If I was God and I was going to give the world “Ten Commandments” for life, they might look like this:
1. Thou shall not drive UNDER the speed limit.
2. Thou shall not enter the express checkout lane with 32 items.
3. Thou shall not write, sing, play, or even contemplate country music.
4. Thou shall use a turn signal before turning.
5. Thou shall not talk on thy cell phone in a public bathroom stall.
6. Thou shall not throw away perfectly good food.
7. Thou shall tip thy server generously.
8. Thou shall share thy Dr. Pepper if a neighbor is without.
9. Thou shall not double park thy vehicle or beast of burden.
10. Thou shall not dress-and thus abuse–thy pets.
Aren’t you glad I’m not God? My commandments are really just a list of my quirky likes and dislikes. I’m not so much interested in your likes. If I was God, I’d command people to do what I like. It would be about me.
I think some people see God’s “Ten Commandments” as a random list of God’s likes and dislikes. Others see them as a power move. “Let’s see. I’m God, so I get to tell people what to do. I’ll think of stuff people really like to do, and then I’ll order then not to do it…because I can. I’m God, after all!” God is either powering up or forcing his “pet peeve” list on us.
But what if those perceptions are mistaken? What if God is more like a dryer manufacturer? Stay with me here. We were recently given a brand new dryer, which came with an owner’s manual. In a bored moment, I scanned through it.
On the second page, there was this list of instructions for how to operate the dryer safely, so as not to maim or kill yourself. It had some “do” instructions and it had some “do not” instructions. I noticed by chance that there were exactly ten instructions or commands….like these:
* “Do not dry items that have been previously cleaned in, soaked in, or spotted with gasoline, cleaning solvents, kerosene, waxes, etc.” Uh oh. Looks like we’re going to have to start washing our clothes with water and maybe some soap.
* “Clean the lint screen before and after each load.” We’re good there.
* “Do not spray any kind of aerosol into, on or near the dryer at any time.” Darn it, we’ll have to stop spray painting the dryer drum every week!
* “Do not continue to use the dryer if you hear squeaking, grinding, rubbing or other unusual noises.” Wait! The dryer is NOT supposed to make those sounds?
(Fridgidaire: “All about the Use and Care of Your Dryer.”)
So, why does Frigidaire give you ten commands in their owner’s manual? Well, house fires are generally not good for your health, that’s why. They’re trying to protect and enhance your life.
This is precisely what God’s “Ten Commandments” are about. They are guidelines to us from the Creator of life for how life and relationships work best. It is not God powering up on us or randomly picking things that reflect his pet peeves. It is a loving God seeking to protect and enhance our lives.
So, when God opens with the instruction, “You shall have no other God’s before me,” this is not about God being obsessed with attention and control. It is God saying that no one else has more expertise about your life than He does. It is God guiding you to follow the instructions of the One Who most loves you.
It is not unlike a dryer manufacturer stating that you will void your warranty if you use an unapproved technician. No one knows the machine as well as the company that manufactured it. They are in the best position to repair it and guide its use. It is not egotism; It is wisdom.
In a similar way, no one cares about your best interests and mine more than God does. If you someone else’s wisdom (even your own) above His, you are going to take a loss. In love, then, God is instructs us to follow His counsel above any other.
With that in mind, maybe it’s a good time to read back through those instructions to see if our choices and relationships are being lived out in healthy ways.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol 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…
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
4. 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…
5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
(Source: The Bible, The New International Version. 1984 Biblica Inc., Exodus 20)