About a month after God started to provide His people with daily provisions of food they arrived at Mount Sinai and Moses went up to meet with God face to face. While he was there God gave him the law, a code of conduct that was to provide a reminder to the Israelites of who He was and how to honor and respect Him for all that He had done for them.
I am told that, including the 10 commandments there are a total of 613 individual laws found throughout the remainder of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I say I am told this because quite honestly, I’ve never bothered to count and I have no intention of ever doing so I’ll just trust the people who make it their business to know these things. If you want to verify this claim be my guest, start with Exodus 20 and read all the way through to the end of Deuteronomy, and get back to me, I’ve got better things to do.
These 613 laws run the gamut of instruction in how to live your everyday life in reverence to an all powerful, all knowing God but they can be broken down into a few simple categories. They are; laws surrounding personal conduct, civic duty, and criminal behavior, laws surrounding personal health and hygiene and laws surrounding worship and sacrifice. Whether they are instructions about how to conduct yourself in a functioning society, how to protect yourself from disease or how to present yourself before Him, at the end of the day all of these laws point to a God who loves and cares for his people and only wants the best for them both as individuals and as members of a whole.
At the heart of the law are the Ten Commandments. The same three principles can be seen within these short and easy to remember instructions and I believe that a sincere adherence to just these ten is all that God requires of us in order to understand and function in His perfect economy and the remaining 603 laws merely point back to these 10.
The first four are all about honoring God. There is only one God, don’t worship images or idols, don’t swear by my name and spend at least one day a week doing nothing but worshiping me. The fifth serves as a bit of a bridge to the final five and reminds us to honor and respect our parents and those who have gone before us, just as we honor God Himself. The next 4 can be pretty much summed up in number eight, which is do not steal. When you really stop and think about it Murder, Adultery and Lying are all forms of theft, in the first you are stealing a person’s life and stealing it away from those around that person, in the second you are stealing affection from both the people who love you and who love the person with whom you are committing adultery and in the case of Lying you’re stealing the truth and making it impossible for people to make informed decisions based on the facts.
Finally the tenth commandment drives the point home by hitting on the main heart issue of what it means to live in God’s Perfect Economy. “Thou Shall Not Covet” really means to be satisfied with what you have. Now a number of economists have stated that it is covetousness that makes the world go round. Without people sincerely coveting a particular reward, wealth or material thing our motivation for better would cease to exist and the market economy would collapse. To a certain extent I agree. That is if you take the modern definition of coveting to mean only to wish for or desire something. But the Hebrew word translated as covet here is much more sinister than that and means to desire inordinately – what belongs to another. That kind of coveting leads to envy and jealousy of the type we discussed in the previous chapter and ends up causing people to violate a number of the rest of these commandments.
Now before I get off track here I want to make it clear that even a mild form of “socially acceptable” coveting is still a problem. Even though I just stated that to a certain extent I agree with those who say that coveting is required in order to make the market economy work, I didn’t say that I agree that the market economy is a good manifestation of God’s Perfect Economy. I’ll get into that in quite a bit more detail in part two but for now suffice it to say that market economics are not God’s economics and leave it at that. In God’s economy, covetousness and a desire for more of something, especially in light of the fact that someone you know already has it, is a denial of God’s grace and wisdom as a pertains to your own life. Put simply, when we covet we forget that what we have, indeed what everyone has, is a gift from God.