THE TENTH COMMANDMENT –
THOU SHALT NOT COVET – Exodus 20


Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

Exodus 20:17 ASV

Notice the relationship between this commandment and the eighth where the guardianship of private property is established.

The big words here are the POSSESSIVE nouns and pronouns: “thy neighbor’s … thy neighbor’s … his … his … his … his … thy neighbor’s.”

This is a powerful reminder to all people regarding the difference between what is “mine” and what is “his.”

There is another phenomenal thing about this commandment.

It is more spiritual than any of the rest, with the exception of the first, because it deals with the inner desire of the heart.

In fact, the perfect obedience of this commandment would automatically result in the obedience of most of the others.

Paul himself acknowledged this, saying, “I had not known sin except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7).

He also added that, “Sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting” (Romans 7:8).

Few indeed are they who would not join Paul in confessing the violation of this law.

This command is a most excellent moral precept, the observance of which will prevent all public crimes.

He who feels the force of the law that prohibits all inordinate desire for anything that is the property of another, can never make a breach in the peace of society.

It can be seen how nearly to the root of all man’s difficulties this Tenth Commandment is directed.

The 10th commandment is the most comprehensive of the commandments, forbidding ALL unlawful desire of every kind.

Happy indeed is that individual who has learned to control the rebellious desires of the heart, the grasping covetousness that so easily lodges within the soul, and the envious observation of the wealth, honors, popularity, fame, or whatever may belong to contemporaries, setting off a jealous reaction to surpass them.

How can this be done?

Through the control of the affections. “Set your affections upon things above” (Colossians 3:2).

Who violates this commandment?

Every unregenerated man violates it by the very nature of fallen humanity, and in whatever degree the professed Christian may not have succeeded in casting off the old man with his deeds, that must be allowed as the degree of his violation also.

Few men would dare to claim a spotless record with regard to keeping this commandment.

We should think of things beautiful, lovely, honorable, of good report, etc. (See Philippians 4:8).

Yet, covetousness is a deadly sin.

Look at this: “For this we know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God!” (Ephesians 5:5).

The quality of using the same word with different meanings is found in both Testaments, and thus it should not surprise us that there is a desirable kind of covetousness.

“Covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31, KJV).

It is in fact not the desire which is wrong in sinful covetousness, it is the desire for forbidden, illegal, and sinful things which is condemned.

There is no conceivable type of sin and wickedness that does not grow out of a disregard of this law.

The crimes of antiquity and of the present, in the jungle or in the great cities, crimes of youth or of maturity, misdeeds of the strong and of the weak – all kinds of wickedness flows out of the common sewer of covetousness.

The proper observance of this holy commandment would dry up all the streams of filth on earth!

We have now come to an end of our investigation of the Decalogue.

This amazing covenant convicts all people.

Men may live so that others consider them to be righteous and law-abiding, but when God said, “thou shalt not covet,” and when Jesus added to that his words, “Everyone that looketh … hath … already in his heart,” we must bow our heads and say, “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Here is the law of life, but not life! These commandments bring us into the light of Divine requirement, and draw from our souls the confession of guilt, and then leave us, waiting for the Deliverer!

These commandments, apart from the Cross announce a sentence of death.

The Law of Moses was utterly unable to give life. It provided no forgiveness for sins and mistakes; it did not provide the Holy Spirit to aid God’s people; it offered no second chance.

What a marvelous difference between this and the Good News of Christ.

The positive and extensive value of the Decalogue as a glimpse of the Divine Mind is conceded and acknowledged.

As law, it is the best ever given.

All nations have consented to make it the basis of universal statutes; but spiritually, it is thunder on a smoke-filled mountain and must always stand far removed from that far greater glory of The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1,2).

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?

Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.

You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
James 4:1‭-‬3 RSV

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