The Fifth Commandment

I’m well aware that I won the parental lottery. If you’ve ever met my mom, you know that she’s the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. She’d give you the world if she could. Everything I know of kindness, I’ve learned from her. My dad was the one who disciplined me when I misbehaved, and in this regard, I’d say that he was more stern than strict as he was unwavering but not unfair. He taught me life lessons. All of that said, he wasn’t a particularly serious man because I inherited my sense of humor from him.

My parents were (and are) supportive of me. They encouraged me to be smart, to be myself, and to do what made me happy. They always worked hard to provide for their children. They raised their daughters and their son the same way, showing preference for no one and no gender. There has never been a time that I doubted that they loved me. And when my dad died, I was upset, but I was also very grateful for having such an incredible dad.

Every Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I think of those who don’t have such excellent parents. To see everyone else celebrating theirs must be difficult. It wasn’t hard for me to honor my parents, which isn’t to say that I always did. But I can see how the fifth commandment would be difficult for those whose parents weren’t so great.

God commands us in Exodus 20:12 (NLT), “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

This is the first commandment God gives us that regards how we treat other people and how we interact with them. This makes sense since our parents are the first people we know. They provide for us. They shape us. They train us for and teach us about the world. It makes sense that we would honor them because they’re the reason we’re alive and one of the main reasons why we are how we are. This also expands out to how we interact with other people and how we treat God.

My mom is so good at sending me on a guilt trip that she once did it without actually doing it. She scolded me in a dream I once had. I’d been pretty rude to my sister for a couple of weeks. We’d been getting on each other’s nerves and bickering. In my dream, my mom called me out on it, saying I’d just been so mean to my sister lately. I felt so guilty when I woke up that I started being nicer to her that very day.

My dad told me to look at things from other people’s perspectives. I (mostly) remember waking up in the middle of the night once when I was quite little and asking my dad if I could sleep in the bed with him and my mom. I’ve been told that there was more than one occasion when my brother and I both did this, and although I don’t remember that part, it must’ve happened that night because I vividly remember talking to my dad about my brother when we got up. In the living room, which was lit only by the television screen, my dad told me to think about what it must’ve been like for my brother, how he must’ve woke up in the middle of the night and found my bed empty (we’ve been roommates since the day I was born), and how scared he must have been. So (I’m assuming) he made the same pilgrimage to my parents’ room that I’d made earlier that night, and my dad made me consider why that was.

From listening to my parents and obeying them in both of these instances and many others, it was engrained into me to be nice to others and to try to understand why they’re doing certain things or behaving certain ways. Honoring them taught me how to honor others.

And because I know how to honor my earthly parents, I also know how to honor my Heavenly Father.

I know from listening to my parents how to honor them. In college, I learned that they like to hear from me if I’m not physically with them. I called home about once a week and tried to come home once a month. When I was a child, I learned they wanted honesty and truth. I learned how to make them feel loved, what they expected of me, and how much it hurt them when I disappointed them.

My relationship with God is the same way. I read the Bible and see what He wants from and for all of His children, and through prayer and guidance, I can learn what His tailored desires for me and expectations of me are. I know to express my love to Him through true worship, obedience, and sacrifice. And the biggest way to honor Him, which is actually the limb that all of the afore mentioned branches extend from, is to spend time with Him.

We look at this verse as a commandment for children, but the truth is that’s only where it starts. As long as we have a mother and/or father, we are to honor them. By doing that, we also honor our Heavenly Father, who is most worthy of it. If we’ve been made new in Christ, that should be our main goal.
By Carrie Prevette

The Third Commandment

I remember Duke’s exit from the NCAA Tournament this past March relatively well. Mostly, I remember my anger towards South Carolina and the game in general. I remember terrible calls and time ticking off the clock at what felt like an alarming rate. I also remember thinking that those guys, some of whom I knew would be gone to the pros next season, deserved a longer song at the Big Dance and a better ending than what they got.

Here’s what I remember most: In the final moments of the game, there was a foul involving Luke Kennard. Despite the fact that Luke was the one who somehow ended up on the ground, the officials called a foul on him. If my memory serves me well, this call caused him to foul out of the game. They showed the replay of it a few times, and when the call was made, you could read Luke’s lips as clearly as if you’d been standing right beside of him. In a moment when many would’ve excused a profanity or two and when God’s name could’ve been said in vain without most people giving it a second thought, Luke exclaimed, “What in the world?!”

Duke fans present at my house were either stunned by the call to the point of silence or were indignant. My brother, who’s a UNC fan, simply read Luke’s lips aloud and said, “What an innocent man.”

Luke is a devout follower of Christ and is very open about his faith. Whether by habit or from conscious effort, Luke did not disappoint in the heat of the moment on college basketball’s biggest stage. When just about anyone watching the game wouldn’t have thrown stones had he broken it, Luke kept the third commandment.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7, ESV).

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name” (Exodus 20:7, NLT).

Of all the commandments, I looked forward to discussing this one the least. It’s the one I’m most conscious of frequently breaking. Idols can sort of sneak up on you or blind you, but it’s much more difficult to be unaware of what you’re saying.

