Summary: When we see the Ten Commandments from the true Biblical perspective, we see them as gifts of grace. They came from God who first delivered Israel, and then gave the law to preserve that liberty He gave them. The origin of the law is God's love.

The editor of a newspaper was interviewing a man who

applied for the job of being a rewrite man. "Are you good at

condensing"? the editor asked. "Sure", was the snap reply.

"All right then, take this and cut it short", he said , as he

handed him a copy of the ten commandments. The applicant

was momentarily startled, but then he took his pencil, wrote

briefly, and handed it back. The editor looked at it and said,

"Your hired!" He had written one word--don't.

This story illustrates the popular misconception about the

ten commandments. They are seen as negative, and can be

summed up in the philosophy that says thou shalt not enjoy

life. Whatever you like, don't do it. Now it is true that 8 of

the 10 are negative, but as we shall see, this is for a very

practical reason. Jesus summed them up, not with a don't,

but with a twofold positive do. Do love God with all your

heart, and do love your neighbor as yourself. The first four

commandments deal with loving God, and the last six deal

with loving our neighbor.

But if these most famous laws in the world can be stated

positively, why were they given in a negative form

originally? Those who do not care to look for an answer just

dismiss them as being irrelevant for a positive thinking

world. They claim the negative nature of them leads to

excessive negativism. This is illustrated by the mother who

said "Go see what Johnny is doing and tell him to stop."

One little boy under this kind of atmosphere thought his

name was Johnny don't. There have been many Christians

who have measured their piety by the number of things they

don't do. The Pharisees were experts at this sort of thing

also, and they were able to compile a list of several thousand

things they did not do. It was a negative religion.

Too many negatives lead to a life of emptiness. The

absence of evil is a good thing, but when good is also absent,

one is not living a life pleasing to God. Jesus told of the man

who had all of the demons that possessed him driven out,

and all was swept clean. All the evil was gone, but no positive

good filled the vacuum, and the result was the evil returned

in greater power than it had before. Those who try to live on

negatives often take great falls into sin, for negatives are just

not a good foundation. The negative is only of value when it

is a means to a positive end.

A missionary in Africa was trying to explain the Ten

Commandments to an old native chief. "You tell me I'm not

to take my neighbors wife?" "That's right" said the

missionary. "Or his ivory or his oxen?" "Quite right!"

"And I must not ambush him on the trail and kill him?"

"Absolutely right" said the missionary. "But I cannot do

any of these things," said the savage, "I am too old. To be

old and to be Christian are the same thing." This illustrates

how weak a mere negative religion and morality would be.

Righteousness would be equivalent to inability. If negative

become ends in themselves, then one becomes more and

more Christian the less he is able to live, and death would

bring perfection. This is, of course, nonsense. Negatives

cannot be ends in themselves, but must be means to a

positive goal.

We fail when we lose the positive, for it is the positive that

gives authority to the negative commands. People demand

to see the positive value in having their freedom limited by

prohibitions. If you say don't, they want to know why, and

the why had better be positive if you expect people to respect

the authority of the negative. Robert Kahn, a Jewish Rabbi,

points out that the Declaration of Independence has this

great positive statement-"All men are created equal and are

endowed by their Creator with rights to life, liberty, and the

pursuit of happiness." Then, in order to preserve these positive

values, a Bill of Rights was a appended to the

Constitution. When you read them you notice they are of a

negative character. The gist of each is-

Congress shall make no law

The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed

No soldier shall be quartered

the right--to be secure shall not be violated

No person shall be held to answer.

No fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined

Excessive bail shall not be required

The enumeration of certain rights shall not be Construed

These are the eight negatives of the ten amendments called

the Bill of Rights. They are negative commandments for the

preservation of positive rights. We see from this, that when

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