Exodus 20:17
Murder, adultery, theft, slander, all these spring from a corrupt heart. The wrong thought admitted nourishes the wrong desire, which in time gives birth to the wrong action. Out of the heart are the issues of life, therefore keep thy heart with all diligence.

I. THE SOURCE OF COVETOUSNESS. There are two ideals by which men mould their lives. One makes God the centre of all things, the other makes self the centre. One says "Thy will be done," the other says "My will be done." It is in the heart that accepts this latter ideal that covetousness has its home. Everything is regarded in its relation to self - the neighbour's life and home, and property, and character, are only so many possible instruments which may thwart or assist the gratification of selfishness. The thought of something which may give pleasure, leads us to the desire for the possession of that thing, and the desire will only be restrained from fulfilment by external checks which may make fulfilment difficult. A man may refrain from adultery or theft, because of the social penalties which attach to such transgressions; all the same in his inmost heart he may be a thief and an adulterer. Selfishness is the parent of all sins; its offspring is only dwarfed in growth when selfishness is restrained by society. (Cf. Matthew 5:22, 28.)

II. THE CURE FOR COVETOUSNESS. The only radical remedy is that which starts by cutting at the root of selfishness. God, not the individual man, is the centre of the universe. Man is related directly to him, and to all other things through him. It is God's will, not our own will, by reference to which we may live righteously. What then is God's will? It is that which corresponds with his character, which is love. To live as in his sight is to live in the light of love. Love in us is kindled and developed by contemplation and experience of the love which is in him. Love is that Divine affection which alone has power to expel all selfishness. Love alone can purify the heart, guard the thoughts, and discipline the desires. And what is love in practice? It is nothing more nor less than doing to others as we would they should do unto us. All men as related to God are on an equality, all, as in his sight, have equal rights. Here, however much we may differ, we are yet all on common ground. They who acknowledge one God, who accept redemption through one Saviour, who yield to the influence of one sanctifying Spirit, are in the way to the attainment of that love which is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10.) Conclusion. - Notice how the last commandment links itself on to the fulfilment o! the first. The ten precepts of the two tables are ten golden links in a perfect circle. Thus regarded, that circle is none other than the perfect bond of charity (Colossians 3:14), a girdle wherewith whoso girds himself ensures a twofold peace, "Peace on earth towards men of good will," and the peace of God to keep his heart. - G.







Thou shalt not covet.
I. The history of the world is stained and darkened by the CRIMES TO WHICH NATIONS HAVE BEEN DRIVEN BY THE SPIRIT OF COVETOUSNESS, Covetousness is forbidden not merely to prevent the miseries, and horrors, and crimes of aggressive war, but to train the spirit of nations to the recognition of God's own idea of their relations to each other. Nations should see underlying this Commandment the Divine idea of the unity of the human race; they should learn to seek greatness by ministering to each other's peace, security, prosperity, and happiness.

II. INDIVIDUALS, AS WELL AS NATIONS, MAY VIOLATE THIS LAW. They may do it —

1. By ambition.

2. By discontent and envy.

3. By the desire to win from another man the love which is the pride and joy of his life.The very end for which Christ came was to redeem us from selfishness. The last of the Ten Commandments touches the characteristic precept of the new law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS COVETING? The Hebrew word is really but expressive of a strong controlling desire. This is not forbidden per se in the Commandment, but a special form of coveting, determined by the objects enumerated. Prussic acid in itself is not bad — it is just as good as bread or milk; but it would be evil in me to use or seek prussic acid as my food, because its relation to me in that case would be pernicious.

II. WHAT ARE THE OBJECTS WHICH WE MUST NOT COVET? If anything belongs to our neighbour, either by the tie of property, as a house, or by the tie of domestic union, as a wife, it thereby partakes of the sacredness of his own person, and is so to be viewed by us. The coveting any such object for ourselves is directly at war with this view. It pollutes this sanctity, it destroys in our heart the harmony of things and introduces confusion. Anything appertaining to our neighbour is in such relation to us as to condemn all coveting. The elements of his wrath, his happiness, his fame, his success, are all included. His time, his talents, his opportunities, his advantages, so far as they are peculiarly his and are not common to all, are in the same category.

