The Book of Common Prayer (pp. 847-848) clearly notes that the first four commandments have to do with recognizing that God alone is worthy of our love, worship and obedience. God is where we focus on setting our hearts, our trust. The remaining six commandments describe human relationships and how we’re responsible for the way in which we treat one another: honoring parents and those in authority; respecting life, working for peace, bearing no malice, prejudice or hatred towards anyone; being kind to all creatures; dealing honestly and fairly; looking to others‘ rights and necessities; using our God-given talents and resources; speaking the truth and not misleading others by silence; resisting envy, greed and jealousy; and rejoicing in all people’s gifts and graces. Sin has been defined as “treating people like things and things like people”, and in the sacred words given to Moses on the mountain there’s a firm warning against confusing such priorities. When things become idols, relationships invariably suffer.
It’s not uncommon to read the commandments and to conclude, just as Paul did, in one of his more memorable passages: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it...I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:18-19) Most of us can readily identify with Paul’s sense of human weakness and frustration. In the letter to the Romans he describes a kind of civil war taking place inside us. The sense that “I can will, but I cannot do” articulates the inner conflict between desire and power, raging within human beings ever since the Fall. Agnes Rogers Allen humorously quips: