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Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)1
The Tenth Commandment is found twice in both the Old and New Testaments: Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 5:21, and Romans 7:9 and 13:9.
Ten Commandment Order
The beginning of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is the fear of Yahweh,2 and therefore Yahweh begins the Commandments with the one that declares His supremacy: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. He culminates the Ten Commandments with the very essence of you and me – our hearts. Unless we have given our hearts to Him, we are nothing more than whitened sepulchers and no better than the Pharisees in the day of Yeshua (Jesus’ given Hebrew name, with which He introduced Himself to Paul in Acts 26:14).3
Yahweh desires our hearts as much as any husband desires the heart of his wife. Consequently, He requires that what we do for Him and His kingdom be not merely mechanical obedience but heart expressions. It is incumbent upon us to address not only the outward violations of Yahweh’s Commandments but also the root cause – hearts not completely surrendered to Him. Without doing so, we will never fully deal with our sin.
All heart sins – lust, greed, jealousy, and envy – are interrelated with covetousness. Grumbling and complaining (Philippians 2:14), although not heart sins themselves, emanate from the heart. They are either manifestations of related sins or the consequence of covetousness. Therefore, the commands forbidding these sins are all Tenth Commandment statutes.
Although lust, greed, jealousy, and envy are Tenth Commandment statutes, they often express themselves in violations of some of the other Commandments. Covetousness is usually aimed at another’s possessions, which often culminates in principally Eighth Commandment and sometimes Sixth and Ninth Commandment infractions. For example, in 1 Kings 21 it’s recorded that King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, which resulted in his bearing false witness, murdering, and stealing. Lust is usually directed at another man’s woman or another woman’s man, which can culminate in Seventh Commandment violations. Envy is usually aimed at another’s position, achievements, success, or notoriety, which often culminates in Ninth Commandment violations.
Chamad, Avah, and Epithumeo
Although the wording in Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 is virtually identical, Exodus 20 uses one Hebrew word to express the sin of covetousness, whereas Deuteronomy 5 uses two etymologically unrelated words to describe the same sin. In Exodus 20:17, “covet” is twice translated from chamad; in Deuteronomy 5:21, “covet” is translated from avah:
Neither shalt thou desire [chamad] thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet [avah] 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. (Deuteronomy 5:21)
A closer look at these two words will provide a clearer understanding of their meaning.
…a primitive root; to delight in.4
as a verb: 1) to desire, to covet, to take pleasure in, to delight in, a) (Qal) to desire, b) (Niphal) to be desirable, c) (Piel) to delight greatly, to desire greatly as a feminine noun: 2) desirableness, preciousness.5
Desire, delight in … but also covet, lust after….6
In addition to “covet,” chamad is translated in the King James Version as “pleasant,” “desire,” “precious,” “beauty,” “lust,” “delectable,” and “greatly beloved.”
…a primitive root; to wish for.7
…to desire, to incline, to covet, to wait longingly, to wish, to sigh, to want, to be greedy, to prefer.8
…desire, long, lust, covet, wait longingly, wish, sigh, crave, want, be greedy, prefer.9
In addition to “desire,” avah is translated in the King James Version as “lust,” “longs,” and “longing.”
Neither chamad nor avah imply anything inherently evil. Both Hebrew words can express either a sin or merely a desire for something. Neither necessarily implies Tenth Commandment transgression. Covetousness depends upon motivation and the person or object that is coveted.
Moses’ use of chamad in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 indicates a desire or lust that is directed at what belongs to someone else – and is, therefore, evil. The same is true when chamad is directed at the gold and silver of idols in Deuteronomy 7:25 and in Proverbs 6:28 when it is translated as “lust” for a woman other than a man’s wife.
On the other hand, we also find passages where chamad is clearly used in a righteous sense:
The law of YHWH10 is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of YHWH is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of YHWH are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of YHWH is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of YHWH is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of YHWH are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)
Yahweh wants us to covet His law – that is, His morality as found in His commandments, statutes, and judgments. The blessings from wisdom are also something to be coveted:
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise…. (Proverbs 21:20)
In Daniel 10:11, Daniel is said to be “a man greatly beloved,” the kind of man coveted by Yahweh.
In Genesis 2:9 and 3:6, chamad is translated “pleasant” in the phrases referring to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fact that this tree was desirable did not make it evil. Yahweh intended it to be desirable. The evil occurred when Adam and Eve coveted and partook of the desirable tree that had been forbidden them.
Avah is used in similar fashion. It connotes wickedness in Deuteronomy 5:21, Numbers 11:4, Psalm 106:14, and Proverbs 21:10 and 23:3. In other locations, it is employed in a good and righteous sense. For example, 2 Samuel 23:15 declares that David longed (avah) for a drink of water from Bethlehem’s well. His longing (covetousness) for Bethlehem’s water was not ungodly. In Isaiah 26:9, we are told the prophet Isaiah desired (coveted) Yahweh, and Psalm 132:13 informs us that Yahweh desired (coveted) Zion.
Like chamad and avah, the Greek word epithumeo, translated “covet” in the New Testament, is morally neutral. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that it was a good thing to covet the office of a bishop or overseer:
…If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. (1 Timothy 3:1)
In 1 Corinthians 12:31, where Paul is discussing the 1st-century miraculous gifts, he encouraged his Christian readers to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” In Galatians 5, epithumeo is used in both a negative and a positive fashion:
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other…. (Galatians 5:17)
The New American Standard Bible translates this verse, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another….” In other words, if epithumeo is according to the flesh, it is evil, and if according to the Spirit, it is good.