III. WHAT IS THE HARM OF COVETING?

1. It degrades our neighbour in our heart.

2. We are nursing the brood of sin in our soul. It is spiritual corruption — gangrene. You are carefully cherishing the eggs of envy, jealousy, malice, anger, and revenge, when you indulge in your unhallowed desires; and these dire monsters will be hatched and become your irresistible masters before you are aware.

IV. HOW SHALL WE AVOID THIS EVIL COVETING? "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." The desires of the heart are not to be annihilated, man is not to be reduced to an inert lump, his passions are to burn as brightly as ever, his eager heart to beat as strongly as before, yet not for worldly jewels, but for heaven's crown. The current is to run as swiftly as before, but now in a new channel. We are to seek first — that is, as chief — the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

(H. Crosby, D. D.)

Love is compatible with desire, but it is not consistent with inordinate desire.

I. The violation of this command ARRAIGNS THE WISDOM OF PROVIDENCE.

II. The violation of this command DISTURBS THE BALANCE OF SOCIETY.

III. The violation of this command PRODUCES CRIMINAL DEEDS.

IV. The violation of this command EMBITTERS EXISTENCE.

V. This command can only be kept in THE SPIRIT OF THE GOSPEL.

(W. Burrows, B. A.)

1. Human laws cannot meddle with a man's desires; they may control his conduct, may even punish his utterances; but any attempt to fetter his wishes would be as futile as to chain the free winds, or restrain the ocean's tides. Therefore, when this Commandment says, "Thou shalt not covet," etc., it gives a plain warning that the Decalogue is something more than a criminal code.

2. Again, a man's desires can only be known to God and himself, and no other person has any right to rule them. Therefore, when this Commandment lays claim to such a right, it manifestly speaks in the name of God.

I. What is THE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLE of this Commandment?

1. What is forbidden is unlawful desire. We are to cherish contentment; to avoid discontent and envy.(1) What is there in repining to induce success? Grumbling makes mischief, but it does no work. It sours men; renders them unthankful to God, and unjust to their neighbours; destroys their peace and paralyzes their courage; blinds them to their blessings, so that they become "poor in abundance, and famished at a feast"; but far from helping them in the race of life it is the direst of hindrances.(2) And discontent is no whit wiser when it takes the name of ambition. He that would be wretched all his days, cold in the sunshine, and parched beside the running stream, let him be ambitious! He that would sow scorpions to torment his latter days, let him be ambitious! "By that sin fell the angels."

2. But of all violations of this Commandment, the Scriptures single out for especial reprobation the greed of money. Even when there is no apparent disregard of the rights of others, the inordinate love of gain — "accursed hunger of pernicious gold" — is stigmatized with the name of covetousness. But, it may be asked, if it is lawful to make money, why is it unlawful to love money? The answer is, that money should be only a means to an end, the end being the glorifying of God with our substance; but a man cannot serve two masters. If we love the means, we cease to love the end; and the love of money is forbidden because it kills the love of God

II. THE SPECIAL FUNCTION of this Commandment.

1. To awaken a conviction of moral failure. The ordinary course of many a man's moral life might be compared to the glassy surface of a river, smooth because undisturbed. If in that swift torrent, at mid-channel, some firmly-bedded rock obtrudes itself, there is a sudden swirling and commotion, the opposition reveals the current. Like that rock is this law of motive. It does not cause, does not reverse the stream, but it discovers it. Oh, terrible illumination!

2. So in the providence of God the way is prepared for a gospel of grace and truth.

III. THE SECRET OF THIS LAW'S FULFILMENT. We can perfectly keep no Commandment except as we have learned the law of motive; and we can keep the law of motive only as we do it with loving hearts.

1. Without love no law can be truly obeyed, whether to God or our neighbour; but he that loves as Christ loved, will love rightly; he that loves rightly will desire rightly; and he that desires rightly will keep both this Commandment and all the Decalogue.

2. This spirit of neighbourly love needs to be empowered by the grace of Christ. Our Saviour is not only the Pattern, but also the Source of it.

(W. J. Woods, B. A.)

I. Let us inquire, WHAT IS COVETOUSNESS?

1. Covetousness is the unlawful desire of temporal good; when we wish for that which we have not, or when we wish for that which is another's.

