Do you know the basis for most people’s financial troubles? Do you know the true cause for most wars and most crimes?
Did you know that surveys have revealed that the financial troubles plaguing most families are not the result of low income? Rather, they are directly caused by overextending a normally adequate income for luxuries and personal indulgences, and by the American habit of installment buying!
“Buy now and pay later,” say the advertisements. But do you really need to buy this item now? And are you sure you will be able to “pay later”?
High pressure advertisements constantly encourage this idea. It is made to seem “backward” or wrong not to strive and compete and lust after so many material possessions as your neighbor owns. The modern idea is to “get all you can while the getting is good.”
The incessant pressure to “get ahead!” which usually means to acquire more money and material property has become a thing of idolatry. It is blinding the minds and hearts of millions to the life of God.
A religious publication, “The Canadian Churchman,” ran a sobering article revealing the effect of this material idolatry on young African Christians studying in the United States and Canada.
One such young man said: “Before I came to study here, I was a good Christian. I dreamed some day of becoming a medical missionary. Now I’m an atheist.
“Why?” asked the shocked interviewer.
“Since coming here,” was the reply, “I’ve discovered that the white man has two gods. One that he taught us about, and another one to whom he prays. A Presbyterian mission school taught me the tribal doctrines of my ancestors who worshipped images and believed in witchcraft were wrong and almost ludicrous. But here you worship larger images cars, and electrical appliances, I honestly can’t see the difference.”
It shouldn’t be. Except that most people get so close to their own sin that they can’t see it.
We live in a so-called “Christian” society which is literally based on lust and greed for more and more material things. The frenzied effort to compete with others and “get ahead” is the source, not only of most financial problems, but the real cause of much physical and mental illness, broken homes, frustrated lives! Most important of all, this form of idolatry leaves almost no time, strength or desire ever to become acquainted with the true God whose living laws and ways alone would bring real inner peace and joy.
In this series of articles expounding the Ten Commandments, we have seen that every problem and sorrow in our individual and national lives is directly caused by disobedience to one or more of the Commandments of God. We have seen that God’s spiritual law, The Ten Commandments, reveals the way to peace, happiness, prosperity everything man really wants.
But man usually wants to achieve these results his own ways the wrong way. And so, he suffers. Most men fail to realize that the Ten Commandments are living, moving, active laws like the law of gravity. They are automatic. When you break them, they break you!
So it is with the final commandment of God’s law. Even though it may be broken without the knowledge of any other human being, the penalty for its violation is absolutely certain!
This present generation above all others needs to understand and apply this command in personal and social life. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservants, nor his maidservants; nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbors” (Ex. 20:17).
Of all the commandments, the 10th refers most specifically to man’s relation to man. The force of the commandment lies in these words: “Thy neighbor’s thy neighbor’s . . .. his . . .. his . . .. his
his . . .. thy neighbor’s.” This is a seven-fold guarding of the interests of another.
It is not wrong to lawfully desire a wife, a servant, or an ox or ass. But where the object desired is legitimately out of reach of the one desiring, admiration merging into lust to possess breaks the commandment.
Although this commandment deals most obviously with human and physical relationships, the spiritual requirement of the command is in some ways more rigid than any that had proceeded it. This command regulates even the thoughts in the mind and heart of man.
Most men look on sin as an outward or physical type of thing. They do not realize that the holy, righteous character which God purposes in us necessitates that even our thoughts be completely purified and made like His. Actions follow thought. What you think, you are.
If you secretly reject God’s standard and His way, if in your heart, you lust after something which you either cannot or will not come to lawfully possess with His blessing, then sooner or later this mental rebellion will bring forth outward sin! Actions will then proceed to defy God to break His law - because the thoughts have been doing this all along!
This command pierces through all “surface Christianity” and show whether a man has really surrendered his will to his Maker! It is a searching and fearful principle. But it is a command you must learn to obey if you are ever to receive eternal life and glory in the kingdom of God.
