“You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:15-17 (NIV)
I’m bundling the final three Commandments because they speak to the crisis in our culture today. It’s an integrity crisis. We see it professionally, politically and even in the church. An integrity crisis results from a loss of values. The Ten Commandments show us what God values. When we align our values with His, we can live a life of integrity. Proverbs 10:9 says, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”
Look at what God values in these final three commands:
- The value of honesty — “You shall not steal.”
- The value of truth — “You shall not lie.”
- The value of contentment – “You shall not covet …”
How important are these values in your life? It’s so easy today to claim these values, but integrity integrates my values into my actions. That’s where the crisis comes. It’s easy to say I’m not a thief while robbing my employer of a full-day’s work or fudging on my income tax return or robbing God of tithes and offerings. Then, there are the little white lies we rationalize to escape telling the whole truth or we exaggerate and embellish the story to make ourselves look better, not to mention the discontentment we feel when we see what someone else has that we don’t. All of these and more are attacks to our value system. What we say we believe. If how we behave does not reflect what we believe, than what we believe doesn’t really matter. Integrity is what you are when no one is looking. It’s doing what you say you will do. I like the way The Message says it in Colossians 3:1 “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides.” This is a process of spiritual maturity, of learning to be the Christian we have become. It’s practicing the presence of God in every area of your life and learning to align your values with God’s values and then integrate them into action. It involves repentance from our old, self-centered value system to a Christ-centered one. This was as much of a challenge for Christ followers in the New Testament as it is for us today. Read what God says to these new believers in Ephesians and Hebrews about these values.
- “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)
- “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” Ephesians 4:25 (NLT)
- “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
The bad news is that in some way we’ve all broken the Ten Commandments. James 2:10 says “If you obey every law except one, you are still guilty of breaking them all.” The good news is that the law was intended to lead us to Christ who fulfilled the law and gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could be forgiven. I love the way Isaiah 1:18 puts it: “… No matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you as white as wool.” Neither you nor I will ever be declared right with God by keeping the law. We’ve all broken it. Yet, through repentance and faith in Jesus, we are made right with God no matter how deep the stain of our sins! That’s good news!