I’ve seen the previews more than once for the new Hollywood extravaganza “Gods and Kings” that opened this weekend. It’s the Moses Exodus story redux. It looks pretty over-the-top. It’s a film I’m tempted to wait to see until it comes to the dollar theaters. It looks like a very carefully crafted bauble—especially for the Christian market and especially for the holiday season. I recall reading somewhere that the director, Ridley Scott, is an atheist. That certainly didn’t surprise me. I’m sure that he and the producers are looking for a big payday. Hollywood has finally awakened to the fact that there’s an enormous Christian market out there. I imagine they wonder what a blockbuster with big names will net from a market willing to spend megamillions on junk films. It all seems so obvious and so cynical.
Anyway, it made me think of the 1956 version of that story “The Ten Commandments” and my train of thought eventually led me to the notion that there really are in essence twelve Commandments. Like every good little Lutheran in Sunday school I learned about the big Ten blasted in stone tablets on Mt. Sinai—the ones Charlton Heston smashed when he came down and found his people partying. But not being an orthodox Jew, the whole law—the 613 directives spelled out in the five books of Moses, were pretty much ignored. And I was well into my 30s before I found out that Jesus summed them all up into two.
This story is told in Luke 10. He’s challenged by an expert in the law to explain how He reads the law. Jesus, like a good therapist, turns the question back onto the seeker, and the man says: “That thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” And Jesus says to him; “Thou hast answered right; do this and thou shalt live.”
I like that. I’m all for keeping things simple. My eyes glaze over when experts argue the fine points of the law, and I’m always reminded of Bonhoeffer’s statement that theology was invented by satan when he said to Eve, “did God really say . . .?” I can better understand loving God to the max and treating my fellow-man as I’d like to be treated. When I was a kid most of the Ten made little sense. I think few adults could explain to a seven-year old what coveting and adultery were. And I was pretty sure my neighbor didn’t have a maidservant or an ox. Numbers Six and Eight were pretty easy—don’t murder and don’t steal—and so that’s pretty much what me and a lot of kids took away from the law. We so easily miss the big points about love because of an over-emphasis on teaching the rules to children. It almost seems a satanic plot in itself.
And consider the last part of Jesus’ answer: “. . .do this and thou shalt live.” Wow, Paul spent much of his letter to the Romans expanding on those few words.