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The Tenth Commandment:
From Covetousness to Contentment

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Exodus 20:17 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.


It was spring, but it was summer I wanted. The warm days and great doors. It was summer. But it was fall I wanted. The colorful leaves and cool dry air. It was fall. Ah, but it was winter I wanted. The beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was winter. But all in it, it was spring I wanted. The warm blossoming of nature. I was a child. But it was adulthood I wanted. The freedom and respect. I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted. To be mature and sophisticated. I was middle age. Ah, but it was 20 I wanted. The youth and the free spirit. I was retired, ah, but it was middle age I wanted. The presence of mind without limitation. My life is over and I never got what I wanted.


This is a poem but I am sure that all of us can identify with some part of it in some stage of our life. Everyone of us got where we are by a sprit of discontent. Not all discontentment is bad. It is discontentment with your prayer life that can cause you to do something about it. It is discontentment about you level of commitment to Jesus Christ that will cause you to reorder your priorities in life. It is discontentment with the level of your faithfulness to the Lord that compels you to rethink your motives in life. But there is also a dark side of discontentment and God calls it covetousness.


Covetousness is not a word we often use. It is not part of our everyday language today. Simply put, covetousness is a craving for what we don’t have; a craving for what someone else has or is. If I only get what they have, I’ll be happy. Covetousness is the craving of someone else’s circumstances. If I were him, if I were her, I’d be happy. Covetousness is the craving of what somebody else is. If I was Him or her, had his/her education, position, opportunity or whatever. Covetousness is that longing that says; if only, if only, if only.

Covetousness is always short sighted. Covetousness can never see the big picture and is unable to see the big picture. Covetousness is always concerning itself with the immediate needs or desires. I am not dismissing the immediate needs. Covetousness is always anxious for instant gratification. Covetousness will always make you be an ungrateful and an unthankful person throughout life, no mater what you have. It always causes you pouting in life. You may not do it outwardly, but you do it on the inside, feeling sorry for yourself, being full of self-pity and unhappy. That is what covetousness and pride will do.


God said you are not to covet anything that belongs to another. I know some of you think, well then I am off the hook, because I have never coveted my neighbor’s donkey. God knew there would be such a smart person in this age to say I didn’t cover your donkey or ass. But God dealt with that by saying, “anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Some commentators say that the tenth commandment is superfluous because everything that needed to be said was said in the first nine and the tenth commandment is an anticlimax. It is only a summary of the other commandments of men’s relationships.


Wrong, they missed the whole point. The tenth commandment stands above and towers above the other commandments because it deals with the heart. The other nine commandments deal with and ultimately condemn outward actions. It was only Jesus that explained that it was inward desires that causes the outward breaking of all the commandments. It was Jesus who finally explained the relationship between the root and the fruit of our actions. It was only Jesus who told us to guard against our inward thoughts that trigger our outer actions. But without Jesus warning, if you lived in the Old Testament times, and you had just the commandments without Jesus explanation, you see that all the first nine commandments deal with outward actions.


Do not make idols, do not work on the Sabbath, do not kill innocent people, do not lie, do not murder innocent people, and do not steal; all outward things you do. They all begin from the outside to work their way onto the inside of us. What distinguished the tenth commandment from the other nine is that it begins from the inside and works its way out. What do I mean? I could be the most covetous person on the face of the earth and no one would know it, not even those nearest and dearest to me, no one but God. It is the same for every one of us. That is why the tenth commandment makes explicit what the other nine implies. The tenth commandment tells me what God is after and that is why he gave the tenth commandment. It tells us that God is not just after outward obedience, but inward obedience. God is looking for inward obedience from the heart. God is concerned that we have the right motives for what we do and that is more important to Him than the what we do for Him.


I once met a man of God who told the story of how he had been in the ministry as an evangelist for forty years, having begun when he was a teenager. He told how on the night of his 40th anniversary, he looked over his records that he had and read how many sermons he had preached and how many churches he had been in, how many had come forward for salvation and how many had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and after all the reviewing and patting himself on the back and telling himself how happy that God must be with his accomplishments and what He had done for God, he went to sleep. Then he had a vision of an angel standing before him with a pair or scales in his hand and he said, “You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.” And then the angel went on to tell him the reality of his forty years of ministry as God saw it, telling him how it was all so much percentage of the love of position, love of the praise of men, pride in denomination, and went on to expose all the wrong motives for which he had done his ministry, telling him that it would all burn and there would be no reward for it, except a small percentage, 3% that was for the love of God and 3% for the love of souls. He woke up and fell to his knees in repentance and ask forgiveness and then tore up his book of records and then began again, no longer keeping records, but just trying to do things for people out of love for them and for the Lord. It changed the rest of his life and ministry.


I want to make a statement. Outward obedience is very dangerous. The reason churches are full of Pharisees and legalists is because they are focusing on outward obedience and not inward obedience. Outward obedience only can be disastrous. And that is why God had to seal His commandments with the last one, talking about inward obedience. Without the tenth commandment, we could all easily be tempted to become like the Pharisees of Jesus day, focusing only on outward obedience, but our hearts far from God. Isaiah 29:13Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.