2. Covetousness consists in an inordinate desire after natural good, although the desire itself be not unlawful. In the one case, the matter of the desire is to be condemned; in this case the measure and degree in which that desire is cherished and indulged.

3. An undue delight and satisfaction in created good, is another form of covetousness.

4. All discontentment of spirit, envious repining, an uncharitable judging towards our neighbour, his prosperity and possessions, partake of the nature of covetousness; discontent with the lot and station which God has appointed us; envious repinings at the prosperity and success of others.

II. I am now to show you ITS HIGH CRIMINALITY; or, to use the language of Scripture, its "exceeding sinfulness."

1. That it stands directly opposed to the benevolence of Deity; God is infinitely good, and He is infinitely kind.

2. This is a sin which is peculiarly dishonouring to God, as well as expressly contrary to His revealed will.

3. This disposition of mind is a direct and too prevalent impediment to the introduction of Divine truth into the heart of man. It is the pre-occupancy which the world has insured in our thoughts, and affections, and desires, which keeps us at a distance from Christ, and the blessing of his redemption.

4. This sin is peculiarly destructive of the peace and happiness of human society.

5. This sin, above all others, deludes, hardens, and destroys. It deludes. Few persons, who are under the influence of covetousness, ever suspect it. It conceals itself under very plausible names, and specious disguises, such as prudence and foresight, frugality and good thrift. Terms much misapplied. And this sin not only deludes, but hardens. "Take heed, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin," and more particularly this sin. There is nothing which so indurates the soul, depriving it of its finest sensations, eradicating its tenderest sympathies, and drying up its noblest sensibilities, as covetousness. It tends to throw an armour of proof around the mind under its tyranny, which no arrow of conviction can pierce, and of which it is most difficult to strip the possessor. Whatever men may think or say, this sin, without intervening pardon and repentance, will assuredly destroy the soul.

6. This is a sin which, of all others, inflicts upon the subject of it the worst miseries here, while it prepares for eternal misery hereafter.

(G. Clayton.)

I. THE DUTIES REQUIRED.

1. I shall consider the duty of this command as it respects ourselves. A thorough weanedness from and indifferency to all those things that we have, in which our desire may be too eager. There are some things whereof our desire cannot be too much, as of God, Christ, grace, victory over sin; and therefore we read of a holy lusting (Galatians 5:17). There are other things to which our desires may be carried out too eagerly and inordinately. Thus we may sin, not only in the inordinate desire of sensual things, as meat, drink, etc., but in rational things, as honour, esteem, etc.(1) Hearty renunciation of our own will, saying, with the pattern of contentment, "Not my will, but Thine be done." We must no more be choosers for ourselves of our own lot; but as little children standing at the table, not to carve for themselves, but to take the bit that is given them.(2) Absolute resignation to the will of the Lord (Matthew 16:24; 1 Samuel 3:18).

2. We are to consider the duty of this command, as it respects our neighbour. And that is a right and charitable or loving frame of spirit towards himself and all that is his.(1) Love to our neighbour's person, as to ourselves (Romans 13:9).(2) An upright respect to what is his, for his sake. As we are to love himself for God's sake, so what is his for his sake (Deuteronomy 22:1).(3) An hearty desire of his welfare and prosperity in all things, as of our own, his honour, life, chastity, wealth, good name, and whatever is his.(4) A real complacency in his welfare and the welfare of what is his (Romans 12:15).(5) A cordial sympathy with him in any evil that befalls him (Romans 12:20).

II. THE SINS FORBIDDEN. This command is a curb and bridle to the distempered heart of man, which of all parts of man is the hardest to be commanded and kept within bounds. Men may be of a courteous obliging behaviour, keep in their hands from killing, or what tendeth thereunto, their bodies from uncleanness, their hands from stealing, and their tongues from lying; while, in the meantime, the heart in all these respects may be going within the breast like a troubled sea, unto which this command by Divine authority saith, "Peace, be still." The heart distempered by original sins runs out in the irascible faculty in tormenting passions, bearing an aversion of the heart to what the Lord in His wisdom lays before men. I will show the evil of discontentment, and paint out this sin in its black colours. It is the hue of hell all over.

