or other nasty purposes. Many people do this, even preachers, at times. This is all the misuse or abuse of name of God or the Creation, and what it stands for. One must not abuse the power and the love of the Creator, in other words, to harm others. It is okay to ask for what you want, but not to harm others.
Rather than ask for what you think you need, often a better prayer is “Thy will be done”, which is also the subject of an article on this website. It is completely different and involves turning your life over to God, rather than asking for this or that, especially if it might harm others.
Liberals, secular humanists, and atheists dislike this Commandment, as it imparts a special meaning to the name of God or the Creation. They believe that God is not important or even fake, so why bother making the name important. They are wrong, I would assert, but they will need to figure this out for themselves.
FOURTH COMMANDMENT. You shall celebrate the Sabbath or Seventh Day of rest each week, and keep it holy. The meanings of this Commandment, I believe, are many:
1. Take a break from your daily “grind” or daily routine each week. This is a very healthful idea for most people, though not all require it. It can be about rest, regeneration, repairing the body and the mind, and even repairing machinery, tools, automobiles and other things one uses all week long.
2. Spend a day or time each week praising God, not just laying around, reading the newspaper, or watching random television, for example.
This is an excellent idea, and one that I wish more people understood. It is about setting aside time each week, at the very least, to focus on God rather than on secular matters that so easily can fill up one’s time.
3. Elsewhere in the bible we are told that God rested on the Seventh day, and so should we. Thus, this Commandment may have to do with the cycles of activity and rest, in which a day of rest on the seventh day is critical for completion, rounding out a person’s life, contemplation and other things.
Indeed, this Commandment may have saved the health and lives of many people who were forced to work every day, either as slaves or just workers.
4. Religious people will say that the Sabbath Commandment is more than this. The bible specifies what must be done and not done on the Sabbath, and is very clear about it in the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Hebrew bible.
This is somewhat controversial. In fact, readers probably know that one reason Jesus was crucified was for healing people on the Sabbath, and doing other things on the Sabbath that are forbidden, or seem to beforbidden in the Old Testament.
Jesus clearly understood the Old Testament differently, and perhaps wanted to remind people that the Sabbath Commandment is more about common sense and love, not just about following mere rules and regulations, especially if people are harmed by such rules and regulations. The Sabbath can be more about taking the time to relax, laugh, and shift gears, so to speak.
Commentary. This Commandment has to do with rounding out your life, which is part of living in integrity. It has to do with breaking your routines so that the mind can rest and open to more spiritual pursuits. Most people get too caught up in the material life during the week.
This Commandment is a reminder that the non-stop, rat race lifestyle is not ideal. The antidote is that once a week, stop your normal material life routine and dedicate the day to God or to the Creation. The Sabbath Commandment compels one to slow down at least once a week to restore balance and harmony to life. So this important Commandment is about balance in one’s life and activities.
Liberals once again think this Commandment is silly, but it is not. It simply tells us to take a day off, every week. Do things differently one day a week. Relax, put your feet up, stop racing along, reflect on your week, plan next week, enjoy the moment, and restore your connection to the divine.
FIFTH COMMANDMENT. Honor thy Father and thy Mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. This is an interesting Commandment. Some interpret this Commandment to mean that one must take care of parents, even if the parents were or are abusive or hateful toward one.
It does not mean this. It means only that one should respect parents and honor the fact that your parents brought you forth on this earth plane and gave you life and basic sustenance. For this, you are to be forever grateful. It is about living in integrity with all of those that gave you life on earth. That is all it means, I believe.
This Commandment does not mean that one must care for his or her father and your mother all of the time. Nor does this Commandment mean you must allow them to enter or live in your home if that does not work for you, although it is considered a blessing in many cultures. It also does not mean you must even support them financially, although this is also considered a blessing in some cultures. It does not even mean you must be on speaking terms with an abusive or dangerous parent.
A possible deeper meaning for this Commandment. Some spiritual texts interpret this Commandment to mean that one must honor and love the Father in Heaven and the Mothering Energy of the earth that brings forth our food and water. I like this perspective. Some will disagree with this concept, but it is another interpretation of this, the Fifth Commandment.
SIXTH COMMANDMENT. You shall not commit murder. This Commandment is also misunderstood. It means you shall not take another life without good cause. In this sense, it is about your integrity with the force called life.
