The Tenth Commandment
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. “ Exodus 20: 17
Deuteronomy 5: 22 is a little different: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey or anything that is your neighbor’s.
The principle behind this 10th commandment is contentment. Contentment is the opposite of covetousness. This is the only commandment which legislates thoughts, whereas the other nine legislate behavior. Remember as a man thinketh is his heart, so is he. Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God. When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases. What is interesting in becoming rich, it is not how much you gain, but how much you save. Covetousness is a very dangerous and deadly sin.
Of course the natural man is looking for things to satisfy him or her. But their search is a restless, never-ending search because we were made to be satisfied in our relationship with God. Only then can we be satisfied with our relationship with others and with things. These commandments are God ‘s principles for a happy life. God takes the responsibility to reveal Himself to each person and place within each person a desire to be loved for this is what we were made for- to love and be loved. Augustine wrote: “Thou has made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in you. “ Jesus said comes unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Matthew 11. When you come to the crossroads ask for the ancient path and walk in it and you will find rest. Jeremiah 6.
Notice the Ten Commandments begin and end with virtually the same command, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Coveting is desiring anything more than God in a way which betrays a loss of contentment and satisfaction in Him. Covetousness for the Christian is a heart divided between two gods. It is idolatry. When you covet you are saying to God, you are not enough, I need more than you.
In Matthew 19: 16-30 is the story of the rich young ruler with a commentary provided by the Lord Jesus to His disciples and us. The rich young ruler comes seeking assurance of salvation. This young wealthy man asks Jesus what must I do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him he must keep the commandments to enter heaven. The young man is accustomed with his wealth and the resources he has to accomplish whatever he needs on his own. When he asks the Lord Jesus, ‘what good thing must I do that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus tells the young man, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He replies, “which ones? Jesus said, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself.” He does not quote the 10th commandment, you shall not covet. Jesus has quoted commandments 5-9. In ending his quote with to love your neighbor as yourself is reminding us of what is the 2nd greatest commandment- to love your neighbor as yourself. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Now at first glance or first reading, you are puzzled thinking is Jesus saying there is another way to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments? Is Jesus talking about a works salvation? No this is not about salvation this is about money, about riches, about idols in one’s life. We are saved by grace through faith and that not ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man boast. No one is saved by the law, no one but Jesus has kept the law, every jot and tittle. This man because of his riches, his social status, his power and influence, thought he could rely on his own resources and abilities to enter heaven. He just wanted to check with Jesus to see if he lacked anything. This tells me, there was something this young man knew was missing in his life.
The rich young ruler addresses Jesus as Good Teacher, rather than Lord. Jesus tried to get him to think more about that statement- why do you call me good? Only God is good. The young man is like a lot of us, he does not listen in a conversation. Jesus said often, he who has ears let him hear. Listen and learn. When the young man hears keep the commandments- he asked which ones? Jesus does not mention the first two commandments which tells us: have no other God before or besides Him and to not make for ourselves any idols. When Jesus quotes the commandments here dealing with others, this young man says he has kept everyone of them since his youth. Checking off his list of ‘to-do’s. Then he asked Jesus what do I still lack? Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” He went away sad, because he had great possessions. Like a CAT scan or MRI, Jesus has exposed and diagnosed his disease and how to be cured.
Jesus comments it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into heaven. His disciples were astonished when they heard this. Why were they astonished? Because they believed wealth was a blessing from God. Riches were a sign of favor. They ask, who then can be saved? Jesus said with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
The fatal mistake the rich young man made was ‘he went away’. He went his own way. Coveting is idolatry. And the essence of this story is to get rid of anything that is an idol in your life. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength when there is an idol in your life.
Let’s look at Hebrews 13: 5,6 for our text today:
“Let your conduct be without covetousness: be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we boldly say: The Lord is My Helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Coveting is a strong desire for what someone else has. Their house, wife, servants, ox, donkey or anything that is your neighbor’s. Oxen were used for plowing so the more oxen you had the more land you possessed. Donkeys were used for transportation so think Lexus, or Mercedes. It is not wrong to desire to have a nice home, or possessions or good transportation. But to covet, strong desire, what another owns for yourself is to covet. Coveting causes us to resent God. God, why have you given them such abundance and withheld that from me?
Listen to what Jesus said: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12: 15)
Listen to how serious this sin is: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire and covetousness which is idolatry.” Colossians 3: 5. Do you see what serious, grievous sins covetousness is classified among?
When we covet someone or something, we exchange our contentment and satisfaction with what God has given us for the thing you desire, and it has become an idol. To be content means to be satisfied. When we use the word contentment, the ‘ ment’ added on to the word means the state of being content.
If we are not content, we are contentious. Contention means argument, disagreement resulting from opposing points of view. The point of contention- with the rich young ruler was the disposal of his money and giving it to the poor. This was not about wealth distribution, this was about getting rid of idols which produce contention- arguments with God. You cannot serve two masters, you will cling to one and despise the other. The rich young ruler clung to his riches and went away from the Lord, who he probably despised because he did not agree he was a good young man who deserved eternal life.
