October 27 I Saturday
2 Timothy 1
“You shall have no other gods before Me.” —Exodus 20:3
When Winston Churchill was the Minister of Interior Affairs in Britain in the first half of the twentieth-century, he recognized that the country’s legal system was weighted against the lower class in favour of the upper class. Poor people were being jailed for trivial crimes like stealing a chicken, while wealthy people were getting away with much more serious crimes. As a result, Churchill brought about a fundamental revision to the judicial and penitentiary system.
Churchill categorized crimes into three areas of varying severity. He said crimes against persons were the most serious, crimes against property below that, and crimes against morality, by which he meant deeds like blasphemy or sexual crimes between consenting adults, the least serious. Punishment was to be administered in such a way that recognized the seriousness of a crime according to these categories.
I am a great fan of the wit and wisdom of Churchill, but I am not sure he got this prioritization right as God sees it. If we assume the Ten Commandments are grouped in some order of priority, they seem to address four areas of relationship. The first three commandments deal with our relationship with God, the next two with our relationships within the family, the following four with our relationships with others, and the last with our relationships with material things. If we were to reduce it another way, the Ten Commandments are listed in order of laws dealing with the spiritual, the
relational and the material.
The contrast between secular and biblical law codes is apparent. Secular law works from the outside in. It legislates and punishes outward behaviour for the purposes of remediation and social order. God’s law, in contrast, sees immoral behaviour as a symptom of the heart. His law begins with our attitude towards Him: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God…” (Exodus 20:3-7). Society can punish symptoms over and over, but when behaviour is our problem, we need to check the state of our heart.
Spiritual reality produces inward morality, which determines outward activity. As we experience the life of Christ within us, He produces an inward morality that, in turn, produces a change in our outward behaviour towards our families, other people and property. The fundamental priority of biblical law is not to define and punish sin; it is to point us to relationship with Christ so He can deal with sin in our hearts.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank You that Your law is not just a list of rules legislating my behaviour, but that it points to Your Son as the One who can fix the issues of my heart.