1. Discontent is, in the nature of it, a compound of the blackest ingredients, the scum of the corrupt heart boiling up, and mixed to make up the hellish composition.(1) Unsubjection to and rebellion against the will of God (Hosea 4:16).(2) Sorrow of heart under the Divine dispensation towards them.(3) Anger and wrath against their lot (Jude 1:16). Thus the discontented do in their hearts bark at the mountains of brass (Zechariah 6:1); as dogs do at the moon, and with the same success.

2. If ye view discontentment in the rise of it, ye will see further into the evil of it. It takes its rise from —(1) A blinded judgment which puts darkness for light, and light for darkness, and cannot see into the wisdom of the conduct of Providence.(2) A proud heart.(3) An unmortified affection to the creature (1 Timothy 6:9, 10).(4) A spirit of unbelief.

3. View it in the effect, and it will appear very black. The tree is known by its fruits.(1) It mars communion with and access to God.(2) It quite unfits a man for holy duties, so that he cannot perform them rightly or acceptably, for speaking to God in prayer, or His speaking to them by His Word.(3) Nay, it unfits people for the work of their ordinary calling. It is not only an enemy to grace, but to gifts too, and common prudence.(4) It mars the comfort of society, and makes people uneasy to those that are about them.(5) It is a torment to oneself, and makes a man his own tormentor (1 Kings 21:4).(6) It is not only tormenting to one's mind, but is ruinous to the body (Proverbs 17:22).(7) It sucks the sap out of all one's enjoyments. As a few drops of gall will embitter a cup of wine, and a few drops of ink will blacken a cup of the clearest liquor; so discontent upon one ground will embitter and blacken all other enjoyments.(8) Hence it always makes one unthankful. Let Providence set the discontented man in a paradise, the fruit of that one tree which is forbidden him, and which he is so uneasy about, will so embitter him that he will not give God thanks for all the variety of other delights which the garden is furnished with. For all these avail him nothing while that is kept out of his reach. When once it entered into Adam's heart, it made him at one stroke break through all the Ten Commandments.

2. The branch that runs against our neighbour's condition is envying and grudging. The object of this sin is the good of our neighbour; and the better the object is, the worse is the sin.

1. View it in the ingredients thereof, whereof it is made up.

(1)Sorrow and grief for the good of our neighbour (1 Corinthians 13:4).

(2)Fretting anger at their good (Psalm 37:1).

2. View it in the springs and rise thereof.

(1)Covetousness of what is their neighbour's.

(2)Discontent.

(3)Pride and selfishness.

3. View it in the effects thereof. It has almost the same as those of discontent, which may be well applied thereto. I will only say that envy is a sword, and wounds three at once.(1) It strikes against God, being highly offensive and dishonourable to Him. It quarrels His government of the world, and accuses Him of folly, partiality, and injustice (Matthew 20:15).(2) It strikes against our neighbour. It is a bitter disposition of spirit, wishing his ill-fare, and grudging his good; and not only binds up men's hands from doing him good, but natively tends to loose them to his hurt. It will be at him one way or other in word or deed, and there is no escaping the evil of it (Proverbs 27:4).(3) It strikes at oneself (Job 5:2). "Envy slayeth the silly man." Though it be so weak as to do no execution on others, yet be sure it never misses a man's self; and it wounds oneself the deeper, that it cannot do much hurt to the party envied.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. The sin here prohibited is CONCUPISCENCE, or an unlawful lusting after what is another man's. For since God had, in the other Commandments, forbidden the acts of sin against our neighbour, He well knew that the best means to keep men from committing sin in act would be to keep them from desiring it in heart; and therefore lie, who is a Spirit, imposeth a law upon our spirits, and forbids us to covet what before He had forbidden us to perpetrate. There are four degrees of this sinful concupiscence.

1. There is the first film and shadow of an evil thought, the imperfect embryo of a sin before it is well shaped in us, or hath received any lineaments and features. And these the Scripture calls the imaginations of the thoughts of men's hearts (Genesis 6:5).

2. A farther degree of this concupiscence is when these evil motions are entertained in the sensual mind with some measure of complacency and delight.

3. Hereupon follows assent and approbation of the sin in the practical judgment.

4. When any sinful motion hath thus gotten an allowance and pass from the judgment, then it betakes itself to the will for a decree.

