The Ten, I mean One, I mean Two Commandments!

I’ve got a thought.  Well, I’ve thought it through before often.  Curious?

I guess so, sure.

I’ve thought before about the *dun-dun-duhhhnn* 10 commandments. 

Ok. What about them?

I have often thought something like: the “essence” of the 10 commandments was “don’t cheat.”  Seems you could take all 10 and fit them in “don’t cheat.”

Hm. I don’t think I agree, but ok. Go on.

Well, don’t cheat on your wife, don’t steal or lie for yourself, honoring the Sabbath is like not cheating on God.  But… hmm, honoring parents is different than cheating, I think…

Yeah. Doesn’t really fit. Besides, I think that the word “cheating” would need to be carefully defined. For instance (and I may be wrong here), but I think that it wasn’t until fairly recently that we started using the phrase “cheating on” to mean adultery or whatever. But that’s really not the point-

Good point, but yeah I didn’t mean it like that.  Maybe, actually, don’t be selfish.  I’ve thought of that before too.  It has a motive in it, you know.

Ok, that makes a little more sense. I think that would fit better. But still it doesn’t feel quite right to me. I mean, take the first commandment: “no other gods.” I think if someone—say, an Israelite who would have heard the 10 commandments when they were first given—if he worshipped other gods, it wouldn’t necessarily be selfishness, even though it would still be sin. He might think he was being unselfish by giving extra sacrifices or whatever, you know? So, yeah, I think it’s closer, but we’re not there yet.

Well, what got me thinking of all this in the first place…  You see, all the commandments seem as though they could be summarized by the last commandment (don’t envy).  Sort of.  I mean, none of them really contain an inward motive, or emotion, or choice.  I could honor my parents outwardly, or I could not murder and steal and lie, yet it could all be outward.  But the last commandment is necessarily and only inward.  So yeah, we need, as Jesus pointed out in the Sermon on the Mount, inward obeying commands.  Or, that is, the inward thoughts must conform to the outward actions as well.  And it seems that only the last commandment does this.  But these thoughts of mine, as you can probably tell, are incomplete…

OK. So far, we’ve gone from “Don’t cheat” to “Don’t be selfish” to “Don’t envy.” And-

Yes, it’s a rollercoaster in my head!

Seems that way. But I think all that mental anguish you’re putting yourself through is unnecessary. If the goal is to find one commandment that sums up all 10, we already have someone who’s done it for you. And, if you’ll notice, all the summaries you’ve come up with so far are negative—don’t, don’t, don’t.

Well then, DO be selfless!  No, just kidding 🙂  OK, go on.

Haha! That was kind of funny.

Thank you.

You’re welcome. But what I’m saying is, there’s no need for us to summarize the commandments, because Jesus already did that. “What is the greatest commandment?” “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” And remember what He said next? “On these two hang all the law and the prophets.” So, there’s the only summary you need. And, unlike what we’ve suggested so far, these commandments are positive, not negative: “DO love.”

Yes, that’s correct.  Hmm… Yeah, I’ve thought of that before.  You’re right.  It’s just that, for some reason, it really really seems that there should be one single all-encompassing summary.  Seems weird that-

Ok, one single thing? Here it is: love.

But as we’ve often said, there are unbelievers who are unselfish, who love. . .

But as you also often say, our concept of love, as a culture, is way off. I doubt whether it’s possible to really love, as Christ means it, without knowing His love in you. But anyway, that’s not the point either. The thing is, you CAN boil it all down to love, as long as, when you do so, you understand that that love has to take two routes: upward, to God, and outward, to others. We can think of examples of people who loved God to such an extent that they couldn’t even see their fellow men anymore, and people who loved others so much that they neglected God. So you have to have both.

Now I want to say, “But if you love God, you must/would necessarily love others”.  But (again) as I often say, we are humans.  Our ways are not His ways, we see through a glass dimly.  So yes—as humans on earth, since we don’t have all knowledge nor an all-loving heart, we need (as it were) reminders—love your fellow man, and love God.  Yes, I totally agree.

Right. And it may be true that if you love God, you will also love His creation (people), but I don’t think it’s automatic. I think it’s true that the more we grow in His love, the better able we are to love others. And that may be one reason that the commandment to love God is given as having a higher precedence than loving your neighbors. So having both serves as a reminder, as you put it, that we have to love in two ways.

Yes, that sounds good 🙂


A Misconstrued Scripture v1.0: Null and Void

Hey, B.J. I was wondering about something the other day.

What’s that?

Ok, so I don’t remember why I started thinking about it, but there’s this one verse people quote sometimes. You know, the thing about “My Word will not return to Me void…” That one?

Yes, I think it’s in…Isaiah?  Probably wrong, but yeah.  What about it?

