The following is a link to our reading from Exodus this morning:
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Look at the beginning of our reading from Exodus for this morning:
“Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
So let’s look at the first commandment: You shall have no other gods before me. You could read this as the command of a jealous God who cannot tolerate His people giving their attention to any other deity. You could see God as a petty tyrant who has an over-inflated ego and cannot stand divided loyalties. If you do, this command will indeed feel like an unbearable burden. But I think something else is going on here. I think God understands that the things that we turn into gods--money, security, success, power, pleasure, comfort, fitting in, getting ahead, and so on and so forth—never bring us the happiness and peace that we think they will bring us. None of the things I have named are bad in and of themselves. But when any one of these things becomes the primary focus of our lives. When any one of these things or anything else for that matter becomes the thing to which we give all our attention, our very heart and soul, then we have made them into a god, a god that will not bring us peace and happiness. A false god that will bring us pain and suffering. God knows this. God does not need our undivided attention, God just knows that the worship of anything other than God will bring us only unhappiness and suffering.
“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”
I remember feeling rather appalled when the Cadillac ad for their car the ERT came on during the Olympics last winter. You might remember it. A wealthy middle-aged American man struts around his large house touting the wonders of working all the time. He pokes fun at other countries who see the balance of work and rest differently. It ends with the man saying, “As for all the stuff—that’s the upside of only taking 2 weeks off.” I wondered how this ad appeared to the millions of Americans who not only don’t even get 2 weeks off, but only on a rare occasion get 1 day off during a week. I wondered how this ad appeared to the millions of Americans who work 6 or 7 days a week all year long and still can barely keep a roof over their family’s head and food on their table. I wondered what this kind of relentless work effort is doing to our health, our families, our very souls.
And finally I want to touch on the 10th commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
God gave us the Ten Commandments not to burden us, but to free us. Perhaps we should all stop calling them the Commandments and instead use the language of Godly Play, and call them the 10 best things, because as God already knows, following them will lead to freedom and peace.