When we are only obeying outwardly, we become hypocrites like they were. Matthew 23:23Woe 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.” These weightier matters of the law have to do with our motives and attitude of heart. Yet among the Ten Commandments the Lord gave to His people there wasn’t one that said, “Thou shalt be merciful to your neighbor.” It is because of God’s concern for the condition and attitude of the heart, that Jesus condemned hypocrisy so much. Only Jesus can deliver us from sin and that is why only Jesus can empower us to obey Him, outwardly and more importantly, inwardly. That is why only the Holy Spirit of God can empower us to keep the commandments. Anybody without the spirit of God that says I keep the Ten Commandments is lying through their teeth or they just don’t understand. Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment we could never keep and obey and of the Ten Commandments. But it was out of love and grace and mercy and compassion that God gave us the Ten Commandments. But more specifically out of love and mercy and compassion and grace that He gave us the Tenth Commandment. So let us look closer at this sin called covetousness.


Covetousness is deceptive. Luke 12:15And 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.” When Jesus says watch out (take heed), you need to take it seriously. This is totally contrary to every fiber of our culture. This is a true contradiction to the very fiber of our society. If believers really believed the words of Jesus, I promise you they would radically change their lifestyle and radically reorder their priorities and radically change so many of their choices.


Marketers spend billions of dollars and untold hours working hard for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to make you feel unhappy with what you have. Their whole purpose for which they work is to make you unhappy and discontented with who you are, with the way you look, unhappy with what you have, unhappy with what you do. And they want you to feel miserable and unhappy until you buy what they are selling. And so you buy what you were made to think will make you happy. Then wait a few weeks and think, did this make me happy. No way. Nothing you have every bought has or will make you happy. Such benefit or happiness is very short lived and in a few days, you just want something else, always something else you don’t have, more, more and more but nothing every satisfied the lust and desire for more and the cycle never ends.


I want to give you a rule of thumb. If your values are dependant on your title, if your values are dependant on your net worth, if your values are dependant on what you wear, if your values are dependant on where you live, if your values are dependant on what you drive, take it from me; it will never, never make you content. Nothing of the natural, nothing in the physical can or will ever make you content. The millionaire isn’t content being a millionaire and the billionaire isn’t content being a billionaire and the poor who covet and never have are also never content with whatever it is they covet for the more they get the more they want. Covetousness is a lust that works in a similar way to a drug addict. The more he gets, the more he wants and the lust just keeps growing for a bigger fix.
Covetousness is deceptive. If you play this comparison game as some people do; you will live in constant misery. Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:12For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Walking around with a measuring tape, saying, he, she is more successful. If your going to measure and see how much more someone is successful than you are, If your going to measure and see how much more intellectual someone is than you are, if your going to measure and see how much more articulate someone else is than you are, if somebody is more popular than you are, somebody more beautiful than you are; as you go around with that measuring tape it will make you unhappy and it will make you discontented. Covetousness is deceptive and will keep you from ever being content or fulfilled or happy with you place or status or standing in life.

Contentment is delightful. Philippians 4:11Not 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.” Philips paraphrase of this verse is: “I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either plenty or poverty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.”

Are you content with God and what He has given you and what you have and your place in life? If not, then it is because your life is not what it ought to be, your life is not right with God, you are not where He wants you do be, doing what He wants you to do, or living the way He wants you to life and believing what He wants you to believe. That is where your problem lies and that is what you need to do something about. If you are not content, then you first of all have a spiritual problem, a problem in your relationship with God and your faith and trust in Him to handle your life and do what is best for you, in all things and all situations and you are not happy and satisfied with His care and His omniscience and His providence where you life is concerned and how He has worked or not worked in your life.


This is what I think about contentment. Here you are going along life’s highway and everything seems to be fine, the sun is shinning and the sky is blue and all of a sudden you come into a roadblock. Your roadblock may be different from the next persons, but it is meant for you. Whether it is a health roadblock, a relationship roadblock or a financial roadblock, it is meant for you. There are two ways to react to that roadblock that you are facing in life, something that every living person has to face at some point or another in life.
Here is the reaction of a person going through the school of contentment. He/she will see this as an opportunity for a double blessing. He will see it as an opportunity to trust the Lord afresh. He will see this roadblock as an opportunity for the Lord to use it for His glory and for his/her good. Blessing two, he/she will see this as an opportunity for God to show that He and He alone can fill the empty void in your life.


Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” If you are discontented then you are saying, “God, you forgot me, you left me out, you’ve mistreated me.

For those who have not begun to enroll in the school of contentment I can tell you and promise that this is what is going on in your life right now. You are going around and around in a circle like the Israelites in the wilderness until you get dizzy. The children of Israel who came out of Egypt refused to learn this lesson and so they went around and around the mountain for 40 years, looking at the same rocks. It’s like the man who told his boss, “I have 25 years experience” and the boss replied, “No you don’t; you have 1 year experience repeated 25 times.”