As Alan said Sunday, the Hebrew word for “vain” means “to make empty.” I also like the NLT version of this verse because I think the word “misuse” fits well here too. To throw around God’s name so casually, it becomes meaningless. If we profess to love, worship, and serve God, it also becomes misused.

The third commandment doesn’t exist because God’s a stickler for diction nor is it born out of our concept of conceit or vanity. It was given because taking God’s name in vain demonstrates that God doesn’t mean that much to us after all, and if we claim otherwise, that makes us hypocrites.

That’s a hard thing to hear, isn’t it?

The world doesn’t have a reverence for God and His name, but we should if we call Him Lord. There should be a difference in us that manifests itself in many ways in our lives, including our speech.

James writes, “For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue– a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so” (James 3:7-10, NRSV).

James understood the hypocrisy of the tongue extremely well. He addresses the issue of our words in a much broader sense than God does in Exodus, but the point is the same: It isn’t right that we say one thing and turn around only to demonstrate another with the very same mouth.

Paul also writes about the difference that should be evident in us and how that should be reflected in our words. In Ephesians 4:21-24, 29-30 (NLT), Paul writes, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God– truly righteous and holy… Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.”

Taking God’s name in vain and misusing it hurts God because it shows we don’t care, which also causes sorrow to Him and the Holy Spirit, who’s the mediator in all of this.

Paul identifies bad language as part of our sinful nature and part of our old life, who we were before we came to believe in God. Not that God’s name is bad or foul but that to use it in an everyday way or to use it in regards to anything that isn’t good and holy is a bad thing directly connected to our language. So if we are new creatures living new lives in Christ, this sort of language shouldn’t be in our mouths.

All of this scripture portrays the power of our words. James calls out the difficulty with our tongues. Paul says any language that isn’t good and encouraging is of our sinful ways. And God tells us all the way back in Exodus that misusing His name will not go unpunished, which draws attention to how serious this is. This is because what we say can hurt others, hurt God, and hurt ourselves. God doesn’t want to be hurt, and He doesn’t want us to hurt anyone. To avoid this, we need to recognize the power of our language and be conscious of what we say.

By Carrie Prevette

The Fourth Commandment

I love not having anything to do on Sundays. Resting on the Sabbath is no problem for me. I ordinarily just go to church, eat, sleep, and watch T.V. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly lazy person, so this isn’t hard for me.

If you’re an active person, resting on Sunday may not come as easily to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. Because ultimately, the whole point is that what you do on your Sabbath isn’t labor.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy” (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT).

So no labor. But what about those who have to work on Sundays?

The most important part of the Sabbath is not the day of the week that we observe it. The seventh day is important because that was the day God rested after creating everything and because the number seven is symbolic of completion and wholeness (i.e., the seventh day of the week is the last day of the week, signaling its completion). If we have the option to observe the Sabbath on Sunday, we should because it is the seventh day. Life doesn’t always fall neatly into seven-day increments, though. The most important part of the Sabbath, whenever one can observe it, is that it is a day dedicated to God. This follows with the theme of the commands that precede it.

We do not get gold stars for not working on Sundays nor do we get gold stars for simply going to church. If the Sabbath is to be dedicated to God then we have to engage with God and the conversation about Him.

When the worship band plays, don’t just think about whether or not you like the songs. Think about what the lyrics are saying, and if a song resonates with you, express that to God, whether it’s by singing or dancing or raising your hands or meditating quietly. There’s no one way to worship, but we do need to worship.

When they’re taking up tithes and you are able to give, give. Whether you view it as a form of worship or sacrifice, do it for God by giving to God.

When someone prays aloud, don’t just stand there and listen to them. Talk to God by praying.

During the sermon, interact with the message. Personally, I take notes, and if it weren’t for this blog, I doubt I’d ever look back at most of them. I write down the points the speaker is making, but I also write down scripture that fits the message that wasn’t used and my own perspective on the scripture and points being made if they differ from the speaker’s.

An example of this is my post on the woman at the well. The way I see her and her story is different from how Alan views it all. We read the same scripture, but our life experiences (specifically, his as a man and mine as a woman) create different lenses through which we see and analyze the text. Thinking about these different perspectives and writing about my own was a way for me to interact with the message and the scripture.

This interaction with God and His word is what He wants from us and, I believe, what He ultimately commands us in Exodus 20. Not time when we’re with Him and ignoring Him, but time when we engage with Him.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the advice I’ve given here. (I believe it’s Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland who says, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”) I don’t always do or want to do these things, but if I want to observe the Sabbath and dedicate my time to God, I need to focus on Him, be mindful of Him, and interact with Him.

This is the importance of the Sabbath, whenever that may be for you if not on Sundays: dedicate your time to God. Not that we always want to or that we always find it easy but that God is always deserving of our best efforts and our affections.

By Carrie Prevette

P.S.- For more on resting and spending time with God, check out this post of mine from quite a while back. I hope you find it useful.

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