Why So Negative?
One of people’s major complaints about the Ten Commandments is that they are overly negative. They are ten ways of saying, “don’t do this” or “don’t do that.” While it is true they are expressed using a negative form, this does not mean they have a negative meaning. The commandments are not about restricting behavior but are about guiding people so that they may experience what it means to be free. The prelude to the commandments highlights this emphasis. It begins by saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). It reminds the Israelites that once they were slaves, but now they are free. And the Ten Commandments represent a way to continue in that freedom so that they do not move from one form of slavery to another. They could easily become enslaved by greed, corruption, or enmity with others. And the only way to avoid this is to live in a way that keeps one free. The Ten Commandments prompt us to consider whether our actions are liberating us or enslaving us. Something worth considering!