Many people have requested a copy of this insightful little piece. In light of this, and especially as Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, I thought I would post it here today.
My source is a book compiled by Morris Chapman and titled The Wedding Collection: 26 Basic Wedding Ceremonies for Pastors (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Books, 1991). Dr. Chapman includes Dr. Kennedy's piece in this book.
Of course the original Ten Commandments themselves are found in the 20th chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus (verses1-17). I will recount them here first for purposes of re-familiarization. And I have chosen the King James Version as that is how a good many people have historically seen them in print.
1 And God spake all these words, saying,
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Dr. Kennedy used this passage of Scripture to come up with what he called the “Ten Commandments of Marriage”. He did this as a way of stressing how our relationship to God should have a bearing on the way we relate in turn to our spouses.
I. "Thou shalt have no other human being before your husband or your wife."
No other human being should come before your mate - no one, neither father nor mother, son nor daughter, brother nor sister, friend nor acquaintance.
II. "Thou shalt put no thing before your husband or wife."
You should put no thing between each other. No house should ever come before your spouse. Whether house, car, pleasure, money, or fame - nothing."
III. "Thou shalt not belittle, criticize or fault find, but rather encourage your spouse in all ways."
Since God's Word teaches us to make no idols, it follows that we are to honor each other's name. Honor each other and seek to put each other first above any other person on earth.
IV. "Thou shalt remember her/his day, to keep it special."
Set time aside for the two of you so you may not grow apart but even closer. Your spouse and your children are worthy of your time and your undivided attention.
V. "Thou shalt give honor not only to your father and mother, but to those who become your father-in-law and mother-in-law."
As you two become one, you marry into another family. Wise is the husband or wife who does not take it upon himself or herself to find fault with those who are related to their spouse.
VI. "Thou shalt not destroy the spirit within your spouse."
Husbands, do not destroy your bride's dreams and hopes for the future which she now places in your hands. Most of man's earthly happiness depends upon his wife. Most assuredly God will bless a man in this life, yet John Wesley discovered that, regardless of a noble cause, a woman can make a man most miserable. Wives, covenant that you will not be such a person. Both of you must honor and build up the personhood of the other.
VII. "Thou shalt give your passions only to each other, not to another."
You should not give away your passions to another in word, in thought, or in deed. This person beside whom you stand on your wedding day is to be your lover as well as your helpmate and your best friend.
VIII. "Husband, steal not from your wife that which is her privilege to give. Wife, receive what he gives to you with gratitude".
The spirit of gratitude can greatly bless a home. If your minds are filled with thoughts of gratitude, and if you look on that which you do have and not that which you do not have, you will be blessed.
IX. "Thou shalt not bear false witness to each other."
Be honest with each other. Dishonesty and an unwillingness to talk through differences build a silent wall which is not easily dismantled. The real self, then, refuses to be disclosed, and a couple may gradually begin to drift apart.
X. "Thou shalt not seek greener pastures, whether they be those things physical or material."
Do not engage in selfish fantasies. Be content with the one whom God has given to you, and God will bless your lives together.
Well said, Dr. Kennedy. My strong suspicion is that if more couples actually practiced such an approach, we would probably see far less difficulties in our nation’s marriages and families.