Yeah. Well, I know people pretty much all apply that verse to mean, like, if you witness to people, or hand out gospel tracts or whatever, that God will bless your efforts, and even if it’s in some small way—

Like health and wealth?

No, no, not like that. More like—Well, hang on, let me finish.


So I mean, that act of sharing (or sending out His Word) when you witness will yield some kind of fruit no matter what. Maybe not right away, but sooner or later, it will produce something good and therefore not be void. Make sense? Have you heard the same kind of concept?

You mean, like, “spiritual” efforts, vs. health, wealth, and prosperity?  You mean your prayers, or evangelism, or preaching, good deeds, etc. will always return spiritual profits?

Umm… I dunno. I think it’s more like, specifically connected with the Bible and witnessing. Or, at least that’s how people talk about it. Like, I heard this story that was about this Bible that somebody stole. And like, it was a poor kid who couldn’t read; he just knew that the Bible was a book, and books can sell for a pretty good amount of money. It was in India or something, so books aren’t as abundant there. Or something. Anyway, nobody would buy it, and so he was stuck with it, and then years later he was able to go to school, and started reading the Bible, and eventually became a Christian. And when I was reading this, they said something like, “See, God’s Word never returns to Him void. Even though it started with the desire for money, it produced fruit.” But, I’m just wondering if that was anything at all like what that verse meant to the people who first read or heard it.

Found it in Isaiah 55, so we were on the right track. 

I’d have to say that “the word of God” is WAY misunderstood.  Most people see “The Bible” as synonymous with “The Word”, “The Word of God”- even though for one: the Bible itself never says this, as in “this papyrus scroll (for ancient societies)/leather bound book (for our modern society) is ‘The Word of God’ and nothing else is” or something like that. I mean, think about it!  Isaiah was speaking these words, not reading them from a tablet, scroll, whatever.  Later (as in, after he spoke them, whether seconds, weeks, years, etc.) they were written down by him (from memory) or by someone else (whether while he recited them or from their memory).  They must’ve been “God’s word” before they were written down (unless the way Isaiah received them from God was by, say, finding them scratched on tablets, or pieces of papyrus appeared at his bedside each day he woke up, or when he was having visions the words kind of appeared in his mind’s eye- the first two seem silly and unlikely, and the third is not really him reading a book anyway). 

Ok… I think I get what you mean by that.

And for two: Hebrews and John (and probably elsewhere) specifically call Jesus “The Word of God”.

Yeah, that’s more what I was thinking. “The Word,” biblically, pretty much always means Jesus Himself. Or maybe sometimes it refers to a particular prophecy about a certain time, place, and people. I think.

I think Solomon (in Proverbs) calls his proverbs and precepts “words of God”.  “The flower withers, and the grass fades, but the word of our Lord lasts forever”, in Isaiah also.  And Moses talks about the commands he wrote down being God’s words. 

Right. So if that’s what it means by His Word (capital or lowercase word, whichever one), then how can it return or not return void?

Well basically I think the passage means, “Whatever I say, you can trust it.  It’ll happen”.  In immediate context, He’s saying, “Come to me, and your souls will be refreshed.  I promise: I know what I’m talking about (even if you don’t understand the situation). So don’t worry, just come to me.”  For a broader context (this might help us understand it better), Isaiah often railed against idolatry, and against trusting in merely human wisdom.  So God here, through Isaiah, is probably contrasting “trust in God” to “trust in idols/human wisdom”.

Makes sense.

And God’s saying, “I promise, what I’m saying here is true”, i.e. “My word will not return void.

Yeah. That seems to fit better than, “If you go give people a Bible, they’ll believe in Me someday.”

Now obviously, if we evangelize, or give a Bible away, or pray, or whatever, then we can trust that “all things work for good for those who are in Christ Jesus”.  But I don’t think that these people who fire off this verse realize it in this way.

So maybe this verse is more like, “What I tell you can be trusted,” so therefore we can then read other verses, like… I dunno, maybe something like the seed that fell on the good soil producing a harvest, what is it, ten, twenty, or a hundred fold?

Something like that.

Yeah. So we can read that and know that it’s true. So maybe, if we really are good soil, we know that we will produce a harvest. And maybe we’ll produce it by gospel tracts and handing out Bibles. I think this verse, the Isaiah one, can be indirectly used to support witnessing through tracts—

Yeah, the keyword being “indirectly”.

Yeah. And I think some people want to just jump straight there.

Now obviously God through Isaiah was speaking to a specific people in a specific time, in specific circumstances, etc. But that specific message (which we have drawn some general, eternal principles out of) is definitely not, like you said, “If you go give people a Bible, they’ll believe in Me someday.”

When was the last time you had a real-life conversation in which the time between replies were, like, 4 or 5 days?  Besides political talks between foreign nations, and bouts between angry spouses, this usually doesn’t happen (I’m not at all implying that we don’t get angry with one another [but we might just converse with foreign countries, you never know….]).  We are going to, from now on, try and schedule our posts around times we know we’ll both be free to respond in a more timely manner.  Cool.

