The Ten Commandments are the epitome of the righteous code of conduct for God's people. These commandments were given to Moses by God on Mt Sinai and they form an essential part of many faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Ten Commandments are one of two significant historical events memorialized in Jewish holidays (Passover being the other).
The first 5 commandments deal with man's relationship with God while the last five have implications for human relationships as well. Here they are side by side so you can see them more clearly:
Commandment 1: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." [This commandment is designed to remind the Israelites of whom they are and what they owe to him. A knowledge of God's unique relationship to man is key in this commandment.]
Commandment 2: "You shall have no other gods before me." [This is a declaration that there are no objects or beings created equal to God; he is incomparable, omnipotent. Everything else pales in comparison.]
Commandment 3: "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything…you shall not bow down to them or worship them." [This commandment requires us to acknowledge the supremacy and uniqueness of our Creator, hence obliterating distinctions we may attempt to draw between ourselves and God]
Commandment 4: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God." [This is a prohibition against swearing in God's name falsely. It also requires us to act pursuant to his guidelines, and not in a manner that would bring His wrath upon us.]
Commandment 5: "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work…" [The Sabbath was instituted as a sign between the Israelites and their Creator to remind them of who they are; it's one way for them to remember how far He has brought them from slavery into freedom. The Sabbath day was created specifically for worshipping God.]
Commandments 6-10 deal with relationships between people (family). They include directives such as: telling the truth, not to commit adultery, and not to kill another person. The Ten Commandments are designed in such a way that you can't really do one without the others. If you're going to follow them all, then it's going to take quite an overhaul of your life. These commandments aren't so much what we should do as they are about what we have no business doing (murdering for example).
These commandments may seem irrelevant at first glance but I think they contain some of the most important directives for mankind today. To quote C S Lewis; "Of all religions, Christianity is best fitted to be the foundation of morality". Let's look at 5 reasons why I feel this is true.
First off, the Ten Commandments are objective. They aren't up for interpretation: they are God's rules and if we want to be in right standing with him then we need to follow them. This is a contrast from say any number of cultural practices that our society holds onto which have no eternal significance. The Bible says "All things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light" (Eph 5:13). What does this mean? It means you can't have anything dark remain hidden forever; it will eventually come into the spotlight and be brought out into the open where you'll either learn what it really means or learn how to deal with it appropriately. You cannot hide from God so naturally you'll either learn to walk in the light or fall into darkness. If God's rules are absolute then we need them if we plan on living properly. Imagine trying to live your life without one of these commandments; would it be possible? I think so, but imagine how difficult it would be!
Second, they have been the basis for many positive characteristics in our modern society. One example is freedom: within the Ten Commandments lies a system that takes away all of man's ability to enslave one another (let alone himself) and therefore enables each individual to attain true freedom from external constraints or forces. Whether it's a free market economy or personal academic pursuits; freedom can only exist when there are some guidelines that prevent individuals from using their freedom to oppress one another. The Ten Commandments are sort of a "floor" on which the "artistic ceiling" can be built upon; they provide the structure that makes true creativity possible.
Third, these commandments actually reveal our character rather than just our actions. To illustrate what I mean by this consider how ten different people would interpret and act based off them. Put simply: if you follow all ten then you're probably a pretty good person; but if not, then there's definitely something wrong with your motives! A society of moral relativists is impossible since it relies on each individual making up their own set of rules as they go along, and so every day is filled with uncertainty rather than stability and peace.
Fourth, the Ten Commandments are good because they force us to put God first. To begin with only one commandment mentions anything about God at all so if you follow them as they stand then eventually your whole life will revolve around him. The commandments come from Him and He designed them in such a way that no human action can possibly fulfill them; but even though this is impossible it's still possible to get really close. This puts our ultimate joy outside of ourselves; in order for there to be true joy then we need something eternal rather than temporary (with everything temporary I've found myself waiting for the moment when it would end or looking towards obtaining more).
Finally, these commandments embody what should be the relationship between and every father and son ever. They show how a pure love like the one between God and His people should be expressed. If we live by these then we become convinced that our Heavenly Father is not only good but perfect since He has provided us with everything we need to have a relationship with Him; whereas those who don't can never really find true peace because they attempt to fill voids of emptiness in themselves that nothing else can fill (the Bible says "The wicked flee when no man pursues" Ev 28:1).