As I was meditating on the 10 Commandments recently, I realized these life guidelines are a wonderful gift to us. In a perfect world, everyone would follow these commandments, suffering would be completely eliminated, and everyone would be full of love and free of worry. We would all be at peace with ourselves and wouldn’t be afraid to “be ourselves.” We would all be loved and accepted just as we are, with no pressure to conform to what society says is “right” and “wrong”, and our uniqueness would be appreciated. We would all know ourselves and be able to identify our gifts, we would know God, and we would know that underneath it all, we are pure LOVE. Everyone would lovingly share their natural God-given gifts and talents with each other to make the world a better place.
But we do not live in a perfect world. We have free will. While free will is generally a wonderful gift (without it, we would not be able to grow), unfortunately it allows for all of us to occasionally take some actions out of fear rather than love. Each action taken out of fear eventually causes suffering, either in our own life or someone else’s. That is exactly what the 10 Commandments are trying to prevent.
The 10 Commandments are not secrets at all. They are widely known and accepted by various religions, but they are not always followed. When reading the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17 of the bible (NIV), initially they seem very harsh and instill fear in me. After spending some time meditating on them, I see the reasons behind them and see that they are all based on LOVE. They are guidelines to help us avoid suffering. Here is my attempt at a “loving” 2014 interpretation of the 10 Commandments:
1. Make God (a.k.a. “LOVE”) the #1 priority in your life.
Having complete faith and trust in God will allow you to let go of all your worries, give them up to God, and live in peace. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Let Go. Let God.”
God is the one constant in your life. Everything and everyone else will come and go, but your creator will never leave you. During the difficult times in life, trust that everything is happening exactly as it should. I believe that everything happens for a reason and always for the greatest good, even though we may not understand the reasoning right away. I believe that there are no accidents in life, and every experience we encounter each day is a gift. My trust in God is what gets me through the difficult times, and those times have proven to be some of the greatest blessings in my life. Remember that you are not the master planner of your life, and everything will always work out for the best in the end. When you are able to give all your worries up to God and let go of trying to be the master planner of your life, fear will be replaced with LOVE, and you will know peace.
So, how do you make God the #1 priority in your life?
It all starts with loving yourself. When you make the time for self-care and you really take the time to get to know, love, and accept yourself exactly as you are, you will find God within you. When you love yourself, you will respect your life and your body. You will want to feed your body healthy foods and feed your mind only healthy thoughts. You will want to spend more time on your personal growth, trying to better yourself each day so you can be the best person you can be.
Society tells us self-care is selfish. Society tells us to take care of everyone else first and put ourselves last. I believe this commandment is telling us the opposite. It is telling us to put God first. Since God is within you, the more time you focus on loving yourself, the more you will come to know Him. When you take the time to care for yourself, you will be better able to care for others. If you don’t love yourself, it is impossible to love others. God speaks to us in the silence, so if you don’t take time to be still, it is very difficult to hear God. Since God IS love, the more time you spend getting to know yourself and God, the more you will be filled with love. Eventually, you will be so full of love that the love will start to pour out onto others. Your actions will be done out of pure love rather than guilt or obligation, and you will be fulfilling your purpose on this earth.
If anyone or anything besides God is #1 in your life, it will take away your inner peace and cause suffering. This includes money, addictions, power, possessions, etc. Let go of your need for these things, and trust that God will provide whatever is needed in your life.
Do you feel at peace right now? If not, ask yourself what or who is the top priority in your life.
The 1st Commandment from Exodus 20:3 NIV states:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
2. Focus your time and energy on relationships rather than possessions.
We all came into this life with no possessions and will leave this life with no possessions. Do not worship or get too attached to your possessions. All possessions come and go, and they don’t really belong to us anyway. Everything we have belongs to God and is a gift from God. Spending too much time and energy consumed with acquiring and maintaining possessions leads to an empty life. Remember, “The best things in life aren’t things.” At the end of your life, the shiny car you drove or the house you owned will not matter. The only things that will matter are the relationships you had: with God, with yourself, and with others. Take the time to nurture your relationships. LOVE comes first.
The 2nd Commandment from Exodus 20:4-6 NIV states:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3. THINK before you speak. Is it: True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind? If not, keep it to yourself. Everything you say should be done out of love.
Speak only kind words about yourself, about God, and about others. Since God is within you and God created you, speaking negatively about yourself is the same as speaking negatively about God.
Speaking poorly about yourself, God, or others will destroy your inner peace, so do your best to keep your thoughts and words positive. Philippians 4:8 states: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
There are many proverbs and verses in the bible that promote the idea of thinking before you speak.
