Duty and the Ten Commandments - Page 3


Foundation of Old Testament teaching

No one knows what happened in the end to the two tablets of stone, but the Ten Commandments themselves remain to this day.  You will find them in the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus, and they are also printed in the Church Catechism in the Prayer Book.  They were the first real message to this planet from God, and as such are far more startling and far more important than any message from outer space could ever be.  They are the foundation of all the teaching in the Old Testament.  Jesus was once asked what was the greatest commandment of the Jewish Law, and he summed up the Ten Commandments by saying, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’.  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ “ (NRSV, Matthew 22:34-40) (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).

Jesus explained their full meaning

What Jesus did was to take the Ten Commandments and explain their full meaning.  For example, the Sixth Commandment is “You shall not murder”.  As we are not likely to commit a murder, we might think that the Sixth Commandment has nothing to do with us.  But Jesus showed how much more it means than seems at first sight.  “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times. ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgement’.  But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister (without cause), you will be liable to judgement …” (NRSV, Matthew 5:21-22).  So the Sixth Commandment also forbids us to hate or be angry with anyone, and the Catechism explains it is these words: “My duty towards my Neighbour is…To hurt nobody by word nor deed…To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart…”. (1)