While the Commandment sounds absolute and all-inclusive, other parts of the bible make it clear that it is not. Killing another person is horrible, but the bible elsewhere permits one to kill another who is harming you first. It also allows killing an enemy in a war situation. It also allows killing animals for food and sacrifice. It may even allow a killing to end the life of another person who is in severe pain and who is terminally ill. So if you kill in self-defense, or in defense of your land, for example, and for this reason only, it is not considered murder.
Some people think that Jews and Christians are hypocritical because they engage in wars, for example, where people are killed, even though the bible forbids it. However, the bible does not forbid killing in self defense or during wartime. As to which wars are justified, the bible does not specify these.
One could say that in a society, if the leaders decide that war is necessary, then so be it. I don’t fully agree with this, however, and I think each person must decide which wars are needed, and which are not. Soldiers, however, do not have this luxury, and if asked to fight, they must obey. This is part of their job. The rest of us can vote out of office those leaders who create or start unjust fights or skirmishes.
A modern example. One can argue that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not about the self defense of the NATO nations, so the soldiers should not be there from nations that worship the God of the Jews and Christians. However, this is not true because these nations were and are havens for terrorists who have attacked, and continue to attack and kill those in the Western nations. So the war and killing is justified, at least on biblical grounds.
What about abortions? This Commandment is often interpreted to mean that one must not have an abortion, even though abortion is not mentioned specifically in the Commandment. Aborting an unborn child, however, is mentioned elsewhere in the bible as being sinful.
This is the main reason why millions of women, in particular, do not like the Hebrew or Christian bibles. This is unfortunate because the Ten Commandments are designed for many situations, and they are very good general rules.
As for abortion, the biblical rule has been a subject of debate by both Jewish people and Christians, as well. The reason is that it avoiding abortion may not always be wise and practical. For example, is it wise to permit a healthy young woman to die of an infection because treating it might kill a growing child inside of her? Is it wise to allow a young woman to die in childbirth if, by removing the fetus, the life of the woman could be saved – even more so if she has other children and family to care for?
So this is a difficult medical and moral issue that all nations and all civilizations must contend with on a daily basis. It is definitely not black and white, and it is not a good reason for modern women to turn against the entire bible and say it is just a male chauvinist, piggish, paternalistic document.
The bible, in fact, is not a male chauvinist, paternalistic document at all, if one cares to read it. It is actually quite favorable to the rights of women. The abortion issue is unfortunate, in this regard, but I would urge men and women to look at it in common sense terms.
IN GENERAL, having abortions is not a wise idea. When the bible was written, abortion was a very unclean practice that usually involved sticking sharp objects into a woman’s uterus. It often killed the mother, as well as the baby.
Many women who have had abortions will tell you that having an abortion often leaves emotional scars that may last a lifetime. Abortion carries some medical risk, as well, especially later term abortions.
I will suggest that a deeper meaning of this Commandment in relation to abortion is that the ability to carry a child and give birth is a sacred gift, and it must not be taken lightly. Sadly, the sacredness of life, and the sacredness of womanhood is basically dismissed in modern, secular society. Women are told they are just like men and should be able to do all that men do, and having children is just a sort of side issue that one can prevent with contraceptive pills.
This horrible attitude is responsible for so many sick women and sick children today it is amazing that the medical doctors haven’t figured it out. If you doubt this, just read the side effects of the birth control pills, patch and IUD, and you will see.
What about capital punishment, also called the death penalty? This is also a little confusing, although not if you read the bible carefully. The bible specifies the punishment of death for certain crimes, including rape, murder, perjury, and taking the name of God in vain. This means taking an oath to God and then acting otherwise. Other crimes punishable by death in the Hebrew Bible including aborting your child and homosexuality, among others. So obviously, the bible permits the death penalty, and this is not considered a violation of the Sixth Commandment.
I hope this clarifies the Sixth Commandment as meaning that one must not commit murder without good cause. It is about respecting life.
Another meaning of this Commandment. One can also murder another’s spirit, murder an interest of a child, for example, in school, or murder the self-esteem and dignity of another. Therefore, an expanded understanding of this Commandment is that one must not kill the spirit, kill the intellect, kill the dignity of another.
Murdering yourself. This Commandment also applies to oneself. It is the prohibition against suicide, or intentionally taking one’s own life. It might also imply that one must not murder one’s own body slowly with deficient food, not enough rest and sleep, the use of drugs and alcohol, too much work or even too much sex. One can also effectively murder one’s spirit, self-esteem and dignity through certain behaviors, or even through negative thinking about oneself.
