Ten Commandments: Order Of Importance And Importance Of Order

IDEA: The tenth commandment focuses on the source from which comes the destruction of all human relationships.

TEXT: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Deuteronomy 5:21).

PURPOSE: To help listeners think broadly about covetousness.

We have to avoid oversimplifying or limiting our definition of covetousness.

I. Some commentators move too quickly to defining covetousness merely as “sexual desire.”

This began with the translation of the Hebrew word chamad into Greek as ouk epithymesies, equated with Plato’s epithymia meaning “physical desire.”

The Catholic decision to split the commandment into two separate commandments and to make the ninth commandment merely “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” also focused on a prohibition against sexual desire for someone else’s spouse.

The passion and desire involved in sexual lust does give us some insight into the word’s broader meaning.

II. But the focal point of the tenth commandment isn’t only sexual desire as such but the “covetousness” that covers a broad range of human experiences including the sexual.

The classical Christian term for covetousness is concupiscence.

Concupiscence does not mean sensuality. It means disordered desire.

Concupiscence names the intensity of our desire which, when turned away from God, distorts everything we do or don’t do.

In biblical terms, the focus isn’t on human sensuality and sexuality, but on the human “heart”-–the core and center of our humanity and all its impulses, including the physical.

The whole thrust of this commandment is summed up by Jesus in Matthew 15:19: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”

III. This disordered desire of the tenth commandment can produce in us all of the evil against which the other commandments stand.

Can covetousness lead to idolatry?

Can covetousness lead to murder?

Can covetousness lead to adultery?

Can covetousness lead to stealing?

Can covetousness lead to lying?