II. I shall close up all with some PRACTICAL USE AND IMPROVEMENT.

1. Learn here to adore the unlimited and boundless sovereignty of the great God.

2. Content not thyself with an outward conformity to the law, but labour to approve thy heart in sincerity and purity unto God; otherwise thou art but a pharisaical hypocrite, and washest only the outside of the cup, when within thou art still full of unclean lusts.

3. See here the best and the surest methods, to keep us from the outward violation of God's laws; which is to mortify our corrupt concupiscence and desires. And therefore the wisdom of God hath set this Commandment in the last place, as a fence and guard to all the rest.

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

We have here at the close a startling enough reminder that the calling of Israel to be a state or commonwealth did not exhaust its calling. It is very easy to see that the idea thus introduced at the close of the covenant was sure to exert a profound influence on the Israelite's whole conception of duty.

1. For one thing, it served to lay emphasis upon the stainless purity required in each individual soul. To be a good citizen, it told him, might be enough in an earthly kingdom, but not in the kingdom of Jehovah. Jehovah looks upon every heart. He is each man's God as well as King over all the citizens; Lord of the conscience and the interior life. The individual, therefore, must be holy as well as the state; and if innocence from statutory transgression be much, purity in the soul is more.

2. In the next place, this sudden revelation of a deeper righteousness, which is so unexpectedly flashed oat upon us at the close of the Commandments, flings its piercing light back upon all that had gone before. The truth is that illicit conduct always has its root in illicit desire.

3. In the next place, it was by thus appending, as it were, a rider to every other Commandment of the Ten that this last one awoke in earnest Hebrews the conviction not only of failure but of hopeless failure. A fatal commandment, truly, to one's self-righteous conceit! Not content with disclosing ghastly depths of evil beneath the surface of a decorous and well-ordered life, it insists on probing the motives of our best conduct; it puts us upon an effort to "cleanse the very thoughts of our hearts," not "by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost," but by our own exertions; till the poor soul, stung to death by evil thoughts which it cannot expel, evil desires which it cannot prevent, and evil passions which it cannot master, is reduced to an extremity of despair: "Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?"

4. It is in this way, finally, that the last of the Ten Words educated the Hebrew for the New Testament revelation of "grace and truth by Jesus Christ."

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

I. We should not covet, in the first place, because it is UNSATISFYING. If we get the things we covet, instead of being satisfied, we shall only want more. Our covetous desires are like a tub without a bottom, and trying to get satisfied by indulging them is just like trying to fill a tub with water when there is no bottom to it. "How strange it is," said a young man one day to Dr. Franklin, "that when men get rich they are just as unsatisfied and anxious to make money as when they were poor." There was a little child playing in the room near them. "Johnny, come here," said Dr. F. The little fellow came up to him. "Here, my man, is an apple for you," said he, handing one from a fruit-basket on the table. It was so large that the child could hardly grasp it. He then gave it a second, which filled the other hand; and picking out a third, remarkable for its size and beauty, he said, "Here's another." The child tried hard to hold this last apple between the other two, but it dropped on the carpet, and rolled away over the floor. "See," said Dr. F., "there is a little man with more riches than he can enjoy, but not satisfied."

II. Again, we should not covet, because it is DISGRACEFUL. A person who covets is very nearly related to a thief. Here is a chicken almost ready to be hatched, and there is a chicken that is already hatched. What is the difference between them? Why, one is in the shell, while the other is out of it. That is all the difference. There is nothing in the world but the thickness of that thin shell which separates one of them from the other. A slight tapping, a very little peeking on the end of that shell, and it is broken through, and then out comes the chicken, as lively and active as its little brother that came out yesterday. Now, just such is the relation that exists between a covetous person and a thief. There is nothing but a thin shell that separates them from each other. The covetous person is a thief in the shell; the thief is a covetous person out of the shell.

