4.12 - Tenth Commandment: Do Not Covet Your Neigbor's House
”You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, not his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's” (Exodus 20:17).
4.12.1 - Modern Temptations
Anyone who watches television can fall into the temptation of seductive commercials. You may rush to buy the fanciest things, sign contracts with insurance companies, buy exquisite perfumes, clothes and sports cars. The list goes on and on, and you never hear these commercials presenting the simple statement of Jesus, “Deny yourself! Be content with what you have!“ They always have this message, “Desire everything and buy whatever you do not have.“
A newspaper showed a picture of a little boy up to his ears in toys, teddy bears, stuffed animals, cars and games. That little boy had been given everything he desired. Nothing he desired was not granted. What a poor boy! Society lavished everything on him until he was frustrated and drowning in the world of his childhood.
In industrial societies people are influenced by values opposed to the tenth commandment. For instance, a husband and a wife may work for years and years so that they can build their long-desired home. They overwork, and if a mother gets a job she may neglect her children and wear herself out. They drink too much coffee and take other stimulants in the hope that it may revive them to work. The net result is a total inner void, and an accumulation of debts and family strifes. Why? Because the family spends more money on things they don't need and lives above the average of their income.
4.12.2 - Are Possessions Permitted?
Jesus says, “What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?“ (Matthew 16:26). He also said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it“ (Mark 8:35). In times of war one bomb is enough to ruin an eight story building in a second, and finally everything is reduced to ashes. Millions of refugees lost everything they owned. In a communist country, everyone who still owns a house or property must pay taxes which are more than the rent of a comparable flat, until he becomes financially worse off than someone who does not own anything. God wants to restore us to Himself and enable us to look at material things from His perspective. Spiritual truths are more valuable than material belongings.
Those who divide an inheritance should have this principle ingrained in them, for what good will it do to establish animosity among relatives because of money and belongings? Jesus said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also“ (Matthew 5:40). Paul assured us that it is more blessed to give than to receive! That should always be our guiding principle in following Jesus. It is wrong to seize others' belongings. Anyone who forges documents or takes advantage of someone's naivety is worthy of God's wrath, for God is a protector of the orphans and the fatherless.
4.12.3 - Deceiving People
The tenth commandment is not only confined to acquiring properties but it also bans enticing co-workers, servants or friends. Just because employees resent their boss or have difficulties at their work does not give us the right to encourage discord. Instead, we should challenge them to stay where they are, no matter how many advantages we or they may have by changing locations. We also need to keep the tenth commandment in churches, societies, schools and charities, for enticing brothers, sisters or co-workers won't bring any blessings.
It may create serious repercussions if someone were to interfere with a family's affairs and tempt the husband or the wife to abandon the family unity which God has blessed them with. The desire for change, or deep misunderstanding or even a sharp dispute can never justify such a painful step. Jesus Himself says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.“ If someone tries to ruin a home or get sexually involved outside of marriage, he needs to repent right away, change his attitude and be prepared to take responsibility for his family. Then life would be meaningful for this individual, and he would learn to reject and hate all forms of sin. He wouldn't harbor such evil ideas as changing partners for a night, vacation from marriage or trial of other partners. Instead, in the power of the Holy Spirit he will live in genuine abstinence from any kind of sin, for you can not do anything apart from the Holy Spirit.
4.12.4 - What Causes Our Lust?
The tenth commandment talks about certain people and things which we may desire. Today we can add to the list: cars, musical instruments, washing machines, refrigerators and fancy clothes. Man tends to think that he ought to have what others have. The increasing standard of living is actually destructive and impoverishing. Developing countries have started sophisticated projects which cause them to fall into debt to such an extent that they cannot even pay the interest on the debts anymore. They bought modern machines which cannot be used now because no one knows how to repair them or replace the broken parts. The apostles of Christ knew why it was important to be satisfied with what they had, and be liberated from increasing debts, which can destroy soul and body. Furthermore, Jesus said, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave“ (Matthew 20:26-27). Jesus came to reinstate all the values in our world as He prayed, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight... Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light“ (Matthew 11:25-30).
Paul wrote that God will destroy all pride and arrogance at a time when only a few rich and important people belonged to the church in Corinth. Change of goals in life and renewal of heart gave a new meaning to the members of the first churches.
