I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. [Matthew 5:18-19 (NLT)]
As often happens while searching the internet for one thing, I found another. In this case, it was a 2010 article by Christopher Hitchens for Vanity Fair magazine. Writing about the Ten Commandments, he suggested it was time to re-chisel those laws set in stone. Hitchens proposed disposing of some and adding a few others. At first, I thought the article was tongue-in-cheek; it wasn’t—he was dead serious in his assertions.
Admittedly, in our modern world there is room for a broadening interpretation of those very specific rules, but I seriously doubt they need rewriting or deletion. That many people ignore them is no reason to abandon them either. In our home state, it seems that many drivers don’t obey red lights (considering them mere suggestions), but that certainly doesn’t mean we should get rid of them altogether! The problem isn’t with the law; it’s with the people!
Just because we seem to live in what often appears to be a godless society, I don’t think we should throw out the first commandment. Granted, most of us don’t worship Baal, erect Ashtoreth poles or sacrifice children to Molech, but we do seem to worship the false gods of fame, wealth, beauty and self. Do we erect idols? No, but we idolize celebrities. As for taking the Lord’s name in vain—just because profanity and even blasphemy have become commonplace in movies, television, and the music industry, doesn’t mean it’s time to dispense with that commandment. Regarding keeping holy the Sabbath day—while some may disagree on which day of the week it actually is, if we truly kept it holy, we’d have to reserve seats at our churches instead of tee times at the golf course. Disrespect for one’s parents seems to be increasing while the authority parents have over their children is decreasing. Worse, some parents seem quite willing to abandon their responsibilities altogether, which is probably against the spirit of that commandment, as well. When it comes to murder, the nightly news makes it clear that killing others has become the way many settle scores, win arguments, prove manhood, or retaliate for being cut off in traffic. Between the body count and the words and actions of contempt, malice and hatred expressed daily, it appears we desperately need that commandment. As for bearing false witness, just hearing a few political ads tells me that certainly hasn’t gone out of style over the centuries. Nor, it seems, has adultery! The tabloids keep us up to date on all of the adulterous adventures of the rich and famous and I wonder how many young people could define the words virtue, monogamy, or chastity. As for stealing—that continues both overtly and covertly. People are mugged, banks robbed, and identities stolen; there’s insider trading, currency manipulation, bribery and corporate espionage. We steal when people are paid “under the table,” disability is collected by an able person or income taxes are evaded. As for coveting, one look at the amount of credit card debt in this nation tells me we’re filled with desire for what isn’t ours. Consumerism and conspicuous consumption are just newer words for that old offense of covetousness. While we may not covet our neighbor’s donkey, ox or spouse, we seem to want everything else he has! It’s not the Ten Commandments that need to be re-chiseled—it’s us!
Granted, Hitchens did suggest adding a commandment about turning off your cell phone, which probably is a good idea but, by the end of his article, I only felt sorry for this godless man. Rather than rewrite the Ten Commandments into something a little more like The Ten Suggestions for a Satisfactory and Rewarding Life, we might want to re-read the original ones and evaluate our lives in their light. Granted, Jesus summarized the original ten into two simple rules, but those ten commands remain excellent and relevant guidelines for Christian behavior today.