Thursday, March 30, 2006

Deuteronomy 7: Mysterious Grace

The conquest of Canaan is simultaneously an act of great love, and an act of great judgment by God. Great love on behalf of his chosen people, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of great influence in the region, and a land that would be theirs for generations to come. There would be great judgment on the Canaanites, the seven peoples greater and stronger than Israel; their perverse fertility religions had built up the wrath of God, which would soon be poured out through His instrument Israel. Great mercy would be shown to Israel, despite their wandering and whining, by giving them the land, taking it from the current residents. In the Bible, and by their nature, the grace and mercy of God are always undeserved. Conversely, in the Bible, the judgment of God is always deserved. Thus we can say that although undeserving, God blessed his chosen people, and because the Canaanites were deserving of wrath, he cursed them. What should make us wince when we read Deuteronomy 7 is not our human sense of justice being violated, but an awareness of our sinfulness like the Canaanite, and an awareness of how undeserving we are like an Israelite.

Even though we get a little sensitive about our “God of love” being so judgmental, his greatest act of love was an act of judgment. Where else do we see an act of great love and of great judgment in the Bible? At the cross we have the most loving event of all time, and also the worst, most unfair event of all time. In the judgment of God upon Jesus, we have life. In 1st Corinthians 5:21, it illustrates this great exchange and juxtaposition of judgment and love: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The central event of salvation was the most unfair, inhumane event of all time.

Lest we minimize the history of Israel and God’s dealings with her to allegory and illustrations, let’s think about the results of the conquest of Canaan. First of all, the Israelites were successful in occupying the land, but they did not exterminate the Canaanites. To be sure, many were killed, but also many were dispersed, and some even intermarried with Israelites. Let us not forget Rahab, the Canaanite woman from Jericho who would be part of the line of Jesus. Secondly, in God’s mysterious ways of grace, we see Jesus in the gospels, consorting with Samaritans (Hebrew-Canaanite mix), and going to the Decapolis, at that time known as the “land of the seven” according to Jewish tradition. In a land considered evil, he cast out a legion of demons and set a man free, and then sent him to tell people what God had done for him. (For more on the Decapolis, see here. Jesus showed his disciples what the kingdom would be like. It would be much different than a tiny, sliver of a nation-state; they would bring his kingdom to the world. The kingdom would encompass the entire globe and take root in all the cultures and peoples of the earth.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In Process: St. Augustine's Confessions

I am currently reading through St. Augustine's Confessions with the other formal Quest member. In it Augustine makes some brilliant observations about his coming to faith, here is one thought he had upon beginning to read the Bible which had particular resonations with me.

"So I made up my mind to examine the holy scriptures and see what kind of books they were. I discovered something that was at once beyond the understanding of the proud and hidden from the eyes of children. Its gait was humble, but the heights it reached were sublime" (pg. 60 Penguin or 3:5).

For more info on Augustine click here for a good Wikipedia article.

What's the Difference II: Sin and Suffering

In the early part of December I wrote a post titled "What's the Difference: An Authentic Look at World Faiths". Since then I have been thinking a bit about how different faiths answer the fundamental problems of our world. What do they say is at the root of war, famine, family struggles, etc. Being a Christian and having a B.A. in religious studies this has served to be an enriching project.

If you have questions you can either email them to me (check profile) or write a comment. Also, this is an editorial of sorts because after stating the truth claims of Christianity and Buddhism I follow them to what I see as the logical end, so keep that in mind. I should also say that if I come across as a bit of a hard-liner it is only in the effort to share truth. I have Buddhist friends (it's hard not to have them in Western Massachusetts) and we hang out often. And, oh yeah, I am still waiting for Matt to put his Deuteronomy post up--until then Deuteronomy ch.8 will have to wait. But, without further ado: What's the Difference II: Sin and Suffering.

Underlying all Christian beliefs is the most prominent Christian truth claim, namely Jesus death and resurrection, and one reason for it--as Christianity states--is sin. Sin is the fundamental state of all humans before God brings us into a relationship with himself, the root of it is in man's first assertion of self-dependence; since then sin has been passed down like a bad family heirloom all the way into our current historical context. Human sin, says Christianity, is responsible for wars, murders, theft, divorce, pollution, pretty much most of what we call crime. If sin is the problem, and as stated above Jesus Christ's death and resurrection is the solution, the road connecting the two is the word we hate: repentance. Repentance is literally to "turn away" from sin and turn towards God.

