20 Quotes from Jen Wilkin on the Ten Commandments

The following quotes caught my attention as I read Jen Wilkin’s insightful new book Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands (Crossway, 2021). For a limited time, it is on sale for only $7.49 through the TGCW21 bookstore.

The first word [she uses this synonymously with “commandment”] serves as the umbrella statement for the other nine. If we obeyed the first word, we would automatically obey the others. (28)

The second word portrays idol worship as progressive: do not make, do not bow down, do not serve. The second word portrays idol worship as contagious, causing trouble for generation after generation. The second word portrays God as zealous for his glory: deeply committed to being worshiped as he deserves. His jealousy is right and righteous because it is inflamed by the denial of what is rightly his. (34)

Any time we take the attributes of the gods the world around us worships and apply them to God to make him more palatable and less threatening, more accommodating and less thunderous, we produce a graven image. We whittle down his transcendence, we paint over his sovereignty, we chisel away his omnipotence until he is a pet-like version of the terrible pagan god we would never be so foolish as to bow down to. (39)

To misuse the name of the Lord—to take his name in vain—is to misrepresent the character of God. . . . Doing so misuses his reputation to suit our own ends, speaks of or to him without accuracy or due respect, and miscredits him for self-serving actions done in his name. To misuse the name of God is to commit an act of defamation against Yahweh himself. (49–50)

More than the deliberate cessation of work for the purpose of decompressing, Sabbath is the deliberate cessation of any activity that might reinforce my belief in my own self-sufficiency. In contrast to cultural ideas of rest marked by self-care, Sabbath rest is marked by self-denial. (65)

There is no such thing as a noncommunal sin, and there is no such thing as a noncommunal obedience. . . . Personal sin always results in collateral damage. . . . Personal obedience always results in collateral benefit. (68)

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. (70)

The fifth word is the hinge point in the Decalogue at which the discussion of showing honoring moves from God (1–4) to human authorities (5) to one another (6–10). . . . The Ten Commandments deal with matters of heavenly submission, earthly submission, and mutual submission—in that order. (76, 77)

Because the church is the family of God, we need be at no loss for fathers and mothers to honor. Nor need we be at a loss for spiritual orphans to parent. If your family of origin was a painful one, the family of God can be a haven and a recompense. If your family of origin was a happy one, how much more so the family of God? (83)

It is not just the pace that changes with the sixth word, but the focus. Having given five exhortations to honor God and elders, the Ten Words now turn their attention to the business of honoring one another as fellow image bearers. We progress from discussion of how we relate to our heavenly Parent, to our earthly parents (human authorities), to our brothers and sisters (our neighbors). Essentially, the last five words will speak to the proper treatment of siblings. (89–90)

Contempt may win followers, but it is not pastoral. It masquerades as righteous anger, but it is, in fact, self-serving and self-elevating. It may make a point, but it always has a victim. (96)

Lust itself is an act of contempt, reducing someone to a source of sexual gratification and nothing more. If the sixth command prohibited regarding our neighbor as expendable, the seventh prohibits regarding our neighbor as consumable. (102)

Satan has succeeded in convincing believers that lust is just something to be managed instead of something to be slain. (105)

Our offending eyes and hands and feet and ears and lips and tongues and noses serve at the pleasure of our hearts. What our hearts delight to do, our members rush to accomplish. (106)

Delight yourself in lawlessness, and your disordered desires will govern you. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you new desires. (109)

There are two ways of living: as a taker or as a giver. When it comes to matters of wealth, do you perceive yourself as a terminus or a distribution point? If a terminus, you will labor without rest to acquire that which you cannot keep. If a distribution point, you will labor to give away that which was never truly yours to begin with. When we hear others praying for their daily bread, does it occur to us that we might be the means by which that bread is supplied? (120)

While flattery, silence, and misattribution are the subtle pickpockets of reputation, reviling stands in the lobby of First Reputation Bank spraying bullets and sacking the vault. In the modern church, perhaps nothing attests more to our current levels of biblical illiteracy than our casual, thoughtless, and frequent commission of the sin of reviling. (128)