Like lying and bribery, covetousness can at times be righteous.11 It depends upon the motive and purpose. If for strictly self-serving purposes with no regard for another person’s possessions, covetousness is ungodly. Like lying, bribery, and covetousness, there is also righteous envy or jealousy. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding his godly jealousy:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)
In 1 Kings 19:10, Elijah is described as being jealous for Yahweh, and throughout the Old Testament Yahweh describes Himself as a jealous God over that which belonged to Him, particularly His wife Israel and her affections.
Like covetousness, jealousy is not inherently evil. Its moral alignment depends upon its focus. When it is an evil fixation, it needs to be shunned in all its varied forms:
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking. (1 Peter 2:1)
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Both Peter and Paul focused jointly upon the flesh (our words and actions) and upon the spirit (the motives of our heart).
Correcting a Misconception
Some Bible teachers wrongly apply the Seventh Commandment (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”) exclusively to miscegenation or race mixing, and they often limit the Tenth Commandment (“Thou shalt not covet or lust”) to adultery (or marital infidelity, as it is usually thought of). Because the Tenth Commandment not only forbids coveting a neighbor’s wife but also a neighbor’s possessions, consistency demands that these same teachers also apply the Tenth Commandment to theft. Consequently, the Eighth Commandment (“Thou shalt not steal”) would need to be reinterpreted to refer to something other than theft, or the Tenth Commandment would be redundant.
This erroneous misinterpretation of the Tenth Commandment comes from an incorrect understanding of the full scope and intent of the Seventh Commandment, which condemns not only miscegenation but all manifestations of adultery, including infidelity, incest, sodomy, and bestiality.
The Tenth Commandment does not condemn infidelity and theft. It condemns heart sins, which often lead to infidelity, stealing, and other sins of the flesh.
A Heart Sin
Adam Clarke expounded upon this important Commandment:
This [violation of the Tenth Commandment] is what we commonly term covetousness, which word is taken both in a good and a bad sense. So when the Scripture says, that covetousness is idolatry: yet it also says, covet earnestly the best things; so we find that this disposition is sinful or holy, according to the object on which it is fixed. In this command, the covetousness which is placed on forbidden objects, is that which is prohibited and condemned. To covet in this sense, is to intensely long after, in order to enjoy as property, the person, or thing, coveted. He breaks this command, who by any means endeavors to deprive a man of his house, or farm, by some underhand and clandestine bargain with the original landlord; what is called, in some countries, taking a man’s house and farm over his head. He breaks it also, who lusts after his neighbor’s wife, and endeavours to ingratiate himself into her affections, by striving to lessen her husband in her esteem :-and he also breaks it, who endeavors to possess himself of the servants, cattle &c. of another, in any clandestine or unjustifiable manner. This is a most excellent moral precept, the observance of which will prevent all public crimes: for he who feels the force of the law which prohibits the inordinate desire of any thing that is the property of another, can never make a breach in the peace of society by any act of wrong to any of even its feeblest members [bold added].12
Restoration of any one of the Ten Commandments, with its statutes and judgments, would morally revolutionize America. However, Clark is correct that implementation of the Tenth Commandment, in particular, would all but eradicate crime and, therefore, may very well be the most important of the last six commandments. Transgression of the Tenth Commandment is the prime cause of most violations of Commandments Five through Nine: “Covetousness is a thought sin and the thought is the seed of the deed.”13
Covetousness, greed, and lust often result in the violation of one of the previous five commandments. For example, lust is the seed and infidelity is the deed, each of which is a distinctive sin. Otherwise, the Tenth Commandment is redundant.
The child who does not covet his parents’ authority is unlikely to challenge or abuse it. The person who does not lust after another man’s wife is not going to commit adultery with her. The person who does not covet his neighbor’s goods will not steal them. The person who does not envy or covet his neighbor’s reputation is not likely to bear false witness against him.
It is imperative we guard not only our hearts, but our eyes, our hands, and our feet as well. Our eyes are often the conduits to our hearts, and where our hearts are, our head, hands, and feet will ultimately follow:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on [directly ahead, NASB], and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:23-27)
Job obviously understood this and thus his vow in Job 31:1: “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think [gaze, NASB] upon a maid?” It is too bad King David did not make the same vow:
Eyes that see, and eyes that want
Eyes are the temptation’s taunt
Job vowed he would not look
But David saw and then he took.
Men today would do well to take the same vow pertaining to women who belong to other men, whether in person or in pornography.
The New American Standard Bible translates Proverbs 4:23 as “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” Young’s Literal Translation translates it, “Above every charge keep thy heart, for out of it [are] the outgoings of life.”
The New Testament is emphatic concerning the origin of sin:
…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man. (Matthew 15:18-20)
From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, but receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:1-3)
Wicked deeds are spawned from the lust or covetousness within our hearts. Achan’s sin in Joshua 7 is a prime example:
And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to YHWH god of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against YHWH God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold and fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. (Joshua 7:19-21)
Achan’s sin was a four-step process: he saw, he coveted, he partook, and he attempted to hide what he stole from Yahweh. His sin began, as do most sins, with the heart sin of coveting.
