Keeping Ten… Or Not

“All pay heed! The Lord! The Lord JEHOVAH, has given unto you these fifteen [Moses drops one tablet and it shatters] – Oy.

Ten! Ten Commandments for all to obey!” – Mel Brooks as Moses in History of the World Part I.

If you had given us fifteen commandments, God,
we would have kept them… even worse.

You shall have no other gods before me.

Except for wealth and power. Except for claiming
our self-righteousness. Except for comfort.
Except for what fulfills a moment or a day.

You shall not make for yourself an idol…

Except for units of exchange. Except for statues
celebrating history founded in illusion.
Except for pale-pigmented skin.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your god…

Except to justify oppression. Except to conjure up
Your favor of injustice. Except to claim
that wealth and power, even evil, are Your will.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.

Except for the essential workers. Except for those
we will not pay a living wage for their six working days.
Except for those at home we do not pay at all.

Honor your father and your mother…

Except for those the stresses of the world overwhelm.
Except for those whose errors are still lesser than their love.
Except for those we choose to lay aside.

You shall not murder.

Except for those we find a threat.
Except for those whose nations we oppose.
Except for those we fear.

You shall not commit adultery.

Except upon intense desire in a moment.
Except upon a disappointment with the spouse. Except
when something better comes along.

You shall not steal.

Except to maximize my profit over others’.
Except to minimize my workers’ compensation.
Except to claim Your work is mine.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Except to emphasize my righteousness and power.
Except to render powerless the ones in opposition.
Except to maintain structures of oppression.

You shall not covet…

Except… every damn day.
Every damned day.
Every damnable day.

If you had given us fifteen commandments, God,
we would have kept the other five… even worse.

A poem/prayer based on Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20, the Revised Common Lectionary First Reading for Year A, Proper 22 (27).

The photo “Broken stone” by smallcurio is licensed under CC BY 2.0.