Neither shall you desire your neighbor's wife, neither shall you covet your neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant…
The first thing which this commandment teaches us is that all desire is wrong when we set our hearts upon a thing which we cannot fairly and justly obtain. Ahab and Jezebel broke it when they took Naboth's vineyard. Is it ever right to desire? And what makes a desire right or wrong? Here we are all full of wishes and desires. Desire is one of the great motive forces of the world. If we had no desires we should have no progress. It is a sense of want that makes us exert ourselves, and very often bring to pass a great many results which we never set before ourselves as ends. What, then, is to be our criterion? Desire is not a wrong thing in itself. Desire of learning is not wrong; desire of success, say, in an examination, or in our future career in life, is surely not wrong? Roughly, very roughly, speaking, success is the guarantee from outside that we were right in pursuing such and such a course, in using our talents in such and such a way; while failure, speaking again very roughly, seems to mean that we have wasted our time, or mistaken our vocation. It is not always so, of course. Desire is not, it may be repeated, a wrong thing in itself. When is it wrong?
1. When we desire things that are unworthy of us, as when Nero wished to be applauded as a stage performer, or when a great man, like Browning's "Lost Leader," is led aside from his path by the offer of some petty title or distinction; and, alas! if we look into our own hearts, we shall often find, almost with a sudden shock of shame and dismay, how miserably petty are some of the objects around which our imagination is building its castles in the air.
2. Again, desire is wrong when it throws us off our balance, and makes us take a one-sided view of life.
3. Desire is clearly blamable when we allow it to absorb us and make us forgetful of the needs of others.
4. Again, desire is wrong when indulged in such a way that the failure of what we desire makes us discontented.
5. Again, if our ambition, our love, our de, ire, makes us forgetful of God, is it not worse still? There is, however, one other thing I should like to say. Primarily, and roughly speaking, God does fulfil, or shows us how to accomplish, our wishes. There is a decided a priori probability that we shall get what we want. As an exquisite fragment of Greek poetry tells us, Hesperus (the evening star) brings everything home: the sheep to the fold, and the child to the mother. So we may say of the evening of life, in very many cases, it has brought to the man or the woman the objects of lifelong desire. "All things," as we say, "come round to him who waits." But it is also possible to have a wrong desire fulfilled, and to mourn its fulfilment as our bitterest misfortune. "Occidat dum imperet (Let him kill me if he only reign!)," said Agrippina of Nero, and her aspiration was terribly realised. The thirty pieces of silver were the "desire" of Judas Iscariot! How often do we see this still! The moment we try to force God's will we desire wrongly, and are sure to repent of it.
Parallel VersesKJV: Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.
WEB: "Neither shall you covet your neighbor's wife; neither shall you desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."