The tenth commandment is “Don’t Covet”. This is the last of the commandments—-but it represents one of the essential elements of a civilized community. In can be defined in two words: Be content! Be at peace with what you have and be happy for the nice things the other guy has! This is the greatest obstacle to inner peace in modern society—-and it is the source of most of the unhappiness in my home with three young boys.
This is not the most talked about commandment but it is important—and it’s the easiest to break. This sin is only one that can be totally hidden….it’s within our souls and imagination…no one else can see it and no one can know about it unless we talk about it! We are the only ones that know what’s going on in our fantasies about our friend’s gorgeous new car, or that fancy new iPhone, or that incredible ski boat we just saw, or that beautiful woman (or man) etc.
But coveting is especially dangerous because it is a “root sin,” i.e. it is a vice and vine from which all kinds of other evils flow. God has told us time and time again to be content with what He has given us….and contentment is a sign of humility and godliness. We have brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of it either—so we should be cautious about the collection of more and more and more! Paul said, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Tim. 6:7-10, NIV).
Jesus said quite clearly in Matthew 6:19-24 (KJV)“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Coveting is the door to other sins—-the kinds of sins that destroy relationships, families and lives. Coveting riches can lead to gambling, crazy get-rich-quick schemes, living beyond your means and bankruptcy. Coveting a beautiful person can lead to adultery, fornication, pornography and all manners of sexual sin. Coveting another person’s popularity can lead to jealousy, hatred, stalking and even murder.
The coveting which the Tenth Commandment condemns is the desire to have something which one does not have, or which one does not think he or she has enough of. Simply put, coveting wants more and is never satisfied. It is not content with what it already has, no matter how much that might be. We are a nation guilty of this sin more than any other sin, I believe. We want too much…we want it now…and we’re always wanting to take what the other guy has. Ours has to be bigger, better, more advanced, more desirable! Our economy and the associated marketing and sales is based upon an appeal to envy, desire and covet. Many of our manufacturers deliberately create devices that become obsolete and worn out well before their time. If you have a washing machine or dishwasher that’s more than five years, you often can’t find parts because “it’s just too old”. The same for cars, cell phones and computers. We’re forced to get better, shinier models each year.
Rockefeller was at one point the world's richest man and first ever American billionaire. Considering he was a billionaire in the early 1900's he is still considered as the richest person in modern history. He was worth 1% of the entire U.S. economy—-or about $400,000,000,000. When a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” He responded, “Just a little bit more.”
My boys, like most others, are too concerned about having the things that the marketing gurus tell them they must have. And they’re quite conscious of labels, brands, models and the price! They don’t want cheap things—-even if cheaper is better. On google or Facebook they see rich kids wearing four Rolex watches, or posing in front of a private helicopter, or other kids showings gangster poses by jets or fancy cars and yachts—they’re inundated with things to “covet”. And of course rich kids portrayed on the ads are all smiling or laughing and appear incredibly happy! But it’s an illusions…and it’s not Godly…
So what are we to do? Let me make few suggestions:
1. When we go on-line or to the store, we should buy only what we need-not what the marketers tell us we need. Hoarding and over-purchasing is just not Godly.
This sounds ridiculously simple but the concept is easily violated, and if you shop enough you will come to know the feeling of “buyer’s remorse”. So, here’s an easy suggestion: Buy only what you need. Not more. We just don’t need to be envious of the latest toys or tools. Do you really need the newest iPhone or that super powerful computer? That new pickup looks incredible—but do I need it? The flatscreen TVs are now 2 for 1—-but do I need two? Do I need one?! And if a snow storm is coming and everyone needs bottled water and emergency supplies how can I call myself a follower of Jesus while I’m taking every case of water and toilet paper off the shelves and leaving nothing for the lady behind me?!
2. As we give up coveting, allow God to change our idea of “happiness”.
You’ve heard that, “The one that dies with the most toys might wins”; but he’s still dead and he will stand before God to give an account. The only way to really stop coveting for stuff is to realize that possessions do not make us happy-quite the opposite. It might make life more comfortable, but they can’t make us any happier. To escape our consumerism culture requires a realization that spending time with our kids, having dinner with our family, talking to friends, watching a movie together will make us happier than all the “stuff” money can buy.
3. We must learn to enjoy what He has already given us and stop listening to the voice that tells us we need more. Joseph Brackett, a Shaker, wrote these words around 1848:
“Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where I ought to be;
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed;
to turn, turn, will be my delight.
Till by turning, turning we come round right.”
4. Be happy with the things others have! In humility, if I consider others, and their needs, more important than me and my own, I will have a simple peace that is hard to shake. I will find that I have no time for self-pity or focusing on my needs for new clothes or cars or “things” the more I am focused upon the needs of those He places on my path and the needs of those I love. And, almost magically my needs are met and my wants are exceeded. His servants and angels gives me more than I could have ever imagined by not spending my time wanting them!
As one who has collected desirable things from all over the world, and inherited jewelry, china, and silverware and lots of fancy things that some might covet, I would tell you that after seeing everything I have ever owned burn and turn to dust in two hours, exactly five years, I know that there is an incredible peace that follows when you having nothing else to insure, protect or worry about.
My son and I left that house with only the clothes on our backs and our backpacks on Feb. 16, 2016—-that’’s all we had. But our lives did not end when we lost our shoes, pants, pots, pans, stereos, televisions, fancy dinner ware, paintings, carvings and the things that made our lives comfortable—we found freedom from those things that were secretly possessing us. We experienced a peace that I cannot explain after that house and all it’s furnishings were gone forever! No more yard sales to worry about—-I had nothing to put up for sale—-even my YARD was burned up! No silver to polish, no leather couches to treat, nothing to insure! It was 100% freedom and I slept quite well.
More than any other of the Ten Commandments, the Tenth Commandment exposes the depth of our depravity, the seriousness of our sin. God have mercy upon us for being selfish, greedy and so self-focused….Choose to live simply…. give up excess, hoarding and envy… The lead to sins that take us even further from God.