Why The Ten Commandments Still Belong In Our Society

By Art Lindsley

As attorneys, you have spent your lives studying, understanding, and applying this nation’s laws. You know that the Judeo-Christian principles—especially the precepts contained in the Ten Commandments—have influenced the United States legal system to some extent.

But how does that influence actually apply to our personal and public lives as individuals?

A specific thought or two on each of the Ten Commandments may help us understand why God’s moral law all of our ethical responsibilities in our personal and public lives.

1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

God is first. This means we should offer prophetic resistance to anything that would make itself a god, such as the totalitarian state.

2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.”

We must have no mental or material images that we would worship as an idol. Our work can often become an idol when we look to it for security instead of to God.

3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

Following God requires complete conviction. We should not take God’s name in vain with respect to his worship, whether in language, in oaths, or in promises. Perhaps the worst sin is not profanity but lip service. Martin Luther once said that God is sometimes more pleased with the curses of the wicked than the hallelujahs of the pious.

4. “Remember the Sabbath.”

We must set aside time for our Lord and for worship, fellowship, and devotion. This is essential if we are to integrate our faith and work and do our jobs for the glory of God.

5. “Honor your mother and father.”

Heritage is important. C.S. Lewis urged that we need to let the breezes of the centuries blow through our minds.

One way in which we can do this is to listen to the church leaders of the past. For example, many church leaders of the past have written about a theology of work and that can help us serve God more effectively and find more fulfillment in our jobs today.

6. “You shall not murder.”

Every person has dignity. The image of God is the only adequate basis on which murder can be condemned, because it provides the basis for our dignity.

The image of God is also a reason why we should help the poor. We help them not only because God commands it, but because they are made in the image of God.

7. “You shall not commit adultery.”

Fidelity is important. Marriage and family are at the core of society. If they fail, society will become poorer economically and spiritually.

8. “You shall not steal.”

Stealing is evil because private property and ownership are good. This commandment and other passages like Exodus 21:28-36; 22: 1-15; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; 23:24-25; and Proverbs 22:28 and 23:1 all uphold ownership and property rights.

9. “You shall not bear false witness.”

In our culture, “truth has fallen in the street” (Isaiah 59:14). Truth is replaced by rhetoric and spin. We are to be truthful because God is truthful. Above all, we must uphold the veracity, or truth, of God’s word.

10. “You shall not covet.”

There is a difference between desire and greed. We can condemn greed and envy without prohibiting a healthy desire for relationships and things. Justly decrying greed does not negate the value of serving people through business and free markets, for instance.

These are just some of the ways the Ten Commandments can provide an ethical framework for our lives and work. They illustrate what an enormous impact God’s law has on how we make wise decisions in our work, how we spend our money, and how we relate to other people in our communities and societies.

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Art Lindsley, Ph.D. is vice president of theological initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org) and author of C.S. Lewis’s Case for ChristTrue Truth, Love: The Ultimate Apologetic, and co-author with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner of Classical Apologetics.

The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics™ (IFWE) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.