“Part of my heart is in _______.” Fill in the blank with the name of a place where you lived, a place that continues to have an impact on your life. Where your heart is includes not just places you have lived, but also shows what is central to your life, as the 10th Commandment, Exodus 20:17, makes clear.
Don’t defraud. It is not wrong to desire things. God pronounced his creation very good as he entrusted it to Adam and Eve to use to this glory. Sin does not lie in things or wealth. The sin begins when you desire what is your neighbor’s.Today your neighbor may not have a donkey or ox to covet, but the Jaguar or Viper on his driveway may tempt you to break this commandment! The idea that desire in itself is wrong has much more to do with Buddhism (liberty is found in the death of desire), than it does with Biblical Christianity. The world is God’s creation. He has entrusted it to you as his steward. To use and subdue it is a God-glorifying activity. Enjoying the good things God has made can glorify him. Abraham was a very godly man—who was very rich. Desiring wealth can be good, as long as that desire is bound by God’s law, Proverbs 30:8,9; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:17.
Avoid dishonest gain. The rest of the law deals with actions, and action is included in this commandment as well as the attitudes and thoughts. The Bible uses this command in a context of what you do. Coveting is parallel with taking, Joshua 7:21 (Achen’s sin). Jesus cited this commandment in terms of action, Mark 10:19 (“do not defraud”).
Do not gain by fraud. It is possible to use lawful means for bad ends. The Tenth Commandment summarizes and protects the other commandments. House is an inclusive term, of which specific examples are given. Much of contemporary advertising is built on violating this commandment. Godly stewardship involves checking your motives as you consider buying things. And coveting creeps into public policy, as governments promote lotteries as a means of revenue, often playing on covetousness targeting those least able to afford playing.
Don’t covet! This commandment includes the attitude of your heart. God requires heartfelt obedience. Sin does not begin with the final act. Rather, it starts with desire or coveting, a sin of the heart, James 1:14,15. When Christ taught that God condemns not only murder, but anger (Matthew 5:22), not only adultery, but lust (Matthew 5:28), he was reflecting the principle of the Tenth Commandment. Christians can covet one another’s spiritual gifts and abilities. Paul reflects on the joy that some reflected at his imprisonment, seeing it as an occasion for them to shine (yet he could rejoice in the gospel being preached).
Coveting is idolatry. Coveting is a serious sin. It was involved in the first transgression by Adam and Eve, who wanted something that was not theirs. Covetousness is idolatry, Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5. It involves a self-centeredness which takes the place which should belong to God alone. The Tenth Commandment reveals the sinfulness of the heart, Romans 7:7. “The envy that this commandment forbids is not only a desire for something that belongs to someone else. It is our desire for anything that would draw us away from contentedly serving God wherever in his good providence he has placed us.” (Edmund P. Clowney, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments, p. 145).
Learn to be content. Paul knew that secret, Philippians 4:12,13. Be content with what you have, Hebrews 13:5, because you have God himself. Remember where your real treasure lies, hidden in heaven with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3; Matthew 6:19-21. That is why Paul pairs contentment with godliness in 1 Timothy 6:6. With the psalmist, desire the presence of God, Psalm 84. Only one person ever kept this commandment. You break it daily. It is involved in your other sins. Christ gave up the glories of heaven to be your Savior, living the exact opposite of covetousness, Philippians 2:5-8. Christ’s death was necessary to pay for you coveting and your other sins. Remember that he was tempted by this sin, and knows how hard it can be to resist. Be comforted, by his sacrificial (in every sense of the word) love to you. You now have a new life in him. You are no longer shackled by the desires you once had, but have been set free to serve and glorify your Lord. “[T]he love that fulfills the law, the love on which the law and the prophets hang, the love that blesses them who curse us and prays for them who despitefully use us, the love patterned after the perfection of the Father in heaven, is the love that is generated, fostered, maintained, and perfected in the realm of the Spirit. The powers of this realm are regnant in believers because they have been made alive together with Christ and raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:5,6), and these powers are regnant because the Spirit of the Lord is regnant.” John Murray, Principles of Conduct, p. 227).
The tenth commandment may seem anticlimactic–the series begins with a call to have no other gods, and ends with how you look at your neighbor’s well-fed donkey. But this commandment really calls you to love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and might. Learn to desire God more – and you’ll find the idolatry of coveting something you are overcoming.