And God spoke all these words, saying:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:1-12)
Doing what’s right is all about love. The ten commandments can be broken down into two halves: those that refer to God and those that refer to human relations. Both Jesus and Paul point out that these ten commandments—and for that matter, all the rules and regulations of the Bible—can be summarized by two commandments: to love God and to love people.
And what you do has consequences. The iniquity of fathers passing on to children was not magical, any more than the mercy to thousands was magical. No one is an island. The effect of an individual’s actions, for good or ill, had influence beyond them. The poor choices of a father would obviously affect his children, and just as obviously, the repercussions would roll on to later generations, making life either harder or easier for those that followed.
The purpose of the commandments was not to keep people from having a good time. In fact, they were designed specifically to maximize the good times for everyone. Jesus said that man was not made for the Sabbath, but rather, the Sabbath was made for man: that is, it was beneficial to take time off and not to work all the time. Both for basic happiness and health, as well as for improved productivity, taking time off was good. And it was an innovation. Before the Ten Commandments, people did not take a day off every week. Instead, they worked constantly, getting only the rare holiday. And that it was extended to slaves and even animals was truly remarkable. God really does love us. He’d like to see us love as well. The Ten Commandments serve as an illustration of how to put love into practice.