Buddhism, however, sees the problem as "suffering" (dukkha). The first of the Four Noble Truths is roughly: "all of life involves suffering". The second is that "suffering is the result of desire". The suffering and the problems of the world (see above) are the result of desire, accd. to Buddhism. Consequently, the solution to the problem of suffering is non-attachment, that we kick desire out like an unruly house guest. For Buddhism the solution is practiced through a variety of ways, traditionally it was monastic ascetism but for many western Buddhists meditation is a 'just as good' method of ridding one's attachment, and then suffering.

The difference between the two is vast. While Buddhism says that suffering is the major problem of the world Christianity says that suffering is the direct result of sin. The Christian says that while sin exists on this earth there will always be suffering. In so doing, Christianity sees the fundamental problem of the world not as suffering but as the cause of suffering, namely sin. The call to all humans then is to repent of both personal and corporate sin, only then will suffering begin to disappear as God's Kingdom and an New Creation take root in its place. Because Buddhism sees suffering as the main problem with the world, from a Christian perspective, it will never rid suffering from the world. The Buddhist quest to purge the soul of desire may be religiously athletic but in the end the world will still be messed up because sin is not addressed and Buddhists will be lacking the desire to really help uproot the problem at its root: sin. Thus, for the Christian, the purgation of desire is not a corrective to the world's fundamental problem. Further the best of Buddhist efforts to 'cure' the world end only in therapy, rather than repentance. This is so because if the problem is suffering then the best we can do is escape it and/or become insulated from it, rather than admitting that we are more often the catalyst for suffering, or to put it in Christian terms: that apart from Christ's redemptive work we are sinful.

Christians meanwhile by addressing the problem at its root and acknowledging that they are themselves the problem become renewed in Christ, by his death and resurrection, thus having renewed desire (rather than the Buddhist ideal of an absence of desire) to help usher in God's kingdom where there will be no death or mourning (Rev. 21:4) because the tree of sin will have been taken up by it's root, rather than clipping the branch of suffering off only for it grow back.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Emergent/Missional Church and ReformTheology

Have you been following the heated dialogue between reform theology people and emergent church people? (If not, it's the in thing--get with it!) Well, Andrew Jones has written an interesting post on the subject.

Click the link on the title, if you're interested.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Deuteronomy Chapter Seven: Justice and Election

This is a longer post than normal, even for the Deuteronomy series. If you have time read it all the way through, or come back to it. There should be a second part by Matt, the other Quest member, hopefully that will be soon (hi Matt!).

All comments are welcome.

Promises of bloodshed, war and total savagery, that might be the first impression of Deuteronomy chapter seven for a person looking from without; especially so if a person comes to the Bible presupposing it as a useless, or even horrible book. But this isn't the entire case, Deuteronomy chapter seven, understood in its context, is a loudspeaker giving voice to God's elective love and holy justice. I'll look at these two parts of the story somewhat more systematically in this post, so to provide a very clear picture of what, I see, as the heart of chapter seven.

First, I should say that the two prominent points of Deut. 7 (elective love and holy justice) all hinge on God as the initiator, sustainer, finisher. What this means is that God is the "prime mover"--to borrow an Aristotelian phrase. God sets Israel's conquest of the promised land into being and opens opportunities for them to receive ownership of the promised land. Therefore everything that Israel apparently accomplishes, they in fact do not; Israel, in the Old Testament, is always provided for in times of provision and punished in times of exile. In the OT Israel and God have a Parent/Infant relationship. This is often so clear, throughout the Bible, that we often gloss over it, but if we read carefully we understand that it is "when the Lord God brings [Israel] into the land [...] he clears away many nations before you" (ch.7 v.1); it is God who "brings" and "clears". There are many other verses, in ch. 7 alone, that indicate God as the sole provider for Israel; for the sake of time though I will trust this first verse will suffice.

We have a great window into understanding God's elective love when we read in v.7, "It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you. For you were the fewest of all peoples. What we see here is that God chose a nation that was puny in comparison to Egypt and the Canaanites (the inhabitants of the promised land). We rightly infer a few things here, God's omnipotence allows him to even use the weakest people group in accomplishing his plan, he therefore receives all the more glory. But also, we see God's love for a marginalized people group along with his desire to see them to a stable future, securing them, if they continue to follow him, in a good land (v.8-9, v.12-15). To step on a few toes, Israel is the greatest 'affrimative action' project ever put into motion: a damaged and hurt people group placed in a position of stability by grace.

In Deut. 7 holy justice is seen through God's promise of Israel's victory. When we read in v.2, "[...] and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, there you must utterly destroy them," we become instantly outraged, "What?! That isn't the God I know. I thought God was only about love? Surely this isn't love." we say. The response to our first reaction should always be a quest for a deeper level of understanding. Only then can we begin to see that if a totally righteous God declares his justice against an evil nation (ch.9 v.5), Christians must as assume that God is acting justly. Just as the man firmly rooted on this earth can never grasp the gravitational pull of the sun because of his detachment from it, us, in our sinfulness often forget the gravity of our sin, we focus on the 'here and now' of daily interactions. If we were to understand the grievances we cause each other and God we would begin to see that it is only by grace that we continue living in the first place. NC State Univ. Professor John Bowker writes, "There is no 'might is right' view of God in the Hebrew Bible: war is always a judicial business [...] Indeed God never fought on Israel's side at all. The question was always whether Israel was about to fight on God's side, the side of justice" (88 The Complete Bible Handbook). Then Bowker writes, "If the reason for war is justice, then its aim is peace" (89). So we see that peace is the ultimate aim of God's heart, but justice cannot be skirted in the acheivement of peace. So God decides to take Israel out of the pit of Egypt and crown them with compassion because he loves and has chosen Israel (election) but also because he desires that justice take place in Canaan (ch.9 v.5).

But this part of the post cannot end here, for what would that mean about our present situation, our historical context. Is war right? Who decides who deserves justice? Here we must understand that God in Deut. ch.7 is working in culture; since God desires to bless Israel with the promised land it must be achieved within an ancient near-eastern historical context, anything else and the unfolding fabric of God's sovereign story would be disturbed. We might continue cringing, while looking through the stylish eye-glasses of our post-enlightenment context, but in the end all our cringing will do us no good, simply put, this was how land was exchanged; if two parties desired it warfare happened, and warfare was common. Now though God has poured out his complete justice on the cross, so that mercy flourishes like a ripe fruit for those who turn away from themselves and enter into covenant with Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

In Review: J.I. Packer's Knowing God

I just finished J.I. Packer's classic Knowing God. Through the process of reading KG I found my prayer life beginning to change, or be redirected to God and away from any misconceptions that had snuck in. It was a bit of a tour de force of accessible theology covering attributes of God from mercy to wrath, goodness and severity. For those wanting some foundational theology, which is often like broccoli to a child--challenging to swallow-- but simultaneously rich and deeply biblical, it's perfect.

While remaining accessible Packer illuminates the great depths of God's personality, as revealed in Scripture. Both Packer's intelligence and his ability with the pen are clear throughout, though it is never put on display. Besides the Bible, Packer draws from Puritan theologians and many hymnists (Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley to name a few) in so doing he reminds us that to be good theologians we don't have to quote secular philosophy or parade an academic guise.

For anyone interested in 20th century evangelicalism, a clear and concise theology, or desiring a greater understanding of God's character, this would be a good place to start.

Here's a quote to leave you with:

For it is often the case, as all saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest" (97 Knowing God).

Friday, March 17, 2006

What is of True Importance?

If you are interested in reading through the article to which this post refers, click on the blue title above. It is definitely worth reading.

Jason Byassee, assistant editor of The Christian Century, wrote a guest column in the latest Christianity Today titled "The Almost Formerly Important". For those of you familiar with these two magazines you might instantly recognize the significance. CC is a bastion for the Christian liberal just as CT is a bastion, typically, for the Christian conservative. But not only that; we must remember that both CC and CT are competing magazines so it would seem like CT has given the enemy a loudspeaker. But not so. This act, which leans towards reconciliation, after on and off criticism of each other, is something that the politically conflicted Christian should be thankful for.