Covetousness, lust, and greed (all Tenth Commandment violations) are sins for which we can be condemned without any additional action on our part. In Colossians 3:5-6, Paul lists covetousness as one of the sins for which “the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” He identified covetousness as idolatry, which is often nothing more than a sin of the heart:
Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of YHWH came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart…. (Ezekiel 14:1-3)
Idols of the heart are usually manifested as some form of covetousness, greed, or lust.
Next to the First Commandment, the Tenth Commandment is arguably the most important commandment and the most difficult to keep. Violations of the Tenth Commandment are typically kept secret, denied, or unacknowledged:
[R.C.H.] Lenski noted, “A Catholic priest states that during his long years of service all kinds of sins and crimes were confessed to him in the confessional but never the sin of covetousness.”14
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Most people consider this statement by Yeshua to be either a new law or a New Covenant augmentation of the Seventh Commandment. Neither interpretation is correct. Yeshua could no more add to Yahweh’s laws than He could take away from them:
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)
I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it…. (Ecclesiastes 3:14)
Earlier in Matthew 5, Yeshua declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy [add to or take away from] the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)
Furthermore, Yeshua’s declaration in Matthew 5 – although recorded in the New Testament – occurred under the Old Covenant, which Yeshua was required to keep perfectly in order to be our sinless sacrifice. Matthew 5:28 is neither new nor an augmentation to the Seventh Commandment; it is Yeshua’s rendition of the Tenth Commandment.
In Matthew 5, Yeshua was addressing the sins of the scribes and Pharisees, who hardly kept the letter of the law, let alone the spirit of the law, and whose chief sins were of the heart:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. (Matthew 23:23-38)
A person can live what appears to be a righteous life and yet be wicked of heart. Yeshua condemned the Pharisees for their heart sins. On the other hand, the person who surrenders his heart to Yahweh will endeavor to live righteously. Yahweh does not want us merely performing His will by rote. He wants our hearts. This is why Yeshua told us in Matthew 22:37 that we must love Yahweh our God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds:
Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart…. (Ephesians 6:6)
And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God…. (2 Thessalonians 3:5)
Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.... (2 Timothy 2:22)
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…. (1 Peter 3:15)
Yahweh covets that our hearts covet Him. Thou shalt not covet except to covet Yahweh, His Kingdom, and His laws.
Because Yahweh looks at men’s hearts as well as their conduct, intent alone is a violation of His law.
When Samuel was sent to anoint a new king over Israel, why was David chosen over his eldest brother Eliab? David was chosen not only for his own heart but also because of Eliab’s heart. Yahweh’s revelation to Samuel was aimed more at Eliab than David:
But YHWH said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for YHWH seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but YHWH looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
The Pharisees in Yeshua’s day demonstrated that a man can appear righteous but inwardly be corrupt, a whitened sepulcher, filled with a spiritual rotting corpse. If Yahweh does not own our hearts, we, too, are nothing more than whitened sepulchers.
Many of today’s Pharisees go by the name “politician.” Every four years, America provides groomed candidates who are made to appear outwardly “righteous” by contemporary man’s standards but who are rotting corpses with no moral compass whatsoever. This is another reason to discard America’s counterfeit Constitutional Republic and its flawed election process and reinstate Yahweh’s system of lots and appointments. Lots and appointments place the choice of any two or more biblically qualified candidates solely in the hands of Yahweh, who knows the hearts of all men. (See Chapter 5 “Article 2: Executive Usurpation” of Bible Law vs. The United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective for more regarding appointments versus elections and throwing lots – Yahweh’s means by which he chooses those He wants to lead His people.)
A Sin Against Yourself
Tenth Commandment infractions are difficult, if not impossible, for others to detect. Because these heart sins usually go undetected, they are easier for us to justify. “What does it really matter if I lust after my neighbor’s wife or covet his goods? Who’s harmed?”
Provided covetousness is not externalized (a transgression of one of the other Commandments), it might be argued that this is one sin that harms no one. However, not only is covetousness a sin against Yahweh, it is also harmful and sometimes spiritually deadly to ourselves.
A person cannot habitually entertain covetousness, greed, or lust without hardening his heart. If you allow an evil influence to persist long enough, you will go from rejection to tolerance, from tolerance to acceptance, and from acceptance to participation and even enjoyment.
For the Christian15 indwelt with the Holy Spirit, covetousness, greed, or lust – if not renounced and rejected – will eventually quench the Holy Spirit’s influence in his life:
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness…. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:17-19, 30-31)
In 1 Timothy 4:2, Paul described people who grieve the Holy Spirit as “having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” When something is repeatedly seared, it becomes callused until no sensation remains. In other words, a person whose conscience is seared becomes unresponsive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, which opens the floodgates to compounded sin.
Our conscience is very much like the governor on an engine, which prevents it from running at a speed that would tear it apart. A seared conscience eventually becomes what Paul described to Titus:
Unto the pure [those who have not seared their conscience] all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)
Among other things, a person who has seared his conscience to covetousness becomes a Pharisee: “outwardly appear[ing] righteous unto men, but within … full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). Before he knows it, such a person can become so callused that he finds himself acting upon what was previously only entertained in his heart.
