In the previous ten articles we took stock of each of the Ten Commandments. With help from the rest of Scripture, we reached some surprising conclusions about what these commandments are really saying. Now it’s time to take the Ten Commandments test: have you kept the Ten Commandments? Note that if you have broken even one of the Ten Commandments on one occasion, you fail the test. As it is written in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”
The Commandments, again, read as follows:
1) I am the LORD your God…you shall have no other gods before me.
We saw in the first article in the series that to keep this commandment, one must put God first in thought, word and deed; in business and leisure; in the use of our money, time and talents. I think nearly all of us have flunked out at this point, but for interest’s sake let’s continue.
2) You shall not make for yourself a carved image…you shall not bow down to them or serve them…
You may not literally bow down to idols, but do you follow celebrities’ lives obsessively? Are you transfixed by the modern equivalent of carved images – digital images (television, internet, video games, etc.?) Are you caught up in the visible world around you or do you always keep your focus on the unseen God?
3) You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…
Most of us would have to admit we’ve broken this commandment, whether through habitual use of the Lord’s name as a curse or exclamation, or through pretentious religiosity which we used to further our own interests.
4) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…
There are different interpretations of how this Commandment applies today. Regardless, however, the spirit of this commandment is that we need to set apart a significant chunk of time to spend with God in worship, prayer, fellowship, Bible study and good deeds. That means a lot more than just showing up at a weekly church service.
5) Honour your father and your mother…
Anyone who went through a rebellious phase in their adolescence can step aside (there goes me). But honouring your parents is not only about obeying and respecting your parents while you are in their care. It is also about about caring for them in their old age.
6) You shall not murder.
Jesus taught us that we need not physically kill someone in order to break this commandment. Living in hatred, anger and malice toward another human being is enough. Can anyone claim innocence from this?
7) You shall not commit adultery.
In the same way, Jesus taught us that the proverbial ‘roving eye’ is as much a violation of the commandment as the physical act of adultery. Any of us who have looked at porn also stand condemned.
8) You shall not steal.
Most of us would be outraged at being labeled a thief, but when a broader definition of stealing is considered, most of us deserve to be. Between bribery, tax evasion, neglecting to return something borrowed, downloading music, movies and software that we haven’t paid for, most of us ought to consider ourselves caught red-handed.
9) You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
The person who claims he has never told a lie has just added one more to his tally. Most of us could hardly go a week without attempting to disguise or distort the truth in some way.
10) You shall not covet…
Whenever we are dissatisfied with what God has given us, and long for the things he has given to others, we are being covetous and idolatrous. Nearly all of us fall into this trap from time to time.
So, being honest I would have to say my score is 0 out of 10. And these are not the only commandments. These are a good representation of God’s moral law, but James 4:17 tells us that “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We have all failed to do a good deed that we knew we should do. The bottom line is, God’s commandments are impossible to keep through human effort: “By the works of the law no human being will be justified in God’s sight…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:20, 23).
The good news is, Jesus paid the price of our sins and God offers salvation as a gift to all who trust in him. He will then work with us through his Spirit and enable us to grow in righteousness (Romans 8:9-10). That is what this study of the Ten Commandments has been all about: shutting down our boasting (Romans 3:27), bringing us to rock bottom so that we can see that our only hope for justification is to pray, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)