Wednesday, 4 December 2013
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely,“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9
Paul now makes a statement similar to what Jesus said in Mark 12. He was confronted with a question concerning the law as is seen in this exchange –
“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?'”
Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.'” Mark 12:28-31
Jesus showed that these are the two greatest commandments. In Matthew’s account of the same incident, He went on to say, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:40
Israel was given the Ten Commandments. They came from the Lord and were engraved on two tablets of stone. The first five commandments generally deal with man’s responsibility to God; the second set of five commandments by and large deal with man’s responsibility to neighbor. The second set are highlighted by Paul today. When one commits adultery, they violate the marriage bond set between two people, thus harming one’s fellow man.
Murder is an act committed against a fellow human being with willful intent. Accidental killing of another is considered differently under the law (see Deuteronomy 19:4-7, for example). Further, the execution of criminals for capital offenses is not considered murder. Rather, it is considered against God’s wishes to let a capital crime go unpunished. But the intentional taking of another life, murder, is an utter failure to lovingly consider one’s fellow man.
Next he cites the law against stealing. What a person has worked for or earned in whatever legal way is that person’s private property. To willfully take what belongs to another fails to regard that person’s right to his possessions. In so doing, it is showing a disregard for the life and efforts of the person who is being stolen from. This concept can and should be elevated to the wrongful taking of assets from citizens by a government, including unfair taxation. By levying taxes in an arbitrary manner, thus favoring some over others, it demonstrates an unloving attitude towards all citizens. By taking from producers, it demonstrates a disregard for their efforts; by handing out welfare to those who can work for themselves, it demonstrates a disregard for their value as productive members of society. It is harmful and unloving.
Bearing false witness is unloving in that it is injurious to the innocent. When someone is wrongfully testified against, their rights as individuals are stripped and they become accountable for crimes they haven’t committed. A good example of this from the Old Testament concerns Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21. False testimony against him led to his death and his family inheritance being stolen away.
Coveting harms one’s fellow man because it inevitably leads to a violation of some other commandment. Coveting the wife of another will lead to adultery. Coveting someone’s personal property will lead to theft. Coveting one’s position or authority will lead to false testimony against them in order to usurp them. Further, coveting in particular will inevitably violate some of the first set of commandments and thus it shows a lack of love not only for others, but for God as well.
And so Paul gives the remedy to us in order to keep from violating these, and “any other commandment” that may apply, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” No one would appreciate their own wife committing adultery against them; the thought of being murdered isn’t nearly as pleasing to a murderer as killing others; where theft of others may seem trivial, the same person will feel completely violated when their property is stolen; a person who has borne false witness may shrug off the sentence of the one they bore that witness against, until they are in the same cell with them, having been falsely testified against by another; and no coveter would sleep well knowing that someone else was continuously coveting what they possessed.
In the end, when the shoe is on the other foot, none of these crimes seems pleasant. By loving others as one loves themselves, we take away such thoughts and replace them with a right attitude toward our fellow man.
Life application: When you are contemplating harming another person in some way, consider how it would be if you were so harmed. In today’s wicked world, we can be small beacons of light if we simply hold fast to the words of the Bible and the faith we possess.
Lord, you have summed up the commandments by tying them all together in love for God and love for others. I love You and want to please You, but at times I’m less loving toward others. Help me to be a complete and responsible follower of You by loving as You love – completely and without holding it back from those I otherwise find it hard to love. Thank You Lord. Amen.