When you are covetous you cannot rejoice when someone else is being blessed. You resent them and you resent God for not blessing you like them. You are not content and satisfied with what God has given you. It makes you mad when someone else is blessed and you cannot rejoice with them.
When you are covetous, you compare to those who have more and it makes your feel inferior. So you compare to others who have less and it makes you feel superior. Comparison provides contrast.
Here is what Scripture tells us about this comparing: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us- a sphere which especially includes you.” 2 Cor. 10: 12,13. “ But he who glories , let him glory in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself who is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” 2 Cor.10: 17,18. I would also remind you this passage started out with how to fight the spiritual battle. We have weapons which are divine to the tearing down of strongholds. And we see those strongholds take place in our minds, our thought life. We are to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. The Tenth Commandment, you shall not covet is about legislating your thoughts while the others are about legislating your behavior. What a perfect ending for the Ten Commandments. Paul tells us how to control our thoughts through replacing them with things which are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy- put these things into practice and the God of peace will be with you and you will find contentment in Him and nothing else. (Phil. 4)
THE RESULTS OF COVETOUSNESS
- Covetousness will not satisfy. “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance with increase. This also is vanity.” ( Eccl. 5: 10)
- Covetousness chokes our spiritual life. In the parable of the sower and the seed, the seed represents the Word of God. The seed which fell among the thorns, the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Jesus explained the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful. ( Mark 4)
- Covetousness spawns other sins. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we carry nothing out. And having food and clothing with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. ( drown- flood & Noah) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. I Timothy 6. Coveting leads to all kinds of other sins: murder, adultery, stealing, lying and idolatry which means you have broken the 1st and 2nd commandment and thus every commandment.
- Covetousness lets you down when you need it most. When you and I are ready to depart this world, all the possessions we had are meaningless. You cannot take them with you. The only things which last are the things of God, everything else turns to ashes. This is why Jesus said to lay up treasure in heaven where they will last throughout all eternity. Only the Word of God and the Souls of men will last.
Want some promises to keep you from coveting? “And God shall make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
Here is another: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4: 19
“I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4: 11-13)
Worry and anxiety are the result of taking responsibilities for those things God is responsible for. We are told to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all the things we need will be added. (Matthew 6)
Anxiety, worry is non-productive and harmful. We are to pray about everything, casting all our cares upon Him. We are always to pray with thanksgiving for we are commanded to give thanks in all things and in rejoice always.
Contentment is learned.
Do you know where it is learned? “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light. Matthew 11.
Contentment, satisfaction, rest are found and learned in the abiding life, yoked with the One who loves you and gave His life for you.
Guess what drove you to the yoke? A restless heart which could not find rest and satisfaction in the things of the world, the enemy offered. Your burdens turn into a blessing, because they drove you to the one who can provide you with hope which does not disappoint.
The Yoke is the life of sanctification lived in union with the Lord Jesus. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Cor. 6
I suspect you have learned this by now- God does not give us His whole plan at once. This forces us to live one day at a time. He does this to teach us to trust Him. The enemy does not want you to trust in the future grace and mercy of God. He wants to substitute his plan for happiness for God’s plan for happiness. He is a liar and a deceiver. His promises will not be kept.
THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM
“For I envied the arrogant (this is the beginning of covetousness) when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. They wear their pride like a necklace. This what the wicked are like- always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain, have I kept my heart pure? In vain I have washed my hands in innocence. All day long, I have been plagued, I have been punished every morning. When I tried to understand all this it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you placed them on slippery ground, you cast them to ruin and suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. (Think: Noah and the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah). Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom do I have in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish, you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge, I will tell of all His deeds. “(Psalm 73)
“Do not fret because of the evildoers or be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37)
This Psalm was written by David for his son Solomon. Advice on how to live a life of contentment, not covetousness which comes from envy unchecked.
Notice delight comes before desires. God is saying delight yourself in me, find your contentment in me. And I will place My desires in your heart. These desires and these desires alone will bring you contentment.
Later in this chapter, David writes the ‘meek shall inherit the earth.’ Noah lived in a time such as we live in now. The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” They had no fear of God. Jesus said as it was in the days of Noah, so it would be in the days of His coming. How was it in those days? Men had no fear of God. How it is today? Man has no fear of God. But Noah had a fear of God for read in Hebrews 11: 7 “ By faith Noah, when being warned abut things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith, he condemned the world and became the heir of righteousness that comes by faith.”
Noah and his family survived the wrath of God. They were safe and sealed in the ark. And when they came out of the ark, the only survivors. Meekness is a humble spirit. It is being humble and gentle toward others and submissive to the Lord. It is the opposite of selfishness, pride, arrogance and being loud and boastful. Moses was described as humble. As was our Lord Jesus who humbled himself. Noah was meek, humble. He was surely ridiculed by those around him for believing God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Guess what when Noah and his family came out of the ark, they had inherited the earth.
Things are not what they seem. For what is seen is temporary, and what is unseen is eternal. Put you eyes on things above and you will be content with what God has given you. And the glory of the Lord becomes the passion of your heart. And it doing so you find contentment like nothing else can provide.