Examination of Conscience

March 19, 2009

From Tom

We promised this list last weekend. I had a busy week that kept me from getting this out. But here is an examination of conscience.

“I am the Lord your God, you shall have no gods besides me.”

This commandment tells us to put our trust and faith in God more than myself or money or a boss or anything other than God. This commandment tells us that looking to other spiritual powers like ouija boards, psychics, horoscopes, or spiritualists for direction is wrong and sinful. It also challenges us to check our heart and see what we are seeking more than God. We tend to think because we don’t worship “golden calves” that we are following this commandment, but the reality is that idol worship is the most common sin. Our idol is whatever we put before God. The major heart issue here is pride, thinking I don’t need God or refusing to rely on him.

“You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

This commandment tells us to have proper respect for God’s name – to use it only with respect and reverence. We break it by saying Jesus’ name as a curse or using God’s name lightly. The commandment upholds a reverence and respect for God.

“Keep holy the Lord’s day.”

Scripture encourages us to enter into God’s rest. We are human beings, not “human doings.” This commandment upholds the value of rest and relationship with God and people. We keep this commandment by going to Mass on Sundays (or Saturday nights), participating in communal worship. We also keep it by taking time out of every day to connect with God and surrendering our time to him. The value here is cultivating a relationship with God.

“Honor your father and mother.”

This commandment tells us to have respect for authority. This authority begins with our parents, to honor them and love them both as small children and into our adulthood. As adults we are also to have respect for proper authorities – the government, police, our boss, and the laws of the land. We follow the law and authority not because we fear getting caught and in trouble but because legitimate authority is an image and reflection of God’s authority. The major heart issue here is pride or a sense of rebellion.

“You shall not kill.”

This commandment tells us it is wrong to murder, to take innocent life. Self-defense and protection of others is not prohibited by this commandment. In fact we have a right to protect our lives. The commandment tells us that abortion and euthanasia are wrong. On a more every day application, Jesus tells us that if we even grow angry with our brother and allow that anger to lead to insults, we are violating God’s law. This commandment also tells us that gossip, slander or any defamation of another’s character is wrong. The value here is a respect for human life and the dignity of all people, even people we don’t like, because they are made in the image and likeness of God. A major heart issue for many people is carrying anger from season to season of life. The Scriptures command us to get rid of anger because it kills relationships.

“You shall not commit adultery.”
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”

These commandments tell us to respect God’s gift of sex and respect the bodies of others. Obviously, adultery is a sin, but so is lust and using our imaginations to think about another person other than our spouse sexually. This commandment upholds the value of sex within the context of marriage, to be used both to unite a couple and for the creation of life. It prohibits looking at pornography or “soft porn.” It also requires people to be responsible for how they dress so that they don’t tempt others into lust. The heart issue here is lust.

The Church also teaches that contraception is wrong. Many people have trouble accepting this teaching, but there is rich wisdom and insight that supports this teaching. My quick personal insights are twofold. When I said, “I do” to my wife, I accepted all of her. Contraception says, “I take all of you accept your fertility.” I put a barrier between me and my wife if I use contraception. Second, God clearly created sex for procreation. It is the natural fruit from sex. Contraception tells God that we reject his plan for sex and his natural order of things.

“You shall not steal.”
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.”

These commandments tell us it is wrong to steal, to take something that doesn’t belong to us. We can subtly steal from our boss and company by wasting time at work and not doing our job. We can steal by overcharging customers. This commandment also challenges us to be generous with our resources, to acknowledge that God owns everything and that if we have been given extra, then God wants us to share with people who have less than we do. The value here is to be responsible stewards of the money and possessions God has given us. We are also to respect other people in their role as God’s stewards. Contentment is also a value held by this commandment. Heart issues would be envy or greed.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

We are to be oriented towards the truth, to seek and discover the truth. This commandment upholds the value of authenticity and honesty. It teaches us that lying or putting on false pretenses, or being fake is wrong. Often the heart issue here is sloth. Sloth is laziness in doing good or desire to avoid necessary pain or conflict. We often lie or act fake because it is easier than being honest.

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