Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 9

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

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The truth can be difficult – telling it, hearing it, living according to it, accepting that someone else has a different version of it than you do. As Christians, we seek to know God’s truth. Indeed, “the sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160).

So why is lying so easy? Why would people rather be polite than truthful? Simply, we take risks when we tell the truth. We risk losing relationship and reputation. We risk making others uncomfortable. We may risk revealing truth in a situation where another person has gone to great lengths to make sure the truth is covered up. But don’t we take the same risks when we lie? By lying we risk alienating those we love, we risk our integrity, and ultimately we risk our relationship with God.

Satan is the author of all lies. His conversation with our original parents in the Garden of Eden began with the ultimate of lies: “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1b) It is as though this first lie still lives in our subconscious – we may know the truth of God’s word and meditate on it day and night yet still doubt that this truth actually applies to us or the world in which we live. In desperate times we may even twist the Word to suit our own will, hoping that God didn’t really say what we think He said.

Or, most tragically, we may live a life full of lies that were cleverly hidden on the outside by a cloak of good works. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

The women of Grace Chapel were asked “What does the eighth commandment reveal about God?” Here are some of their answers:

  • We are representatives of God and thus show his truth to others by being truthful. It harms the neighbor whom we are commanded to love.
  • He is a God of truth and also cares for and watches over all of His creation.
  • He loves everyone the same and would not want one of His children spoken wrongly of.
  • He is true and does not tolerate falsehood.
  • God cares very much how we treat each other.
  • Through truth things are meant to be revealed. Lying in a desire to hurt others or protect one’s self is not godly motivation.

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For Week 10, please read Chapter 9 on the Ninth and Tenth Commandments. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What do these commandments reveal about God?
  2. In what ways does advertising create desire?
  3. What do you think “disordered desire” means?
  4. Give a past example of envy in your life. What harm did it cause?
  5. How can the church help us keep these commandments?
  6. How do these last 2 commandments act as a summary of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments)?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 8

“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

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I think that our small group of women at Grace Chapel was surprised in our discussion of how deep and far-reaching this commandment goes. Many of us tend to think that this commandment is simply saying we should not take anything that rightfully belongs to someone else. But this particular chapter helped many of us to see that “stealing” can be very deep-rooted in one’s culture, particularly the wealthy American one that we all share.

The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “What motivates people to steal?” Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Lack of resources (such as money or time) to get what they want or need
  • Poverty, lack of money or food
  • Apathy for others
  • Adrenaline, thrill, peer pressure
  • Temptation
  • Not knowing that God is sufficient for their needs and that He knows what they need
  • Survival
  • Fear (not trust) and greed (not thanksgiving)
  • Taking credit for someone else’s hard work

We are part of a culture that glorifies wealth and those who are wealthy. People see many example of institutional theft in our culture – for example, living on land that was stolen from native peoples, buying clothing made in poverty-stricken countries that use slave labor, or buying food at supermarkets that has been harvested by migrant workers who are not even paid a living wage.  In our human condition, we tend to want to find “loopholes” in the system and free ourselves from the fact that we may be stealing from people who we have never even met.

But not all wealthy people have gotten that way by stealing from others. Many wealthy people are excellent stewards of their money and give generously to those in need. So who are the “rich” that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 19:23-24? “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The answer seems to be in the attitude. No matter what your income is, if you are a Christian you are commanded to give and to give generously. Recognizing that Christ has freed us from living under the law, we must now accept that all of our income belongs to God and we are simply to be good stewards of what we have been given. And finally, as Hauerwas and Willimon put it, “So not to be caught by a world of theft requires prayer. The first attitude of prayer is to receive, not to ask, to listen rather than to speak, to be willing by prayer to be formed rather than to use prayer to inform. Through learning to receive, we may be a people capable of sharing.” (pg 114)

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For Week 9, please read Chapter 8 on the Eighth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What risks do we take when we tell the truth?
  2. What risks do we take when we lie?
  3. What gifts did God give us to help us speak the truth?
  4. How can we help others affirm the truth?
  5. Why would we rather be polite than truthful?
  6. What does this commandment reveal about God?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 7

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

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Again, another commandment that is simple and to the point. However, Christians don’t seem to struggle with the meaning of this commandment quite like we do with “You shall not murder.” But do we really understand the meaning of the 6th commandment? Does it simply mean not to have sex with someone other than your spouse? Or not to have sex outside of marriage? Does this commandment only apply to our physical relationships with other people? What about emotional adultery? Spiritual adultery? Can we commit adultery against God?

God refers to Israel as an unfaithful wife in the harshest of terms in the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples:

“Do not make treaties of any kind with the people living in the land. They are spiritual prostitutes, committing adultery against me by sacrificing to their gods. If you make peace with them, they will invite you to go with them to worship their gods, and you are likely to do it. (Exodus 34:15)

During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what fickle Israel does? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. (Jeremiah 3:6)

When the LORD first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute,* so some of her children will be born to you from other men. This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me, openly committing adultery against the LORD by worshiping other gods.” (Hosea 1:2)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the concept of adultery and makes it very personal — from the eye, to the hand, to the very inner places of the heart. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

Obviously, based on the words of Jesus, both single and married people can break this commandment. The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without being married?” Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Through lust or impure dating relationships
  • Lust is adultery so anyone can break this commandment
  • You can commit spiritual adultery towards God when devoted to someone or something else
  • Through fantasizing or giving yourself to other things/idols instead of to God
  • By viewing pornography
  • Lusting after someone who is married
  • Anything that compromises purity of heart, mind, or body is committing adultery

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For Week 8, please read Chapter 7 on the Seventh Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What motivates people to steal?
  2. How is a thief injured by stealing?
  3. How are theft and lying alike?
  4. How are theft and murder related?
  5. What is the good news of this commandment?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 6

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13

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This commandment is simple and to the point, yet Christians continually struggle to determine what exactly this commandment means for us. Does it mean “to kill” or “to murder”? Does this commandment apply to animals? Suicide? War? Does it apply to the accidental killing of another person? Does it apply to the government’s killing of a convicted criminal? Does it apply to the unborn? These are extraordinarily difficult questions that many people believe are not up to our government to decide.

God ordains and even orders the killing of others in many stories of the Old Testament. Is He allowing Israel to break the fifth commandment? According to Hauerwas and Willimon, “All life is God’s. In the Bible, when killing is done, it is done under the agency of God, not by individuals or in service to the state, for only God is to kill and to make alive.” (page 80)

How is this commandment fleshed out further in the person of Jesus Christ? Jesus makes no attempts to soften or simplify this commandment, but makes it more comprehensive by including anger, insults, and demanding reconciliation from the offending parties. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser…” (Matthew 5:21-25a)

The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?” Here are some of their answers:

  • You can murder someone’s reputation, hate them, wish they were dead, or even simply dead to you and out of your life.
  • The New Testament says that hatred of someone is equivalent to murder.
  • Hate kills a relationship. Then love can’t be shown as God would have you do.
  • You can take a person’s reason for living or his livelihood, or demean him.
  • You can be hateful towards someone in thoughts, words, or actions.
  • If you hate someone you have already committed murder in your heart.
  • It is possible to “kill” the image of God in others without slaying the person.

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For Week 7, please read Chapter 6 on the Sixth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why is sexual conduct taken so seriously by God?
  2. What does this commandment prohibit besides adultery?
  3. How can you break this commandment without being married?
  4. Why does our culture make this commandment so hard to keep?
  5. What does this commandment mean to those who are single?