When the good name of our neighbor is run through the mud, the silence of his friends can be as brutalizing as the reviling of his enemies. We must not use the command to be slow to speak as an excuse for never speaking (James 1:19). God help us if we claim to be wise in our silence, when in fact we are masking cowardice. . . . There are times when we are unsure whether to speak or remain silent. But if we know our words are needed and yet withhold them, we are as guilty of bearing false witness as the reviler who began the lie. . . . Who trades in sinful silence? Satan. He likes nothing better than the silence of those who know they should speak. When we silence truth-tellers, or remain silent ourselves when called to speak courageously, we conform to Satan’s image instead of to the image of Christ. When false witnesses speak  against our neighbor, we must speak up to bear true witness on their behalf. (131, 132–33)

Idol-making, Sabbath-breaking, dishonoring authority, murder, theft, adultery, and slander can all be identified by an onlooker, but not so covetousness. Covetousness hides in the heart. The Ten Words progress from “Don’t do it” to “Don’t say it” to “Don’t even think about it.” (139–40)

The Bible provides us a lengthy cautionary tale about comparison to our neighbor. We might title it “Keeping Up with the Canaanites.” It shows us that Israel as a whole soon forgot the tenth word in a rush to compare with her neighbors. In a scene that reads like a middle schooler asking for the latest pair of shoes, Israel asks God to give her a king like the other nations. God decides to teach his people contentment the hard way, by giving them what they want. (144)

The great loss of a covetous life is that it keeps love of self as our primary concern. . . . What is more like Satan than to want what belongs to another? (147)

Poll: American Jews Report Increasing Incidents of Anti-Semitism, Mostly Online 350 words

Poll: American Jews Report Increasing Incidents of Anti-Semitism, Mostly Online 350 words

(RNS) — More than half of American Jews continue to experience or witness anti-Semitic incidents in the form of comments, slurs or threats, according to a new poll released by the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday (March 31).

The poll, conducted in January by YouGov, also reveals that 9% of American Jews reported being physically attacked in the last five years.

The poll is the second in a row conducted by YouGov for the ADL and it shows a slight uptick in anti-Semitic incidents, with 63% of respondents saying they had experienced or heard anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others, up from 54% a year earlier.

“In the aftermath of major antisemitic attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and Monsey, American Jews are reporting that they feel less safe in the U.S. today than they were just a decade earlier,” said the ADL’s chief executive officer, Jonathan Greenblatt, referring to the fatal shooting and stabbing of Jews in those cities in 2018 and 2019.

In the past year, many of the anti-Semitic incidents took place online, with 36% saying they had experienced some form of online harassment, mostly on Facebook. Most Jews said they had been called offensive names, but 13% said they were physically threatened online. The poll showed the vast majority of Americans want online platforms to better address harassment and make it easier to report hateful content.

Jewish vulnerability, which had gone down in the decades after World War II, is up dramatically, with 59% of Jewish Americans saying they feel less safe in the U.S. today than they were a decade ago.

And nearly half (49%) reported being afraid of a violent attack at a synagogue. Most synagogues in the U.S. beefed up security in the wake of the Pittsburgh massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue that killed 11 Jews.

The survey of 503 Jewish American adults over the age of 18 was conducted Jan. 7-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.


Article originally published by Religion News Service. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Luke Franzen

What does ‘love your neighbour’ look like in practice?

Our communities can be transformed when we live these words out.(Photo: Unsplash/Joel Muniz)

Life is full of surprises. I have been acutely aware of that ever since my wife heard the unforgettable words, “Yes, there’s the second head.” We simply didn’t have a clue she could be carrying twins until that life-changing moment.

Some surprises are not so welcome though. Many people felt like that when the Home Office turned the army camp in Penally, Pembrokeshire into a temporary home for asylum seekers last September and I was one of the many who believed it was not a suitable choice either for the men themselves or for the locals.

To no one’s surprise though, our reasoned arguments fell on deaf ears. But now, in what seems to have been something of a major U-turn, the camp has been closed and the men have been rapidly transferred to various other locations.

