On Tuesday I was speaking with someone who is heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, and it turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,
NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:
- Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
- Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
- Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
- Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
- Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
- Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
- Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
- Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
- Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
- Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.
Feel free to refine what I’ve written, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.
Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.
- 22 But here is the even harder truth…
- 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
- 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.
This translations also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”
- 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell…
- 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
- 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that…
- 33 You know that…
- 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
- 43 You have been taught…
Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!
NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus