“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
The 10th love commandment is God’s final commandment (or word) on love. It is like His summary or conclusion on the matter. In fact, if one considers the complete chronological ordering of the 10LC, one finds they are really a masterful dissertation on the subject of love, from introduction to conclusion. Let’s look into this as we explore the tenth and final commandment, which deals with covetousness.
In His 10LC discourse, God opens cleverly with commandment #1 “Thou shall have no other gods before me” – which, if obeyed, maintains the Creator God (who is love!) will be Lord of one’s life; but if disobeyed, maintains the person themselves will be the god or Lord of their own life. In other words, God immediately pits love against pride! Why? Because God knew ALL loving deeds (or obedience to the 10LC) flow out of a humble heart that willingly puts Him (or love) first, but ALL sin (or disobedience to the 10LC) flow out of a prideful heart that willingly does not put Him (or love) first. So like a well thought out opening statement from a solid dissertation, God’s 1st LC sets the explanatory stage for either “love” or “no love” to manifest in and out of each person’s heart. Humility produces repentance (or obedience to the 10LC) which leads to eternal life, but pride produces rebellion (or disobedience to the 10LC) which leads to eternal death!
Next, God astutely transitions into commandment #2 “Thou shall not worship idols” – which, if obeyed, maintains a person will not worship (or lust for) the materialistic universe; but, if disobeyed, they will. And what makes the difference? It goes right back to the 1st LC!!! Obedience to the 1st commandment pilots obedience to the 2nd commandment; and vice versa, disobedience to the 1st commandment pilots disobedience to the 2nd commandment. Consequently, a humble person who puts God first (or Love first) in their heart will NOT be greedy for dirt possessions (or the money that buys them!) but rather they will long to love the invisible spirit in other people and animals. On the other hand, a prideful person who puts themselves first in their heart WILL be greedy for dirt possessions (and the money that buys them!) because loving and obtaining those seeable things is how they get their “pride fix”. Stay with me, now.
Alright, so God has wisely began His “dissertation on love” by declaring through the first two commandments … humility births love for spirit, which leads to ALL righteousness (or obedience to the 10LC), but pride births love for dirt, which leads to ALL unrighteousness (or disobedience to the 10LC). God then goes on to delve into the main body of His speech with the specifics of seven more love commandments, covering the range of fruits that can be produced from obedience or disobedience to each of them, meaning good & evil, respectively. And then, like a skilled writer who knows how to sum up and conclude a masterful exposition, He carefully and deliberately closes with one last commandment – the 10th love commandment “Thou shall not covet”.
Look at this final commandment closely. What is it saying, really? “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife, animals, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s”. In other words, do not LUST for or HOARD what you can see – houses, land, clothing, jewelry, cars, boats, etc. But what is this? Friend, this is just the first two commandments all over again … only spoken in a different way! Do you see? Remember, prideful, greedy people lust for what they see – namely, the material (or dirt) universe. In other words, THEY ARE COVETERS! Truly, anyone disobeying the 1st & 2nd love commandments automatically and simultaneously disobeys the 10th love commandment, and vice versa. The Apostle Paul knew this well and wrote: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, WHO IS AN IDOLATER, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). See, a covetous person is an idolater, for they worship what they see!
So understand, an explanation of the 10th love commandment is really the same as an explanation of the 1st & 2nd love commandments. In other words, if you want to understand covetousness, then understand commandments #1 & #2! You will learn the same wicked thoughts roll around in the head of a coveter as they do a prideful, greedy idolater. And these selfish, greedy, covetous thoughts will lead a person to work ALL kinds of evil (or 10LC disobedience) towards their fellow man. Yes, it is a truth … “covetousness” is the root of ALL evil! It will take you down! If you choose that path, it will lead your love-less soul straight to the fires of hell!
Now obviously, Jesus knew these truths well and thus continually warned his listeners: “Take heed, and BEWARE of COVETOUSNESS: for a man’s life (meaning his eternal destiny) consisteth not in the abundance of the things (or the dirt) which he possesses” (Luke 12:15). And again, “Lay NOT up for yourself treasures (or materialistic possessions) here upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But rather lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart (or your love & worship) be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). Make no mistake about it, Jesus knew where ALL sin (or 10LC disobedience) originates – out of the selfish heart of a coveter! Therefore, he knew EXACTLY what to preach in order to lead people to repentance and eternal life, as Peter confirmed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? For thou hast the WORDS of eternal life” (John 6:68).
So how about the positive side (or the “DO” side) of the 10th LC? Do you know how we SHOULD live, instead of being full of covetousness? The Bible says … we should be CONTENT with what we have! Listen to Jesus: “Take no thought for your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25). Paul knew it too: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for God hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). And this: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. So having food and clothing let us be therewith content” (I Timothy 6:6-8). And: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth … Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and covetousness, WHICH IS idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Colossians 3:2-6).
Well, there they are folks – the 10 Love Commandments! Honestly, how beautiful are they, even in their order from introduction to conclusion? They are a masterpiece! God is an oral and literary genius! He spoke His 10LC dissertation on Mount Sinai and then wrote it on two Stone Tables. And He did it all in the most beautiful, all-inclusive, and gifted order possible. They are His ways. They are His law. And they are His love. Abide by them and live, or reject them and perish. The choice is yours!