The Tenth Commandment – The World of the Text

The next two days we will look at the last of the Ten Commandments, Number Ten, as found in Exodus 20:17:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

rootedchristThe Ten Commandments are broken into the two parts of the Great Commandment, love of God and Love of Neighbor.  God – worship, idolatry, Sabbath, etc, and Neighbor – adultery, murder, etc. That’s why the last commandment is so amazing to me.  Remember, these commands for the people are not simply statements of morality, they are the laws that the people will live by.  So, to me, that’s why it is amazing that the last of these laws is a statement of the heart.  You shall not covet.  Think about that.  Most of the commandments are easy to see if they have been broken.  You can see if someone has an idol, even if you don’t see them doing, it, there is a physical object.  Same with adultery.  There is a visible/physical relationship. There is no way to “prove” coveting.  It is not an act as much as it is a condition of the heart.

One of the foundational laws for the people points to the condition of the heart.  One of the statements we say a lot is you can’t legislate morality.  That is exactly what is happening here.  Morality is being legislated. Thou shall not commit this act of the heart.

I think that is is so huge for us to understand.  This is actually the correct order.  Our actions flow from the heart.  If the heart is in the wrong place, so will the actions be.  Stealing/murder, everything starts with the heart.

One of the interesting specifics of the Hebrew of this passage is the word for covet.  The word focuses on the mental activity behind an act, the motivation for it.  This commandment seeks to contain or restrain greed, which leads to the breaking of so many of the other commandments.  And, it is the same word that is used to describe the feeling toward the Tree in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.  This command directly references the fall and the desire that led the entire situation that humanity finds itself in.

It all started with coveting.  So it is now.  So much of the sin that destroys us and society starts with coveting.  Desiring.  Lusting.  Unrestrained greed and pride.  This will destroy us and destroy our world.  It is appropriate that this is the command that we finish with.  It is a great warning and a challenge.

Guard your heart.  For your actions flow from there.

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