Each month, you’ll hear from one of us on what we’re reading and a little bit about the book. Enjoy!
Can you name the Ten Commandments? Did you memorize them at some point in your spiritual training? How many sermons have you heard on what many call the “Top Ten” list? So often I think of the Ten Commandments as the foundation for believers but more needed for children or new believers. At this point in my life, is there anything new that I’ve not heard before or maybe insight into the Ten Commandments that is more in-depth that I missed? Do I really need to read and study the Ten Commandments as an adult?
Reading Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands by Jen Wilkin brought a fresh perspective on the Ten Commandments to me. I found the book and the refresher on these beautiful words in these commandments more meaningful than ever. Wilkin reminds the reader to delight in these commandments. They are for our benefit.
We often think of law and grace as polar opposites. We don’t see the two walking hand-in-hand. Wilkin, however, reminds us that they are not enemies but friends. The Old Testament and the New Testament are not in opposition; they both demonstrate the justice and compassion of God. “We have come to believe that rules prevent relationship.”1 However, as Wilkin focuses on and systematically unpacks the truth of each of the commandments, we discover that the law leads us to Christ-likeness. Each chapter is filled with biblical truth and helps the reader understand how these ten words, or ten commandments, are meant to honor God, individuals, and community.
One of my favorite chapters was “The Fourth Word” on unhindered rest and the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11). I had never noticed that it is the longest and most detailed of the ten commandments. Wilkin uses the Hebrew shabat meaning “cease”2 to dive deeper into the meaning of Sabbath. Quoting Mason King—“Sabbath rest is marked by self-denial”—Wilkin opened a new thought for me as she explored how we drift from Sabbath rest to slavery with our desire for self-gain.
I reread page 67 and highlighted sentences as Wilkin explained that you are to “cease your labor so others may cease theirs as well.”3 Doesn’t that describe the community we live in? Maybe it is just me, but often I can’t rest because no one else around me takes time to rest. As their work continues, I feel that I need to keep working. I don’t want to get behind, be late on a project, or disappoint someone. One of my favorite quotes in the book, of course on page 67, was, “My Sabbath rest should not create or entail labor for others in the family of God, and should be mindful of requiring work for those outside it.”4 The observance of Sabbath creates rest and justice for all involved. In my opinion, Wilkin gave a great summary of Sabbath in two sentences: “We remember the letter of the Sabbath command by resting from labor. We remember the heart of the Sabbath command by laboring for the rest of others.”5 Go ahead and read that again and allow it to wash over you. Such good words to live by in a culture that never seems to rest.
I don’t want to give away the whole book because you need to read it for yourself! However, “The Tenth Word” gave me a new perspective I was not expecting. Focusing on Exodus 20:17, Wilkin subtitled this chapter “Honor in the Heart”—but this is about coveting. Where was she going with this? I quickly found these words, “Covetousness hides in the heart.”6 And, “the heart is a place where sin gestates.”7 Wow. This is so true when you want what everyone else has—the relationship, the job, the cash, the acknowledgment, the skill, the talent, the whatever—fill in the blank. In a world of social media where everyone posts the best photos and statements, it is easy to struggle with discontent. And covetousness creeps in. Wilkin brings hope as she shares how contentment is learned. She does leave you with the thoughts on covetousness but gives practical suggestions for learning contentment in order to break free from comparison.
One of the features that I found most helpful was at the end of each chapter. Wilkin provided verses for meditation, questions for reflection, and a prayer prompt to help the reader process what was read. This helped me to go deeper into the study of each of the commandments and apply what I was reading and understanding to my current life situation.
As Wilkin closes out her book, she reminds her readers that the Ten Words had purpose and meaning for God’s people then, and they still are applicable for us today. They are meant to strengthen us and to guide us to God’s kingdom. They bring about obedience to God, deep in the heart of the individual, when we understand them as intended for transformation of the community.
Michelle Hicks is the managing editor for Journey devotional magazine with Lifeway Women. Michelle served as a freelance writer, campus minister, and corporate chaplain before coming to Lifeway. She is a graduate of the University of North Texas and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Michelle has a deep hunger for God’s Word and wants others to discover the abundant life they can have with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
1. Jen Wilkin, Ten Words to Live By (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 13.
2. Ibid, 65.
3. Ibid, 67.
5. Ibid, 70.
6. Ibid, 140.
7. Ibid, 141.