This is potentially a large subject, just as one can steal from oneself, one can “adulterate” oneself in various ways, one can dishonor the Father and Mother energies in oneself, and so on.
SEVENTH COMMANDMENT. You shall not commit adultery. At the simplest level, adultery means sex outside of one’s marriage. This is another common sense rule. It is about helping to maintain the integrity of the marriage or twin soul relationship.
Some misinterpret the Seventh Commandment to mean that one must not have sex unless and until one is married. However, that is not the strict definition of adultery. Adultery is specifically sex with someone who is not your marriage partner. So if one is not married, this Commandment technically does not apply to you.
The idea of abstaining from sex until marriage was another rule in the Jewish religion of old, which was also practiced by many Christians. However, this is very different from committing adultery, which is sex outside of one’s marriage relationship.
Another “addition” to this Commandment that is not in the original Seventh Commandment is the idea that one must not look upon another, particularly a woman, with lust. This excellent idea came from Saul or Paul, a disciple of Jesus. However, it is not in the original Seventh Commandment. By the way, it should apply to women, as well as to men.
A deeper meaning to the Seventh Commandment. Adultery, like the word adulterate, means to corrupt or ruin. A deeper meaning to this Commandment is that one must not corrupt anything. In other words, do not adulterate anything you do or have.
This expanded meaning makes good sense. It is not limited to married people, but applies to everyone and applies in many more situations than just marriage and sex. For example, it means do not corrupt, ruin or adulterate your children by spoiling them or lying to them, perhaps. It means do not corrupt your business by lying to your customers or mistreating them in some way. It means do not corrupt your body by eating poor quality food or not resting enough, and so on. In this regard, the Seventh Commandment is about preserving integrity and wholesomeness in all things, persons and situations, and not just about marriage and sex.
EIGHTH COMMANDMENT. You shall not steal. This is an important Commandment in many ways. It is a very broad statement that means you shall not appropriate or take that which does not belong to you. This includes real tangible property, intellectual property, kidnapping a child, taking a life for no good reason, or even taking or degrading the dignity or the self-esteem of another. It can apply to stealing exam answers to get a better grade, and of course to stealing money or objects.
In legal terms, this Commandment sets down or implies the principle of ownership of private property. This is a basic legal concept in Western society, although it is under attack in many Western nations. Private property rights are not a common idea in many parts of the world that have dictators, or have Communist, Nazi, or even socialistic governments. In these nations, for example, the government regularly steals from the people and sets a terrible example that the people often follow. “Redistributing the wealth”, a popular phrase today, can easily degenerate into plain stealing from some to give to others.
This is actually a difficult Commandment for many people to follow because many people are actually parasites on society. Some literally live by cheating and stealing from others. I would include in this group anyone who charges too much money for a product or service, even if it is perfectly legal. I would also include anyone who is part of a licensed monopoly group such as doctors, lawyers, and union tradesmen. All have “arrangements” that often allow them to steal from others, although it is technically legal. In other words, they do not earn their living, but rather they receive certain “benefits” as a result of their monopoly position in society.
Others who routinely take from others legally are those on government welfare. They receive “perks” in the form of tax breaks, food stamps, social security disability, unemployment benefits and more. The reason these are stealing, in one sense, is that the money for these programs is taken by force from the general population. If the funds were given freely, as in private charity, then such benefits would not be stealing. I am not advocating the end of all government programs, but there is a problem when any government or power takes the people’s money by force. It always engenders anger and resentment, and often cheating and lying.
Another group that routinely steals from the public are institutions such as the Federal Reserve system, the banks, and others who mystify money and take advantage of people’s ignorance in this area.
Other ways people cheat and steal things range from simple shoplifting to filing false income tax reports, which cheats or steals from the government. Others cheat on health insurance forms and in other ways. Inflating the currency by the governments is a horrible type of stealing of the people’s wealth, and so on. So this is not an easy Commandment to follow, and it is a very important one.
NINTH COMMANDMENT. You shall not bear false witness. This is another complex and difficult Commandment to follow. I interpret this to mean that one should not lie at any time, about anything, unless it is to preserve your life or property. In other words, this Ninth Commandment is about integrity with your speech and your thoughts.
All the Commandments are sacred, but this one is very special because your words are your deeds. Your words and your deeds should match up perfectly every day. If they do not, you are bearing false witness, a sin.
