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Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Ten Words (10)

In many ways, this last of the Ten Words (Commandments) may be seen as the most serious!   It reads: "You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour's." (Ex 20:17).

Basically, the commandment is instructing us to control our material desires.  There is, I would contend, nothing inherently wrong with admiring that which is possessed by another; or even of wishing that I had such an item myself.  It is, however, when my desire for that item begins to take control; to eat into my being like a cancer; to become my main obsession; that I am breaking this tenth commandment.

Ultimately, to covet that which belongs to someone else is to express dissatisfaction God's provision for myself.  In the modern, materialistic, society in which so many of the world's inhabitants live, this is not a welcome thought.  Surely, if my neighbour (and cf. Luke 10:29ff) has a brand-new, top-of-the-range, car I am entitled to a similar model!  If my neighbour has just purchased a 50" flat-screen television set, am I not entitled to the same level of home entertainment?   My neighbour has a cleaning lady come in, every day, to attend to housework, and cooking.  Why should I not have the same benefit?  That, sadly, is the attitude of so many in the 'civilised', and 'developed' west!

However, I stated, above that, in many ways, this commandment may be seen as the most serious - or, at least, the breaking of it can lead to so much more.  You see, if I covet in this way, I am putting personal greed, lust, and self before God.  That is idolatry, and is the breaking of the second commandment.  However, such covetousness may lead me to break into someone's home and take the item that I desire so obsessively.  That breaks commandment number eight - I have stolen.  Regretfully, in the course of my burglary, my neighbour returns, unexpectedly.  In order to cover my tracks, I hit him with the crowbar that I used to gain entry to his home and, in so doing, I murder him.  I have now added commandment six to my growing list of transgressions! 

Having escaped to my own home without any further 'mishap', I find that, shortly afterwards, the local constabulary are questioning everyone in the street in their search for clues as to the identity of the perpetrator of this double crime.  Well, I am hardly going to confess - so I lie!  That is the breaking of the ninth commandment!   I then decide that I should, at least, put on a show and visit my neighbour's widow in order to express my shock, and offer my sympathy.  She is an attractive woman.  I return more frequently - just to be of assistance! - and, before I know it, I am engaged in an affair.  Down goes commandment number seven.  My agèd parents find out about my misdeeds, and are shocked.  This was not the way in which they had reared their little boy.  That breaks commandment number five.

Have you been counting?  I make it that I have now broken a total of six of the ten commandments - all because I coveted in the first place!

So, is there an answer?  Of course there is.  The same God Who gave us these commandments also assures us that "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (I Cor. 10:13).

Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, Paul also writes: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Gal 5:16-24).

One more post on this subject - but that will have to wait until next month!

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