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Review of ‘Ten Words to Live By’ by Jen Wilkin

Title: ‘Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands’

Author: Jen Wilkin

Publisher: Crossway

Release Date: March 30th, 2021.

Pages: 153 (excluding acknowledgements, notes, etc).

Rating: ★★★ ★ ☆

I absolutely love Jen Wilkin’s books, so pre-ordering this one was a no-brainer. I love her work so much that I based an entire unit in my Biblical Studies’ class (I teach grade eight in a Christian school) off of her book ‘None Like Him.’ I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of ‘Ten Words to Live By.’

This book is about the Ten Commandments and the often confusing relationship between God’s law and love. It is split into ten chapters, one for each commandment, with a brief introductory and concluding chapter. ‘Ten Words to Live By’ is only 153 pages, with a general and Scripture index and an appendage of several blank pages for personal reflection, as all of Wilkin’s previous books featured, which is why I was able to read it in a single setting.

This book improved upon Wilkin’s previous offerings in that each chapter doesn’t begin with a cheesy anecdote with some weak reference to one of the commandments. Although I did enjoy the book overall, I found myself disagreeing with Wilkin’s exposition of the first and second commandment. She claims that the first commandment is about not worshipping others, and the second is about not attributing wrong qualities to God. I find that her explanations could be interchanged between commandments (or chapters). She didn’t do a great job of delineating between the two, although her points were doctrinally sound and salient.

The third chapter is definitely the highlight of the book. Wilkin’s explanation of what it means to take God’s name in vain not only was insightful, but personally convicting. She describes the meaning of ‘God’s name’, the sin of misattribution, and speaking carelessly about the Lord. This chapter alone could inspire a sermon or chapel.

Another downside is that the entire chapter on adultery was focused on lust. This is problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that adultery can be spurned by other reasons, even something as silly as boredom. The fact that Wilkin squarely places the root of adultery on lust overly simplifies a deep and grave commandment. Adultery is often talked about in Scripture as symbolic of Israel’s idolatry, and Wilkin’s failure to further expound upon this was a let down.

This book would be excellent for small groups, or teen/youth classes. Perhaps leaving the reader wanting more is a sign of good writing, but I wish Wilkin would write a long, in-depth book rather than these shorter offerings. All her books are about the same length and size. Someone like her definitely has a lot to offer the church and I finished the book feeling unsatisfied, especially because the gospel message was not interwoven throughout the text, but rather mentioned only in the introduction and conclusion. Still, it definitely does the Ten Commandments justice, even if you feel you’re a mature believer who has studied them enough already.

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