Exodus 20:17 - Tenth Commandment

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Thomas s. Myers

The 10th Commandment

Exodus 20:17

17 "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." (NIV)


The 10th commandment is the last commandment and it is different from all the other commandments.  The other commandments deal with action.  This commandment deals with attitude.  The other commandments, deal with deeds.  The 10th commandment deal with desires.  To covet means to have an unlawful desire.  To covet means to want something that is not lawfully yours, something that by right belongs to someone else.  And I want to say that the sin of covetousness is not limited to someone's money.  You might covet someone's influence.  You may covet someone's power, fame, appearance, popularity or health. 

            This does not mean we are not to want certain things or to desire certain things.  As a matter of fact it is right to want certain things.  The Bible says,

1 Corinthians 12:31

31 eagerly desire the greater gifts. (NIV)

                We might want friendship, happiness, joy, success, victory, peace, a wife or a husband, that is alright, but you are not to want that which is not rightly and lawfully yours.


            Why do people covet? 


Mark 7:21-23

21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.'" (NIV)

            Why do we covet?  Because it comes out of our sinful hearts desire.  You see covetousness is the sin of the devil.  It was the devil who first coveted.  Did you know that the first act of coveting  was when the devil coveted the throne of God (Isaiah 14:12-14)?  Did you know that coveting was the sin that the devil used to cause Adam and Eve to fall?  It has been  covetousness that has corrupted the human race.  People covet because covetousness has its roots in our sin nature.   


            Look at Luke 12:15 and notice that Jesus is talking to you.  This is not what Jesus has said, this is what Jesus is saying. 

This is not what he is saying to them this is what Jesus is saying to us. 

Luke 12:15

15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (NIV)

            And then Jesus gave a parable that illustrates this.  Look at Luke 12:16-21.

16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' 18 "Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."'  20 "But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (NIV)


            Now what was this man's problem?  He was a covetous man.  He knew how to make a living, but he did not know how to make a life.  He didn't own money, money owned him.  He thought he could satisfy his soul with material things.

Luke 12:19

19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' (NIV)

            He thought that his deepest needs could be satisfied with material things.  He wanted his inner most being satisfied with the worlds' goods.  Did you know that we are too big for the world?  We are made for the infinite and we can never be satisfied with the finite.  The world is too small to satisfy you.  This man was trying to satisfy his soul with things that can never satisfy his soul.  People covet because covetousness has its roots in our sin nature.  People covet because they believe material things satisfy their soul.     


            What are the results of covetousness?


 1 Timothy 6:10

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (NIV)

            Now it does not say, that those who are rich are evil.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say being rich is a sin.  But the Bible does say, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." 

People who want to get rich are like a honey bee that falls into a barrel of honey and drowns.  The desire to get rich is like the tentacles of an octopus which can not be shaken off except by the power of God. 

  1. COVETING is a deceptive sin.                                                                                                                     

Coveting is a sin that nobody thinks they have.  Do you know what some of you are thinking?  Those sitting in the front pews are thinking, "Preach it pastor.  Tell them about the sin of coveting.  Those sitting behind us need to hear it."  And those in the middle pews are tossing it back to the back pews.  And those in the back pews are thinking it is those in the front pews that need this message.  Nobody ever thinks they are coveting.  We always think it is the other person who covets. 

Romans 1:29

29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, (NIV)


            Notice that from Romans 1:29 that greed is hidden between "wickedness" and "depravity."   You have heard people give testimonies of the fact that they were converted from alcoholism and drugs.  But have you ever heard anyone ever give a testimony that says they have been delivered from covetousness?   Covetousness is a deceptive sin and it you're not careful it will deceive you. 


Ephesians 5:5

5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person -- such a man is an idolater -- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (NIV)

            Some people think that coveting is just a little sin.  Most people would not think of getting drunk or committing adultery.  Some people think that if they just covet, well, that's not too bad.  But when you covet you put yourself in some bad company and you will not see the kingdom of God.  The best illustration of this is found in Mark 10:17. 

