The Ten Commandments have often been frowned upon by psychology and sociology types as being too negative in nature. They seem to focus on the wicked side of life rather than the positive. These same commentators also tell us we should not be too quick to correct, criticize or punish our children. They need positive reinforcement, not negative. They need to hear what is good about themselves, not what is bad. They need love, hugs and kisses not spankings and time outs. There may be some truth to that—I don’t know, I am not an expert—but it seems to me that in a world that harbors evil due to Original Sin it is not an either/or issue but one that is both/and. Yes, emphasizing the positive over the negative is good but focusing on one to the exclusion of the other is detrimental to the healthy growth of the child.
Jesus taught us to pray and gave us a way to address God as we had never done so before: “Our Father.” To see our Creator in the glory of His fatherhood is to personalize the invisible in a way that we can appreciate, with heartfelt love and total dedication, His fatherly guidance. This is the intent of the Ten Commandments, to open our hearts to His Love.
In a similar way, some people like to focus on the warm and fuzzy Jesus to the exclusion of His “negative” side but that is just as bad as focusing on the angry and critical Jesus to the exclusion of His Love for us. Again, it is not either/or but both/and. Jesus’ anger at the commercialization of the Temple is an expression of the righteousness God desires for each of us. It is the same righteousness that causes Him to tell the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more.” It is the same loving righteousness from which flows the gift of the Ten Commandments.
Notice the words Jesus uses when He clears the Temple. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” Let’s expand the Temple area, figuratively, to include the whole world; after all, it is God’s creation, not ours. How are we doing in this expanded Temple area? Do we strive to grow in God’s righteous or do we focus on worldly things? Do we explore God’s limitless Love or limit ourselves to our own desires?
Again it’s not either/or but both/and. We are in the world but not of the world. The Ten Commandments, like so much of Jesus’ teachings, are intended to help us limit the wicked side of our fallen human nature so that we can explore more fully the limitless nature of our Imago Dei.