The 10 Commandments Should Be Lived, Not Just Followed

Once there was a very sincere man who desired to live a holy life. He went to his rabbi to seek advice on how to do this. The rabbi congratulated him on his ambition, then asked, “How are you doing so far?” “Quite well, I think,” replied the man. Then the rabbi asked, “When you say well what do you mean?”

“I haven’t broken any of the commandments,” the man replied. I haven’t taken the Lord’s name in vain. I haven’t profaned the Sabbath day. I haven’t dishonored my father or mother. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t been unfaithful to my wife. I haven’t stolen anything. I haven’t bore false witness against anyone. And I haven’t coveted my neighbor’s wife.”

“I see,” said the rabbi. “So you haven’t broken any of the commandments?”

“That is right,” said the man with great pride.

“But have you kept the commandments?” the rabbi asked.

“What do you mean?” asked the man.

“I mean have you honored God’s holy name? Have you kept holy the Sabbath day? Have you loved and honored your parents? Have you sought to preserve and defend life? When was the last time you told your wife you loved her? Have you shared your goods with the poor? Have you defended the good name of anyone? When last did you put yourself out to help another in need?

The man was taken aback. But to his credit he went away and reflected on what the rabbi had said. He came to the realization that up to this point he had been merely intent on avoiding any wrong doing. It’s surprising how many people think this is the highest criterion of virtue. But the rabbi offered him a new vision of goodness: not merely to avoid evil, but to do good. Up to now he had a negative concept of goodness. Now the rabbi was offering him a positive concept of goodness. He had given him a new and much better compass to guide him, and new and more challenging path to follow.

We must be careful not to make the same mistake that the man did. We must not approach the commandments in a negative way because this leads to doing the bare minimum. We must approach them in a positive light.

And we must keep them in the right spirit. Obedience to the commandments must be motivated not by fear but by love. We don’t keep the Commandments so that God will love us; we live the Commandments because God loves us!

Jesus gave us a new, more exciting, and definitely challenging law; the law of love. Far from abolishing the old law, the new law goes beyond it, and so brings it to perfection. The summation of the new law is: love of God and love of neighbor. Love of God is reflected in how much we love our neighbor, and this is done by LIVING the Commandments.

As we continue on our Lenten journey it would be good for each one of us to take a serious look at the Ten Commandments, take some time to reflect on each one of them, and then honestly ask ourselves, Am I simply keeping the Commandments or and I truly living them each day? Remember that the whole purpose of this season is to ask God to help us CHANGE OUR HEARTS!

— Fr. Dennis, March 4, 2018