Week 11: The Tenth Commandment
To conclude our series, the Rev. Marty Bastian will teach for us on
the tenth commandment: you shall not covet.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked this question, “Teacher which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these two.”
You will notice Jesus’ response to the two commandments begins with the word “love.” Interestingly, this is not a coincidence, as the most important theme throughout the Biblical text is this concept. From the beginning of creation, love was the basis for all that was created. It was God’s motivation and continues to be His motivation to this day. When sin was introduced in Genesis 3 and the Hebrews continuously fell short, it didn’t stop God from pursuing His people. In fact, we actually see God chasing His people throughout The Old Testament, determined to get their attention. Separation was not a part of God’s essence. Just the opposite. Through His actions, He would provide many different avenues to get His people to turn back to Him. God was creative in His approach. Beginning with the Patriarchs, Moses and the 10 Commandments, He would then turn to various types of leaders from Kings to Judges and the Prophets. His desire for His people was clear. He had an unwavering love and commitment for those He deemed His chosen ones.
Like a good father, instruction was key. He provided the 10 Commandments as guideposts for His people to follow. As you know, the first four commandments have to do with our relationship with God. The latter six commandments have to do with our relationship with our neighbor. Each commandment is significant, providing a deeper insight into God’s love for us and our response to that love.
In the final commandment, God commands us not to covet. Covet in Hebrew is the word “chamad,” which is translated into the words “lust,” “strong desire” and “envy.” Coveting can be seen as wanting something we don’t have and we will do anything to get it. This strong desire becomes our motivation. Unknowingly, we become blinded by the desire, which can turn into an urgent demand. The root of this desire is an emptiness or void deep within which demands to be filled. Unfortunately, many of us fill that emptiness with things other than God. Coveting is a way of attempting to fill the void.
Jay Stringer, in his book “Unwanted,” describes a form of this desire as “lust.” Lust is a desire to be filled. This desire points to a lack within. This lack in its purest form is not bad, but, unfortunately, we tend to fill it with bad things. Ultimately this lack points to something deeper, which is the spiritual need to belong. This belonging is one of the greatest of all our human needs.
“I am my beloved’s and His desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10, ESV) In the Song of Solomon, the writer speaks to our need to belong. It is a powerful statement that reflects our deepest longing. Unfortunately, sin stands in the way. History reminds us of this time and again, which makes the gift of Jesus all the more important. Jesus embodied the law. He fulfilled the law. He was the law. Though we could never be perfect in the law, we don’t have to be because we have one who was. What the 10 Commandments teach us is that they ultimately point and lead us to Jesus. He has fulfilled the law for us. These heart commandments reveal our attitudes towards God and our neighbors. When it comes to coveting, we shouldn’t want what belongs to others. What we think will satisfy us never really does. Desiring what belongs to others will actually lessen our desire for God. By doing this, we are filling a void with more emptiness. The greatest need and desire lies in our belonging to Him.
God is the only one who can fill us with what we need. When it comes to coveting, the solution is found in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:33. “But seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.” Seeking Jesus is the answer. He is the only one who can fill us with what we truly need. He is the only one who can quench our desire to belong.
Living in our world today, we are constantly being seduced with things we think will bring us satisfaction. Our capitalistic culture is out to prove we are missing out if we don’t have this object or that trait. It even provides us with the illusion that we belong. Unfortunately, many of us take the bait and find ourselves suffering in the end. The truth is the only one who can truly fill us with what we need is the one who created us, knows us and desires us. It all comes back to love. Our ultimate belonging is found in God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
Questions for Reflection
- How does Jesus come up with the two greatest commandments? Which of the two is most important?
- Why do you think God considers coveting such a big deal?
- How do you define coveting? What are the things you covet? List them. Are they ever enough?
- The second creation story reminds us it wasn’t good that man was alone, thus God created for man a partner. Why? What is one of our greatest needs as human beings?
- If we belong to God, why do we try to replace Him with other things? Is there anything that can fill us more than God?
- Compare Matthew 6:19-42 and James 3:13-15, 4:1-3. What do they tell us about coveting through the lens of the Cross? What does it indicate about our hearts desires?
- If the commandments point to Jesus, how will seeking Him keep us from coveting?
A Prayer for the Week
Heavenly Father, we thank You that in You, we are enough and lack nothing. By Your Spirit at work in our hearts, turn our desire for things not ours to a desire for that which will truly satisfy: a knowledge of Your love in our lives. Teach us to be content with that which we have and lift our eyes to seek those things that are on Your heart: the things of heaven and not of earth. In Jesus’ name, amen.