The Tenth Commandment
Bible Facts Newspaper Article (Ian C. Kurylyk)
“Thou shalt not covet...” (Exodus 20:17a)
The principles of righteousness seen in the Ten Commandments are certainly far-reaching, comprehensive, and interrelated one with the other. Not only is it wrong to steal your neighbour’s possessions, it is unlawful also to covet his house or his servants or anything. Not only is it wrong to commit adultery, it is sinful to covet your neighbour’s wife.
The law of God begins with our worship life with God; it extends also to our actions before our fellow man; and it even has to do with the desires of our hearts. Coveting is having a heart desire for that which belongs to someone else and those things which cannot be lawfully obtained. It is an inordinate affection.
Just because someone desires something or somebody with all his heart it does not make what he does beautiful or even acceptable just because it is called “love”. It is wrong to love outside the boundaries of righteousness laid down in God’s law. Unlawful love is lust. And God’s law requires not only that we “do” but also that we “be”. This goes to the root of our sin problem. Not only have we committed acts of sin, we have sin engraved deeply in our innermost being. “The sin of Judah is written with a pen iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the tables of their heart...” (Jeremiah 17:1).
The Apostle Paul before he was a Christian was a self-righteous Pharisee. When he read the first nine commandments he excused himself with the idea the had never physically murdered anyone or committed adultery etc.. He was by his own words “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:6b). This meant he had no public scandal or scar of sin before the eyes of other men.
But the truth of the tenth commandment made him realize the extent of God’s Holy Law and his personal condemnation without Christ. “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7b). This testimony of the law against Him led him to trust the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive his sin and be his Saviour. Before fully considering this tenth commandment in the law he was smug and proud of his status as a brilliant religious figure. The power of the truth, however, turned him around to the realization of his deep sinfulness and need of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (I Timothy 1:15).
This means Paul is an example for all of us. He was as morally upright as the best - according to human evaluation, but he was led by God’s law to see himself as the worst of sinners. The conclusion is that God can save from sin and hell anyone that follows his example and accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for their own sin. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (I Timothy 1:16)