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The Ten Commandments – Rules to Live By

What are the Catholic Ten Commandments?

The first thing everyone wants to know is what are the Catholic Ten Commandments?  In order, they are:

  1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.
  2. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.
  3. Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.
  4. Honor your father and your mother.
  5. You shall not kill.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
Catholic Ten Commandments

How the Ten Commandments Break Down

Looking at the Ten Commandments, we can see that they actually break down into two main sections.  First, Commandments 1 through 3 deal with our relationship with God.  Next, Commandments 4 through 10 deal with our relationships with each other.  This is echoed in Matthew 22, when Jesus was asked what is the greatest Commandment, and He states:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40, NAB

Jesus was not teaching anything new or revolutionary; He was breaking down the Commandments in an easy-to-understand way.  If we love God, then we will follow Commandments 1 through 3.  If we love our neighbor, we will follow Commandments 4 through 10.  It’s as simple as that.

Following the Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments serve as a guide and set of rules for us to follow, but do not take the word “guide” too easily.  Speed limits are a guide for safe driving, but they are also a law and, therefore, punishable.  Not following the Ten Commandments is a sin – let no one misguide you.

The debate, especially between Protestants and Catholics, about following the Ten Commandments can become pretty intense, but I feel most of that is from a misinterpretation of Catholic teaching.  Some claim that Catholics believe in salvation by works.  In other words, Catholics believe that they are saved based on how well they follow the Commandments.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As Catholics, we believe that we are commanded to follow the Divine Law, but we will fall short; therefore, we need God’s grace to be saved.  Sound familiar?

When we go to Confession, we can use the Ten Commandments as a guide.  Read through the Ten Commandments and be honest about which ones you have failed to keep.  Then, we can find absolution, through God’s grace, in the Confessional.

The Catholic Ten Commandments

The debate continues of the Catholic Ten Commandments vs. the Protestant Ten Commandments.  So, what is the difference?  Very little.  Actually, it simply comes down to how they are grouped together.  Protestants have the Commandment against graven images as number 2, while Catholics group this together with number 1.  To keep it at 10 Commandments, Protestants then group coveting your neighbor’s wife and goods together.  Other than that, they are the same.

Some will say that Catholics eliminate the Commandment against graven images so they can have statues and pictures everywhere.  This is not true.  St. Augustine, who came up with the Catholic grouping of the Commandments, felt that the 1st Commandment covered it.  If we want to split hairs over our differences, one could ask why Protestants feel that a neighbor’s wife falls underneath his goods, but let’s not go there.

Listen, the Catholic Ten Commandments were taken from Exodus 20 and then grouped together.  The Protestant Ten Commandments did the same thing.  We may not number them exactly the same, but we still believe in the same truths of the Old Testament.  Despite our small differences, we are more alike than different.  Hopefully, one day, we can set aside these differences and truly become one Church.

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