Proverbs 29:20 states: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. “
Proverbs 10:19 states: “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”
James 1:19 states: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”
Ecclesiastes 5:2 states: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”
The 3rd Commandment from Exodus 20:7 NIV states:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
4. Each week, take a full day off to recharge.
This is my favorite tip, and the one practice that has made the greatest impact in my life! Since following this advice, I have come to know myself better, I feel like I know God much better, I feel like I know what my true priorities are in life, and I feel relaxed, happier, less-stressed, and much more at peace.
Each week, set a day aside to rest. Do your best to plan all your work around that day each week. Spend the day enjoying your family and friends, and take the time to stop and truly appreciate all the blessings surrounding you. Allow spontaneity, especially if you follow a strict schedule the other 6 days of the week. Allow yourself to get bored once in a while and really get to know your true self. Be fully present wherever you are, and focus completely on what you are doing. Notice the little things, and try to spend the day in a state of gratitude. You may be surprised what a positive impact this will make on your life, and may find that allowing yourself the time to relax and recharge actually makes you more productive.
The 4th commandment is a blessing, and if more people followed this commandment and took the time to relax and recharge each week, I think people would have much less stress in their lives, much more peace, and families would be much stronger. It is personally my favorite day of the week!
The 4th Commandment from Exodus 20:8-11 NIV states:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
5. Respect your elders, and take advice from those you admire.
When you are a child, those who care for you generally have your best interest at heart. If you listen to them, you will be safe, protected, and live a long life. If you ignore their advice, you will be putting yourself and your life in danger. Take advantage of the wisdom your elders have gained, and listen to them so you don’t have to learn things for yourself the hard way.
The 5th Commandment from Exodus 20:12 NIV states:
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
6. Respect each other. Respect the environment and all the creatures of the earth. Do not intentionally harm anyone.
We are all one big family inhabiting this earth together. We need to love, respect, and accept each other. Every person and every thing we encounter each day is a gift. We need to recognize, appreciate, and respect all the gifts we have been given and treat them all with love.
The 6th Commandment from Exodus 20:13 NIV states:
“You shall not murder.”
7. Keep your promises. Help others to keep their promises.
Broken promises cause suffering. If you aren’t positive you can keep a promise, don’t make it. Select your words carefully. Instead of saying, “I will…” get into the habit of saying “I will try…” or “I might…” or “I’m planning to…” Sometimes unforeseen circumstances prevent you from doing what you say and promises are broken, causing disappointment. I rarely make promises, but when I do, I take them seriously and make sure I can fulfill the promise I made.
Also, do not interfere with a promise someone else has made, especially if it is a vow in marriage. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly. When two people love each other and take the vows of marriage, it is a promise they make to each other and to God. Everyone needs to respect this promise.
The 7th Commandment from Exodus 20:14 NIV states:
“You shall not commit adultery.”
8. Respect the belongings of others.
Recognize that people work hard to earn everything they have. If you want something, you must also work hard to earn it. Do not take what doesn’t belong to you. Also, do not be afraid to ask if you need something. Matthew 7:7 NIV states: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you want something, work for it. If you need something, simply ask, but do not steal.
The 8th Commandment from Exodus 20:15 NIV states:
“You shall not steal.”
9. Be honest with yourself and others, and treat everyone with love and respect.
Be completely honest with yourself and others. Don’t say yes when you mean no. Doing things just to impress or please others doesn’t help anyone, and it will only cause you resentment in the long run. Make sure EVERYTHING you do is done out of love. Doing anything out of guilt or obligation is not an act of love.
Speak only kind words about others. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. Do not gossip, spread rumors, or consume your precious time with the way others are living their lives. Rather, put your time and energy into improving your own life and helping others to do the same.
The 9th Commandment from Exodus 20:16 NIV states:
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
10. Be grateful for what you have.
I believe the attitude of gratitude will always bring happiness and peace. Focus on your blessings and give thanks rather than focusing on your wants. When you focus on your wants, you are focusing on the things you are lacking in your life, and that just puts you into a state of fear. On the other hand, being grateful puts the focus on love and abundance. Instead of always going after the latest model car, phone, etc., learn to be content with what you have. According to Buddha, craving and desire are two of the biggest causes of suffering.
The 10th Commandment from Exodus 20:17 NIV states:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
If everyone followed these 10 commandments all the time, I believe suffering would be nearly, if not completely eliminated, and we would all be at peace. But the reality is, we are all human. We all make mistakes and break some of these commandments from time to time. When that happens, we can guarantee that someone will pay the price for our mistakes. We may cause our own suffering, or we may cause the suffering of someone else. But the good news is, it is not the end of the world and we can be forgiven if we just ask for it. We can wake up the next morning, thank God for a brand new day, and start new.
Overall, I think Jesus summed up the 10 commandments perfectly in Mark 12:30-31 NIV
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Also, you can never go wrong if you follow the golden rule: “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
May your days be filled with love, peace and blessings!