Mark 10:17

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (NIV)


            This is an upstanding young man.  In the first place he was anxious to be with Jesus, because the Bible says he came running to Jesus.  Second, he was humble.  Verse 17 says, He "fell on his knees before Jesus."   Third he was bold.  He came and bowed before Jesus in front of everyone.  It took a lot of courage to do that.  Fourth, he was interested in spiritual things.  He did not come to Jesus for more money or power.  He came to Jesus inquiring about eternal life.  He came to Jesus asking,  "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Fifth, he appeared to be a very moral person.  Look at verse 19-20.  Jesus said: 


Mark 10:19-20

19 You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" 20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." (NIV)

            When Jesus gave 6 of the 10 commandments, the young man was able to say, "All of these I have kept since I was a boy."  You and I probably would love to have this guy as a neighbor.  But Jesus was more discerning and looked at this young man and saw that he had a fatal flaw.  He was infected and eaten up with the sin of covetousness.

Mark 10:21

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me." (NIV)


            When Jesus said that, He hit at the very hear of the young man.  Jesus showed this man that he loved money more than he loved God.  And that he loved money more than he loved his neighbors.  He was eaten up with the 10th commandment, which says, "You shall not covet."  I can see him as he ponders his decision.  He wrinkles his face in anguish  and the angel in heaven with a pen in hand is ready to record his name in the Lambs Book of Life.  The demons of hell are there too.  And they tell him what a fool he would be.  Finally, the young man gives his answer by walking away clutching his riches. 

Mark 10:22

22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (NIV)


            Do you know that there are people who will not walk down this isle and profess faith in Jesus Christ and become a part of this church, because they think if they do, the church will want their money.  Do you know what their problem is?  It is covetousness.  To some people God is their money.  They will find all kinds of reasons for not giving their heart to Jesus.  Coveting is a damming sin.


            How can a covetous heart be changed?  May I suggest at least 2 ways. 


            When you commit your heart to Jesus Christ, do you know what happens?  You get a new heart.  Remember that covetousness comes from the heart.

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV)


When you come to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, you get a new heart.  You see Christians are not just nice people.  They have been born again.  It does not mean you will never covet again.  But it does mean it will not be your way of life. 


            Some people have made a commitment to Jesus Christ, but they have not been content in Jesus Christ.  Look at Hebrews 13:5

Hebrews 13:5

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (NIV)


            That is a command, but how do you fulfill it?  Someone may say, "Pastor, how can I be content with what I have, when I have nothing?"  Are you a Christian?  Are you born again?  If you are, then you will understand that he is not talking about material wealth.  If you want to know how rich you are, or how wealthy your are, just add up everything you have that money can not buy, and death can not take away.  Then you will know just how rich you are.  You see Hebrews 13:5 says, when you have Jesus Christ, He will "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  You have Jesus Christ.  And if you have Jesus

Christ you have everything.  You can be content in Jesus.  Paul the apostle said, 

Philippians 4:11

 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (NIV)

            How could Paul be content?  Because he had Jesus Christ in his heart.  You see Paul the apostle was a Christian who had let go of this world with both hands and has taken hold of Jesus Christ.  He has joy unspeakable and full of glory.  It doesn't matter if you have fame and money.  Without Jesus you will not be content.

            Earnest Hemmingway gained fame and fortune from writing such books as The Snows of Kilimanjar, The Old Man and the Sea, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.  He was brilliant, talented, famous and wealthy.  But in spite of his fame and fortune, he put the barrels of a double-barreled shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.  So did Eastman of Eastman Kodak Company.  He had more millions of dollars than he knew what to do with.  And yet he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.   They had wealth, intellect, fame and talent.  They had praise and popularity, but they didn't have contentment in Jesus Christ. 