III. We should not covet, because it is INJURIOUS. Some years ago there was a large ship, called the Kent, going from England to the East Indies. On her voyage she caught fire. The flames could not be put out. While she was burning another vessel came in sight, and offered to take off her crew and passengers. The sea was very rough, and the only way to get the people off the burning ship was to let them down by ropes from the end of a boom into the little boats, that were tossed about like corks by the rough waves below. One of the sailors, who knew that the mate had a large quantity of gold in his possession, determined to get it and take it with him. So he broke into the mate's cabin, forced open his desk, and taking about four hundred pounds in gold pieces, put them in a belt, and fastened it round his waist. His turn came to leave the burning ship. He got out to the end of the boom, slipped down the rope, and let go, expecting to drop right into the boat that was beneath him. But a sudden movement of the waves carried the boat out of his reach, and he was plunged into the sea. He was an excellent swimmer, and if it had not been for the gold he had coveted, he would have risen like a cork to the surface, and soon been safe in the boat. But the weight of the money round his waist made him sink like lead in the mighty waters. He never rose again to the surface. Ah, as he felt the golden weight dragging him deeper and deeper down into the vast ocean, he must have understood plainly enough how injurious covetousness is!

IV. The fourth and last reason why we should not covet is, because it is SINFUL. It breaks this Commandment. And the worst thing you can say of any sin is that it breaks God's law. But by coveting we break two Commandments at once. Besides breaking the Tenth, we at the same time break the First Commandment by committing this sin. You know the First Commandment forbids idolatry. It says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." But the Bible tells us that "covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). This means that when people become covetous they put their gold in the place of God. They love it more than they love God; they think of it more than they think of God; they trust to it more than they trust to God. But there is even more than this to be said about covetousness. The covetous man breaks the whole Ten Commandments at once. You know our Saviour said the Ten Commandments were all embraced in two, viz., to love God with all our hearts, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. But the covetous man loves his gold with all his heart: by this he breaks the first four Commandments. He loves his gold more than he loves his neighbour: by this he breaks the last six Commandments. What a dreadfully wicked thing covetousness is!

(R. Newton, D. D.)

Covetousness is —

1. A subtle sin. It is called "a cloak" (1 Thessalonians 2:5), because it cloaks itself under the name of frugality and prudence.

2. It is a dangerous sin. It hinders the efficacy of the preached Word (Matthew 13:7), and makes men have "a withered hand," which they cannot stretch out to the poor (see Luke 16:14).

3. It is a mother-sin, a radical vice (1 Timothy 6:10).

4. It is a sin dishonourable to religion. How disgraceful for those who say their hopes are above to have their hearts below — for those who say they are born of God to be buried in the earth!

5. It exposes to God's abhorrence.

6. It shuts men out of heaven (Ephesians 5:5).

(A. Nevin, D. D.)

I. IT FORBIDS COVETOUSNESS IN GENERAL: "Thou shalt not covet." It is lawful to use the world; yea, and to desire so much of it as may —

1. Keep us from the temptation of poverty: "Give me not poverty, lest I steal, and take the name of my God in vain."

2. As may enable us to honour God with works of mercy: "Honour the Lord with thy substance." But all the danger is when the world gets into the heart. The water is useful for the sailing of the ship; all the danger is when the water gets into the ship; so the fear is when the world gets into the heart.What is it to covet? There are two words in the Greek which set forth the nature of covetousness —

1. Pleonexia, which signifies an "insatiable desire of getting the world." Covetousness is a dry dropsy.

2. Philargyria, which signifies an "inordinate love of the world." He may be said to be covetous, not only who gets the world unrighteously,but who loves the world inordinately. But, for a more full answer to the question,What is it to covet? I shall show you in six particulars when a man may be said to be given to covetousness.

1. When his thoughts are wholly taken up about the world.

2. A man may be said to be given to covetousness when he takes more pains for the getting of earth than for the getting of heaven. The Gauls, who were an ancient people of France, after they had tasted of the sweet wine of the Italian grape, inquired after the country, and never rested till they had arrived at it; so a covetous man, having had a relish of the world, pursues after it, and never leaves it till he hath got it; but he neglects the things of eternity.

3. A man may be said to be given to covetousness when all his discourse is about the world.

4. A man is given to covetousness when he doth so set his heart upon worldly things that for the love of them he will part with heavenly; for the "wedge of gold" he will part with the "pearl of great price."

5. A man is given to covetousness when he overloads himself with worldly business. He takes so much business upon him that he cannot find time to serve God; he hath scarce time to eat his meat, but no time to pray.

6. He is given to covetousness whose heart is so set upon the world that, to get it, he cares not what unlawful indirect means he useth; he will have the world, "by right or wrong"; he will wrong and defraud, and raise his estate upon the ruins of another.I shall prescribe some remedies and antidotes against this sin.