In other words, this Commandment does not just mean one shall not give false testimony in a court of law. It means much, much more. For example, it means one must not:
a. Spread false rumors.
b. Lie or exaggerate to make a point, ever.
c. Cover up or obscure the truth by telling half-truths or omitting important information.
d. Advertise falsely, which is extremely common. For example, an ad may feature a lovely young, scantily clothed lady who has no interest at all in the product or service, but is just being paid to look pretty and sexy. This is just a subtle way of lying to consumers.
e. Lying about money, as is done by the government when they waste it, and as is done by many individuals, as well.
f. Lying with the body - with a smile, with a gesture or a glance or other seduction, and in other ways.
g. Lying to oneself. This is sometimes mistakenly called “positive thinking”. This is dangerous, and is not the same as praying or asking for guidance. Lying to yourself, which many people do on a daily basis, is about trying to convince yourself that things are not the way they really are. It is, in fact, a simple form of brainwashing or self-hypnosis in an attempt to put yourself to sleep to the truth.
An exception, perhaps, is the use of holy affirmations such as the 23rd Psalm of David. This psalm, along with others, can help stop negative thinking and help calm the mind. This prayer, and many others like it, are not exactly about lying to yourself. They are hopeful and positive thoughts that affirm what you want in your life. However, this is a fine line, so beware of lying to yourself, as well as to others, of course.
Lying can also be very subtle. It can mean leading a person on with gifts or praise, or even with criticism. It can mean telling a child a scary story to keep the child in line. It can mean lying to your spouse about your lustful thoughts toward others, and so on.
Learning to tell the truth and live the truth is a lifelong struggle for everyone! Let no one think they are above the fray, so to speak.
TENTH COMMANDMENT. You shall not covet. This is an interesting Commandment because most people do not use or understand the word covet. To covet means to want to steal from another. It does not just mean to envy. This fascinating Commandment means you should not seek or desire to take away or steal that which belongs to others. It is about integrity of desire in relation to action.
For example, let us say your neighbor has a lovely wife or husband. It is perfectly okay to desire that you should also have a lovely wife or husband. However, it is coveting if you secretly or openly would like to take away your neighbor’s husband or wife, and have him or her for yourself. This is a fine distinction, but a very important one.
An important political example. Many politicians today tell people that it is “not fair” that a few people own big houses and drive fancy cars, while most of the people do not. These politicians spend their time stirring up envy, hatred and a desire to tax and take the property and money of others.
This is called class warfare talk in the United States, and it is based on the writings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. These two 19th century political scientists based their entire world view on the concept that progress in human society is all about a class struggle, and hatred, envy and coveting between the rich and the poor. It is the theoretical basis of Marxism, communism and socialism.
Sadly, this is today a hallmark of the Democratic Party in the United States, and clearly the belief of President Barak Obama. However, this belief, attitude and rhetoric are directly opposed to the Tenth Commandment that warns us not to desire the possessions or wealth of our neighbors. Indeed, teaching this totally anti-biblical attitude tends to divide the nation, and stirs up anger, resentment, hatred and often ultimately violence.
This philosophy has been proven wrong in so many instances that it is amazing it is still taught on most college campuses, especially in Europe and America. It is simply wrong, meaning it does not work, in practice, and it does not make sense, either. Some people work hard, so they have more money. Some are lazy, so they have less. Allowing the poor to steal from the wealthy is not the answer.
Teaching the poor how to become wealthy is the answer, and is the system of economics called capitalism and Austrian economics, and the Chicago School of Economics of Milton Friedman. This system works wherever it is tried, even in modern Red China to some degree. Yet it is not taught in high schools and colleges, which is truly a shame. For more on this important subject, read Capitalism and Freedom on this website.
Additional information: The Tenth Commandment is quite specific, unlike most of the other Commandments. It states that you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, maidservant, manservant, animals, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. I believe these are spelled out to emphasize how inclusive this Commandment is. I believe this is important because just the attitude of envying, or desiring to have that which is not yours, is very damaging. This is why class warfare talk is so pernicious. If you want what your neighbor has, ask him or her about how he got what he has, and then work toward that end, but do not desire to steal that which others have.
THE ENTIRE BASIS FOR WESTERN CIVILIZATION
Although some will disagree, I believe the Ten Commandments are the real basis for modern Western civilization. Please allow me to explain. The Ten Commandments of Moses are a basic legal code that protects the innocent, punishes the guilty, establishes a right to own and control private property, allows for self-defense, forces people to treat each other civilly, and more.