The tenth commandment not only forbids our evil and despicable actions but it also condemns our hidden intentions. The court can, to a certain extent, judge the crimes of one person, but man's heart can only be discerned by God. Even we ourselves do not perfectly understand our hearts. We sometimes can not figure out why our friends acted this or that way. We are sometimes a mystery to ourselves. The Bible says, “Every intent of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually“ (Genesis 6:5). If we measure ourselves against the holiness of Jesus we will see how unclean and corrupt we are. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“ (Romans 3:23). This can even be seen in a child who tries to get his way by continual screaming. Children trick one another, and when we see the hereditary sin in their lives we will reject the superficial theory that “children are innocent“. A growing child exercises every desire, and can be stubborn and selfish. Surely, there is a difference between thinking evil and doing evil. No one is able to avoid temptation but you are called to resist evil with all your heart. Dr. Martin Luther said, “I cannot prevent the birds from flying over my head, but I can prevent them from nesting in my hair.“ We have to watch temptation from the very beginning, resist it and so overcome it. Paul often writes the Greek expression, “May this thought never be born in me!“ The epistle of James traces the origin of temptation. In chapter one he affirms that temptation is not from God, for God does not tempt anyone with evil. But if anyone is tempted he is drawn away by the desires of his own flesh and blood. Obviously, “when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown brings forth death.“ The apostle goes on to say, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow or turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we may be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures“ (James 1:16-18).
A Christian believer ought to allow the Word of God to discipline his desires, his goals and intentions daily. Overcoming unclean thoughts depends on our total surrender to Jesus and His eternal grace that we may pray confidently, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One“ (Matthew 6:13). Christians are certain that their sins are forgiven through the blood of Jesus and hold on to Christ's righteousness that is imputed to them. Therefore they will not sin deliberately, for the Holy Spirit sanctifies their thoughts and attitudes. Jesus wants to be a victorious Lord in all the thoughts of our hearts. He wants to lead our battle in life and grant us the victory. This is not a holy war against a certain individual or nation, but obviously against our own huge ego, against our wicked desires which indwell us and against temptations which assail us from the outside. Let us pray and believe what we pray, “O living Lord and mighty Savior. I thank you that you have saved me. Please do not allow me to fall into this sin again, but deliver me from it and keep me from all evil which dwells in me. Please do not allow the Evil One to find a foothold in me. Possess me, Lord, and dwell in me forever. Cleanse my thoughts completely with your blood and sanctify me fully with your Spirit, that my will and desire may please you.“
4.12.5 - A New Heart and A New Spirit
As we enter into such a spiritual warfare against our evil self we will realize what Jesus meant by, “Out of the abundance of the heart evil thoughts proceed.“ So, it's not a matter of protection from evil actions only, or even a battle against particular sins, but there is much more to do than that. We need a clean conscience, a pure mind and a new heart. Therefore, let us ask Jesus to accomplish His purposes by the power of His Holy Spirit in us so that every area of our spirit, soul and body will actually be sanctified by Him. Not only is our body evil but also our spirit and our soul. The tenth commandment aims at a new birth of the old man and a spiritual renewal of his thoughts and attitudes. The prophet Jeremiah suffered much for his rebellious people's sake and received the great divine promise, “I will put My law in their mind, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother saying, `Know the Lord', for they shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more“ (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
God gave a similar promise to the prophet Ezekiel as He revealed to him, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them“ (Ezekiel 36:26-27). King David prayed the following prayer of repentance 30 years before the revelation of these prophecies:
Have mercy upon me, O God, according Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done evil in Your sight; that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins; and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence; and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation; and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways; and sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart -- these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:1-17).
Whoever prays this exemplary prayer of David will receive a definite answer from God. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy as He stated, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life“ (John 8:12). He also said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing“ (John 15:5).
At the outset of His ministry, Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus, an elder of his people, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God“ (John 3:5). Peter affirmed this promise on the day of Pentecost before 3,000 people, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“ (Acts 2:38).
4.12.6 - Spiritual Warfare
When the Holy Spirit dwells in us we are not immune from temptations. But the Spirit fights against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit, and a battle rages as Paul describes it, “By the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body“ (Romans 8:13). In Ephesians 4:22-24 Paul exhorts, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.“ To take off the old man means to hate and deny all our sinful desires forever. To put on the new man means to put on Jesus like a new robe after He had helped us overcome our original selfishness.