1. Faith: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The root of covetousness is the distrust of God's providence; faith believes God will provide — God, who feeds the birds, will feed His children, He who clothes the lilies will clothe His lambs; and so faith overcomes the world.

2. The second remedy is judicious consideration.(1) What poor things these things below are that we should covet them.(2) The frame and contexture of the body. "God hath made the face to look upward towards heaven." Can it be imagined that God gave us intellectual, immortal souls to covet only earthly things? What wise man would fish for gudgeons with golden hooks? Did God give us glorious souls only to fish for the world? Sure our souls are made for a higher end — to aspire after the enjoyment of God in glory.(3) The examples of those who have been contemners and despisers of the world. The righteous are compared to a palm-tree. Philo observes that whereas all other trees have their sap in their root, the sap of the palm-tree is towards the top: the emblem of the saints, whose hearts are above in heaven, where their treasure is. Covet spiritual things more, and you will covet earthly things less. Covet grace; grace is the best blessing — it is the seed of God, the angels' glory. Covet heaven; heaven is the region of happiness, it is the most pleasant climate. Did we covet heaven more, we should covet earth less.

II. I shall speak of it more particularly: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife," etc. Observe here THE HOLINESS AND PERFECTION OF GOD'S LAW; it forbids the first motions and risings of sin in the heart: "Thou shalt not covet." The laws of men take hold of the actions, but the law of God goes further — it forbids not only the actions, but the affections. Though the tree bears no bad fruit, it may be faulty at the root; though a man doth not commit any gross sin, yet who can say his heart is pure? Let us be humbled for the sin of our nature, the risings of evil thoughts, coveting that which we ought not. Our nature is a seed-plot of iniquity; it is like charcoal that is ever sparkling; the sparkles of pride, envy, covetousness, arise in the mind. How should this humble us! If there be not sinful actings, there are sinful coverings. Let us pray for mortifying grace which may be like the water of jealousy to make the thigh of sin to rot. Why is the house put before the wife? In Deuteronomy the wife is put first: "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house." Here the house is put first. In Deuteronomy the wife is set down first, in respect of her value. She, if a good wife, is of far greater value and estimate than the house; "her price is far above rubies." When Alexander had overcome King Darius in battle, Darius seemed not to be much dismayed; but when he heard his wife was taken prisoner, now his eyes, like spouts, did gush forth water. The nest is built before the bird is in it; the wife is first esteemed, but the house must be first provided.

1. Then, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house." How depraved is man since the Fall! Man knows not how to keep within bounds, but is ever coveting more than his own. It is only the prisoner lives in such a tenement as he may be sure none will go about to take from him.

2. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife." This Commandment is a bridle to check the inordinancy of brutish lusts.

3. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's manservant, nor his maidservant." Servants, when faithful, are a treasure. But this sin of coveting servants is common; if one hath a better servant, others will be inveigling and laying baits for him, and endeavour to draw him away from his master.

4. "Nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's." Were there not coveting of ox and ass, there would not be so much stealing. First men break the Tenth Commandment by coveting, and then they break the Eighth Commandment by stealing. But what means may we use to keep us from coveting that which is our neighbour's? The best remedy is contentment. If we are content with our own, we shall not covet that which is another's.

( T. Watson.)

Beware of growing covetousness, for of all sins this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land, it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth, so that by degrees, unless the conservators watch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit it imperceptibly creates a bar which is dangerous to navigation. Many a man when he begins to accumulate wealth commences at the same moment to ruin his soul, and the more he acquires, the more closely he blocks up his liberality, which is, so to speak, the very mouth of spiritual life. Instead of doing more for God, he does less; the more he saves the more he wants, and the more he wants of this world the less he cares for the world to come.

