The Ten Commandments are given in today’s Old Testament reading. I have always loved the prologue to them: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you would of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” These are not just 10 good rules to live by, but a deeply covenantal understanding of what is expected of individuals to a God who acted first.
Sometimes I wonder if we are ready as an American culture to take these seriously, and follow them. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. American culture in general is lucky to follow 5 or 6 of the 10 on a normal day. I would doubt very few of us follow all 10, somehow deciding that Saturday is no longer a Sabbath, but a time to cut the grass, run errands, and do laundry.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus is tempted, but not to break the Sabbath (although he does that later in his ministry). His is much more dark. The devil takes him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. He casts the devil away. Immediately he heads to begin his ministry. It was almost as if his temptation in the wilderness was a hot branding iron that sent him into the world with a wake-up that people were broken and needed hope.
In the context of his temptation, he quotes the summary of the first 4 commandments: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” This is the biggest challenge in our culture. In a place where material possessions are our lord: money, power, prestige. I have often said that the most holy deity in American culture is self. Jesus demands a looking beyond. His entire ministry is hinged on it – faith and hope in a better life. Giving up the god of self and following a new way. His movement is one away from self, and a building of community.
Pick up those Ten Commandments today! Discover again where God is saying yes in our lives, but also where God may be drawing a line and saying no.