In the article itself Byassee gives a transparent congrats to evangelicals, "Congratulations, evangelicals: You're in charge." I mention the transparency because really his prose sets the congratulations up as "You're a puppet" rather than "You're in charge." Here is how Byassee does it: he mentions The Republican Party courting evangelicals: "The Republican Party has courted evangelicals long enough and well enough to have almost an insurmountable majority in Congress and, soon, in the supreme Court as well." Byassee tells us that it is the Republicans who have "courted" the evangelicals, therefore, leaving the evangelicals to be the puppet of a conservative ideology--whether they know it or not. Byassee's ironic subtlety bears witness to what is most likely the truth.

He goes on to describe his denomination's (Methodist) hey day of power, the impetus being the Prohibition. Byassee describes the goal of the Prohibition as to "spread Scriptural holiness across the land*." He then goes on to describe that their day is gone, all that is remaining are the monuments "built to [their] importance." Byassee's conclusion, in view of his denomination's past is that "church influence on politics is fickle." He then proceeds to warn evangelicals of erring in the same way: "do you really want to be allied with foul-mouthed know-it-alls on AM radio or with politicians who don't care a lick about Jesus?"

Byassee then slowly moves towards his conclusion, in the process pointing out that the religious left "is so far our of political power now that we're remembering the first task of the church is to be the church," then he says, in effect, we'll be waiting for you after your power has faded away.

In response to the article I'll say well done. It is about time we learn from the past, lay down our idols of political power and return to our Lord. Byassee uses an arresting quote from Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, perhaps hoping it will resonate with many CT readers, here it is: "Once you have made the world an end and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades matter more to him tha n prayers and sacraments and charity." Byassee here reminds us, via Lewis, that the end must always be faith in our Lord. Anything else, to use a phrase usually reserved for fundamentalists, is blasphemous idolatry it is trampling on Jesus Christ for the progress of man.

As biblical Christians we must hold fast to all of the tenets of our faith, not those of political parties be it liberal or conservative. As the other Christian magazine, namely Sojourners', phrase goes: "God is not a Republican or a Democrat." If you feel that Iraq is a just war we, as Byassee remarks, must be the first to repent rather than celebrate. If you want to take action against abortion, it must be done in a Kingdom manner, and here we aren't talking about the kingdom of this world. Similarly we are called to stand up for the poor, something the ideological conservative pigeon hole has prevented many evangelicals from doing. The list goes on, but what is imperative is to remember that the Bible has critiques for every worldview that isn't...well biblical. When an interviewer attempted to corner N.T. Wright under the label of a 'political Priest' he said that he didn't think he was a 'political Priest' but rather that he was claiming his allegiance to the Prince of Peace; are social action should be likewise.

*I might mention, as an aside, that the "Prohibition" had more to do with wives terrified that their husbands might commit an 'unmentionable' at a local pub than it did with pure "Scriptural holiness".

Monday, March 13, 2006

Deuteronomy Chapter Six: Mutual Flourishing

In the first four verses of Deuteronomy chapter six Moses says, "Hear Oh Israel" twice (v.3, v.4). We understand why in verse three, "so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey." What we come to understand early on in this chapter is that we are to listen to God for our own benefit. By this we get a clear picture of Moses' desire that Israel go on following God in the promised land, when they are without him.

The rest of verse four is what is called the "shema" "The Lord is our God, the Lord alone" the "shema" is a declaration of God's oneness. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament Israel will, in it's best times, cling to this declaration as the truth of God while they are living among people who worship false pagan fertility gods and agricultural deities. Moving along, Moses then calls on Israel to do more than just acknowledge the truth of God being the only sovereign over them, he charges Israel to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (v.5). So from verse four to verse five we see a natural progression from acknowledgement to adoration. More simply put, when Israel follows the command to know God as their creator--their Sovereign, all-powerful God--they naturally are moved to worship Him. This is one of the proofs of good theology, that after growing in the knowledge of God one will always be brought to adoration of God.

