What the Ten Commandments Mean for Your Work (Exodus 20) - God’s Word for Work, Online Video Bible Study

Small Group Study / Produced by TOW Project

What the Ten Commandments Mean for Your Work (Exodus 20)


1. Leader gathers the group in an online meeting.

2. Leader shares screen and audio.

3. Leader plays video. The video includes:

  • Introduction to God's Word for Work
  • Opening prayer
  • Bible reading: Colossians 3
  • 1 minute for quiet reflection
  • Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: The Ten Commandments

4. Leader pauses the video and the group discusses the readings.

5. Leader resumes the video with the closing prayer.

Opening Prayer

God, we invite you to speak to us through the Bible today. Show us what your word means for our work. Amen.

Bible reading: Exodus 20

And God spoke all these words, saying:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’

Excerpts from the Theology of Work Bible Commentary: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are the supreme expression of God’s will in the Old Testament.

The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” reminds us that everything in the Torah flows from the love we have for God, which in turn is a response to the love he has for us. In the realm of work, this means that we are not to let work or its requirements and fruits displace God as our most important concern in life.

The second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an idol,” raises the issue of gods of our own creation, gods that we feel we can control. In ancient times, idolatry often took the form of worshiping physical objects. But the issue is really one of trust and devotion. On what do we ultimately pin our hope of well-being and success?

In the world of work, it is common to speak of money, fame, and power as potential idols. When we imagine that we have ultimate control over them, or that by achieving them our safety and prosperity will be secured, we have begun to fall into idolatry. The same may occur with virtually every other element of success, including preparation, hard work, creativity, risk, wealth, and favorable circumstances.

The third commandment, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God,” need not be restricted to the name “YHWH,” but includes “God,” “Jesus,” “Christ,” and so forth. What is wrongful use? It includes, of course, disrespectful use in cursing, slandering, and blaspheming. But more significantly it includes falsely attributing human designs to God. This prohibits us from saying “It is God’s will…” and claiming God’s authority for our own actions and decisions.

The fourth commandment to “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy” required an extraordinary trust in God’s provision. In the ancient Near East, six days of work had to be enough to plant crops, gather the harvest, carry water, spin cloth, and draw sustenance from creation.

We face the same issue of trust in God’s provision today. If we heed the commandment to observe God’s own cycle of work and rest, will we be able to compete in the modern economy? The fourth commandment does not explain how God will make it all work out for us. It simply tells us to rest one day every seven.

The fifth commandment is, “Honor your father and mother.” We honor people by working for their good. That work may be earning money to support them, or it may be forgoing paid employment to assist them in the tasks of daily life. We also honor our parents when we make use of the values they taught us.

The sixth commandment, “You shall not murder,” has application beyond homicide. In Matthew 5 verses 21-22, Jesus says that even anger is a violation of this commandment. Reducing harm at work also means eliminating needlessly unsafe conditions. Christians who have a supervisory role are reminded by the sixth commandment that ensuring safety for workers is a high responsibility.

The seventh commandment, “You shall not commit adultery” is poignant in the workplace, where temptation may arise from close proximity of relationships. Adultery violates the covenant of marriage, which is a covenant with God. But every promise or agreement made by a Christian is implicitly a covenant with God. An extension of the seventh commandment to the workplace is that we must keep our contracts, promises, and agreements and avoid inducing others to break theirs.

The eight commandment, “You shall not steal,” takes work as its primary subject. Stealing dispossesses the victim of the fruits of his or her labor. Misappropriating resources or funds for personal use is also stealing. Using deception, or profiting by taking advantage of people’s fears, vulnerabilities, powerlessness, or desperation is a form of stealing. Violating patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property laws is stealing because it deprives owners of the ability to profit from their creation.

The ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness” honors the right to one’s own reputation. Although stated in courtroom language, the ninth commandment also applies to a broad range of situations that involve misrepresenting others. Workplace gossip, for example, is a serious offense. Advertising that maligns our competitors may violate this commandment if we say or do anything that misrepresents someone else. People may not be able to detect when our representation of others is inaccurate, but God cannot be fooled.

The last commandment says that “You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbor.” At work, status, pay, and power are routine points of comparison between people. We may have good reasons to desire achievement, advancement, or reward at work. But envy isn’t one of them.

The antidote is to make it a consistent practice to recognize the accomplishments of others. If we can learn to rejoice in others’ successes, then we cut off the lifeblood of envy and covetousness at work. Even better, if we can learn how to work so that our success goes hand-in-hand with others’ success, covetousness is replaced by collaboration.

The Ten Commandments are not to be thought of as the ten most important commands among hundreds of others, but as a digest of the entire Torah. This invites us to apply the Ten Commandments broadly to all aspects of our work today.

Group Discussion

  • How does what you heard apply to your work?

Closing Prayer

God, thank you for being present with us today. Please stay with us in our work, wherever we go. Amen.

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