Monday, February 13, 2012
Say That One More Time?
The part of the Commandments that everybody knows is the beginning, "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not". But why do we remember this part? Because it's repeated. All but two of the Ten Commandments begin with this phrasing. This type of repetition and parallelism is called anaphora. Anaphora is when a specific word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of several phrases or clauses, in this case "Thou shalt".
So why would God start them all with the same phrase? Doesn't that seem redundant? Wouldn't it be a waste of time and paper? (Or, in Moses' case, stone tablets.) It's because God wants them to have equal importance. Anaphora, and parallelism in general, is used to give equal weight to several items. If God didn't start each of the Ten Commandments with the same phrase, we would look at some as more important than others--oh wait, we do that, don't we?
And that's the point I'm sharpening the pencil toward.
All of God's commandments are equally important, and any breaking of any of His commandments is equally important. In God's eyes, sin is sin, no matter what sin it is. As James 2:10 says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all." That means that if you only commit one sin, you're guilty of breaking them all.
As humans, we see sins as "big sins" and "little sins." But to God any disobedience, any transgression of His law, is sin. It's like trying to make a copy of a famous painting, say the Mona Lisa. You will never be able to make a perfect copy because you will never be able to exactly recreate the painting. If just one of her hairs is out of place, if her smile doesn't curve just the right way, even if your brush strokes are not exactly the same, the painting will be different. It will not be perfect. It doesn't matter how big or small the blemish is, it's still wrong.
And it's the same way with sin. Taking a paper clip is the same as robbing a bank. Disrespecting your parents is just as bad as murdering someone. Any sin makes you imperfect and thus keeps you from Heaven. So if you're one of those people trying to get to Heaven by being a good person, sorry, but it's not going to work. Faith in the Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection is the only way.
So remember, those Ten Commandments, they're all important, not just the "big" ones. And hey, maybe another reason God started them all the same is to help us remember them.