The world today has a completely skewed picture of justice. Even the churches, who are supposed to teach the law, have largely done away with it. But even those churches who teach that there is no obligation to keep any divine law still understand that some things are bad. Some things shouldn’t be done.They all have a list of sins, arranged by their personal prejudices and opinions, from greatest to least. Usually subconscious, but the list is always present. They react with greater horror to one sin than to another. From my observation, it seems that your average list of cardinal sins in a conservative area would go something like this:
- Child molesting
And so on. Some churches would include dancing, singing, card-playing, reading literature from another denomination, and so on. Of course everyone’s list is a bit different, but if you listen to sermons you’ll see this common thread; yeah, they all tacitly admit that killing is really bad, but after that adultery is the next biggest thing you hear about. It is the one primary sin you hear pounded on, from every pulpit in the land.
But is it the most important commandment? Is it what every preacher SHOULD be talking about, day in, day out? God gave us ten commandments, and He gave them in order. But what is their relative gravity? How serious is, say, fornication compared to, say, owning a dreamcatcher?
If you had to judge a situation and determine who should be punished worse, would you punish a sabbath-breaker or a liar more seriously? Is a doctor who performs abortions is a better person in the eyes of God than a Vegas hooker? And would you say that Charles Manson deserves more or less punishment than someone who owns a statue of Buddha?
These are questions that, to live and reign with Christ, you MUST understand. These are fundamental questions that explain how God looks at sin, which sin is more harmful, and which must be corrected first, and which deserves the most punishment. Which deserves the most “sermon time”, and which is so far down the list that it’s not even worth talking about for now. You MUST learn to look at these things as God does, and put these sins in their relative place.
So which IS the greatest commandment? (and the second, third, and fourth?)
As you probably know, Jesus was asked this question already. And the answer is pretty simple.
Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
So to simplify, the first great commandment is:
- Love God
The second commandment is:
- Love Men
That’s how Jesus summed it up. Mark 12:31, the other version of this story, says “There is none other commandment greater than these.” – so this is it. Judging, cross-dressing, card-playing, NOTHING is greater than these commandments. Specifically, NOTHING is greater than commandment number one – LOVE GOD.
I’m going to beat this into the ground here, so hang on. NO sin, NO act, NO thought, no combination of any of the above, NOTHING is a greater sin than NOT loving God. Sleeping with a hundred married women is a LESSER sin than NOT loving God. Killing a thousand people is a SMALLER sin than not loving God.
This is quite simple, but rather shocking, so let it sink in. No commandment can be greater than the first and greatest command which we have from Jesus’ own lips. So if we break, say, commandment #9 and lie, no matter WHAT the lie, it does not compare with breaking the first great commandment. No matter how many times or in how many ways we break any other commandment, it is not NEARLY as bad as breaking the GREATEST commandment. Because “There is none other commandment greater than these.”, and of the two, the first is GREATER than the second commandment. I’ll explain why later.
But now I have to ask, HOW do we love God – the commandment is there, yes, but what is the specific WAY to love God. For that matter, the second commandment, to love men – HOW to we do that? Remember that Jesus told us “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”. So these two commandments are summaries. The boiled-down essence of ALL the law is expressed in THESE commandments. But if we MAGNIFY these commandments, we’ll find that LOVING men is composed of other, LESSER commandments!
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Notice that this is just what Christ said, that all the LAW is fulfilled in the two great commandments, LOVE GOD, and LOVE MEN. Paul simply says it in reverse. But then he goes on to explain HOW that law is fulfilled by loving one another!
Verse 9 For this, [#7] Thou shalt not commit adultery, [#6] Thou shalt not kill, [#8] Thou shalt not steal, [#9] Thou shalt not bear false witness, [#10] Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Paul names off the last five commandments and said that all of THESE commandments, and all OTHER commandments like them, are summed up in this ONE commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – which is the SECOND greatest commandment, according to Jesus!
So those commandments are all parts, which when combined make up the second GREAT commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself”!
Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
If you obey ALL of these last five commandments – the ones that govern your relationship with other PEOPLE, such as killing, stealing, adultery, lying, and so on – if you obey ALL of them, then you CANNOT harm your neighbor. It’s impossible to obey the last five commandments and do him ill. And so if you obey those five commandments, you are obeying the second GREAT commandment, to Love Man!
