Can you imagine living in a law-free world—one with no rules, no restrictions, and no limits? We might think such a place would be utopia, but think again. It would be lawless, governed by utter chaos, anarchy, and destruction. We really could not survive in a law-free world.
The fact is, God, who is “not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33), wove life-promoting and life-protecting laws into the DNA of His creation. The entire universe operates by those laws that He put into place when He spoke it into existence. And yet human beings, the one part of His creation that God made in His image, transgressed His law right out of the gate. He gave the first man and woman in the garden of Eden some do’s for their freedoms and just one don’t for their protection (Gen. 2:16-17). All too quickly, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s one don’t. When they did, chaos and death were unleashed on the world, putting it under a curse and causing it to groan until Christ ushers in a new heaven and earth (Rom 8:20-21; Rev. 21:1-4).
When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai (Ex. 20:1-17), He wasn’t unveiling the laws of godly living for the first time. He intended for people made in His image to live this way from the beginning. At Mount Sinai, however, the miraculously rescued people of Israel were about to enter into a covenant with God as His special possession—a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). They needed a written constitution to guide their lives and relationships as God’s people. God met that need by etching life’s top ten do’s and don’ts on stone tablets for them. Let’s remind ourselves of these basic rules of life, starting with number ten.
#10: Don’t covet anything that belongs to someone else. Coveting starts in the mind; it’s an attitude of the heart associated with selfish pride and greed. Keeping our actions under control is tough enough; guarding our thought life can be even tougher. In fact, we require the Holy Spirit’s help. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
#9: Don’t give false testimony (lie). Sin started with a lie told by the devil, and Adam and Eve fell for it. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie. No relationship can endure when it becomes infected with falsehood—not a marriage, a friendship, a business partnership, or a government. Jesus said that if we continue in His word, then we would know the truth and the truth would set us free (see John 8:32).
#8: Don’t steal. Do you see the connection between this don’t and number ten? Stealing is fueled by a selfish attitude, a wicked desire to take what belongs to someone else whether by force, manipulation, or deceit (which potentially connects this don’t to numbers nine and six).
#7: Don’t commit adultery. Sexual sins stain the pages of Scripture (and human history) from Genesis to Revelation. The shame of transgressions such as adultery is that they are a bitter betrayal of trust. A lasting, fulfilling marriage is one where husband and wife keep only unto each other as long as they both shall live. It is no surprise that many Christian couples include 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a in their wedding ceremonies. This passage describes the kind of love that builds trust, a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
#6: Don’t murder. God is God, and we’re not. That isn’t a cliché; it’s the truth. Because we are made in God’s image, however, human life has a sacred quality about it. God told Noah after the worldwide flood, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image” (Gen. 9:6). In Psalm 139:13-14a, David wrote about God, “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.” No human being has the right to murder another person.
#5: Do honor your father and mother. Mom and Dad brought you into this world. If they were like most loving parents, they fed, clothed, nurtured, and taught you until you were able to handle life on your own. Enough said. They deserve your lifelong respect and care (see 1 Tim. 5:8).
#4: Do keep the Sabbath day holy. Which day, Saturday or Sunday? Well, that’s not really the main point of this command. The point is that while we must constantly work to survive and thrive in life—by the way, work can also be a very fulfilling activity—we also need a regular time for rest and appreciation of what God gives us (in other words, worship). God set the example for us in creation: six days of work, then a day of rest (Ex. 20:11).
#3: Don’t misuse God’s name. This command isn’t just about avoiding the use of profanity. God’s name represents who He is—His character, His very being. When we connect sin and evil with His name, we are committing blasphemy of the worst kind (see Matt. 12:31-32). When we call His name to buttress our credibility (“As God is my witness, I will …”), we need to follow through on our promises. Otherwise, we have used His name in a vain, or empty, way.
#2: Don’t make idols. When you think about it, idolatry amounts to people made in God’s image trying to fashion God in their image. The prophet Isaiah mocked the idol worshipers of his day for cutting down a tree in order to carve an image before which they bowed down and worshiped. Then they used the leftover wood of the same tree to build a fire for cooking! Isaiah was dumbfounded that “no one comes to his senses; no one has the perception or insight to say, ‘I burned half of it in the fire … should I make something detestable with the rest of it? Should I bow down to a block of wood?’ ” We’re just as ridiculous—and sinful—today when we idolize things such as fame and wealth. “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt. 6:24).
#1: Don’t worship anyone or anything but God. This one is the bottom line, the first and great commandment. Get this one right, and the others flow from it. Get this one wrong, and nothing goes right. Jesus expressed the number one don’t in the form of a do by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 to a lawyer who asked Him about the greatest command in the law. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). To love God wholeheartedly and love your neighbor as yourself gets to the heart of all of life’s most important do’s and don’ts. How great would it be to live in a world like that?
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.