In this warfare we may suffer defeats as we seek to live a holy life. Then we ought to get up again quickly and turn to Jesus confessing our sins to Him frankly. When our pride and self-confidence is broken we are united with Jesus again and experience His strength in our weakness. This is the only way to attain victory over evil in ourselves and mature in the Lord. The Bible says, “All those led by the Spirit of God, are the children of God.“ In Romans 8:1-2, Paul comforts everyone who participates in this spiritual warfare, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.“ While the Old Testament puts our evil intentions and actions under the punishment of the law, the New Testament grants us deeper knowledge of our total sinfulness, and at the same time exhorts us to accept the righteousness of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He empowers us to receive the Holy Spirit for the renewal of our mind and will. The law of Moses tries to prevent us from falling, but Jesus grants us total justification and the power of the spirit of God to fulfil His commandments. While the Old Testament exposes the chaos in our life resulting from our evil intentions, our heavenly Father grants us divine justification: no guilt, no punishment! Jesus has already paid the price! In addition to our justification He empowers us with His eternal Spirit to overcome sin. The one Triune God sets us free from our sin to His righteousness, and leads us from defeat to victory by the power of His indwelling love.
4.12.7 - Islam and Lust
Islam does not know the fulfillment of the law by justification through faith or victory over the flesh by the Spirit. The Quran states, “Man has been created weak“ (Sura al-Nisa 4:28). Islam, thus, shifts part of the blame onto Allah. That is why Muhammad permitted men to marry their concubines beside their four wives lest they fall into temptation (Sura al-Nisa 4:25). Muhammad himself married Zayd's wife when Zayd was his adopted son. Concerning this marriage, Muhammad received a special revelation from Allah which permitted him to marry Zayd's wife and every other woman who would give herself to him (Sura al-Ahzab 33:37,50,51).
The Quran also reveals several times that Allah guides whoever He will and misleads whoever He will (Suras Ibrahim 14:4 and Al-Fatir 35:8). Consequently, there is not much moral responsibility on man himself.
In holy wars, plundering and picking up the spoils of war was most important. Sometimes the fighters lost battles because they were prematurely caught up in gathering the spoils and taking them home. Sometimes there would be harsh disputes over the allotting of spoils in war. Material gain and indulgence in lust often play an integral role in the life of a Muslim. To him, authority and prestige are proof of the grace of Allah, which is conspicuously manifest in the lives of Muslim rulers. The humility and gentleness of Christ are alien to Islam.
Moreover, bloody revenge is not forbidden in Islam as long as no agreement to pay restitution was reached. Muhammad sent messengers personally to assassinate his own enemies. Man's egoistic desires do not improve if he accepts Islam, everything remains without change except that he has become immune to salvation in Christ. To a Muslim, faith in God the Father is one of the unpardonable sins. He must try to save himself by his own good works. Good deeds are not primarily acts of mercy but the fulfilment of religious duties, such as the confession of faith, Islamic prayer five times a day, fasting in the daytime during the month of Ramadan, giving alms to the poor, pilgrimage to Mecca, memorising the Quran and fighting in the holy war for the spread of Islam. Obviously a Muslim knows almost nothing of how his heart could be renewed. This new creation is not possible because the real Holy Spirit is unknown in Islam (Sura al-Isra' 17:85). A Muslim understands the Holy Spirit to be a created Spirit of God and is normally considered to be the angel Gabriel. He is not the spirit from within God. Therefore, the culture and civilization of Islam are the product of the work of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy and peace, is neglected in Islam because its basis, the remission of sins by the grace of the Crucified One, is rejected.
It is easy for man to become a Muslim as he can continue in the same way of living. If someone embraces Islam, he can still continue to be polygamous in Africa and Asia. Physical and material desires are promised even in paradise: eating, drinking and sexual gratification. A Muslim's eternity is nothing but the projected materialistic desires of man (Sura al-Waqi`a 56:16-37). Allah himself will not be there in the Islamic paradise. There is no hope of any contact or fellowship with Allah, nor is there a spiritual renewal or battle against man's egotistical selfishness in Islam. Morally and spiritually, Islam is far below the level of the Old Testament and incomparable in value to the New Testament.
4.12.8 - Christ our Only Hope
We have to make sure that we do not allow any contempt for Muslims or Jews, for there is no Christian, in himself, who is better than anyone else. By faith in Christ alone we receive righteousness and strength to live a righteous and holy life. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches and by abiding in Him we are kept from pride and can bring forth the fruit of His Spirit. We can't do anything good without Jesus. He is our standard.