            There was a man who promised an enemy of his all the land that he could possible want.  All he had to do was walk in a circle around the land in a day.  The man took up the offer.  So he got up early the next day.  Before the hot sun was up he started on his journey.  Every step he took he said, "This is mine, and this is mine, and this is mine."  And on and on he went.  The the full heat of the noon day sun came up him.  But he would not stop for water.  He would not stop for food.    Greed had eaten him up.  Covetousness had infected him.  A friend said, "Turn aside and rest."  Others said, "Stop and eat."  Still others said, "Stop and drink."  But he would not stop.  Finally, in the intense heat, he ripped off his shirt.  His goal was in front of him.  The sun was now beginning to set.  He now would say, "Just one more step, just one more step."  Finally, he reached his goal, but he fell dead.  He received all the ground he could cover, a burial plot 6 foot by 2 foot.  That's all.  Is that you?  Are you saying, "I want this, I want that, I've got to get this and I've got to get that."  The sun is setting on you. 

Mark 8:36

36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (NIV)


     This world can not satisfy you.  It's not that it's too big, it's just too small.  You were made for God.  You will never find satisfaction till you find it in Jesus Christ. 

            George Truett tells of visiting a very wealthy man in Texas.  As they stood on the porch, the man pointed north and said, "Dr. Truett, I own all the land in that direction."  Then he pointed south and said, "I own all of the land in that direction.  Then he pointed east and west and said, "I own all the land in that direction and that direction."  Dr. Truett  then pointed to Heaven and asked, "And how much do you own in that direction?" 

            There was a White Knight looking for adventure.  He came to a village where legend told of a dragon that lived in a deep pit.  Bravely the White Knight took up the challenge.  He would do battle with the dragon.  In the memory of the people several courageous men had climbed down into the pit, but no one could remember any climbing out.  The White Knight stood looking at the deep, dark hole.  The opening was so narrow he stripped himself of armor and unnecessary clothing.  He took only a long dagger which he tied around his neck with a leather strap.  After testing the strength of the rope, he gripped it firmly and began lowering himself, hand under hand, and letting the rope slip between his feet.  Soon he felt the cool, smooth floor of the chamber.  It took several minutes for his eyes to adjust to the darkness but soon he focused on a large mound.  Then he realized it was the bones of his predecessors, along with their assorted weapons.  A little way off he spotted another mound, but he wasn't sure what it was.  Suddenly he was surprised by the dragon.  The White Knight picked up a sword from the floor and prepared to do battle, but the dragon quickly ran deeper into the cave.  The White Knight followed.  The second mound became clearer and again he was surprised.  Before his eyes there large mound of gold and diamonds.  The dragon lost its importance in view of the great

treasure.  The White Knight had a problem.  How would he carry it out the gold and the diamonds out of the hole?  He had no pockets.  Who would believe him if he didn't bring back at least one piece?  He had an idea.  He would take one of the diamonds in his mouth and carry it that way until he had climbed out of the hole.  He could always come back later for the rest.  Hurriedly he chose one of the larger diamonds.  It fit comfortably into his mouth, and he began the climb out of the pit, hand over hand, gripping the rope with his feet.  His tongue held the diamond tightly against the roof of his mouth.  Higher and higher he climbed until the heavy exertion began to render him breathless.  He would have to breathe through his mouth in order to get enough air.  With the large diamond in his mouth, he took in a large gulp of air  but the diamond slipped and stuck in his throat.  The White Knight choked on his treasure, lost consciousness and fell to his death on the mound of bones below.  You see, the dragon in the pit was not the enemy the white night thought it was.  The enemy was coveting.  The glitter of this world had choked him to death.

            An evangelist was asked to speak to a grade school boy who was born blind.  The boy said to the evangelist, "I need some help.  Do you think you can help me?"  The  evangelist said, "I will help you if I think I can."  The  boy said, "I am blind.  I am going to miss many things in this life.  I have never seen a bird or a horse.  I can't see anything.  I'm going to

miss many wonderful things but I don't want to miss heaven too.  Will you please take the time to tell me how to get to Heaven?"  The evangelist sat down and explained to the young boy how Jesus who had not sinned died on a cross for the sins of the whole world.  A few minutes latter the boy bowed his head and prayed ""Lord Jesus, I need You.  Thank you for dying on the cross for my sin.  I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord.  Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.  Take control of the throne of my life.  Make me the kind of person You want me to be."  As I look at you I wonder how many of you have seen what a little blind boy had seen.  He saw he had a need of salvation.   

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