I’m not a fan of the Ten Commandments. When I read them, I feel defensive. Perhaps they’re useful for running an institution where a high degree of authority and control are desired, such as in a prison, but to expect a thinking, growing person to see these rules as Truth or as a model for spiritual living? I don’t buy it. Here are a few reasons why.
The Ten Commandments
A set of rules and regulations for keeping law and order in society, circa 1445 B.C.
- I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
I can understand the desire to make a distinction between seeing God as Truth, Wisdom, and Love verses putting one’s faith in a person or object that is less than God, but if we have been given free will (which I believe we have) God wouldn’t tell us who or what to believe in. We’d be free to choose. Second, a “strange” God could encompass anything or anyone we haven’t been exposed to, such as a person from another country or culture. Therefore, this commandment encourages prejudice and racism, which goes against the nature of God.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
Definition of IN VAIN: 1) to no end: without success or results; 2) in an irreverent or blasphemous manner. I suppose this commandment is telling people to be purposeful and intentional when addressing God, but it sets God up as an authority outside the person. This goes contrary to my personal experience and understanding of God being inside of us. Plus, I believe that God can hold whatever we feel and bring to God, including our anger, rage, and confusion about our relationship with God.
3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.
Why do we need a “LORD’s Day?” If God is here, now, everywhere and always, we are never separate from God. Taking time out for ritual and remembrance is one thing, but singling one day out as being above another day is silly. Every day is sacred. Jesus understood this, which is why he challenged the notion of performing healings on the Sabbath.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
What if your mother and father are abusive? What does it mean to honor a person, anyway? To put them on a pedestal? To listen to them even when they’re wrong? I say, respect others, but don’t put yourself in harm’s way, and know that it’s okay to go against the will of any other person, including your parents, if something feels uncomfortable or bad.
5. You shall not kill.
What about in self-defense? What if you’re protecting the life of those you love, or little ones in your care? What about killing someone like Hitler (e.g., Dietrich Bonhoeffer)?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
When a large percentage of the population is doing or has done something, perhaps we should take time to understand the reasons. Maybe we don’t really want to be monogamous. Maybe our desire to have sex with another person is symbolic of our quest for union with God, and as long as we’re far from oneness, we’ll continue searching for it in other people.
7. You shall not steal.
I’m not a fan of stealing, but what about someone who takes food from another person (or a store) for survival, or to feed their family? What if a person has fallen on truly hard times and is homeless or without money. Sure we have government programs, but there are times when a person feels stuck and become desperate. Yes, there are options other than stealing, but when faced with starvation, survival instincts kick in, which is a good thing.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
I don’t have a problem with this one. I believe in being truthful. It’s the “you shall not” language that makes me cringe. How about, “If you bear false witness against your neighbor, it sets up bad karma. If you want others to trust and respect you, learn to treat others with love and respect.”
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
What about your neighbor’s husband, or children for that matter? This rule comes from a patriarchal society that treats women as property. It’s sexist and seeks to control women. If two consenting adults are coveting each other, there’s something else happening that needs to be looked at and dealt with.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
I don’t have an issue with this one either, but again, if someone is in a bad situation and they take something in a moment of desperation, I’d have difficulty coming down hard on them. I understand that to function as a society we need rules and regulations or rampant abuse could occur, but some situations require understanding and compassion, rather than strict observance of any law.
I think the Commandments should be rewritten from the perspective of those who seek growth in consciousness and who desire to become more compassionate, loving, and respectful of themselves and others. Instead of “commandments” I prefer “guiding principles.” Rather than “Thou shall not kill.” how about, “Respect the life that has been given to you and to others.” Then, if in a moment of self-defense you choose to kill or lie, you are choosing based on valuing your own life or the life of those in your care who you seek to protect. Other guiding principles could include the following:
- Practice meditation, mindfulness, prayer, the use of affirmations, and dream interpretation
- Identify twelve “Godly” or divine attributes that can serve as guides on your journey (e.g., knowledge, wisdom, kindness, fortitude, strength, truth, sight, grace, charity, patience, humility, respect)
- Blossom where you are planted
- Learn to love and accept yourself as you are; do the same for others
What are some of your guiding principles?