A Sin Against Your Neighbor
Lust, greed, and covetousness are sins of our carnal nature, and if left unattended, they will likely result in outward sins against our neighbor. This is precisely what occurred with Ted Bundy, allegedly America’s most notorious serial sexual murderer. Bundy confessed to twenty-three rape-murders, his first in 1974. He was convicted of two of those murders in 1979 and was electrocuted in 1989. During his incarceration, he confessed to Dr. James Dobson that pornography – and thus lust – was at the root of his raping and murdering. In other words, when he first became involved with pornography, it was not his intent to rape and murder. But his heart became so callused that even rape and murder were not beyond him.
A little girl recited the Tenth Commandment to her Sunday School teacher as “Thou shall not take the covers off thy neighbor’s wife.” Her citation was not far from wrong, at least as it pertains to the sin of lust. Pornography takes the “covers” off your neighbor’s wife or daughter.
Pornography is usually addictive and progressive; it requires increasingly more obscene material to gratify one’s lust. It is a form of spiritual slavery. Many men who have become slaves of pornography have admitted its bondage. This alone implicates pornography for its inherent and inevitable sinfulness. Christians are to be enslaved to Yahweh alone:
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:11-23)
In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul exhorts us to flee fornication. The Greek word translated “fornication” is porneia from which our English word “pornography” is derived. The man or woman who would flee fornication must flee pornography, as Joseph fled the presence of Potipher’s wife.
Before David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he was involved in pornography, which resulted in lust and covetousness. When David gazed down from the balcony, he could not help seeing naked Bathsheba (although Bathsheba probably could have avoided being seen). However, when David continued to look (which he surely did), he became involved in pornography. His involvement in pornography led to his coveting (mentally indulging in what belonged to another man) and ultimately taking what belonged to another man. This, led him to murder Urijah, Bathsheba’s husband, in an attempt to hide his sin. David’s sin took the same four-step process as Achan’s: he saw, he coveted, he partook, and he attempted to hide from Yahweh and others what he stole from Urijah.
Partaking of what belongs to someone else is sometimes no more than a sin of the eyes. Seeing is one thing, prolonged looking is something altogether different. Looking becomes coveting and lusting after that which does not belong to you – including nude women in Playboy and Internet pornography, or women who do not have enough sense to dress modestly. Women need to consider that for some men it’s difficult enough to refrain from lusting even when women dress modestly. How much more so when they wear revealing clothing? Like Bathsheba, they can avoid being seen.
Another Man’s Woman
Someone may argue: “Yeah, but most of the women posing nude are not another man’s wife.” This does not mean they are not another man’s woman. Those women, if not other men’s wives, are other men’s daughters. Consider Exodus 20:17 again:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)
At first glance, it appears daughters are conspicuously missing in the prohibitions of this commandment. A righteous father, however, is no less concerned for his daughter than he is for his wife. A daughter would be generically covered in the final phrase, “or any thing that is thy neighbour’s,” but because the Hebrew word ishshah simply means “woman,” she is also specifically included in the phrase “thy neighbor’s wife.” Exodus 20:17 could have, and probably should have, been translated, “thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s woman.” Does this denote only a man’s wife, as it is usually interpreted? If this does not equally apply to a man’s daughter, we are compelled to admit that a man’s servants and even his ox and donkey (having been specifically mentioned) are of greater importance than his daughter.
It matters not whether the women a man lusts after in a porn magazine, on the Internet, or in everyday life are married or unmarried. Those wives and daughters belong to other men, and according to the Tenth Commandment, no one has the right to partake with his eyes, or to lust after what belongs to another man.
If you are involved in pornography, you need to consider that the women you are lusting after are someone else’s wives or daughters and that they have been exploited and likely abused. Then consider that they could be your wife or daughters.
Tenth Commandment violations are not only sins against Yahweh and one’s self, but also sins against others. Pornography, prostitution, gambling, drug dealing, and usurious banking are just a few ways others are exploited through the sin of coveting.
Greed can be the impetus behind covetousness and eventually stealing, but it is also another form of covetousness itself. Covetousness is the inordinate desire for something that you do not have and that belongs to another person. Greed, on the other hand, may have nothing to do with another person’s possessions. In Joshua 7, greed motivated Achan to covet the silver and garment that no longer belonged to another person but had been devoted to Yahweh. Greed was also the sin Elijah’s servant Gahazi committed (and for which he was punished with leprosy) when he pursued Naaman for the two talents of silver and a change of clothes that Elijah had declined (2 Kings 5).
Seventeenth-century Puritan preacher Thomas Watson described the more grievous consequences of covetousness and greed:
A man is given to covetousness when he so sets his heart upon worldly things, that for the love of them, he will part with [the] heavenly; for the “wedge of gold,” he will part with the “pearl of price.” When Christ said to the young man in the gospel, “Sell all, and come and follow me;” … “he became sorrowful.” Matt xix 22. He would rather part with Christ than with all his earthly possessions.16
In addition to lying, greed was at the center of Ananias and Sapphira’s sin in Acts 5. Greed was also the sin of the rich young ruler who, although he claimed to be obedient to all the commandments, was still required by Yeshua to sell his possessions and give the proceedings to the poor. Why? Because Yeshua knew his heart and recognized his greed – not for someone else’s wealth, but for the wealth he already possessed. Actually, his greed (as with anyone greedy for his own possessions) was for that which belongs to Yahweh, as demonstrated by Yeshua’s authority to command him to sell it.