Moses' sermon continues, not only are the Israelites, and us by extension, to love him internally but love for God must possess a social dynamic. God's commands are to saturate times of meditation and times of action (as alluded to by the hand and head in v.8). Also they are to be written at every gateway and doorpost in the home, all of this to mean that love for God is not a personal thing only. It is both personal and social thing, it should saturate all aspects of existence (for a clearer picture of this read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 aloud).

But all this love for God does not vaporize once expressed. Acknowledging God as sovereign and giving Him glory lead to what I'll call mutual flourishing. Moses illustrates this rather well in verse 24 where he says, "Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good." So, as mentioned at the beginning of this post: commands, obedience to them, the acknowledgment of God as sovereign, and adoration of God all exist, partially for our benefit. I say partially because as of now the picture is not complete--in fact the most important part is missing; for me to really write about mutual flourishing it must be mutual--not just for us. So going back to Deuteronomy ch. Four verses five through seven we hear another reason to follow the law:

See, I have taught you decrees and laws
as the LORD my God commanded me, so
that you may follow
them in the land you
are entering to take possession of it.
Observe them carefully, for this will show

your wisdom and understanding to the
nations, who will hear about all these
decrees and say, "Surely
this great nation
is a wise and understanding people."

This is mutual flourishing; that God would receive all honor, glory, and praise and that He would sustain us, His people. J.I. Packer does a fine job articulating this in his book Knowing God (which I am currently reading for the first time) he writes, "God has voluntarily bound up his own happiness with theirs" (pg. 125).

Jesus tells us that "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them" (Luke 22:25) meaning that rulers of this world exalt themselves over their subjects so that they can gain profit at the expense of their underlings. To the rulers of this world their subjects are means to accomplishing their end (usually money and power). The perfect illustration of this style of leader is Pharaoh, the leader that God delivered Israel from. The biblical teaching of mutual flourishing declares that God is not Pharaoh, or Caesar, or (Donald Trump for that matter). God's desire that His name go forth into the world (Deuteronomy 4 v.5, Matthew 28:19) so that he receives praise, honor, glory and with that he will sustain and liberate all who are His.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Clash of Kingdoms

When the Pharisees come up to Jesus usually there is something afoot (just a little Bible study helper); so there is no oddity in Matthew Chapter 22 where we read "Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him" (v.15 NRSV). They start out in typical form: flattery. "'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us then, what do you think;" then the question arises and the treachery comes with it like a bad stench, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" (v16-17). This is the archetypical 'damned if you do damned if you don't' question because if Jesus replies with a revolutionary "NO!" Caesar will have actual grounds to execute him. If Jesus replies with a passive "yes" he will be alienated from those who might otherwise follow and listen to him (I should mention though, this is rarely a concern of Jesus'). The question remains.

Jesus bypasses the polarized responses of "yes" and "no" with, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax [...] Whose head is this, and whose title?" (v 20). Instinctively, I imagine, they reply, "The Emperor's," and here is Jesus' brilliance, "Give to the Emperor what is the Emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (v 21).

We are left wondering, and in awe with all those originally present. This because Jesus' true genius is in what he doesn't say as much as it is in what he actually says. The image of Caesar that is imprinted on the coin is the reason why it should go back to Caesar, just as the holy imago Dei (image of God) imprinted on our hearts is the reason why we must dedicate our entire lives to service. This is the genius of the unsaid, through the spring of a Pharisaical trap Jesus gives a sovereign decree that we belong to God, that we bear his image.

Some have attempted to view this verse as a proof-text lack of care for the material world, they say, " it is only a 'spiritual world that Jesus cared about'". This incorrect exegesis, first creates a false dichotomy; in Jesus' world there is no sacred and secular, it's all sacred and Jesus does care very much about this world--second, it misses the cryptic in Jesus sovereign decree. Jesus is in fact charging us to live in this world as belonging to God. This, of course, shapes our actions. In the book of Acts (ch. 17:7) early critics of the Christians say, "They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus." While the world toils to satisfy self and perpetuates the fierce mechanism for what often passes as 'progress' Christians "[act] contrary" to the way of the world, the way of Caesar.

