The Ten CommandmentsGRACE MACKINNON
Dear Grace, My son and I were discussing the importance of the Ten Commandments and how they are to be used as a guide. He says they are part of the Old Testament and therefore we need not focus that much on them. His attitude towards them is that they are just a lot of "Do Nots." Can you help me explain why God gave us these commandments and why they are still important for us today?
it is certainly true that many people have this understanding or attitude towards
the Ten Commandments, it just so happens that the complete opposite is true. The
reality, you see, is that the reason God gave them to us was not to limit or restrict
us, but rather to set us free free from sin. Who is it that knows us better
than the One who made us? Because we belong to God who loves us somuch, the only
way we can be truly free and happy is when we live according to His ways. That
is when we become ‚??who we really are‚?Ě sons and daughters of the One, True,
and Living God. It is precisely when we try to be ‚??who we are not‚?Ě that we are
Deep within every human heart, God inscribes what is known
as the natural law, a sort of code of moral conduct by which our reason tells
us whether something is in conformity with our true human nature (Romans 2:15).
All of those things that are not in agreement with our nature we are obviously
to avoid because ultimately they will not fulfill us. In other words, they will
hinder and possibly destroy the possibility of attaining our true destiny, heaven.
This should make sense. Would we feed our bodies gasoline when they are made to
live on food and water? This same basic principle applies to the moral order of
our lives, for we are a people who are a unity of body and soul. The Ten Commandments
are, if ou will, a summary of this natural law, which reveals all that is good
for us. When the Hebrews, wandering in the desert, failed to obey the natural
law inscribed within them, God then gave to them the revealed law the
In his beautiful encyclical Veritatis Splendor
(the Splendor of Truth) the Holy Father John Paul II tells us that man‚??s freedom
is not unlimited. Every human person ‚??is called to accept the moral law given
by God. In fact, human freedom finds its authentic and complete fulfillment precisely
in the acceptance of that law. God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is
good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the
commandments. God's law does not reduce, much less do away with human freedom;
rather, it protects and promotes that freedom‚?Ě (n. 35).
Scriptures, a certain theme is woven in, that in life, there are two roads, the
road to life and the road to death. By tis we mean eternal life and eternal death,
for we know that this life here on earth is temporary. If you can imagine this:
On the road to life there are signposts, if you will, and these signposts are
the Ten Commandments. This connection between the commandments and eternal life
is clearly demonstrated by Jesus in the story of the rich young man in Matthew‚??s
Gospel. When asked, ‚??Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal life?‚?Ě He answered
him, ‚??If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments‚?Ě (Matthew 19: 16-17).
Yes, to many the commandments seem so challenging and restrictive, and this
is so because we live in a world where at every turn there is the temptation to
sin. But like Peter, who could do what seemed like the impossible when he walked
on water only by keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus (Matthew 15: 29-30), we too can
follow the Lord to our heavenly home. So, let us follow the ‚??signs.‚?Ě The road
to life is the right road to be on! You are indeed a god mother in wanting to
teach your children to love God.
Grace MacKinnon. "The Ten Commandments." (March, 2004).
permission of Grace MacKinnon.
MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. She
is the author of Dear
Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith published by Our Sunday Visitor.
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Copyright ¬© 2004 Grace D.