In so doing, the Ten Commandments of Moses form the groundwork for the wonderful legal system we have today in many Western nations that protects those who are honest and decent, and hopefully jails those who lie, cheat, steal, murder, rape and otherwise harm society and its citizens. I believe this is the “big picture” concerning the Ten Commandments. It is a marvelous legal code to guide modern man in his quest for an advanced society.
Many people have forgotten this aspect of the Ten Commandments, though not the founders of America, who inscribed them all over the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, in every courtroom in the land, and in most early government buildings, as well. The fact that the Ten Commandments are now banned from the public schools and courtrooms of America, for example, is totally insane.
The argument is they are a “religious symbol”, when they are nothing of the sort. They are the basis for a legal system that has produced a sane society, and they should be hallowed, not banned.
One could argue that the real cause of the downfall of some nations today, including the communist nations, is that they do not abide by the Ten Commandments. They institutionalize lying, cheating, stealing and even murdering. If this ever happens in America, she, too, will go down. I believe that to the extent that a nation elevates the Ten Commandments, and it citizens actually practice them, that nation will prosper. This is not because that nation is “favored by God”, but because the Ten Commandments are basic legal principles needed for an orderly and prosperous society. This, once again, is why class warfare talk by the Democratic Party in the USA is so damaging to everyone. These politicians repeat over and over that their opposition just favors the rich. Not so. The opposition to class warfare favors freedom, and allowing people to accumulate wealth if they earn it legally and properly.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IS NOT A “RELIGIOUS” SYSTEM
This article focuses on the Ten Commandments as a logical and common sense system of simple rules for living. A huge mistake, in my opinion, is to just associate them with Judaism or Christianity, as is the case today. It is true that Moses was a Hebrew, and they were given to him for his people, but that does not mean that: 1) they are religious in nature, 2) that one must be Jewish or Christian to follow them, or 3) that one must be religious at all to appreciate them.
Many secular people dislike the bible, which they consider outdated, bigoted or paternalistic, and they throw away the Ten Commandments as well. Then they wonder why their children lie, cheat, steal, do drugs, and their lives end up in ruins. Society needs basic rules of conduct and intent. The Ten Commandments are a moral code, not a religious order or religion. They are designed to help you live your life as happily and joyously as possible, with as few problems as possible.
THE WORD COMMANDMENT IN HEBREW DOES NOT MEAN A FIXED RULE, BUT RATHER A SIGNPOST
The word for commandment in the Hebrew bible, does not actually mean a rule. It has a different meaning entirely. The word commandment in Hebrew means a signpost. This is important because it is a much more sophisticated way to understand the Ten Commandments – as the Ten Signposts.
The Commandments are thus not meant only as rules for living. They are signposts that point you in the direction of a more spiritual, healthier, longer, and happier life. In this sense, they are like mathematical vectors or arrows on a signpost that point you in the right direction so you do not become lost. This is a more advanced understanding that can move a person forward very fast in one’s mental and spiritual development.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AS A WAY TO GAUGE A PERSON AND A SOCIETY
The word commandment in Hebrew also can mean a type of gauge, much like the gasoline gauge in an automobile. You can thus use the Ten Commandments as a way to gauge or measure of how well you are living your life, to tell you how you are doing in your life.
This is hard to do sometimes, because those who live a simple, honest, clean life do not always come out “ahead” in society’s terms such as wealth or perhaps “love”. However, following the Ten Commandments properly is still a wonderful way to gauge your life.
You can also gauge or measure the righteousness of an entire society by noting how well that society and its people, in general, practice the Ten Commandments. Do the people worship false gods such as sex, money, lust, fame, etc.? Do people swear by God and then disobey their oath of allegiance, for example, to the US Constitution which most have not even read? Do people balance their lives by taking off a day of work each week, rather than working too much or slacking off too much?
Furthermore, is marriage between a man and a woman held sacred, or do many people cheat on their spouses? Must you lock up everything to prevent it from being stolen? Are rape and murder common? Do people respect truth, or do they lie to each other and to themselves? And does the society pit the rich against the poor with its taxes and other policies, causing envy and covetousness? Evaluating communities and nations in this way may be extremely valuable. It is a far more spiritual, and often practical, means to discern the truth about a society than simply measuring its wealth or its technology.