Applying the Ten Commandments: The First Table

The Ten Commandments were given to us by God and recorded for us in Exodus 20. Martin Luther wrote explanations to those commandments that have been so helpful that many still work to memorize them today, several hundred years after they were written.

As you pass on your faith and strive to teach these commands to your children, you may find some of the wording to be a little confusing or clunky. That is okay! That’s what happens when we read documents written hundreds of years ago that weren’t even written in our original language. Admit it feels clunky sometimes and know that it doesn’t decrease the value of what has been written. As you seek to apply the Ten Commandments in your families, keep in mind:

•Truthful paraphrasing — It is absolutely okay to use more child-friendly language to explain the Ten Commandments. In fact, it’s a sign of good understanding on your part to be able to rephrase a concept (correctly) in your own words. 
• Focus on what you can do — Living as God’s children is an active way of life, not just a life of passively trying to avoid sin by not doing something.

Talking Points for Applying the First Three Commandments (All About Loving God)

Number 1: You shall have no other gods.

What you fear most is what you consider having the most power, and therefore becomes a god. Know that God is all-powerful. He’s the only one worth your fear because he’s the only one with actual power. We fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
• Children may fear getting lost, being in the dark, going to a new school.
• Teens may fear getting embarrassed, failing a test or class, bad government, a deadly virus.

Number 2: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

God’s name is to be treasured, but not unspoken. Lack of use is considered another misuse. Luther says to actively use God’s name to pray, praise, and give thanks.
• Children learn to copy your expressions. Help them learn expressions that honor God’s name rather than casually use His name meaninglessly.
• Teens, too, need guidance in how to use God’s name. Take time together to pray to God, praise God, and thank God for His many blessings.

Number 3: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy.

Actively seek to worship God and honor His Word. Luther shows in Scripture that God does not require worship on a certain day, but He does require worship together. Help your children understand that this requirement is a gift. God knows we need the community we have in one another. He knows the joy and encouragement we find in being together with other Christians. We need each other.
• Children thrive on routine. Create the routine of worshiping God every week (even if it’s done virtually right now). The practice of going will speak volumes of its value as they look back years later.
• Teens may begin to have commitments that conflict with worship. Don’t be afraid to be bold as you make decisions concerning worship and other commitments. While many Lutheran teens have been confirmed in their faith, that doesn’t mean they’re not still learning how to make godly decisions. It’s still okay to guide that process as a parent. 

There is no one on earth that doesn’t need the Ten Commandments. No matter how many times you’ve heard or read them, God is always at work through His Word. The Law exists to drive you to the Good News that Jesus has taken away your sin. May God continue to be at work in you and your families as you study his commands are driven to His saving love.

Combine the teachings of the Small Catechism with practical application to teach young children the Six Chief parts of our Christian faith.

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Written by

Lindsey Hayes

Lindsey is a director of Christian education currently serving as a preschool teacher in Indiana. She loves helping people pass on faith in Jesus to the next generation, and she is thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit, who actually makes it happen.

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