Anyway, to respond to her “sad song” post:


“What is it about sad songs that really makes me love them so much?”  Honestly, even after thinking about it a few days, I have no idea.  I’d really like to give you an answer, but I don’t know.  ||to audience= yes, we admit our faults, like not knowing each other well enough even after 6 years of marriage||

“This song is partly about the idea that when you’re feeling sad, and you sing a sad song, you’ll begin to feel better. While it’s a nice idea, and maybe true at times, that doesn’t seem to me to be a satisfactory answer to why I love sad songs.”  Yeah, I would’ve never guessed that’d been the reason.

“If I feel better at all, it’s only in that sickeningly self-gratifying way where you somehow start to feel special or something because you’re suffering more than the rest of the world. (Yes, I have been there… And it’s pathetic. I know.)” And it’s also sinful.  I do this too, at work often.

I agree about Tristan and Isolde.  But I don’t know if that’s it. 

The good times help us appreciate the bad times: while I believe that that is valid sometimes, it’s definitely not the norm.  And anyway, again, I don’t think that’s it for you.

A fallen world?  I don’t think so.  Unless there’s something deep in your subconscious which comes out disguised, I don’t think that’s it.

Like I said, sorry I’m of no help on this question.

Song Sung Blue

I’ve had a thought rolling around in my mind for a few days now. B.J., I mentioned this to you the other day, but I’ve been thinking more about it.

I’ve realized that the vast majority of songs that I like to sing are all sad songs. Here is a small sampling:

Dido–My Lover’s Gone

Enya–Fallen Embers

Sarah McLachlan–Angel

From The Muppet Christmas Carol–When Love is Gone (Sorry I couldn’t find this one with lyrics… And don’t laugh because it’s the Muppets… It’s still a sad song.)

I could probably think of more. But anyway, it just struck me the other day how I always tend to sing sad songs. So, the question has been simmering in my thoughts for awhile: What is it about sad songs that really makes me love them so much?

While thinking about this, another song popped into my head. This is a song about sad songs. It’s called Song Sung Blue, and it’s by Neil Diamond. (I didn’t know that until I looked it up just now.) This song is partly about the idea that when you’re feeling sad, and you sing a sad song, you’ll begin to feel better. While it’s a nice idea, and maybe true at times, that doesn’t seem to me to be a satisfactory answer to why I love sad songs.

For one thing, I don’t have to be sad to sing them. In fact, it seems like it’s when I’m happiest that I find these really melancholy songs coming from my mouth. Besides that, when I really am sad, and I start singing, or listening to, a sad song, it only confirms my sadness. In fact, it makes me positively wallow in it, rather than making me feel better, as Neil Diamond says I should. If I feel better at all, it’s only in that sickeningly self-gratifying way where you somehow start to feel special or something because you’re suffering more than the rest of the world. (Yes, I have been there… And it’s pathetic. I know.)

So what is it about sad songs? Why do we love them? Why do I love them? Is it the haunting melodies? Perhaps. But, you know, I think I can include sad stories and poems in this musing, too, and they have no haunting melodies to accompany them.

Like, you remember when we watched Tristan and Isolde, B.J.? I mean, that movie sucked! Like, it wasn’t a bad movie. Really, it was quite good, but everything that happened just sucked for the characters, and it sucked worse and worse as it went along. It was just so depressing. But it’s a beautiful story.

So, what makes sorrow beautiful? Of course, we’ve all heard the pat answer, “Experiencing the sad times makes us appreciate the joy so much more.” That seems too easy. I don’t buy it. In heaven, there will be no sorrow, no tears. We’ll still appreciate the joy. “Sure, but that’s only because we can remember the suffering we experienced on earth.” Ok, maybe. But what about God’s original plan? I don’t buy the idea that He created humans, intending for them to fall into sin. In His original plan, there was no death and no sin, right?

I even have a more obvious example than that. Imagine a little kid who had the immense luck to be born into a happy, loving family that is financially stable. That kid has probably never experienced real sorrow. Maybe some kid at school knocked over her tower of blocks, but I doubt it’s been worse than that. Would anyone be absurd enough to tell me that she doesn’t truly understand and appreciate the joy she feels when she plays with her family?

There’s something about sorrow that draws us and haunts us. Is it only because we live in a fallen world?

So it’s been a few days, but I want to respond to Devorah’s post.

To quote Devorah “If I ever say something that could be taken the wrong way, please call me out on it.” Yes, that’s why our marriage is so wonderful 🙂 People are scared of honesty now-a-days.

But yeah, I don’t mind it when you do the budget on your own, at all. I mean, you’re good at it. What I’m scared of is when I do try and make comments, am I now suddenly playing the “submit to me” husband?  But if as a general rule we do it together, then I feel less this way.