And if you truly “Love Man”, it means you automatically obey all the sub-commandments, and even the sub-commandments of those sub-commandments – for each of the ten commandments can be broken down into smaller and smaller commandments, ultimately affecting every single aspect of life.
For instance, not stealing [#8] includes such things as not burning someone’s house down (thereby taking their house from them), not downloading illegal music, not borrowing things and lazily forgetting to return them, not writing hot checks, not selling faulty merchandise, and so on – all of those things are magnifications of the command not to steal, just as the last six commandments are magnifications of the command to love your neighbor as yourself.
But that’s just the second greatest commandment! The first has it’s OWN magnification – in the first four commandments! As the last six govern our relationship with our fellow man, so the first four govern our relationship with God. For what man does it harm if we “have another God before God?” – or if we have an idol and worship Pluto, who do we hurt but God? Or if we take God’s name in vain, or break the Sabbath – no other men care. These are STRICTLY about our relationship with God. They are the magnifications of the command to “Love God”. Finer points on the meaning of the broad, greatest commandment of all.
But now we have to start rattling some cages, for these first four commandments are the first for a reason. They tell us how to love God, and loving God is the greatest commandment. There is NO greater commandment than it, Jesus plainly stated!
Since the first four correspond to the GREATEST commandment, and the second six correspond to the SECOND greatest commandment, then it is plain that breaking any (or all!) of the second commandments is not as serious – nor merits as harsh a punishment – as breaking any of the GREATEST commandments!
In plain words, it means that a MURDERER is a better person, and does less harm to others, and is worthy of LESS SEVERE PUNISHMENT in the eyes of God, than someone who worships idols!
I know you probably can’t swallow that at first, but give it some time. If there is NO commandment greater than “Loving God”, then “thou shalt not kill” CANNOT be greater than “thou shalt have no other Gods before me!”
And since the greater the commandment, the greater the sin, and the greater the sin, the greater the punishment… it means that worshiping idols lands you more in the red in God’s book of sin than a serial killer.
(I must say that, on an individual level, final judgment of your punishment for these sins is a matter of ignorance as well; the more you know and reject, the worse off you are. So if you’re certain that God exists and doesn’t want you to commit adultery and do it anyway, you will be worse off than someone who never heard of God and worshiped an idol in ignorance; but this article isn’t about final judgment of individuals! It isn’t about mitigating circumstances, or excuses; this article is about, all things being equal, which sin is worse! This is about understanding evil of the SIN ITSELF!)
We know some sins are worse than others. So why is it so hard to accept that sins against God, the first four commandments, are much more terrible than sins against men, the last six commandments? Easy. We’re human.
See, God isn’t here. Well, He is, but you can’t see Him, so He might as well not be here. But other people are. And so we see lives being ruined by rapists and gangs and con-men and we think “that’s terrible! That must be stopped!” – and the reason we think that is because we can SEE the damage done. We can empathize, feel the pain of the victims, imagine if it was US who lost our savings to Bernie Madoff, or who lost a wife and daughter to a drunk driver, and so these things – these things that relate to the PHYSICAL world – take on GREAT importance to us!
It’s easy for us to look at them and think that THEY are violations of the greatest commandment! That THEY must be stopped first, and then LATER we can work on Sabbath-breaking, and idolatry, and dreamcatchers and crosses and false prophets, who seem to us to be doing LESS over-all harm.
But as I said, that’s because we are only seeing the physical. We’re not seeing the damage done on the spiritual level. Being men, we care about ourselves. And so those who look at the commandments at all, and make any effort to teach righteousness, see the SECOND commandment as the greatest commandment – because it’s the one that we see protecting US the most!
But God said the opposite. Did God not realize that murder is bad? Did He not know how stealing hurts people, or how adultery breaks up homes – why didn’t He say THAT was the greatest commandment? All preachers on earth pretty much act as if adultery, fornication, and any other related sin is the only one that really matters, so why didn’t God put the commandments in the RIGHT ORDER?
Well, He did.
The ten commandments rank from greatest to least. The first four as, collectively, the greatest principle, and the last six as, collectively, the second greatest principle. And among those divisions, they are ranked individually according to value.
