On the fourth day of Christmas,
the Lord God said to me,
“Follow my laws.”
I am a rule-breaker by nature. I wish I weren’t, but sometimes I like to drive over the speed limit or walk through a field to see a spectacular vista, even though there’s a clearly posted No Trespassing sign. I am often tempted to break laws that I think are silly or just for other people to obey, and sometimes I give into that temptation.
The most well-known of God’s laws are the Ten Commandments that God gives to Moses. But, read on a little further into Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and you will find 613 commandments that comprise the whole Law of Moses. Some are commandments to do something—like when and where to celebrate Passover. Others state what not to do, like which foods to avoid or how to prepare a food item correctly.
To our twenty-first-century ears and eyes, some of these do’s and don’ts seem silly or strange or just plain out-of-touch with life today, like how you’re not supposed to wear a garment made out of both wool and linen. Others seem to still be pretty good rules, like forgiving debts and taking good care of orphans and widows.
When Jesus begins his public ministry, he beings by standing up in the synagogue and telling the people that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets, and to heal the sick and raise the dead. Jesus tells the people listening to him that obeying and honoring all the laws—all 613 of them—are rooted in two simple actions: love God with your entire being and love your neighbor with the same kind of compassion and generosity you extend to yourself.
When we love God wholeheartedly, and when we are loving our neighbors as ourselves, we spend a good portion of our time thinking about how our actions or inactions will affect them. This kind of love helps us to remember to leave early when we go to meet someone, so that we don’t have to rush and arrive on time. Loving each other this way means that we pay attention to special requests or needs, and do what we can with what we have to fill those requests with joy and full hearts.
When we read and study the example of Jesus’ life in the world, we see how to love God with our whole hearts, and how to love our neighbors as our selves. Guide me, O Lord, to consider you and each person I interact with as I make decisions today. Help me to walk in your ways.
- Why do we have laws?
- How are God’s laws different from secular laws?
- Which commandment is hardest for you to follow?
Ask: Is there a rule you break all the time, or a behavior you struggle with that you know God would not be proud of? What is it? Why do you think you struggle with this? Offer this struggle to God, and ask for help in doing better. Write an intercessory prayer—a prayer that asks God for help in making changes in your life. Be sure to spend time listening to what God may be saying to your heart.
Teach: Carefully read the Ten Commandments as a family (Exodus 20:1-17). Talk about each commandment and what you each think they mean. Next, read Luke 16:10-13 together. What is Jesus saying to the disciples about breaking the law? What does this mean for you and me?
“He rules the world with truth and grace!” We are blessed to serve a God who loves us, and who teaches us to love by giving us rules to follow.
Listen to the song “Joy to the World.”
Sing along with the first four verses of our “12 Days of Christmas” song.
Thank you for sharing your laws with us. Thank you for sending Jesus to keep us in relationship with you even when we break your laws. Guide us to learn and know your will for us and keep that knowledge in our hearts so that over time we may live into your will for us. In Christ’s name. Amen.
The Old Testament readings not only outline all the laws, but they also remind us to learn the laws and teach them to our children (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). The New Testament readings recast the laws into simpler terms of walking in love and carrying each other’s burdens. Read along with Galatians 6:2; 1 John 2:3-8; 2 John 1:4-6; and Romans 8:1-4 to get a feel for how love can guide us to keep God’s law in our daily thoughts and actions, how those actions are an outward sign of our love for God, and how God’s Spirit works within us to help us keep the laws.
What helps you follow rules? What makes it harder?