Exodus 20:12-17
The Commands Regarding Your Neighbor
(The Ten Commandments, Part Two)

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. As we continue on from last week, we are studying the ten commandments. This week we have the second half of the Decalogue. As I said last week, we have God's grace in salvation coming before the ten commandments. What is recorded in the Decalogue is a way of life as a response towards God's grace. The response to God's grace is that we love God and that we love our neighbor. In the section in the first half, the text tells about loving God. In the section in the second half, the text tells about loving one's neighbor.

We Are To Respect The Relationships God Has Given

2. The Lord said, "Honor your father and mother," (verse twelve). There are some who count these words of this commandment in the first section of the Decalogue. [We] can see the parent in the community life of the home as set up by God and an entity that represents God. Therefore, since one's relationship with one's parents stands for a proxy relationship with God, this command reveals one's relationship with God even more than with another human. This way of seeing it has sufficient basis and also the two halves both are arranged in the configuration of five commands each.

3. But, after all, when we think of how that the first to the fourth commands deal directly with the worship of God, it seems like there is a certain distinction from the fifth one. Also, in the way the world is, parental relationships are relationships that extend to fellow human beings just like the commandments against murder, adultery, and theft that appear in the text right after it. For that reason I would regard this commandment as going into the second part here.

4. So, if we place this commandment in the latter part it seems that it has great significance here as it speaks regarding parents. No matter who the person, one's parents are specific individuals to him or her. In addition, these [bonds] are very personal as they share their lives together for a certain time. When the Lord speaks in regard to relationships with one's neighbor, he first of all speaks in regard to a very visible, specific, and definite individual [in the parent or parents].

5. Being an altruist is easy. But, loving a person close to us is often times very difficult to do. It may not be the case that a person speaking in regard to the peace of the world is at peace with his or her own family. But first of all, the Lord points to one's parents and says, "Honor your father and mother."

6. The word that is translated "honor" has the meaning of "respect." The reason parents are to be respected is not particularly given in the text. This means that the basis for why parents should be respected is not ultimately upon the father or the mother themselves. It isn't on them, rather its basis is on the Lord's command to do so. Because the Lord so wills it, the child will respect his or her parents. In this case, when we love our neighbor called parent, then we are doing just the same as respecting the relationships that God has given us.

7. By the way, this is often felt to be a commandment for "respecting and caring for one's aged parents." The relationship of child and parent certainly changes over each course of life. When the time a child depends on his or her parents is up, in hardly any time soon after, it comes time for a parent to depend on the child. We know that the time for a parent to support, nourish, and raise a child doesn't last forever. But, a child must respect his or her parents regardless of these changes in relationship. One reason for this is that God has so willed it.

8. This is the word of God which parents too are supposed to remember. Parents are sorry when they point so hard to themselves to their children, seeking within themselves the basis upon which they are supposed to be respected. But what the parents ought to be pointing out to their child is not themselves but God. In not pointing to God the parents themselves are giving up the basis upon which they are supposed to be getting their respect.

We Are To Respect What God Has Given To Our Neighbors

9. Then, four commandments, which are expressed in brief terms, follow next. "You shall not kill (murder). You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false witness against your neighbor," (verses thirteen through sixteen). Here it speaks about respecting the life of one's neighbor, and his or her marriage, possessions, and reputation. Loving one's neighbor is to respect what God has given your neighbor.

10. The Lord said, "You shall not kill," (verse thirteen). But, we should not overlook that the words of this commandment are under certain restrictions. This does not include the death penalty out of a legal proceeding. And also what gets confusing is that this does not include one's actions in war. Actually, scenes in which God orders the death penalty and scenes in which God orders war both appear in the same Old Testament scriptures. Some people might feel resistance to this; [especially as] these scenes overlap with the unending battles that are taking place in Palestine in modern times. In short, we will have to frankly admit that what the OT scriptures say has limitations which can be surmounted by the revelation in Jesus Christ. But still I think we want to be careful on several counts in regards to the above.

11. In ancient Israel, the death penalty and war were originally carried out only by divine order. In other words, it means that the death penalty was not carried out for the personal benefit of the authorities and war was not practiced merely for the benefit of the state. The exercise of these powers were strictly prohibited. The words of "You shall not kill" in the ten commandments actually forbade the killing of anyone due to a grudge or the seeking of personal gain.

