I’m saying nothing new to anyone to note that in the West there has been a marked drift away from the acknowledgement of, the worship of, and service to, God. The trivialization of Him, secularism, materialism, and other forces have contributed to this. What’s less acknowledged is that seemingly paralleling this decline, there has been an increasing emphasis and demand for a plethora of human rights. I’m not interested at this point in separating the wheat from the chaff in these, but simply acknowledging the truth that while our emphasis on God has plummeted, our focus on human rights has expanded.
The decalogue of Israel knows no such dichotomy. In fact, its order suggests the opposite—that the way to love others fully and completely is to love God in the same manner. It is only when we give God the recognition He deserves, that we can do the same for each other.
Failure to do this, means we end up playing God—a role both the religious and irreligious have historically proven inept at. We’ve seen this in the establishment of laws that allow life to be ended through abortion or euthanasia, or in the effort to fundamentally restructure life as it was given to us through civically sanctifying same sex relationships as well as the failure to recognize the immutability of gender. Rights without a Creator are little more than a social construct reflecting our current societal drift.
However, when rights are anchored in God, they have a timelessness and transcendence to them. God tells Noah,
And from each human being, too, I will demand an
accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.” (Genesis 9:6)
This means something! Murder is presented as more than something that is wrong for social reasons—God is involved in the equation. It is a crime against Him! That completely changes the way we look at our crimes, doesn’t it? Murder shifts from being a callous action that eliminates an individual, diminishes society, and robs friends and family of a loved one to being all of that plus a crime against the One who made and sustains all of us. It goes against what He has provided in the Scripture and in Christ to guide our lives.
This works for everything else as well. Stealing takes on a vertical dimension and can’t be rationalized away as pay back for oppression, low wages, bad working conditions, etc. It is a crime against God! Everything is rooted in Him. That’s why Israel was told that Yahweh “detests dishonest scales” (Proverbs 11:1). You cannot sin against one made in the image of God without sinning against God. It is all connected.