September 19, 2012
in the public domain
God’s Great Gift: The Commandments
by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.
Ted and the Ten
In 1988, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, a multimillionaire, and a man of strong opinions, addressed the National Press Association in Atlanta about the Ten Commandments. He said, “We’re living with outmoded rules. The rules we’re living under are the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to them because they are too old.” If effect, he said, “Get rid of them.”
The Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and have been around for 3,000 years. We would agree that commandments, by definition, put restrictions and limits on our behavior. Parents have commandments for their children. One very important commandment is not getting into a car with a stranger—ever. Some commandments are for our own safety.
Commandments make us think when we are pulled to something that seems enticing or even promising, but which we recognize as wrong. Commandments exist not to make life miserable; rather to make it good and safe. The Ten Commandments are to be a basic guide to human behavior both in relationship to God (Numbers 1, 2, and 3), and to our fellow man (Numbers 4 through 10).
Guide to Living in Harmony
For us wounded human beings with tendencies toward sin, the Ten Commandments point out very directly and specifically what we, as God’s children, should and should not do. Ted Turner’s view is not only thoughtless, but also foolhardy. Maybe it is just that people with wealth and power refuse to be constrained by anything they think holds them back. But if someone embezzled millions of Turner’s money, I doubt he would stand by and say, “Well, that’s life.”
God gave us those basic commands so that humanity could live together in harmony and peace. Who wouldn’t want that? It is an indication of humanity’s perversity that all through history many people have wanted things such as power, wealth, and land even if it meant destroying peace, harmony, and thousands of innocent lives.
We see today enough power-hungry dictators who will stop at nothing to get and keep power. Their goal is not to serve the good of the people. Foolishly, such world leaders see themselves as gods. They presume they are immortal. You would think they would learn from seeing what eventually happens to others like themselves. In the end, they die with nothing.
God Is Wisdom
But something rather simple occurred to me as I considered the economic crises around the world. Can you imagine what would happen if those in power—politically and economically—took just three of the Ten Commandments seriously? Let me name them: “You Shall Not Kill,” “You Shall Not Steal,” and “You Shall Not Lie.” What would it mean if leaders respected all human life as sharing in God’s life? What would it mean if all the financial and investment institutions, such as Wall Street, were conducted honestly?
Unfortunately, there seems a new principle is embraced: “You can’t do business in this world without cheating.” Lying and cheating have become a way for many in conducting business. It might be a new rule for business success: “You better get what you can get in any way you can get it.” Many think they are savvy and clever when it comes to making money and gaining power.
It is God who is the source of all wisdom.
Editor’s Note: St. Francis Day in a Box
Franciscan Media, home of Friar Jack's E-spirations, is contributing materials to the Humane Society of the United States’ “St. Francis Day in a Box” program, which offers a variety of resources on protecting animals and caring for creation. Suited for home or parish use, the kit includes two of our own Franciscan Media books, St. Francis: A Short Biography and Live Simply: Ethical Eating. You can find out more from the Humane Society’s Faith Outreach program here.
—John Feister, Periodicals Editor
Readers respond to Friar Jack Wintz's September E-spiration, Musing: Remembering Mychal Judge, OFM
Dear Kathy, Ed, Ted, and Linda: I am pleased with the many good things you have noted about Father Mychal. Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the firefighters he had served across the street from the friary where he had a room overlooking the fire station. I also stood in that room and looked down on the station. Those are precious memories—as was Father Mychal’s great act of courage. May God bless all the readers of this column around the world! Friar Jack
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