Summary: A Sermon on the Tenth Commandment
Decades ago the famed poet Mick Jagger described our plight with these words:
I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction
’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try...
When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination...
When I’m watchin’ my TV and a man comes on and tells me
How white my shirts can be
But, he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me
I can’t get no satisfaction, no satisfaction...
Just as Mister Jagger recognized, we must come to understand that very few things in this life have a lasting ability to satisfy us.
Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything that your neighbor owns. Exodus 20:17 (NLT)
In the Laws of God governing life on earth we have seen that God has a high standard of holiness that He expects His people to strive for. I trust that as we have moved along through these commandments, you have seen some area in your life where you recognized the need for some correction and have made the efforts necessary to change to come in line with God’s Word. As we look at this 10th Commandment, the first characteristic I notice is that this Commandment represents a move away from actions into the realm of attitude.
While breaking all the rest of the Commandments has its origin in the heart and mind of man, they all find their ultimate expression in some type of physical activity. This Commandment is different! While there is evidence of lying, stealing, adultery, murder, disobedience to parents, taking God’s Name in vain, making idols and having other gods before God, there is usually little or no evidence of covetousness. As a result, this is a sin that is rarely, if ever confessed and owned up to. Of all the Commandments listed, this is probably the one most often broken and the one that will most readily cause you to break the other nine.
The Tenth Commandment deals with this attitude of the heart. All that we have and all that we are come from the hand of God. As such, he calls us to contentment.
Coveting is defective desiring. Desiring things is not necessarily bad. But when our wants arise purely from a dissatisfaction with what God has given us and envy of the way he’s blessed others it is a violation of the Tenth Commandment.
A. The Consequences of Coveting
Covetousness is the first step to sin. (it is at the heart of most sin)
Think abut it this way: Why do people steal? We steal when we want something that someone else has. Adultery has its roots in coveting. You want someone that is not yours to have.
Covetousness is a matter of the heart. It is at the heart of many sins. Another consequence of coveting is …
Covetousness cheapens life.
Covetous individuals place a higher value on things than people. They begin to view others as a means to an end, whether it’s the accumulation of more stuff or the fulfilling of some desire. In the mind of the covetous person people are regarded as things. Human life loses its value.
Notice how James addresses this issue to members of his own church:
What is causing quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. James 4:1-2a (NLT)
These were church members who let their desires get the best of them. They would say anything, step on anybody to get what they wanted. Covetousness cheapens life.
It also cheapens the life of the coveting individual. Don’t you think that God put you here for far more than accumulating more stuff? Weren’t you created for a nobler purpose that to run from pleasure to pleasure? Of course you were. The covetous person, however, can never get past cheap living.
Covetousness fails to bring contentment.
Like all sin, defective desire just doesn’t deliver. Instead we get caught up in the endless cycle of craving bigger and better things. The author of Ecclesiastes hit the nail on the head. In one verse he literally describes the people of our culture:
All the labor of man is for his mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7
A 1992 U.S. News and World Report article made this observation: Postwar Americans always cherished the expectation that their standard of living would improve with each generation. In polls at the onset of the Reagan era, 2 of every 3 respondents said they expected to be better off than their parents. Now, that figure is being reversed. Almost three fourths of the 1,000 people who answered a Roper poll for Shearson Lehman Brothers say the American Dream is “harder to attain” than a generation ago. And 60 percent say achieving the dream requires more financial risk than it did for their parents. The poll also finds that some of the values held most dear during the 1980s—like wealth, power and fame—are those that Americans are now most likely to deem “unimportant.” The most important elements of today’s American Dream center on family and friends. But money remains something to dream about. For Americans with household incomes under $25,000, it would take $54,000 a year to fulfill the American dream. Those who make $100,000 plus crave an average of $192,000. In other words, the American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away. Amy Bernstein, U.S. News & World Report, July 27, 1992, p. 11