The Commandments

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the 10 Commandments, and it strikes me that the hardest one to accept is the one about honoring one’s parents. This isn’t to malign my parents or yours, but merely to suggest that with a little sincere effort and a normal amount of will power, the other nine aren’t really that difficult to abide by.

So, while I understand that God isn’t saying we have to love or even like our parents, I still think it’s an unreasonable demand. Why should Stalin’s kids or Pol Pot’s kids or the offspring of any other mass murderer respect them? And what about the children of child abusers, rapists and serial killers? But God doesn’t offer any dispensations. He just insists that we honor our parents, no matter how evil and degenerate they are, even if they, themselves, ignore all the Commandments.

Charlton Heston as Moses

To me, this would suggest that God was having an off-day when He cobbled those tablets together, but God doesn’t have off-days. That’s why He’s God, and we’re not. God knows I have plenty of off-days, and, for all I know, you have off-months and even off-years.

But I think that I may have figured out the problem, and the problem is the number 10.

Years ago, when I was a film critic, come January, tradition demanded that I come up with a list of the past year’s 10 best movies. But “best” conveys some degree of excellence, and, quite honestly, there were some decades that couldn’t deliver the goods, let alone a single year. But, tradition was nothing to sniff at, so I’d come up with a list of the 10 Best that would generally break down to two or three moderately entertaining movies, a few that didn’t make your teeth ache, one or two that at least kept you awake to the end, and, inevitably, a couple that should have been tried at the World Court for crimes against humanity.

Anyway, that’s what I think happened with God when He sat down to chisel out the 10 Commandments. He started out with several sure winners. You can never go wrong banning murder, adultery, stealing and bearing false witness. Nobody, after all, likes a murdering, philandering, lying thief, although there are some who will cut the guy some slack so long as he’s a liberal politician.

Then, keeping His eye on the ball, He announced himself as the One and Only God, made sure that nobody used His name as an obscenity and drove the point home that He was boss by making sure that His day of rest would be everybody’s day of rest. Well, when it comes to taking days off, you never have to twist anyone’s arm and make him say “Uncle!”

He also banned false idols, but even God didn’t foresee rock & roll, NBA basketball and Barack Obama.

But by now, there’s no getting around the fact that he was losing a little off his fastball. He still had two Commandments to go. Even He knew that “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s” was a tad wordy. God knew He could have just written “Thou shall not covet” and be done with it, but He had space to fill.

But that still left one Commandment to go, and His mind was a blank. He laid down, He got up, He paced, He sharpened pencils, He doodled pictures of giraffes. After hours of racking His brain, all He had to show for it were crumpled up wads of paper in and around the heavenly wastepaper basket. Some of the rejects involved not honking your horn when driving through tunnels, not whining when you miss a putt, not hogging all the best appetizers at cocktail parties and the one that made even God chuckle when he jotted it down: Never speak ill of an ex-spouse or a former business partner.

Finally, it was getting late and there was still that empty space on the tablet, and, so, like every writer who has ever lived, God came up with something. It wasn’t perfect, God knew, but He saw to it that it had the right cadence, and that counts for a lot. He came up with “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

In the legal small print of the 10 Commandments, by the way, it is written that anyone who quibbles with any of the copyrighted material therein will find that his days upon the land will be extra long because he will not be coveted by manservant nor maidservant, and only occasionally by ox or by ass. In addition, he will be short of stature and bald of hair and be plagued, not with locusts and frogs, but by rheumatoid arthritis and a persistently aching back.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt!
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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Ronda Feuerstack

    The first day of creation was the sabbath. I believe God’s R & R on that day was to download His humor DNA just for the joy of it. The fruit thereof, don’t take yourself too seriously, confront sardonic bitterness, be cheeky about tongue in cheek & know the power of healing through the visceral power of the belly laugh!
    Thou shalt not kill covers child abuse – life taking, soul murder; perhaps a number of it’s own? Wonder- pondering of God… His intro to the Law was attention getting; the big 10 engraved on stone, brought down from on high; it was a start. Flash forward many centuries through the Book to encounter the fulfillment of the Law in flesh & blood, Who is JESHUA! Revelation unveiling continues…

  • Burt Prelutsky

    I thought that the 11th Commandment was “Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican, unless, of course, he happens to be Ron Paul.”

    Cheers, Burt

  • Clarence De Barrows

    Au contraire, Burt: God had much more to say than you give him credit for. I believe it was in the movie, “The History of the World” that we were advised there actually were 15 Commandments. Moses dropped the third tablet on the way down the mountain causing it to break and its message, Commandments 11 through 15, were lost.

    • J.L. Tharp

      I believe #11 is “If you obey Me I will give you all the lands of the liberals and progressives for an everlasting inheritance, and the thugites and communites shall not stand before you all the days of your life.” But of course I’m only speculating wishfully.

  • R Pannell

    How about ‘thou shall not abuse children’ God really dropped the ball on that one!

  • J.L. Tharp

    I totally agree, but I can’t help believing that if the 10 commandments do nothing more than deliver even one living soul from the Idolatry of Rock & roll, NBA basketball, and Barack Obama, they will have served both heaven and earth with great distinction worthy of eternal everlasting Glory!