It may be said that this is a hard saying, and that it is one of the impossible precepts of which there are so many in the Old Testament and the New. But what is the moral idea on which it rests? It is only another form of the great Commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." If we can obey that law, we can obey this. It affords us more pleasure to see those who are dear to us prosperous than to be prosperous ourselves. I venture to say that if any man who had himself been senior wrangler had a son who achieved the same honour, he would have greater pride in his son's success than in his own; and that a prime minister would listen with greater delight to the cheers with which his son was received on entering the House of Commons, after being appointed to a high political office, than to the cheers which he himself received when he first took his seat as leader of the House. We never covet what belongs to those whom we love. This Commandment has its root in the Divine idea of the mutual relations which should exist among mankind. God means us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

Suppose that we were farmers. We move out to the West and buy a farm. A large part of our farm is covered with forest trees. We want to clear a portion of it, and turn it into fields, where we can raise Indian corn or wheat. We cut down the trees and split up and haul away the timber. But after all this the stumps remain in the ground, and, if nothing is done to them, they will soon begin to sprout up again. It is very important for us as farmers to get those stumps removed. Somebody has invented a machine that is called a "rootextractor." It has great strong iron hooks. These are fastened to the roots, and then, by turning a wheel or crank connected with some very powerful machinery, the tough, crooked, gnarled roots are torn out by main force. It would be a grand thing for us on our western farm to have one of these root-extractors. Then how nicely we should get our field cleared! We should go to work with one stump after another, and in a little while they would be all gone, and we should have no more trouble with them. My dear children, our hearts are like a field full of trees. This field has to be cleared. The trees here are our sins — the wicked feelings and tempers that belong to us. When we are converted, and our hearts are renewed by the grace of Jesus, then these trees are cut down. But the roots of them remain. Even when we become Christians we find the roots of our old sins springing up again. And covetousness is the worst of these roots. You remember that Paul says, "The love of money" (this means coveting or desiring money) "is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). It is very important for us to have these roots removed. Now the Tenth Commandment may well be called God's great "root-extractor." If we pray to Him for grace to understand and keep it, we shall find that it pulls up sin by the roots from our hearts, and prevents it from growing there. This is what the Commandment was intended to do; and this is what it does, wherever it is properly kept.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

In 1853 I knew a young girl whose great besetment was a love of dress. She looked pale and wretched whenever she saw any one among her companions better dressed than herself. She always lamented she was too poor to buy fine clothes. It happened that her aunt kept a lodging-house at a watering-place, and this girl lived with her as a servant. A lady from London went down to lodge in their house, and on the very night of her arrival she was seized with the worst form of cholera, and died in a few hours. The clothes the lady had on when she was attacked with the disease the doctor ordered should be burned, for fear of infection. There had not previously been a case of cholera in the town, and the authorities were anxious to take very vigorous measures, if possible, to stay the pestilence. Now the lodger had worn a very handsome silk gown. Jane noticed it with covetous eyes when the poor lady came. She heard the order given that the clothes should be burnt, to which, of course, the lady's friends made no objection, and Jane's aunt threw out a large bundle from the window into an iron pot in the yard, in which there was some lighted tow. But Jane managed to get away the silk gown. She did not consider that she stole it, because it was condemned to the flames. She coveted it, and yielded to the temptation. Now, some people think that cholera is not infectious, and I cannot venture to say whether it is or not; but I know that no one shared the poor lady's fate but Jane. Ten days elapsed; she took an opportunity to wear that gown when she went to see her mother, and was taken ill with it on, and died after three days' illness, apparently from cholera. "Thou shalt not covet."

(Mrs. Balfour.)

It is told of Alexander the Great that he gave orders that when he should die his hands should be left outside his coffin, so that his friends might see that, though he had conquered the world, he could take nothing of his conquests into the hereafter. In like manner, the famous Saladin, it is said, ordered a long spear with a white flag attached to it to be carried through his camp bearing this inscription: "The mighty King Saladin, the conqueror of all Asia and Egypt, takes with him, when he dies, none of his possessions except this linen flag for a shroud."

The covetous man pines in plenty — like Tantalus, up to the chin in water, and yet thirsty.

(T. Adams.)

Links
Exodus 20:17 NIV
Exodus 20:17 NLT
Exodus 20:17 ESV
Exodus 20:17 NASB
Exodus 20:17 KJV

Exodus 20:17 Bible Apps
Exodus 20:17 Parallel
Exodus 20:17 Biblia Paralela
Exodus 20:17 Chinese Bible
Exodus 20:17 French Bible
Exodus 20:17 German Bible

Exodus 20:17 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Exodus 20:16
Top of Page
Top of Page