What part of 'Thou shalt not' don't you understand?

Believe it or not, God really isn't a killjoy.

by Edward Langenback

© October 30, 2000

A lot of people have the idea that God is some kind of a 'killjoy' because they think that He has put a 'thou shalt not' in front of all the things that they like to do. This however is not true. He has said 'thou shalt not' to several things though, and all for very good reason.

Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

He wants us to put Him first in everything. If we allow anything or anyone to become more important than God, then we are unable to receive anything from Him. And more than that, if we are not following Him, then we are against Him: Matthew 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." There is no middle ground. Each of us must make a deliberate choice to put Him first.

Exodus 20:13, "Thou shalt not kill."

The word that is translated as kill here is ratsach {pronounced raw-tsakh'} [strongs number 7523] and means murder. He is not simply giving us a blanket prohibition against killing in all it's forms because there are times when it is actually necessary to kill, such as in war, or the legal execution of a criminal who has committed some heinous crime such a murder, rape, or high treason in time of war.

Ecclesiastes 3:3, "A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;"

God is the one who created all that lives. He who creates a thing owns all right to it, and since we did not create life, then we have no right or authority to steal that life by murdering them. It does not matter one bit what the reason for murder is, from killing somebody because their skin is a different color or because you stand to inherit their money or having an abortion because for some reason you do not want to have a baby. Murder is murder.

Exodus 20:14, "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

This is one that people of today would do well to learn because it seems to have been forgotten. Marriage is a covenant relationship, and as such, should never be violated. A covenant, more than a contract, is the strongest type of agreement there is. When two people make a covenant of marriage, they are each giving themselves to the other, and they become one person:

Genesis 2:24, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."

People who understand the full impact of a covenant would rather die themselves than break it, no reason, reward or pleasure is considered good enough. There are no mitigating circumstances that make it ok to violate a covenant, and that includes breaking a covenant of marriage by committing adultery.

Exodus 20:15, "Thou shalt not steal."

This is another one that people today, especially those in business and politics would do well to relearn. If something belongs to someone else, then we do not have right to it unless the person who owns it either gives us that right, or gives it or sells it to us. Gaining something by trickery and deceit is no different from hitting someone over the head and taking it outright. It does not matter what is gained, whether it is money, a job, business or political advantage, or some material thing that is wanted. All forms of theft make the thief subject to the judgement of God.

Exodus 20:16, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

When the subject of lying is mentioned, the first thing that most people think of is this or that politician or business or lawyer, but lets face it folks, a lie is a lie no matter who tells it or how big it is. There is no such thing as 'a little white lie'. Truth is one of the qualities that makes God who He is, and since He made us in His image, He expects us to embrace that same quality in every aspect of our lives. When we lie, we show that God is not our father. In fact, a liar is not a child of God at all, but of the devil:

John 8:44, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."

Those who are not willing to walk away from lying will pay an awful penalty:

Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

We all need to make a quality decision to be the children of God and speak only the truth regardless of circumstances or what we might gain by lying or whom we might offend. Honesty really is the best policy.

Exodus 20:17, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."

It is important here to point out that God is NOT saying that we shouldn't want things. The word that is translated covet is chamad {pronounced khaw-mad'} [strongs number 2530] and means to lust after or desire greatly. He's saying that we shouldn't have an inordinate lust for something. It's one thing if you see your friend's new car and want to have one like it. It's another thing entirely if the desire for that car becomes a consuming lust. You might like your neighbors' spouse a lot, but when you start entertaining ideas of having an adulterous affair with that person, then that like has become lust, and is something that God has said 'Thou shalt not' do because it will lead to destruction. If that lust is fulfilled, it violates that covenant of marriage. If you are married it violates your covenant of marriage, and for the sake of lust, several people's lives are changed, relationships broken or damaged and trust destroyed.

In the book of Romans, Paul sums up all these 'thou shalt not' statements very nicely:

Romans 13:8-10, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

If we love one another as Jesus loved us, then there is no question of "does 'thou shalt not' apply to what we want to do?" Because if I love you, then I will not murder you, steal from you, lie to you, or commit adultery with you or your spouse. If I love (God, people, and myself), then I will not abort a pregnancy simply because it is inconvenient or embarrassing or just simply unwanted. I will not allow a desire for something to grow into a lust that could take God out of first place in my life. If I love God, then I will accept Jesus and the gift of salvation that He has made available to me. Love therefore satisfies all of God's requirements.