When people think of the Ten Commandments, the words “covet” and “neighbor’s wife” comes to mind—or the image of Charlton Heston holding two tablets. Your students may think of the Ten Commandments as a list of “do nots”, a checklist for confession, or just another list to memorize. Yet there is a way to present the Ten Commandments in a positive way that will make a lasting impression on your students.
Just as a soccer or baseball game has rules—Thou shall swing at strikes; Thou shall stay on sides when playing forward in soccer—so too, does a faith-filled life. Let’s take a look at the roadmap God gave us through Moses.
Read each commandment in its traditional form. Tradition is good, and students should hear these words from Scripture. However, they also need to know what these words mean, especially when many people get tripped up by terms like “strange gods”.
1. I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.
Ask students to make a list of what special things they have in their rooms that show who they are. Do you have a sports poster? A picture of a family member? A statue of a dancer? Where is God? Suggest they find a spot for God in their room and observe the First Commandment by honoring the creator who gave us life and this wonderful world.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Explain that we should not use God’s name in a disrespectful manner. How would you feel if someone said bad things and said swears around your mom or your dad? How do you think God feels when he hears those kinds of words coming from your mouth? Do you swear to fit in with your friends? How can you remember to think before you speak?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
How many hours do you spend in school? How much time do you watch television or play video games? What makes a day special? Why is Sunday special?
4. Honor thy father and mother.
Name some important honors: the academy awards, MVP for a sport, or even best speller at school. Explain that this use of the word honor means recognizing the importance of parents as people who are guiding us and helping us grow. Encourage your students to honor their parents each day with a kind word or deed-and watch love flourish.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
This commandment is not just about murder. Have we “killed” someone’s soul with unkind words or actions? How have we wasted our time or life? What have we done that is destructive to life-abused our bodies, etc.?
6. You shall not commit adultery.
Discuss the sacrament of marriage and the importance of being faithful. Depending on the age of your students, you can also talk about modesty, chastity, and respecting our bodies.
7. You shall not steal.
Forget a discussion of shoplifting for now. Instead, focus on questions like What do you give in life? How do you help others? How do you use your time for good? Read the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25: 14-30). Do you bury them, share them, or grow them? Ask your students what they would do with one dollar. Can you help the world with it? Buy a lottery ticket? Donate it to a worthy cause?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Talk about the hurtful nature of gossip and bullying, and how words can really harm. This is a good time to talk about what is appropriate to post on social media sites. Ask your students to write a compliment or words of praise about each classmate. The will see the power of kind words, and this will lead them to understand the harmfulness of mean ones.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
This can be grouped with the Tenth Commandment.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
What does covet mean? What makes you want more? Do you look at others and wish you had their stuff? Open a magazine, or show some newspaper flyers, and discuss what companies are trying to sell. Have your students make a list of things they want. Ask them if they have ever given something away and felt really good. Explain the importance of counting one’s blessings and not worrying about what others have or wear.
Peggy Weber is a reporter and producer for Catholic Communications for the Diocese of Springfield, Mass.
This article originally appeared in RTJ’s creative catechist October 2013.
Image credit: Marius Pirvu, Shutterstock