And, since a marriage is, two-become-one, I have to say that you doing should also be me doing it.  Money in and of itself is not important at all, but seeing as everything is given with “credit” of some kind, and money is the universal credit, it would only make sense that money issues would play a role in a lot of our life.  Glad we’re getting this budget thing down again.

Also something I just thought about: handling the money with each other gives me a sense of “togetherness”.  It’s like, I tell you “go and do this by yourself, and I’m gonna do that alone”- well that’s crappy.  As we know, I like going everywhere together, even when we go grocery shopping or to the dentist.  So doing the budget and money stuff “together” makes me feel more together. And that’s what a lot of marriages aren’t, together.

Why the Man-Hating?

This is a response to B.J.’s previous post, here.

‘You’re so right, that stereotype is there. And it really bothers me. I don’t know where it comes from. But I see it in the media ALL the time. Pick a TV show, and there’s probably at least one male character who is painted as just the kind of incompetent buffoon you’re talking about. It seems like men on TV are all either jerks, or lovable idiots. The strong female characters, on the other hand? They’re everywhere! But young men and boys have no model to which they can aspire. Someone, please find me a strong, capable, intelligent, honorable man in pop culture. Please. Because I don’t see him.

‘Anyway, I got side-tracked, because I’ve always seen this as a big issue. We expect so little from our men. Ugh. No wonder our concept of fatherhood is so anemic. Oh, sorry, I’m doing it again.

‘Yeah, I’ve been handling all of our budgeting and financial information, pretty much since the beginning of our marriage. And for the most part, that’s worked out for us. It’s not because you’re incapable or stupid, but mainly because, well, I like doing it. I have a pretty good head for numbers, and I actually enjoy creating a spreadsheet and doing the math, and all that. Some of it can be a pain, like when it comes time to choose an electricity provider or auto insurance (which reminds me, it’s almost time to renew our insurance. I need to call around and see if we can get a better price), but for the most part, I like managing that kind of stuff, or at least I don’t mind. I like to think that I do it, not because you can’t, but because I can serve you by taking that burden off of you.

‘I liked it better, though, when we made more decisions together. Remember, I used to draw up a budget, then we would both take a look at it, and you would tell me a few things that should change. But until recently, you were never home because you were driving the 18-wheeler, so the only contact we had was over the phone. And then the few days you did get to come home, it seemed like the LAST thing we wanted to do was talk about money. We just wanted to enjoy being together. So for a long time, while you were working away from home, we never had conversations like this.

‘To be honest, I started to feel a little guilty every time I would write a budget. Not because I thought I was making bad decisions, but because I knew you wouldn’t have the opportunity to give your input. I’m really happy you’re home to stay now. I think it’s really important to check in with each other about this. I missed being able to do it.

‘And I hope I never say or do anything to contribute to that “dumb man” stereotype. I hope I always only say things to build you up. If I ever say something that could be taken the wrong way, please call me out on it.’

Financial Double Standards in Marriage

So last night, Devorah and I were talking about budget stuff.  I brought up something that was really, really, really bugging me.

You see, if the woman in the relationship gets something done, in this case the budget, she’s cleaning it up.  She’s making it go right.  People say stuff like “Good thing he has her” or, “Don’t worry, she’s taking care of it”.  The husband is a buffoon, or maybe aloof from the budget stuff, or (as implied), “since he obviously could never handle it himself…”  Yeah, when I let you take over, when I say “She handles that stuff”, or when I speak about the budget and (in a polite, not at all patronizing way) you correct me, this is how it comes across. 

But if the husband takes any initiative- if he calls some or all of the shots, if he is making the moves, if he talks about it as if he actually knows what he’s talking about, thus giving the impression that he’s not a buffoon or aloof or whatnot, but that maybe even he’s the one who’s actually in charge…  Now the husband is “the boss”.  He is “the head”.  He is seen as the typical “in charge” husband.  Eventually it gets to where he’s making her submit, he’s being overbearing.  The husband is being the typical male head-of-the-household, bossy and overzealous at best, domineering at worse.

You see the dilemma I’m in?  I’m afraid that if I stand back and let you be the “first amongst equals” in our budgeteering (cool new word, huh? ), I’ll be the lazy husband, the one who doesn’t contribute, who doesn’t help his wife when need be but is carried by her, or who is at least Homer Simpson.  But then on the other hand, if I do take charge, even just a little maybe, I’m afraid that then I’ll be branded as the overbearing, “Submit to me, woman!”  husband. 

So you see, no matter what I do, I’m in the wrong- I’ll be the “bad guy”.  I wish you could walk in my shoes, so you can understand what I’m feeling. Maybe I’m overly worried about the stereotype, but it is there.’


That was the essence of what I said the other night.  Some of that is verbatim, but it is definitely the point I was trying to get across.