“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
With this tenth commandment we come full circle (see verses 3,4). Paul, in both Eph.5:3-5 and Col.3:5,6 equates covetousness with idolatry.
Many years ago, I saw an advert in a newspaper for a new model of ‘Ford Granada’ (so that dates it). The way the ad described it, I just had to have that car! Now I couldn’t afford it. In fact I couldn’t imagine ever being able to have it, and I certainly didn’t buy it. Thankfully, I was quickly able to take a step back and analyse what the advertisement was doing to my insides. I didn’t need that car – or any other for that matter. But day by day we are bombarded by many subtle (and not so subtle) messages, designed to make us want what we do not need. So much of what is pumped our way by the media, in various forms, causes us to envy and covet – if we do not stand guard over our hearts.
The world will again and again show us ‘Bathsheba’, and if we do not train ourselves to look away we will be sunk!
How we need to heed the words of Jesus:
“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
“The tenth commandment is where the Decalogue ends, but it is, in fact, the point at which every breach in the law begins – when by our ‘own evil desire’ we are ‘dragged away and enticed’ (Jas 1:14). King David violated the sixth and seventh commandments (2 Sam.12:9), but his sin began with the lust prohibited by the tenth (2 Sam.11:2): possibly he could not have helped seeing Bathsheba, but he could have helped looking! King Ahab (more than ably assisted by his wife Jezebel) sinned comprehensively against the sixth, eighth and ninth commandments (1 Kings 21:1-16), but the root of the evil was in his covetousness (vv.1-4). ‘Improper desire’, says Murphy, ‘is the root of all evil. It can seldom be reached by human legislation, but it is open to the Searcher of hearts. The intent is that which, in the last resort, determines the moral character of the act. This last “word” is, therefore, the interpreting clause of the whole Decalogue (Rom vii.7).’ “ Alec Motyer: ‘The Message of Exodus’, p.230.
“The tenth commandment, therefore, shows how hard it is to keep any of the commandments. One can easily say: “I have never stolen.” But can one also say: “I have never lusted after a woman; I have never coveted another person’s possessions”? The fact is, none of us can keep these commandments perfectly (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:10-12). We need a new heart, and that is what Jesus came to give us. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19).
…the tenth commandment is a great gift from God, because it acts like a warning light; it signals us to turn from a sinful act before we actually commit it (Romans 7:7). Then, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can overcome the temptation and avoid the sin. The law itself does not give us the strength to obey it; only the Holy Spirit working in our hearts can do that (Romans 8:3-4).” Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.245.