Greed is a sin that may or may not involve other men’s possessions and that may never consummate in theft. It can also be an inordinate desire to protect what you own at any cost, or it can be a dissatisfied desire for more – often depicted as the love of money or materialism.
In Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, covetousness is defined as “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining or possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice.”17 It would seem Webster understood that a person can be guilty of covetousness without infringing upon one’s neighbor.
The Apostle Paul referred to this type of lusting in his first epistle to the Corinthians:
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. (1 Corinthians 10:1-6)
What evil things were they lusting after?
And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: But our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes. (Numbers 11:4-6)
The Israelites and the mixed multitude with them were not lusting for their brethrens’ possessions; they were lusting for more than what they presently had – in other words, for what belonged to Yahweh. Is a desire for meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic evil? Of course not – unless it spawns discontentment with what Yahweh has provided.
The Romans described covetousness as both iniuriosa appetittio alienorum (the baneful desire for that which belongs to others) and amor sceleratus habendi (the accursed love of having). Today’s welfare system is the result of both Roman descriptions. It is also the result of covetousness by two different parties – by those who covet on behalf of others and the welfare recipients themselves who are more than happy to covet whatever others may procure for them, regardless the theft involved.
Because covetousness and greed supplant Yahweh’s place in our heart, Paul identified them as idolatry:
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness [greed, NASB], which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
Bear in mind that not all idolatry is covetousness or greed, but all covetousness and greed amount to idolatry – heart idolatry (Ezekiel 14:3). In Matthew 13:22, in the parable of the sower, the deceitfulness of riches is described as choking the written Word of God. It can also choke the Word of God made flesh (John 14:6) right out of our lives. Covetousness is a sin that amounts to seeking our own kingdom rather than Yahweh’s. It is the difference between the parable of the rich man in Luke 12 and those Yeshua described in Matthew 6:
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:15-21)
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon…. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:20-21, 24, 33)
It is the difference between those described in Matthew 16:26 who are willing to exchange “the pearl of great price” for filthy lucre and those who understand that their souls are worth more than the entire world:
He may be said to be covetous not only who gets the world unrighteously, but who loves the world inordinately.18
Covetousness entails both. It can also be described as the desire for more at another’s expense without the responsibility that accompanies it.
Greed is a form of covetousness that is sometimes considered a rich man’s sin, as with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. However, covetousness, greed, and lust know no financial boundaries:
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness…. (Jeremiah 6:13)
Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, prayed to avoid this sin and its consequences, whether he was rich or poor:
Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is YHWH? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:8-9)
A person’s wealth, or lack thereof, is morally neutral. It is the love of money, not money itself, that is the root of evil, and therefore it is ultimately one’s attitude toward his possessions, or lack thereof, that determines this sin:
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)
The issue is not wealth or possessions but whether they are acquired by righteous or unrighteous means and whether they are employed to promote righteousness or unrighteousness. In other words, are your possessions being used to further your own kingdom or Yahweh’s?
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept [hoarded, NASB] for the owners thereof to their hurt. (Ecclesiastes 5:13)
R.J. Rushdoony points out that the love of money “creates not a production-oriented, but consumption-governed, society.”19
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
…man is envied of his neighbour. This is also vanity and vexation of spirit…. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6)
Today’s English Version translated Proverb 14:30 as “Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer.” Jealousy is poisonous envy.
Envy is usually at the root of both greed and covetousness. Envy invariably leads to resenting, begrudging, and often hating others. Jealousy precipitated Joseph’s brothers’ selling him into slavery:
And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt…. (Acts 7:9)
Joseph’s brothers should have practiced the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the Roman and the Corinthian Christians:
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15)
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)
Christians are one body in Christ, and, therefore, if one member is exalted, the body and all its members are exalted. As with a family, if one child is honored, the entire family is honored.
Envy was part of the reason the Pharisees and scribes were intent on killing Yeshua:
But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation…. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:46-53)
It was also because of envy that the 1st-century Christians were persecuted:
But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. (Acts 17:5-6)
Christianity was turning the Judahites’ Old Covenant world upside down. The Christians were on their way to the top, and the Judahites on their way to the bottom. Thus, the Judahites were envious and spiteful. We can expect the same response today whenever 21st-century Christianity begins to overturn today’s world order.
Advantages of Wealth
Although riches are often accompanied by pitfalls (Matthew 19:23-24, etc.), a wealthy man who is able to keep his wealth in its proper perspective has advantages and opportunities a poor man does not. The wealthy man has additional means by which to prosper and help advance Yahweh’s kingdom and bless others:
The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour. He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not. (Proverbs 21:25-26)
Today’s English Version renders this proverb:
A lazy man who refuses to work is only killing himself; all he does is think about what he would like to have. A righteous man, however, can give, and give generously. (Proverbs 21:25-26)
This is essentially what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus:
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (Ephesians 4:28)
Provided we keep wealth in its proper perspective, Yahweh intends for Christians to prosper and increase our holdings so that we might utilize our wealth on behalf of Yahweh’s kingdom, His people, and the poor. As such, wealth becomes an evangelistic tool.
