So there we were in the car driving home on a lovely almost-spring day also known as Easter. I was mentally shuffling through the heap of junk I call my brain, trying to remember all ten of the commandments.
I found myself stopped at around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section. I turned to Garry, my good Lutheran husband and asked him if he knows all ten commandments and he replied, with some irritation, he had to pay attention to traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one very slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying hard to avoid ramming him.
Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them either.
“It’s a sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two such educated souls as us cannot list all ten commandments.”
“Well there’s a lot of stuff about not making idols and coveting and all.”
“Yeah, and taking a day off once a week.”
So when I got home, I looked them up.
It turns out there really are a bunch of “how to behave to God” commandments and not all religions divide them up the same way. You can come up with as many as 15 (à la Mel Brooks “History of the World.”) or as few as 8. It depends on how you look at them and where you punctuate the sentences.
Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects and a second list which are my streamlined easier-to-remember set.
The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)
- “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.
- “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
- “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
- “You shall not murder.
- “You shall not commit adultery.
- “You shall not steal.
- “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
I thought I’d make them easier to remember, so here’s my take on them. Remember, mine are not etched in stone. For that matter, except for the ones Moses got on Sinai, none of them are.
The Serendipity Top Ten
- I’m God. The One and Only. Don’t forget it, not for a moment.
- Idols are O-U-T.
- No using God’s name to swear. Or maybe no swearing. I’m not sure. Maybe both.
- Take a break on the seventh day of your week. Really it doesn’t matter what day you choose because when I started making the world, there were no calendars. So take your pick, then stick to it. Everyone gets the same day off, including your family, guests, slaves, servants and animals. No work. Got that?
- Take care of your parents.
- Don’t murder anyone.
- Don’t cheat on your spouse. YOU know what I mean.
- Don’t steal stuff.
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t envy other people’s stuff. You’ve got your own.
Is that better? I’m just here to help.
Categories: Ethics and Philosophy, Religion, Sayings and Platitudes, Supernatural
Here is an easy way to remember the ‘Big Ten’ in a poem for children (Is it not a shame that few Christians teach them to their children these days? We wonder why our world goes so awry when we have lost our saltiness.) http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/teaching-children-the-ten-commandments/
Poem? That’s the only way I still know the alphabet. Little poems are the world’s best memory aids. I’m all ears (so to speak).
Love it, Marilyn: from the slow and only driver, to the simplified commandments, this is sheer delight to read, and very witty too. Yes, your revised commandments are a hell of a lot easier to learn (oops, probably broken six already!) than the original! xxx
I’ve always thought this stuff was way more complicated than it needed to be.
“Thou shalt not blah blah blah blah” works just fine as “Don’t steal. Don’t kill. Don’t screw around. Don’t swear. Don’t lie. Don’t envy his stuff … you’ve got your own stuff. Don’t build idols as gods, take care of your parents, take a day off and give everyone else a day off too … but remember, God’s gonna smite you if you’re a bad kid.”
I’d like to add “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
I appreciate your seriousness and commitment. I had written in a light vein.(read my last line, the one before the ending ‘Amen’). I realize now that it was not funny.
Yes, the ‘Don’t pollute’ commandment needs urgent obedience. In fact, I would say, ‘Don’t disturb the natural balances, the Eco-systems that have evolved over millions of years; and treat mother nature as your own mother.’
I like your version, though I do try to stick to “the golden rule”. I think a lot of the commandments are covered there (or at least the murder one is) 🙂
The golden rule was from Hillel who preceded Jesus in the wonder-working Rabbis of the Galilee. Except Hillel phrased it differently.
Hillel, when asked by a prospective convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one leg, replied: ‘That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.’
Theologians, Jewish and non-Jewish, have compared this version of the Golden Rule, stated in negative form, with that of Jesus, in the positive form. There is a failure to appreciate that this story is told, in Babylonian Aramaic, at least two hundred years after Hillel and probably much later. Moreover, in the same set of stories related in a Midrash, the hero is not Hillel at but Joshua. Thus “The Golden Rule” has probably been around for a very long time, certainly in Judaism and probably in other religions as well. Why not?
Your modernised version is certainly easier to remember and would appeal more to people I think, being couching in terms we can understand.
It’s pretty simple stuff, really. The rest is all commentary and theology.
Not very sure about the sabbath part. What about milk-giving cows and egg-laying hens? And the housewife, giving and laying out happiness forever?
I made myself only one commandment: “Go and be happy!”
So far, I have only one convert to this simplified outlook of life, my daughter. When her happiness showers me, I know that that one commandment is good enough for simple folks like us.
But, bless your soul, who can count up to ten!
Work is forbidden, but no one says you can’t give birth or lay eggs on the Sabbath. As for housewives taking care of their families, for a lot of women that’s reflex. I loved doing it for a lot of years. Then I got older and tireder and decided it was time for others to take a turn. Basically — setting aside for the moment the “how to relate to God” commandments, they are pretty basic. Don’t kill people Don’t steal their stuff. Don’t mess around with other people’s spouses. Don’t swear. Don’t lie. Don’t envy. Pretty bottom-line stuff. The world would be a better place if everyone just followed those very simple ideas. Add in the good old golden rule and we’ve got a good world.
I’d add “don’t pollute your environment.”