This value is not arbitrary; when you think about it, these ten commandments are layers of defense; if any one falls, all the ones after it fall with it. Commandment #8, not stealing, requires you to break #9, lying, to cover it up. And, in turn, if you steal, then #10, coveting, is how you find more targets for stealing. So breaking #8 means you HAVE to break the next two. To look at it the other way, #8 protects the next two. If you are willing to murder (#6), your mind is so messed up that adultery, rape, theft and so on means nothing to you. If you’re willing to end life, then causing suffering to others can’t mean much to you. Not to mention if you’ll do those things, you’ll have no compunction about lying or coveting at all.
To put it another way, there are many adulterers out there who would never think of committing murder; but few murderers who would have many qualms about committing adultery. And fewer murderers who would mind lying.
But all of the last six commandments hinge on the first four; for if you worship other gods (#1), they pretty much all require you to have idols (#2). If you use then use the true God’s name at all, you’ll be using it wrong – (#3). Other gods keep different days holy, so the Sabbath falls (#4). And if you’re following another god, you’ll be following HIS concept of morality, and therefore the last 6 commandments fall.
The Sabbath is when you are supposed to receive the law from the mouth of the priest (Malachi 2:7). If you’re not doing that, you won’t know HOW to love Man, and so the last six of the commandments fall. If you dishonor your parents, you won’t be “raised up in the way that you should go”, so again, the rest of the commandments fall.
If you take God’s name in vain – which literally means “saying God said something which God didn’t say” – then the first thing you’ll usually do is change the rest of the law, and so again, the rest of it falls. Each commandment is responsible for protecting the rest.
The Catholic church is an excellent example of this; that church is built on the worship of a false God. So that breaks commandment #1. The very next commandment is idolatry, and no church on earth is more idolatrous than Catholicism so they took the second commandment right out of the Bible. That in turn allowed them to pray to saints and all sorts of teachings God never taught, breaking commandment #3. Very early on in their existence, the Catholic church changed the Sabbath to Sunday, ensuring that not only they, but all churches that “protested” out of them would break the fourth commandment.
After that, they allowed indulgences which means you can pay the priest or do enough hail-Mary’s to work your way out of any sin, which allows Chicago mob bosses to be “good Catholic Church-goers” while murdering for hire. Adultery, stealing, lying, none of that means anything when you can just go to confession and work it off and get saved anyway.
And since they needed an even ten commandments, and they had deleted #2 and bumped the rest up, they split the last commandment in two; “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods”. Which is literally a “broken” commandment – split right in two!
But you see that all of this happened because they broke commandment number one; if they hadn’t broken that one, they could not have broken ANY of the others! Because that one PROTECTS the others – if they’d kept the first one, it would NEVER have allowed them to DELETE the second one!
Now you can understand why I say that a man is BETTER OFF to murder someone for pocket money than to BREAK THE SABBATH. It is BETTER to slit someone’s throat, in the long run, than to work 15 minutes after sundown at your job. Because if you break the Sabbath, the other six commandments are just a matter of time.
So it is BETTER to be a physical prostitute and defile your physical body, than it is to be a spiritual prostitute and defile your spiritual body with pagan gods. And so you would be BETTER OFF being a PIMP than be a false prophet; it is better to be a cross-dresser than to wear a cross, which is the symbol of a false Christ, around your neck!
I’m not joking. This is deadly serious. You will do LESS HARM to yourself as a hooker than you will if you listen to the teachings of a false messiah. Your spirit will be MUCH easier to save if you sold cocaine on the street than if you go to church on Sunday.
This is hard stuff to swallow, and I imagine you’re slow to accept it. But how else do you explain the fact that God liked SODOM better than PHARISEES?
Matthew 11:24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
Sodom was full of homosexuality, sin and perversion on every level. A sort of ancient Las Vegas, only maybe worse. And yet SODOM will have it EASIER in the judgment than those who hated Christ! They will be punished LESS than those who rejected Him in His day! Those in Sodom who broke MOST of the last commandments, frequently and with great joy at doing so, will be HIGHER in the judgment than those who knowingly turned their back on Christ and thereby broke commandment #1!