Wealth vs. Success
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of [greedy for, TEV] his dainties: for they are deceitful meat. Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:1-5)
Solomon warned us to neither covet what belongs to someone else nor labor to be rich ourselves. However, laboring to be rich and laboring to be successful (by which some people become rich), is not necessarily the same thing. Keeping in mind that wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh (Psalm 111:10), consider Solomon’s instruction just one chapter later:
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength. (Proverbs 24:3-5)
A wise man takes his god-given talents, gifts, and resources and does his best to employ them for the purpose of increasing his strength, his position, and standing – spiritually, physically, financially, and materially. A wise man, a man who fears Yahweh, strives to this end, in accordance with the principle of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
The difference between laboring to be rich and laboring to be successful is motive. Motive is the difference between the man who labors only to enrich himself and the man whose greater objective is advancing Yahweh’s Kingdom and helping others.
From a purely practical perspective, the kingdom of God needs successful people. In fact, the most successful people should be found in Yahweh’s kingdom. Why is it then that most “successful” or wealthy people are usually non-Christians? More often than not, today’s Christians are so heavenly minded that they have no interest in what is described as polishing brass on a sinking ship. One of the reasons the ship is sinking is because of narrow-minded and shortsighted theology that produces people whose principle focus is on taking a future trip to heaven rather than on their immediate responsibilities as Christian ambassadors here on earth.
Some Christians shun success because of the dangers that can accompany wealth. After Yeshua required the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22 to sell his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, He warned His disciples:
…Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23-24)
Wealth can steal your heart – and, as a result, your very soul. Yeshua declared that even the entire world is not worth your soul:
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Solomon made essentially the same point:
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. (Proverbs 13:7)
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich. (Proverbs 28:6)
This does not mean Yahweh expects His disciples to take a vow of poverty. From the sum of Yahweh’s Word (Psalm 119:160, NASB), we know He desires to bless and prosper those who serve Him. The problem described by Yeshua in Matthew 19 is one of spiritual immaturity, not wealth itself.
When, in Matthew 19:25, Yeshua warned His disciples of the dangers of wealth, they were “exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” Of course, Yahweh can save rich and poor alike, and when someone’s heart belongs to Him, He promises treasures – both spiritually and materially:
And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, … every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 19:26-29)
This does not mean that a man who puts Christ above everything else is going to receive a hundred wives or a hundred children or a hundred times his property or possessions. This is figurative language, which assures us Yahweh’s liberal rewards for putting Him above everything else. The reward may be manifested in the form of material blessings, or it may come to us as described by the Apostle Paul:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…. As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 6:9-10)
Material blessings some times are the result of putting Yahweh first and keeping His laws:
Praise ye YH. Blessed is the man that feareth YHWH, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. (Psalm 112:1-3)
Nevertheless, we are not to seek godliness in order to be materially rewarded. In fact, we are to shun those who do:
If any man … consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness [godliness is a means of gain, NASB] from such withdraw thyself. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Many pastors preach that godliness is the way to wealth. Usually the only people who get wealthy from such preaching are the preachers themselves. The Apostle Peter warned against such charlatans:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you [in their greed exploit you, NASB]: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
In 1 Thessalonians 2:5, Paul described this sin as “a cloak of covetousness.” Such preachers cloak their own covetousness in false promises that often exploit the covetousness of their supporters.
Although godliness can result in riches, material wealth ultimately belongs to and comes from the hand of Yahweh:
Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you shall remember YHWH your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18, NASB)
The blessing of YHWH, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Proverbs 10:22)
Godliness is the end, not the means. Any wealth gained from godliness needs to be viewed from a steward’s perspective. It is a means by which we can better serve Yahweh and advance His kingdom. Gain itself is not godliness. However, godly men use godly gain for godly purposes to advance Yahweh’s kingdom.
Coveting by Proxy
It is just as much a violation of the Tenth and Eighth Commandments if I covet and steal on behalf of someone else as it is if I were to do so for myself. The same principle applies to governments who take what belongs to the industrious and rich and give it to the non-industrious, or even to those who, for no fault of their own, are disadvantaged or destitute.
When Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promoted the idea of “spreading the wealth,” and Republicans would love us to think it is only the Democrats who want to spread the wealth. Don’t be fooled. Spreading the wealth is as much a Republican concept as it is a Democratic concept. What is the government’s non-partisan welfare program if not “spreading the wealth”? Most Americans do not recognize that such things as public education, farm subsidies, and disaster relief are also forms of welfare.20
Yahweh intends for the wealthy to take care of the deserving poor. However, it is not the responsibility of the Democrats or the Republicans or anyone else to spread your wealth on your behalf without your permission. My wealth, or lack thereof, is my responsibility, just as your wealth, or lack thereof, is your responsibility, and we will both answer to Yahweh regarding our use of it.
Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. (Micah 2:1-2)
Micah describes these coveters as those who not only oppress the man himself but also his heritage. He covets and steals the inheritance of a man’s descendants. A better description cannot be found of the antebellum “legislators” who first proposed a property tax and those who have since supported it. Once passed and enforced, property tax transferred title of all private land from Yahweh to the deity WE THE PEOPLE and its government.21
Moreover the prince shall not take of the people’s inheritance by oppression, to thrust them out of their possession … that my people be not scattered every man from his possession. (Ezekiel 46:18)
Micah 2 and Ezekiel 46 are also indictments against America’s usurious banking system.22 Ask the people who are dispossessed of their homes by the bankers if this is not true. Many homeowners are just as guilty of covetousness and greed as a result of borrowing and living beyond their means and enslaving themselves to the usurers (Proverbs 22:7). Much of America’s financial woes can be traced to the covetousness of both the bankers and the borrowers.