The children of Israel were never content or satisfied with God’s provision and care and they never trusted or believed Him or His promises and they died in that state of unbelief and mistrust and then went to a worse state in a Devil’s hell. “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not” (Jude 5). 1 Corinthians 10:5-6, 9-10, 12But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted… Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer… Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.


Do not waste your pain and suffering. Do not say, “Lord just get me out of this situation so I can get on with my life.” No, say, “Lord, help me to learn from this lesson so that I can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned in whatsoever situation I am in to be content.” It tells me that Paul was not a contented person by nature, he had to learn it. That gives me a lot of encouragement. It was through the crushing experiences in his life that he learned of contentment and that contentment delights itself in trusting God.
I can think of no better example than when Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail. Acts 16:23-25And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” That is trusting God and honoring Him as being a sovereign Lord who is over all their circumstances, in the midst of terrible persecution and a horrible situation. That is contentment with what God has given them and allowed to happen to them, in the worst of circumstances and situations, not blaming God, not complaining, but praising Him in the midst of the fiery trials of faith that they faced.


Philippians 3:7-8But 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.” So many things he once thought were important were not. Now, he has his eyes on the prize and what he thought before was important he now knows is rubbish. Is that to say that seeking success in life is wrong? No, I didn’t’ say that. God wants you to be successful at whatever you do. God wants you to do your best and to be the best and therefore an example unto others of His grace in your life. I am not preaching God doesn’t want you successful. But, if success is your primary or only aim in life, then when you get there, you will not be contented and it will not help you or benefit you, either now or in eternity.

Colossians 3:17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3:23And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” These verses are talking about your attitude and your motivation for what you do. You do your job, as unto the Lord, to please Him and be a testimony for Him, not just and primarily so that you can get promotions and raises. God will reward us in eternity based on our motive for what we did more than for what we did. If the motive is selfish and self-centered and only for personal glory or gain, recognition or fame, then there is no reward, no matter what it is, even preaching the gospel and dying as a martyr.


The one thing I want to tell you is this. For you and me to experience contentment when there is smooth sailing is one thing, but to experience contentment when the waters are rough, the going is tough and the wind is blowing in your face is a whole different experience. Today, you can begin to move from covetousness to contentment. Today you can begin to enroll in the school of contentment. Psalm 73 is an enormous comfort.


Psalm 73:1-15Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.” Why does it seem that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Lord, if the wicked are healthy, wealthy and free from pain and powerful and have no problems that means that I have wasted my godliness. Then he begins to see things from God’s perspective instead of his own eyes.

Psalms 73:16-28When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” When he sees the eternal torment of the wicked, the eternal horror, the eternal agony of the wicked and what they will go through, he repents on his face before God. When you move from covetous to contentment, from worldly thinking to godly thinking, God will bless you with a double portion because contentment is delightful and delights itself in God.

This tenth commandment is more than a summary of the other commandments. Discontentment and covetousness go hand in hand and will drive you away from the Lord. But when you surrender your covetousness to the Lord, then you will not covet that which you do not have, whether someone else’s success, looks, possessions or whatever and you will be content with how God made you, what God gives you and how God rules your life. Covetousness will cause discontentment. Contentment in our relationship with the Lord and what He means to you will give you peace of mind.


Luke 18:18-23And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Look at this rich young ruler who came to Jesus wanting to know that to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to go keep the commandments, knowing that no man can keep them. This young man then tried to claim that he had kept the commandments all his life, which was a mistake and a lie. So, Jesus then just tested him out on the tenth commandment by telling him to go and sell all he had and give it to the poor, then come follow him. His response was, “forget it”. The problem was he was breaking the tenth commandment all along. Money and possessions were the idol and god of his heart. That is why Jesus asked him to let them go, so that he would be free and truly serve God and gain eternal life. In reality this is a do or die commandment. God says covetousness is idolatry and neither the covetous or the physical idolater will enter heaven, they are the same before God.


Ephesians 5:5For 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.Colossians 3:5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” So, the young man was not only covetous, that itself made him an idolater before God. So, we see that in reality he didn’t begin to keep the commandments. He had another god in his heart and was a spiritual idolater and was no different than a physical idolater to God and you can be sure that because God was not first in his heart because He didn’t love God with all his heart, he also broke other commandments. He was only deceiving himself, not Christ when he tried to declare that he had kept the commandments all is life. In fact, that very statement was a lie, a bearing false witness of himself and his own righteousness before God, so there are now three commandments we know he has broken from this one statement and his response to the Lord. He rejected salvation for money and possessions. What is the end result of covetousness? Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

It's time we stop giving covetousness a sugar coated religious covering in the church and sanctifying that which God has condemned and called idolatry. It's time we speak the truth in love and stop justifying and overlooking covetousness in the church, when it is going to keep many from salvation and eternal life, just like this rich young ruler.

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