The Ten Commandments or the Law of God Series
The Tenth Commandment
Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21
Have you ever been in a store and seen a young child throw a fit over the fact they want something and (initially) their parent says no. That is covetous in its most simplistic form, and the funny thing is, if we can call it that is they child does not even know why they want it so badly to misbehave. Adults are much the same when it comes to coveting worldly things.
Once again let us begin with Keach’s observations from 1677:
84. Which is the tenth commandment?
The tenth commandment is Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s. Ex. 20:17
85. What is required in the tenth commandment?
The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition,165 with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.166
165. Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6 166. Job 31:29; Rom. 7:15; 1 Tim. 1:5; 1 Cor. 8:4, 7
86. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate,167 envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour,168 and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.169
167. 1 Kings 21:4; Esther 5:13; 1 Cor. 10:10 168. Gal. 5:26; James 3:14, 16 169. Rom. 7:7, 8, 13:9; Deut. 5:21
The tenth commandment is unlike all others in that it is hidden from public view. What I mean is that the commandment is one of our own heart and mind and does not require outward action. No one but God sees our covetous.
So what does it mean to Covet? Wester’s 1828 dictionary defines it as:
1. To desire or wish for, with eagerness; to desire earnestly to obtain or possess; in a good sense. Covet earnestly the best gifts. 1 Corinthians 12.
2. To desire inordinately; to desire that which it is unlawful to obtain or possess; in a bad sense. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife or servant. Exodus 20.
COVET, v.i. To have an earnest desire. 1 Timothy 6.
Watson has his own definition of sorts:
 What is it to covet?
There are two words in the Greek which set forth the nature of covetousness. Pleonexia, which signifies an “insatiable desire of getting the world.” Covetousness is a dry dropsy. Augustine defines covetousness, “to desire more than enough;” to aim at a great estate; to be like the daughter of the horse-leech, crying, “Give, give.” Proverbs 30:15. The other word is Philarguria, which signifies an “inordinate love of the world.” The world is the idol. It is so loved, that a man will not part with it for any price. He may be said to be covetous not only who gets the world unrighteously—but who loves it inordinately.
When we apply a definition to the tenth commandment it would seen the second is most appropriate. The second commandment is a prohibition against coveting that is unlawful or immoral desires.
It must be noted however that not all Coveting is bad. As the first definition notes it can be applied in a good sense when our desires are righteous. Psalm 37:4, one of the most misused verses in all scripture today says: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Folks are quick to quote the last part and forget the first. Our hearts must be aligned with the Lord’s in order to get that which we desire (Covet) and if they are our what we desire (covet) will be for the Glory of God.
Let’s break down Keach’s comments for a moment, he says that the 10th Commandment requires:
requireth full contentment with our own condition – We are to be happy with all that God has provided us. This does not mean we can not dream of better things or even desire them. It means we must be content or satisfied with God’s sovereign plan for our lives.
forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate – We are not to grumble, mumble or otherwise express discontent with all that God provides. This at times may be difficult, that is why a right relationship with God is SOOOOO important.
envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour – just because the Jones have it does not mean you should too. God’s plan for their lives and yours maybe on completely different tracks heading in completely different directions.
inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his – While most all covetous is hidden we should never get to the place where we openly display affections or notions towards our neighbors property or family.
Pink comments on this:
That which is here prohibited is concupiscence or an unlawful lusting after what is another man’s. In our exposition of the previous Commandments we have pointed out that while their actual terms are confined to the forbidding of outward acts, yet the scope of each one takes in and reaches to the condemnation of everything which has any tendency or occasion to lead to the overt crime. Here in the final precept of the Decalogue we find clear confirmation of the same, for in it God expressly imposes a law upon our spirits, forbidding us to so much as lust after whatever He has forbidden us to perpetrate. The best way to keep men from committing sin in act is to keep them from desiring it in heart.
In closing, if we are going to covet let us covet spiritual things, for all those opposed to living be it this or the other commandments are also opposed to the cross. As Paul writes in Philippians 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, The Ten Commandments
Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677 – Modern #44-92
Thomas Watson’s classic The Ten Commandments
Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge, Chapter XIX, The Law
The Ten Commandments, by A. W. Pink
The Doctrine of Law and the Grace Unfolded – John Bunyan
A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel by John Colquhoun, D.D