In Proverbs 28:16, Solomon wrote, “he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.” Hating covetousness will also keep most people from becoming financial slaves and suffering the consequences.
A covetous person has little or no regard for his neighbor’s wellbeing, interests, or property. A covetous man is inevitably self-centered and egocentric – the antithesis of the person who loves his neighbor as himself. The Apostle Paul paraphrased the Second Greatest Commandment:
Love … does not seek its own. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NASB)
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Conversely, a covetous man only looks for what he can do and acquire for himself. The difference between these types of men is illustrated in “The Tale of Two Seas” by Bruce Barton:
There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it, and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play, as children played when He was there. He loved it. He could look across its silver surface when He spoke His parables. And on a rolling plain not far away he fed five thousand people. The river Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. Men build their houses near to it, and birds build their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.
The river Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.
What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie, not the country round about.
This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.
The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead. There are two seas in Palestine. There are two kinds of people in the world.
Because neighborly love, expressed in selflessness, is the opposite of covetousness, it is the principal means by which covetousness, greed, and lust are thwarted.
Because thy lovingkindness is better than life…. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. (Psalm 63:3, 5)
It is better to be content with what the eyes can see than for one’s heart always to crave more. This continual longing is futile – like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 6:9, NET)
Everyone lives in one of two conditions: contentment or discontentment. In the latter, you are miserable and probably well on your way to becoming envious of your neighbor, which can result in covetousness. On the other hand, the contented man recognizes he is blessed regardless his outward circumstances, knowing Yahweh will never abandon him:
Let your conversation [life, RSV] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
Contentment is knowing Yahweh is in control and being satisfied with what He has provided you at any given time:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in YHWH, I will joy in the God of my salvation. YHWH God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places…. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Discontentment makes rich men poor; contentment makes poor men rich:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Jacob was the picture of such contentment:
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall YHWH be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. (Genesis 28:20-22)
Paul’s intent in 1 Timothy 6 is sometimes misconstrued to mean that Christians should never own more than the essentials of life. This pauper mentality is far too prevalent with some Christians and only contributes to non-Christian dominion. Paul did not write that we should possess only the essentials of life, but rather that we should be content with them if that is all we have at any given time.
If you cannot be content with food and clothing, it is better not to become rich. People who are discontent with the essentials are likely already covetous, and riches will only exacerbate their ungodliness. Riches are never the answer to covetousness.
…if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. (Psalm 62:10)
The following advice from Paul is also often misinterpreted:
But they that will be rich [wishing to be rich, YLT] fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
Those who wish to be rich – not those who are rich – fall into temptation. The latter state – wealth – is a state of being. The former state – wishing to be rich – is a state of mind, or heart. Poor and rich alike can covet riches, but a person can be rich or poor without coveting.
Contentment is being satisfied with what you have but not with who you are or what you have achieved:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14)
Contentment is found, not in having everything, but in being satisfied with everything we have. However, a contented man is not without ambition. Although he is content with what Yahweh has given him, he presses on for both the ultimate prize and for anything more Yahweh has prepared for him, so that he might use it to better serve Yahweh and advance His kingdom.
Depending upon its motivation and objective, ambition can be negative or positive, righteous or unrighteous. The difference is found in whether our hearts are ruled by money and possessions or whether we rule our money and possessions on behalf of Yahweh and His kingdom. Contentment results from trusting Yahweh and then employing in His service what He provides us:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. (Ecclesiastes 5:13)
Because covetousness is a sin of the heart, only a virtue of the heart can overcome it. Contentment is the antithesis of covetousness. The covetous man is not content, and the content man is not covetous. The content man understands that “better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right” (Proverbs 16:8).
Dangerous pits surround wealth, but not for the contented man who fixes his priorities on Yahweh and His kingdom. If you are content with food and clothing, you will probably handle riches without falling into wealth’s pitfalls and will have the means to advance the kingdom in ways others cannot.
Contentment is inextricably linked with faith in the sovereignty of Yahweh. When Paul declared he had learned to be content in all circumstances – whether wealthy or destitute – he was professing that he had learned to trust in Yahweh’s sovereign control of his life. He understood that everything was for his good and, more importantly, for Yahweh’s good:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ…. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The road to contentment and happiness is faith, not merely in Yahweh, but in Yahweh’s sovereignty. In order for Yahweh’s sovereignty to truly make a difference in someone’s life, he must not only believe in it, he must embrace it. Some people believe in Yahweh’s sovereignty, but nonetheless reject it and become embittered with Yahweh when circumstances go against them. This in turn can lead to covetousness.
On the other hand, the person who, like Paul, believes, accepts, and rejoices in Yahweh’s sovereignty is able to thank Him for what others would curse Him. In doing so, he experiences the peace of Christ that surpasses comprehension:
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious, NASB] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
The person who unselfishly loves his neighbor and unquestionably trusts Yahweh will be filled with contentment and peace, regardless of his circumstances. Such a person will never covet his neighbor’s women, house, or possessions.
Walking in Yahweh’s Spirit
Like contentment and covetousness, the Spirit of Yahweh and the deeds of the flesh cannot cohabit:
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:16-17)
The fruits of the Spirit – love, kindness, goodness, and self-control in particular – stand in stark contrast to covetousness.
Faith in Yahweh, love for our fellow man, contentment, and walking in Yahweh’s Spirit are all means by which covetousness is defeated.
