The 10th Commandment is really wrapped into the 9th Commandment stated as, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female salve, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.” Exodus 20:17
Through history, we have broken this commandment into 2, and the 10th is best stated as, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.” Really, while one verse, the commandments should be separated here into two as they do concern two separate issues, one of desire for another’s spouse and one of their possessions. Today, we address your neighbor’s goods. Obviously, neighbor is used loosely here and doesn’t mean the persons that live on either side of you, but refers to those you know.
Covet is not a word thrown around much today, but is defined as “yearn to possess or have (something).” If my neighbor drives a fine car and it makes me jealous, I’m not harming anyone, right? Thoughts don’t have substance, but thoughts do two major things. First, thoughts of jealously hurt me, and God loves me and he doesn’t want me to be hurt; I am unsettled and unhappy when I have feelings of jealousy. So while at first, it appears that God has made a seemingly overly restrictive law around what I can and can’t think, what He has actually done is tried to protect me from me. God doesn’t want me worrying and obsessing over what others have and I have not.
The second thing a thought can do that can cause harm is if it’s allowed to grow. A thought starts out as something small, but given time, it can grow and lead to action. If my friend across town has a lot of expensive toys and my thoughts are consumed with of jealously, I could over extend my credit line trying to keep up (with the Jones) him or I could actually steal the items. Equally bad, I could begin to slander his name in an attempt to bring him down a notch on my perceived social scale. I could start to speculate to others that while my friend has lots of toys it is because he’s a selfish jerk; now, in addition to breaking the 10th Commandment, I’ve broken the 8th as well, more to come on the 8th.
I have a friend I went to college with that was vacationing on the French Riviera last year. At first, I couldn’t believe that the kid I knew in college, who drank and smoked way too much and was always in a bad mood, was now sipping wine on the Mediterranean coast. I quickly though changed my thought to one of happiness for him. I was glad to see that he had done well and was on a seemingly very cool vacation. I don’t actually know if he’s happy, but he sure seems interesting to me and I don’t have any reason to believe he’s not happy. The fact that my college friend is more successful than me doesn’t change anything with regard to me and my accomplishments.
The 10th Commandment seeks to ease my soul and my worry. It seeks to tell me, don’t worry that your college friend has more money and toys than you. God loves me and He wants what is best for me, so He gives me this commandment, and I’m better for it as should you.
Stay tuned for the 9th Commandment post.