WHY THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?
The question arises: Why use the Ten Commandments as an examination of conscience
for non-Christians, Christians, and Catholic Christians alike?
Commandments 4-10, Commandments about ourselves and our neighbor:
These are based on the concept of natural law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law.
The “binding rules of human nature” include the common understanding that:
We should honor and respect our fathers and mothers (Commandment 4):
Honor your father and mother.
It is wrong to kill (Commandment 5):
You shall not kill
It is wrong to commit adultery (Commandment 6 & 9):
You shall not commit adultery (6). You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (9).
It is wrong to steal or to become totally obsessed with the wealth of others to the extent of
hating them or wanting to do anything to obtain their wealth (Commandment 7 & 10):
You shall not steal (7). You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods (10).
It is wrong lie, to commit perjury, or to destroy the reputation of others (Commandment 8)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
From this perspective the Commandments are an extension of these binding rules of human nature.
See also Karl and Will Menninger’s study on sin: Karl and Will Menninger, psychiatrists, came to see that sin is rust that corrodes not only the soul, but mental health as well:
This study leads to the conclusion that sin (violations of the basic natural law, the Commandments) lead to fundamental issues with the soul and mind.
Commandments 1-3: Commandments about God
These make sense if we believe in God. How do we know that God exists?
See reasons to believe in God from reason and observation: http://semperaltius.com/God%20existence.htm
Also consider the inherent need for a higher power in our lives. (Check out Step 2 and 3 of Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 step program below):
AA Step 2
"[We] Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."
Many programs focus on participants having hope and faith that they will return to a healthy state. These programs may involve God, spirituality and meditation in the healing process. Not all programs focus on religion, however.
AA Step 3
"[We] Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."
AA is not strictly a Christian organization. Different groups work with different types of spirituality and religions, and choosing the right one can help participants feel more comfortable and accepted.
See all twelve steps at: http://www.recovery.org/topics/alcoholics-anonymous-12-step/
Once we believe in God, we realize that:
(1) God should have supreme importance in our lives: Commandment 1:
I am the Lord, Your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.
(2) We should respect the name of God: Commandment 2:
You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
(3) We should worship God on a regular basis: Commandment 3:
Remember to Keep the Lord’s Day Holy
WHY ALL THE IMPERATIVES?
The Commandments are stated in the imperative voice as commands. They are normally stated in a short form taken from the Old Testament to provide a simple way to memorize them. In the context of the original scripture, they were stated as imperatives along with explanations. Without reading the original scripture, we could easily be led to believe that God is totally demanding and commanding without explanation. As a loving Father, He explains what he has commanded. For a more complete explanation see: http://www.historicism.org/Documents/Jrnl/TenCommPt1.pdf
In the New Testament, Jesus explains the importance of the Commandments: “If you love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15).” He also provides the example in his entire life of how to keep the Commandments by loving His Father and his neighbor in self-sacrificing love. His life gives no evidence of worshipping other gods (1), using His Father’s name in vain (2), or neglecting the Sabbath (3). He always honors his father and mother (4). He does not kill, commit adultery or commit any sin of the flesh (5, 6, and 9). He does not lie. He is the Truth (8). He does not steal or even desire the wealth of others (7, 10). Jesus points out a way to live that is even beyond just keeping the Commandments: The Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12