A charming little book called “The 11th Commandment” lists your children’s suggested contributions to the original ten. They offer such wisdom as “Thou shalt be friends with everyone,” “no grabbing,” and “don’t choke other people.” Words to live by!

In today’s first reading, Moses delivers the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. While friendship, grabbing and choking aren’t mentioned, the commandments do focus on both how we are to relate to God and to one another. From “You shall have no other gods besides me” to “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or his property),” these rules have not lost much relevance over the centuries.

For example, there are many “gods” vying for our allegiance. The easy ones to identify are money, success and fame — things that promise to deliver happiness and to help us feel good about ourselves. 

And if you’re like me, you’re awfully tempted to covet your neighbor’s, well, just about everything. So often I catch myself comparing myself to my peers: Is my job good enough, my home, my children? It’s an awful trap that God warns us away from.

Of course, it’s far easier to say that we will live by the Ten Commandments than it is to actually do it. OK, so maybe not killing is easy for most of us, at least in the literal sense. But we live in a culture that is based on competition, where we are constantly asked to take care of ourselves before acknowledging the needs of anyone else. We may not kill anybody, but we also may not do much to help some in our communities to prosper.

Lent is a time in which we are called to reflect on how well-aligned our lives are with God. Are we experiencing the spiritual health and happiness that God promises, or have we forgotten to follow the path that leads to life?

I like to think of the Ten Commandments less as a list of rules and more like a doctor’s prescription. Doctors are often giving us commandments, but we understand that they are given for our well-being, and we are highly motivated to follow them. Why would we be any less motivated to follow God’s “rules?”

Lent is a time in which we are called to reflect on how well-aligned our lives are with God. Are we experiencing the spiritual health and happiness that God promises, or have we forgotten to follow the path that leads to life? 

I’m not saying it’s easy to do; it’s quite frustrating to me to find that I am so inconsistent in living how I intend to live. Likely the biggest obstacle to any of us following God’s “prescription” for health is the feeling that we don’t really need it — either because we don’t feel sick, or we have found we like our alternative medicines much better.

The good news, though, as I’ve said many times, is that we are not called to be perfect, just faithful. We are called not only to not kill, but to not hurt others. We are called to put God first in our lives as a cure for the persistent dissatisfaction that otherwise plagues us. 

Most of all, we are called as Jesus says to love God and love our neighbors, and when we fail, to try again.

Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]