12. Furthermore, it is an extreme position to which we may feel a great deal of resistance, but the description in the text that God orders death penalties or commands acts of war is nothing but the assertion that God thus grants life, or even dare we say that, "God alone" retains the right to take away by force from others. Actually, because we won't admit this, aren't some very dreadful things going on in the worlds we know so well? Loving our neighbor is to respect our neighbor's life, which God in the first place has granted to them as the holder of ultimate authority regarding life.

13. Next, the Lord said, "You shall not commit adultery," (verse fourteen). But, a commandment in as much as this one will probably ring in vain in today's society. About two years ago the topic of the day was Junichi Watanabe's "Paradise Lost," in which he depicted the double suicide of two adulterous lovers. The caption attached to that book was "The Absolute Pure Love The Couple Nurtured." Was their actions, which only made everyone around them have sorrow, absolute pure love? But, in a society that only thinks that marriage is a system to satisfy human needs or that sexual relations is only an outlet for selfish desires, that would pass for "absolute pure love."

14. God forbids the act of sex apart from the marriage bond. Because without it, adultery destroys marriage and it destroys the home. The reason adultery is forbidden is not just because one's marriage will be destroyed. It's because it destroys the marriage of the other person. The destruction of a marriage does not begin at the time when the adultery becomes public or in a lawsuit. It already began at the point in time when the deception came into being. Make no mistake. Marriage and the sexual relationship do not come from humans but from God. It is a gift that God has blessed us with and it is fulfilled in a mysterious way in Him. It is a bond that God gives. We must embrace the awe in this. Loving our neighbor is to have the highest respect and awe for the relationships that God has given and for the gifts that God has given to our neighbors.

15. The Lord also said, "You shall not steal," (verse fifteen). There are some who think that this commandment was probably a command that originally prohibited the stealing of people, that is, kidnapping. They kidnapped people to make them work at hard labor. In that case, it meant that a person had his or her freedom plundered away from himself or herself. Otherwise, if you are with what the church has traditionally agreed upon about this, in that it prohibited against the act of "stealing" in general, then this is not a case of just a person having his or her freedom snatched away, but it means possessions in general. Whether freedom or possessions, the true owner is God himself. God shares with each one according to his will. To love one's neighbor is to respect with awe the possessions of one's neighbor which God has shared with him or her and for the real owner of it all.

16. In addition, the Lord said, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor," (verse sixteen). What is said here originally [pertains] to a testimony in court. A testimony in court sometimes involves a neighbor's life or death. Therefore, it is imperative that an honest testimony be given. But, what is the big concern with a false testimony is not just the judging and punishing process. At root it involves the neighbor's reputation and honor. Through lies a reputation is snatched away. And such a situation can be found many a time outside the court room as well. Even through a "fictitious witness" like that of some irresponsible small time gossip, a person's reputation can be damaged to an irrecoverable degree and it can even follow them to the grave. To love one's neighbor is also that we keep a respect for our neighbor's reputation.

Based On God's Grace That Is Prior To [The Law]

17. Finally, let's think about the tenth commandment. The Lord said, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not want your neighbor's wife, or his male and female slaves, his cows and donkeys or anything belonging to your neighbor," (verse seventeen). As a point that addresses one's thoughts and wants, the tenth commandment is kind of different from the other ones. Originally, the word "covet, want" included actual acts of seizing by force. But, here it is speaking on something that begins in the human heart.

18. In regard to murder, adultery, and stealing which we have thus already seen here, we are made to see that the problem had already begun in the heart before it revealed itself as an act. The apostle John wrote in his epistle that "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer," (First John 3:15). Hatred is murder that has already begun within the heart. Jesus also had this to say, "Just as you have heard, so has it been commanded, 'Do not commit adultery.' But, I say to you this. Anyone who looks at another person's wife with lewd thoughts has already sinned with her in his heart," (Matthew 5:27-28). When he said that, you might say that the Lord had given the true essence of the seventh commandment.

19. Preceding the ten commandments it states that "I am the Lord, your God, the God who lead you from the land of Egypt, the house of slaves." When we read the tenth commandment, we are reminded again of the importance of the fact that the ten commandments are based upon God's grace that comes before the law. These are commandments given to God's people after they have partaken of his grace. The reason a person covets a neighbor's house is that he or she does not understand the greatness of God's grace that has been given to him or her.

20. The important thing for us is that we don't make what belongs to our neighbor ours and that we see and rejoice in the grace of God that has been given us. What we must really want and covet is to know God's grace and to get to the point where God's grace is in control of the deepest recesses of our hearts. In that sense, the lifestyle ultimately required in the ten commandments, whether it comes to loving God or loving our neighbor, is really a response of thanksgiving for God's grace.

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