How the Pandemic Made Me Update the 10th Commandment
Nobody worries about coveting anymore. I suspect our entire economy would collapse if we applied the Biblical 10th commandment literally.
Time for an update! This year of pandemic has given us the very thing we need to reclaim the 10th commandment.
Consider: To Covet is to disrespect someone by wanting to take what is theirs. In this pandemic, we have learned that to spread COVID is to treat others without respect, to spread a disease without caring how it hurts someone else. In both cases, it’s all about being selfish: ignoring God’s call to respect others.
So I propose a modern re-write. I have adjusted the King James Version because commandments sound so much more authoritative in Elizabethan English.
Exodus 20:17 KJV (alt.)
Thou shalt not COVID thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not COVID thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
It’s perfect! God set out COVID restrictions for us thousands of years ago!
The general message is clear: we are not to spread COVID to our neighbours at all. Don’t COVID their house is the very first part of the commandment. Stay out of other’s houses. NO PARTIES!!
Of course, there are some gender issues for the modern reader. Why is it okay to COVID your neighbour’s husband, but not the wife? What about a non-binary partner? Does this apply to cohabiting fiancé(e)s, or to simple roommates?
A traditional model of interpretation will help us here: we should generalize the commandment to capture its full intent, rather than look for exceptions. God is not giving us a loophole to COVID all husbands, or anyone in a non-traditional relationship. The examples in the commandment are illustrative, not exclusive.
The manservants and maidservants should be read inclusively too. The more generic term “staff” captures the meaning best. At its most obvious, we are being told not to COVID someone’s household staff. This takes on particular significance as we consider the elderly in their care homes. God is commanding the use of proper PPE, as well as safe practices for these vital workers.
This should also be generalized into other fields. Not only are we forbidden from sabotaging a competitor’s business by COVIDing their staff, but a full reading should require employers to provide proper protection for their own workers. Thou shalt not COVID anyone’s workplace, including thine own. As many passages of scripture will attest: God has always called for economic justice, and protection for workers.
It is significant that God included animals in this commandment. This tells us two things:
From the animals’ perspective: God makes it clear that animals can be infected with COVID. The only thing clearer would have been if minks had been included with the oxen and asses. God cares about animals! Keep them safe!
From the human perspective: There is a financial impact to COVID. When this commandment was written, animals were the main source of industrial strength and transportation. We have replaced them with machinery for most of our efforts now, but the message remains the same: disinfect all the machinery we use! Don’t COVID computers, cars, tools, or labour-saving devices. Wipe them down, don’t wipe them out!
And for those with an earthier sense of the word “ass” (you know who you are) the message is the same: don’t COVID your neighbour’s ass. Just don’t.
The updated 10th commandment is clear: Thou shalt not COVID. COVIDing is a sin. Deal with it.