I was surprised to be asked to get involved as the lead chaplain at the camp, but I am so glad I did. Frustrating as it proved at times given the Covid restrictions, I was delighted to get to know some of the men and encouraged to see the multi-faith chaplaincy swing into action. It was good to get to know those working at the camp too, both in a voluntary and professional capacity. They proved extremely supportive.

Above all though I have been thrilled by the generosity of those who have wanted to show care to men whose lives have been traumatised by pain and suffering.

My experience of working with refugees in the former Yugoslavia certainly proved helpful and persuaded me that it was right for me to get involved, but we who live cossetted lives here in the UK can never really understand what it’s like to lose your home and perhaps your family, and then to have to undergo a process of rigorous scrutiny before being allowed to live in this ‘green and pleasant land’.

I was as horrified as many by the unpleasant scenes we encountered at the beginning, but I believe those demonstrations of unkindness were more than countered by the amazing acts of kindness and generosity I have witnessed over the past six months.

I received offers of help and support from places as far afield as Cardigan and Swansea with the result that I was able to hand over more than three hundred gifts at Christmas as well as 20 tablets that could be used for chaplaincy and general use. These tablets will now be used by asylum seeker families with children in Cardiff, and I am praying they prove as much an encouragement to them as they were to me.

“Love your neighbour” is a well-known saying of course but our communities would be very much happier and healthier if we allowed it to shape the way we relate to each other. However, I guess few would know that it has its origin in the little-known Old Testament book known as Leviticus, and ever fewer would realise that the very same chapter contains a command to love the “aliens” who were living in the land too.

It says, “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own” (Leviticus 19:33).

In fact, it has been noted that the Old Testament reminds Israel of its obligations to aliens, widows and orphans some 36 times. It seems to me that God is trying to make a point!

If we want to live as God intends then we will renounce racism, reject forms of patronising behaviour and abstain from anything that smacks of exploitation. If I had to flee my home in a desperate effort to find a new life, I would not want to be viewed as just a ‘problem’ and I would not want to be seen as a mere number.

I would like to be treated as a human being; someone who has been created in the image of God with the potential to make a massive contribution to the community in which I’ve found a home. The Book of Leviticus is bang up to date then and thankfully, I’ve had the privilege of seeing that love in action over the past six months.

Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.

How God’s Word Changed Us in 2020: Letters from You

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130). That’s just what we’ve needed in 2020, isn’t it? Perhaps never before have some of us felt so crunched for time to read the Bible, and yet never before have we needed God’s Word so much.

Many surprises have come with 2020, but this year has also reaffirmed the words of Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). The Bible is a lamp that gives light (Ps. 119:105), bread that gives life (Matt. 4:4), fire that refines (Jer. 23:29), a sword that divides (Heb. 4:12), a hammer that breaks (Jer. 23:29), a seed that implants and bears fruit (James 1:21, 1 Pet. 1:23), milk that nourishes (1 Pet. 2:2), and solid meat that strengthens (Heb. 5:12)—to list just a few biblical metaphors.

In short, God’s Word is meant to change us. So we at The Gospel Coalition recently asked those of you who participated in Read the Bible 2020, “How did God’s Word change you this year?” Here are some of the testimonies we received. They have been lightly edited for publication.

Mattias: “I started this in January just because I was curious. And I can say that for the first time in my life, being a believer since I was 13 (now 30), I’ve read God’s Word in a joyful and fairly disciplined way. Life isn’t easy, but it’s happier with God closer through his Word. Grace to God and to you [for making] this opportunity possible.”

Curt: “I don’t think it was an accident that God nudged me to start TGC’s reading plan in 2020—the year of COVID-19, racial division, and the presidential election. Daily reading of God’s Word provided a much-needed perspective that sickness and death are only temporary, that we can have unity in Christ, and that my citizenship in heaven far supersedes earthly politics. The reading plan has truly helped me to experience Jesus’s words from John 16:33 more fully: ‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.’ Thanks!”

Sylvia: “Thank you so much for sending the emails each day. I can’t believe I managed to stay on track (with catchups). It really helped me to grasp the bigger picture of the Bible, to see themes repeated from Old to New Testaments. I thought it would be a chore, but with everything in 2020, it became a place of sustenance, comfort, and communing with God. I really want to do it next year, too!”

Angela: “I’ve probably consumed the Word of God more this year than any other in recent memory. Besides a longstanding before-bed Bible-reading habit that I have kept, both TGC and my local church initiated different Bible-reading plans that I’ve chosen to participate in. The effects are strange: I’ve been at the heights of feeling more certain of the truths I’ve held onto for the past 19 years of my Christian life, more certain of the authority of the Word of God, more excited to have such a grounding; and then at the lows of finding the Word more confusing than I remembered—more obfuscated, more contradictory, more questionable. I’ve felt that the Word has had less power to speak into the tumult of the world today as my time in it has gone on. I recognize the latter as a feeling, though, and not truth: I still trust in the Word of my God and his power to save, though right now my eyes can see it less clearly than before. It has given me something with which to wrestle, to say to God, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’ (Gen. 32:26).”

Steve: “I came to Christ as an adult in 1981, but consistent disciplined Bible reading had always been a challenge. Because Don Carson has been one of my favorite living Bible teachers for years, I tried TCG’s reading plan in 2020. I looked forward to the daily emails. The opening devotional entries drew me into the readings, and I was able to stay on track all year. I found that the consistent reminders of who I am, who God is, and what he has done increasingly inspired me toward the normal Christian characteristics described in the Beatitudes—poverty of spirit, sorrow over sin and its effects, gentle submissiveness to Christ’s will, a hunger to be more conformed to Christ, and a better gospel witness to those who need peace with God. We’ll pray for more of the same in 2021. Thank you!”

Anne: “Through God’s Word this past year I am learning to trust him more. I am being changed, as I learn about his grace, to be gracious to others. I have forgiven someone I held a grudge against for many long years. I am so grateful to God for this. Many thanks again for the wonderful resource of TGC!” 

Rofans: “I don’t think I would’ve survived this difficult year without God’s Word. During the devastating lockdown period, I looked forward to spending time alone with God and his Word even though I wasn’t able to be in near proximity with my friends and families. I guess I always knew that Christ is my mediator to God, but I’ve never enjoyed this as experientially as I have this year.”

Judie: “This was the perfect year to listen to God’s Word every day. The commentary by Don Carson always opened my eyes about other portions of Scripture for that day. Having that quiet time with the consistency of God’s precious words to me lifted my spirits daily and then made me more sensitive to sharing a portion of that Word with others who were struggling—those sick, mourning, experiencing loneliness, or doubting God’s goodness, and even some who were going through marital difficulties or abuse of one kind or another. Human problems don’t stop because of a pandemic; often they’re multiplied. But God’s Word is his answer, and it’s always effective, true, and loving. Listening to God’s Word this year has made it real and powerful!”

Melissa: “Thank you so much for Read the Bible—2020 has been one crazy year with the pandemic, things constantly changing, and our nation being so divided and chaotic. Each morning of this year I’ve woken up early to a quiet house and relished God’s Word. It’s comforting to know that he is immutable, all-knowing, and sovereign over all. I especially love the devotionals and the articles that deepen my understanding of the day’s passages. Savoring this time with him each morning has fixed my gaze on Jesus and the hope I have in him. Though the mountains may crumble, though the flower withers and dies, though everything we know is rapidly changing, his Word remains. And he’s coming back.”

Will: “I expected to grow in my knowledge of the biblical story, and enjoy parts of the Bible I don’t usually read. What I didn’t expect was how much my heart would be changed. Even in a year when discourse in the world seemed harsh and divided, I responded to others with more patience and kindness. When many of the normal joys in life were taken away, I was grateful for the things I do have. And the biggest difference between this year from years past was daily time in God’s Word. Thank you, TGC, for sharing this plan. I enjoyed reading knowing many others around the world were reading with me, and I look forward to continuing this again next year.”

From all of us at The Gospel Coalition, thank you for participating, thank you for sharing, and thank God for continuing to speak by his Word. Would you consider helping us to produce more resources like Read the Bible? And join us again in 2021!