How the Commandments Help Us
The children of Israel were really just a HUGE family as they wandered in the wilderness. They had their doubts, their worries, their times of peace, their times of conflict -- just as any family does. God gave the Israelites everything they needed -- manna (food) and water and protection. He gave them a contract -- laws for governing themselves harmoniously, for honoring God and each other. We're going to look at 3 of the Ten Commandments and see how they can help us make a difference in our own and others lives.
The 2nd Commandment (Ex. 20:4-5):
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:
Let's think of idols in a different way. How much time do you spend in front of the television? Are you being influenced by ads in any way to change your body, your clothes, your opinions? What about the internet? chat rooms? video games?
- For one week (you may only need one day), keep a journal of how you spend your time and what you think about. In order for this to be helpful, you have to be completely honest. And you can't change your patterns or habits just to look better on paper. You may want to make a spreadsheet or table with different categories, such as TV, sports, entertainment, social time, eating, family time, (homework if you have school during the summer), God time (prayer, study, reading the Bible). You can simply log your hours.
- Then go back and read and evaluate your journal, noting how you spend your time. Write down how the week went -- what was good, what could've been better.
- Now, decide to put God first, to stop making other things more important. This doesn't mean that you stay home and study the Bible 100% of the time. It just means that you really put God first.
- In order to find a balance, you may want to ask God on every decision (even the little ones) whether or not you should do something, and then obey His answer.
- Do another journal for a week and see how your life is different, how putting God first changes everything.
- You can continue to keep a journal of your time and thoughts or you can just continue to work on making God first in your life. Remember, this takes constant effort. But the effort is worth it!
The 3rd Commandment (Ex. 20:7):
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
How often do you hear or say, "Oh God?" Decide to eliminate the saying, "Oh, God" from your vocabulary. Just about everyone says it, and yet, everyone who does is breaking the 3rd commandment. And what is the last part of the commandment? "[T]he Lord will not hold him guiltless." That's not an encouraging thought!
You may want to make this a family "contest."
- Each of you should keep his or her own jar somewhere central so everyone knows where it is.
- Decide what the penalty is going to be for saying it each time -- 25 cents, $1 dollar, etc. (or maybe it's not money).
- Each time someone says, "Oh God" or "God damn it" or something to that effect, he or she MUST put money into that jar or pay the penalty.
- See how much money is in that jar at the end of the week. You can let the money add up for a month or so if you want.
- You have to do something for the other members of your family with that money -- buy ice cream, take them out to dinner, buy movie tickets, do extra work around the house, etc.
- Continue to do this until you are able to get through a week without having any money in the jars.
While this may seem simple, it's a concrete way to help you realize just how often you say or hear God's name dishonored. And we want to honor God!
The 5th Commandment (Ex. 12):
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
God is our ultimate Parent, and we need to remind ourselves to honor God. One way of honoring God is to appreciate our parents. They do so much for us, often without thanks. Here are some ways to "honor" them.
- You can give your parents coupons that you make redeemable whenever they want to redeem them for various activities that you will do for them. Here are some suggestions. You know what would make your parents happy, so you'll have fun designing the coupons
- Make dinner.
- Baby-sit your younger sibling(s) so your parents can go out for the evening.
- Clean the house by yourself.
- Help them with their work.
- Do your chores before you're asked.
- Set aside time to play games or spend time with your family.
- Do a project for your family:
- Is there a project your mom or dad always
wanted done and has never had the time to do
it -- cleaning out the garage? cleaning out
the closets? putting pictures in an album? making
shelving in closets? tiling the bathroom? planting
a garden? changing the landscape around the
house? painting the rooms? making a dog house?
getting pictures framed? Summer is a great time
to do projects! It's not just a time to make
money for yourself or hang out with your friends
at the beach or pool.
- Decide when you're going to do the project.
Be the motivator or the leader.
- If you need or want their input, then ask.
Sometimes parents have specific ideas for what
they want. And you may not have the money to
buy the materials, depending on the project.
But, if possible, you could do a project as
- Free up your schedule and commit yourself
to doing whatever needs to be done.
- Listen to your parents. Don't pretend to listen, really listen.
- Decide to make a Parent Day (not Mother's Day or Father's Day). Tell them to pick a day, and you will do whatever they want. It could be that they want to go to the beach or go play tennis or just relax at home without any interruptions. It could be that they want to spend time with you. Whatever it is, make it happen. It could mean telling your friends you can't do anything with them that day. (This could also be a coupon.)
Enjoy honoring God and those around you!