Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Tenth Commandment Throws Our Society Into Chaos -- Exodus 20:17

--> “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
 
Our entire western (and I also believe eastern) economic system is essentially founded on the knowledge that carnal man (and woman) always wants more than he/she has.  That’s human nature.  We have a desire to possess things, especially things that someone else has already.  And as long as there are more of those ‘things’ available for us to acquire without taking them from those that already have them, we are considered to be eager consumers rather than thieves.  And in some cases, depending on what we steal, we are also breakers of other commandments.
In this last commandment, God speaks of ‘coveting’.  The Cambridge dictionary defines the verb ‘to covet’ as: to want to have something very much, especially something that belongs to someone else.  The Oxford dictionary adds the idea of “yearning” for what belongs to others.
God here warns us not to covet what belongs to others.  In particular He first mentions their house as representative of tangible possessions.  Today it may be more than a house – it may be their car, or boat, or vacation home, or smaller items like their latest television or cellular phone, etc.
Then God warns that we are not to covet someone else’s spouse.  This deals with the whole area of our moral life.  It is a commandment to women as well as to men.
Finally God warns us not to covet the means that other people have at their disposal to bring about aspects of their lives that we may be coveting.  We are not to covet the wealth (represented here by the servants – gardener, maid, chauffeur, etc.) someone else may have.  Or the career success they may have (represented by the ox and donkey that may be put to work for them – today, one’s business or enterprise).
Is it possible that God in identifying these particular things or persons we are not to covet is really concerned about our coveting what we do not have period, rather than just what He has mentioned?  In other words, the sin that would be involved here is not being satisfied with what God has given us or allowed us to possess legitimately at this point in our lives.  Our modern definition of coveting in fact speaks of it being something that involves “wanting something very much” or “yearning” for it.  Is God saying, aside from wanting to know Him better, we are not to want anything very much, certainly not to the point of coveting it.
In fact the only thing I can think of we should be coveting is a closer personal relationship with God.  And even that should not be desired in comparison to what someone else may have but rather in comparison to what we presently have.  The old ‘Negro Spiritual’ entitled “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” comes to mind.  It is not about becoming as spiritual as Brother John or Sister Mary, but about us becoming closer to God ourselves.
It goes without saying that we are also not to covet the various spiritual gifts that God has given others and not us.  Our job is to discover the gifts God has blessed us with and then to employ those gifts diligently for His Kingdom.
With His warning to us not to covet, God concludes the Commandments that He gave to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai – commandments that in one way or another have guided the world throughout the ages and still do for millions.  But what matters is not what the world has done with these commandments.  It does not even matter what the Children of Israel did with them.  Or what one’s church, family, or parents did with them.  What really matters is what each one of us individually does with them.  We can follow them and be blessed and perhaps live long (all else being equal) on this earth, or we can ignore them at our own peril.  I pray that our recent look at each of the commandments has helped us in understanding what God may well have had in mind as we consider our response to each one.
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