Luke 11:32 The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.
God said that Ninevah REPENTED when they heard of God, and KEPT commandment #1 – even though they probably didn’t keep the others at the time! But the Pharisees, although they kept all the others with great detail, rejected God, and broke THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT OF ALL, and so NINEVAH, a thoroughly pagan city, one so evil that God planned to destroy it, will rise ABOVE the Pharisees and CONDEMN them, because their sin was MANY times worse than the sin of Ninevah, Sodom or Tyre!
Luke 10:13-14 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
Those cities would have repented and accepted God! They would have kept the first commandment! And so they were BETTER OFF, those cities full of slavery, corruption, adultery and homosexuality would be BETTER OFF when God judges the world, than those who serve a false religion!
The Vegas bookie, the Chicago mob boss and the flamboyant transvestite will be in an enviable position when God comes to judge the world compared to those who have rejected the commandments that show how to love God!
Yes, the last six commandments are VITALLY important; but NOT compared to the first FOUR! People just don’t comprehend how God looks at these sins relative to one another. He HATES idolatry! He HATES any symbol, of ANY God, even ones that are supposedly about HIM! He HATES Sabbath breaking, on a level that we don’t appreciate because we don’t grasp the DAMAGE that it causes!
Jack the Ripper only existed because men broke the first four laws! Blood from one crime runs and touches the blood from another crime in this country because men have forsaken God! Because they broke the first, greatest commandment to LOVE GOD, who would have TOLD them how to LOVE MEN! Had they obeyed the first commandment, they COULD NOT have broken the second!
Abortion didn’t create our country’s problems! And homosexuality is not the cause of this nation’s ills! They are both symptoms! So ranting and raving about it on the radio isn’t going to stop it – any more than taking a wine bottle from a drunk will make him sober! He’ll just go out and buy another bottle!
Even if you could take away, say, homosexuality from the people – if you could pass laws that made it illegal, a jail offense, or even a DEATH penalty – the sin might disappear, but another just as bad would appear in it’s place. It’s only a SYMPTOM! Sure it’s wrong, it’s gross, there shouldn’t even be a WORD for it in our society – but it’s not the CAUSE! As commandments go, it’s quite a ways down the list!
So all ignorance being equal, it is BETTER to be an assassin-for-hire than to go to church on Sunday! One breaks the command to LOVE GOD, which is the GREATEST of all commandments, and NO commandment is greater than it!
The other only breaks the command to LOVE MEN – which is a bad thing it is true, but nowhere near as bad as the other. And yet all the ills in our society that men complain about, everything that pulpits of conservative churches condemn like abortion, homosexuality, murder, rape, gangs, racism, corruption – these are all SYMPTOMS! They are all violations of the LAST six commandments!
But those violations COULD NOT have existed if the nation had kept the FIRST FOUR! So they are only the SYMPTOMS of the TRUE problem, which is that THOSE VERY MEN, and the rest of the nation, BREAK THE FIRST FOUR EVERY DAY! Nearly all own crosses (#2), they all go to church on Sunday (#4), most teach that the law is done away (#3), and they all follow the spirit of a false god which leads them to do these things, as the daughters of Babylon that they are (#1)!
Until THOSE four commandments are kept, it is IMPOSSIBLE to keep the last six! They can preach about it until Christ returns, and they probably will, and the world will NEVER change until ALL TEN commandments are kept!
The ONLY way this can change is if everyone, starting with YOU, TREATS those first four with the respect, and the gravity that they deserve! Treat a sabbath-breaker WORSE than a murderer – act as if the adulterer was LESS of a sinner than the person who keeps Christmas and Easter! Judge RIGHTEOUS judgment, as Jesus told us to do!
John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
The Ten Commandments show you what the greatest commandments are, in ORDER! And they show you what the greatest sins are! Fornication isn’t even a death-penalty offense in Exodus 22:16-17! So if you find yourself treating fornication, which isn’t even a capital crime, as if it’s a greater sin than owning a dreamcatcher, which IS a capital crime in the Bible, then you are not seeing sin as God sees it. You are not hating the things God hates. And that means that you, yourself are breaking the greatest commandment of all!
Matthew 21:31 … Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.