Tenth Commandment Judgment
Some expositors are hesitant to apply the Tenth Commandment solely to heart sins because of man’s blundered attempts to regulate, prosecute, and punish matters of the heart. These heart “sins” are often identified as thought or hate crimes. Inevitably, these “crimes” fail to align with Yahweh’s identification of sin and usually amount to calling evil good and good evil. An example of this transposition is the increasing proclivity of contemporary society to label, regulate, and prosecute those who preach against sodomy.
As finite men, we are not permitted to adjudicate matters of the heart. This is why it is important to guard ourselves against presumption and judgment of others’ intentions, something that is impossible unless the other person has revealed to us his motives. This is why Yahweh reserves for Himself the right to judge and punish sins of the heart, which only He can see. For this reason, the Tenth Commandment – the only commandment focused solely on heart sins – has no accompanying judgment by which man can punish it. For man to attempt to punish heart crimes – even those identified by Yahweh – is an act of humanism and a usurpation of Yahweh’s place as God.
Although the Tenth Commandment is the only commandment for which there is no civil judgment, Yahweh will judge this sin:
For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. (Psalm 10:3)
Yahweh abhors the covetous, greedy, and lustful man enough to keep him out of His eternal kingdom:
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
The answer for any covetous man today is the same as it was for the covetous people of Corinth:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)23
Men always covet something. If you do not covet Yahweh and His kingdom, you will covet something else. Riches, fame, position, occupation, sports, or another person will rule your heart. This is why Yahweh desires more than outward obedience. This is why He desires our heart. This is why it is important we give Him our heart every day.
And he [Yeshua] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
To covet Yahweh and Yahweh alone, we must die to everything else that might control our hearts. For this reason, Yahweh required Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It is also the lesson of the rich young ruler. Yeshua must replace whatever else might rule from the throne of our hearts, or He will be prevented from ruling our hearts.
Thou shalt not covet, unless it is Yahweh you covet. Covet, love, and serve Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
1. All Scripture is quoted from the King James Version unless otherwise noted. Portions of Scripture have been omitted for brevity. If you have any questions regarding a passage, please open your Bible and study the text to ensure it has been properly used.
2. YHWH (most often pronounced Yahweh) is the English transliteration of the Tetragrammaton, the principal Hebrew name of the God of the Bible. For a more thorough explanation concerning the sacred names of God (without resorting to unjustified and unscriptural extremes), “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
3. Yeshua is the English transliteration of our Savior’s given Hebrew name. Jesus is the English transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is the Greek transliteration of the of Savior’s Hebrew name Yeshua, with which He introduced Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:14-15). For a more thorough explanation concerning the use of the sacred names of God (without resorting to unjustified and unscriptural extremes), “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
4. James Strong, “Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary,” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, s.v. chamad (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990) p. 40.
5. Francis Brown, et al., The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, s.v. chamad, The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (Ontario, Canada.: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1993).
6. Chamad, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1980).
7. Strong, “Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary,” The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, s.v. avah, p. 9.
8. Brown, et al., The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, s.v. avah, The Online Bible Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown, Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon (Ontario, Canada: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1993).
9. Avah, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1980).
10. Where the Tetragrammaton – the four Hebrew characters transliterated “YHWH” and representing the personal name of God – has been unlawfully rendered the LORD or GOD in Scripture, I have taken the liberty to correct this error by inserting YHWH where appropriate. For a more thorough explanation concerning the use of the sacred names of God (without resorting to unjustified and unscriptural extremes), “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
11. For a more thorough explanation concerning righteous lying and bribery, “The Ninth Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not bear false witness may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
12 Adam Clark, Discourses on Various Subjects Relative to the Being and Attributes of God and His Works in Creation, Providence, and Grace, 3 vols. (New York, NY: M’Elrath & Bangs, 1831) vol. 2, pp. 36-37.
13. Vic Lockman, God’s Law for Modern Man: Cartoon Illustrated (Grants Pass, OR: Vic Lockman) p. 54.
14. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus and to Philemon (Columbus, OH: Warburg Press, 1937, 1946) p. 158, quoted in Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973) p. 63.
15. Not everyone claiming to be a Christian has been properly instructed in the biblical plan of salvation. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-41, 22:1-16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13; and 1 Peter 3:21 should be considered in order to understand what is required to be covered by the blood of Yeshua and forgiven of your sins. For a more thorough explanation concerning baptism and its relationship to salvation, the book Baptism: All You Wanted to Know and More may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for free.
16. Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments (Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Billing & Sons Limited, 1890, first printed in 1692 as a part of A Body of Practical Divinity) p. 175.
17. Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “Covetouness” (1828; reprint ed., San Francisco, CA: The Foundation for American Christian Education, 1967).
18. Watson, p. 174.
19. Rousas John Rushdoony, “Inflation and the Love of Money,” Faith for All of Life (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, March/April 2009) p. 3.
20. For a more thorough explanation concerning welfare, “The Eighth Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not steal may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $6 donation.*
21. For a more thorough explanation concerning property taxes, “The Eighth Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not steal may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $6 donation.*
22. For a more thorough explanation regarding usury, “The Eighth Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not steal may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $6 donation.*
23. For a more thorough explanation concerning baptism and its relationship to salvation, the book Baptism: All You Wanted to Know and More may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for free.
*We are admonished in Matthew 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give.” Although we have a suggested a price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever you can send.
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