By Engr. Carlos Cornejo
Fifth Commandment: “You shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13) The fifth commandment forbids unjust killing and any harm to our own body and soul and those of our neighbor. Human life is sacred and is God’s property thus only God has the authority to take it away and not even ourselves have that authority (e.g., suicide). The fifth commandment obliges us also to take care of our bodies, to keep it healthy and not destroy it with vices such as drugs and excessive alcohol. Thus, selling addictive drugs is a sin under this commandment. The unlawful taking of another person’s life would include murder, abortion, and euthanasia. Hatred and unjust anger are also sins against this commandment since it harms the soul of our neighbor. At times verbal abuse can be as hurtful and damaging as physical abuse.
Sixth and Ninth Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” (Exodus 20:14,17) The sixth and ninth are combined because they both refer to the proper use of sex which is willed by God to be within marriage only. Anything outside of marriage would be sinful such as adultery, premarital sex, masturbation, pornography, rape and homosexual relations. The purpose of marriage is for procreation of human life and companionship of spouses. Marriage is exclusive (one man to one woman) and permanent (cannot be broken except death) for the protection of children and spouses. When this commandment is violated such as through divorce, we see the ugly consequences of it in the disintegration of the family especially its deep damaging effects on children.
Seventh and Tenth Commandment: “You shall not steal” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.” (Exodus 20:15,17) The seventh and tenth commandment are likewise combined because they both refer to respecting what belongs to others. The seventh and tenth commandment forbids stealing, cheating, unjust keeping of what belongs to others and unjust damage to the property of others. As St. Paul would say “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). If we read the news, majority of the crimes committed are rooted in greed for wealth. Foremost are graft and corruption, tax evasion, smuggling of imported goods, swindling, robbery, theft, etc. Sins under these commandments are unique among the other commandments since you can only be forgiven in the sacrament of confession if you have returned the stolen goods or repair the damage done to any property of one’s neighbor.
Eighth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16) The eighth commandment obliges us to love the truth and respect the good name of others. It forbids lies, rash judgment, detraction, calumny, and the telling of secrets we are bound to keep. Rash judgment means we not only judge others without sufficient reason (something that is harmful to their character) but also when we believe what we have heard from others without bothering to find out the complete truth. Detraction means we reveal the hidden faults of others without a good reason and calumny is to tell lies to injure the good name of others.
We need to remember that the commandments of God are not there to stifle our freedom or are not “kill joy” rules but “kill selfishness” precepts. It is there to direct us to the true joy which is freedom from error or sin and to lead us to a life of holiness and of loving God and others. Sin is the disease of the soul in the same way as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. are the diseases of the body. If we want a healthy soul, then we should get rid of sin in our lives.
The commandments are heavenly rules and is an expression of God’s nature. If we want to be like God then we have to obey the commandments because God’s nature is goodness, truthfulness, loving, just, merciful, generous, etc. and nobody enters heaven without practicing these virtues. If we find the commandments hard to follow it is not the problem of the commandments but our attachment to sin that makes the commandments detestable to us. Much like the traffic rules the commandments are there to guide us safely and smoothly to our eternal destination. “The commandments of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8)