Christianity, stretching back far into Judaism, has always been counter-cultural. That is it has always thought culture to be both sinful and have graces. Acts 17:7 is a picture of that, the Christians in Acts are going against the grain of the world to offer hope, through salvation and healing. Apparently this threatened the religious and political regimes at the time, perhaps because they sensed that there was a new kingdom flourishing, the kingdom of God.

For us now, as Christians, we should instinctively (of course due to the Holy Spirit) reply "Jesus" when our identity is put into question. When someone wonders what political party, or theology we belong to are first response should be, "I am with Jesus."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Deuteronomy Chapter Five: The Two Spheres

"Moses convened all Israel, and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances that I am addressing to you today; you shall learn them and observe them diligently" (Deut. ch. 5:1), this seems like the right place to start, with a call to assemble. Here Moses brings all of Israel together to listen to a list of commandments God has given them. As I have mentioned in past postings, this is a time of anticipation. However, anticipation often brings an ease in turning to the "right or the left" (v.32) and departing from the straight and narrow. The subtle draws of a promising future all to often give way to unfortunate ends, where the stuff of knowing God is exchanged for mere idolatry. This is what God wants to protect Israel from in Deuteronomy ch. five, and through the Ten Commandments.

Moses announces that the Lord established "this covenant" not with their ancestors but with all of them present (v.3). The covenant that Moses is refering to is the one that was initiated at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-24). Many of the Israelites hearing this in Deuteronomy wouldn't have been born at the time of Exodos ch. 19-24 so when Moses says, "Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, all of us here alive today" (v.3) he is sharing that the Ten Commandments have immediate importance with each of them, that the law is not something of the past but vastly important in their historical context. The Ten Commandments provide the framework for a faithful community and a faithful relationship with God.

Before I go into the Ten Commandments I should mention that until recently I had thought they were only for legalistic nuts or Charleton Heston. Now, through study of scripture and other 'wiser-than-me' authors I have come to believe that they still hold a prominent place within Christianity. I began to be turned on to this in John's Gospel. In the fourteenth and fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus seems to advocate the necessity of commandments, and the obedience to them (John 15:10, John 15:17, John 14:15). Jesus talks about commandments and love as if they were intertwined in a dance, central here is the idea that if we love Jesus we'll keep his commandments (our relationship to God, John 14:15), and if we are obedient to his message we will love one another (our relationship with each other John 15:17). The most important parts of life: God and each other.

In fact the Ten Commandments roughly break down into two spheres. The first four belong to our relationship with God and the following six relate to our relationship with each other or our community.

Here they go: (1) "I am the Lord your God" (that we'd acknowledge God's existence), (2) "You shall not make for yourself and idol," (that we'd not settle for anything less than God and that he'd receive true worship), (3) "You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God," (that we'd not trample on the way we largely relate to God, through words), (4) "Remember the sabbath day" (that we'd acknowledge God's sovereignty over time by dedicating a day to him, and that we'd be agents of social justice by giving those under us a day off). These first four sanctify the following six--if we don't understand God then we will never truly understand the world, that is since he is sovereign over creation and the creator of creation.

Next are the following six: (5) "Honor your father and mother" (obedience to those who brought us into the world is important since they have more understanding and are responsible for us), (6)"You shall not murder" ( question), (7) "Neither shall you commit adultery" ( question), (8) "Neither shall you steal" (again), (9) "Neither shall you covet your neighbors wife (see the next one), (10) "Neither shall you desire your neighbor's house, or field, or male or female slave," (wanting something that isn't yours can be very unhealthy if it takes away from expressing gratitude for what you have, as it usually does. Especially as seen in the prior commandment coveting people, or relationships, tears down social bonds and ruins community. The seed of covetnous leads us to undervalue the good of the 'present' while leading us forward down a destructive rabbit trail of "if I get this I'll be happy" or "consumerism").

Finally, Jesus bares witness to the importance the two spheres of these commandments when in the Gospel of Matthew he says the two most important commandments are " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' [...] 'Love your neighbor as yourself." Here Jesus shows us what is of the utmost importance: God and people, this happens to be the core message of Deuteronomy five.

I know this is brief, considering the wieght of these commandments, but I hope that more than a list of 'do nots' they reveal a way to live in a faithful relationship with God and in a loving community.