Obviously when all eternity is involved, God will not give eternal life to one who in his mind and heart distains the very character and way of life God purposes for those in His kingdom. And so, when we come to deal with the true God, it is time to stop “kidding” ourselves about religion. We either come to love the Creator God and His ways and laws with all our being, or we will automatically begin to resent His authority and rule over our lives.
That is when the 10th commandment enters in. For it shows God’s authority even over our inner thoughts! We must learn to think like God thinks! “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).
Through God’s spirit in us, we must fight the fight of faith put down the lustful human nature within us and ultimately succeed in “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (I Cor. 10:5). This is the ultimate goal of the true Christian to be fully attained in the resurrection.
But we are to grow in God’s character during this life. We must learn as did righteous Enoch, Noah, Abraham and other servants of the Most High to “walk with God.” We must go His way do as He does, think as He thinks.
But the normal mind of man is filled with selfishness, vanity, competition, greed, hate, lust. It is a mind cut off from the ways and thoughts of God (Isa. 55:8-9). That is why Jesus emphasized how important it is to get our minds changed, converted and cleaned up when He said: “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
Especially since World War II, life in our Western society has speeded up. We are rushing to make more money. We are in a hurry to have a good time, to get everything we can out of life. On every side, we are taught to compete with our fellow man for social honors and material advancement.
We have come to literally crave material luxuries that were in some cases completely unknown just two generations ago. We are urged to spend more than we make to do more than we ought. You owe it to yourself this subtle advertisement reads in putting over the idea that we would be foolish not to buy a bigger car, eat at a more expensive restaurant, or take longer and costlier trips. The emphasis is on getting and on self.
Nationally, the nations of the world fight and kill because of this same attitude of heart: “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” (James 4:1-2).
All too often, the capitalist lusts for more money than he can easily attain by paying fair wages. So he robs his employees by paying too little and spends too little on improving working conditions and safety.
Likewise, the modern laborer often misguided by unscrupulous union leaders learn to lust after more money than he can honestly earn. Through organized pressure and political trickery, he thinks he can get something for nothing.
This is breaking the 10th commandment. It is hurting not only the man who does it, but it is destroying the ability of his nation to compete effectively in the world trade markets! The nation of any people who practice this form of covetousness and hypocrisy will ultimately be put out of business taken over and ruled by Communism or some other aggressive system.
Why do millions of Britons and Americans gamble? It is certainly not through a desire to produce good things which will serve their fellow man, and thus honestly and proudly earn their daily bread. It is because of man’s basic desire to get something for nothing, to covet a reward he had not legitimately earned.
“The spirit that dwells in us lusts to envy” (James 4:5).
Why do so-called “authors” write cheap, paperback novels based on nothing but filth, obscenity and juvenile stupidity? Why do publishers print such corruptions which degrades the human emotions of love, kindness and idealism to a level lower than dumb brutes?
Is this through a desire to serve God and their fellow man, to give something worthy and helpful in return for the blessings which a good income can make possible? The answer, of course, is that this obscene “literature’ is the result of a particularly foul and perverse form of covetousness a selfish desire to “get” the good things of life without having to give anything good in return.
Look about you. You see a society literally founded on this principle! You can quickly see hundreds of other major examples of covetousness in our society, if your eyes are really open, but be willing to see your own covetousness as well! Be willing to repent of it and ask God for the love and strength to overcome it.
Our generation needs these words of the Son of God: “Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Did you get that? Your real success and happiness in life, Christ said, is not truly able to measure by how new or powerful a car you drive, the kind of home you live in, the clothes you wear, or even the food you eat.
Happiness is a state of mind. It comes from having the very Spirit and mind of Christ inside your own.
Jesus said: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 10:58). The love, joy and peace which Jesus exemplified came from giving and serving, not from any material thing Jesus was able to “get.”
Jesus, the Son of man, was able to overcome human vanity and covetousness because he put the service of God far ahead of anything and everything else. After telling how the unconverted seek after and worry about the material necessities and comforts, He commanded: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
And so at this point the last commandment joins hands with the first. For whatever you seek contrary to God’s will, you covet. If in your mind and heart you lust and covet something more than to obey the Creator and receive His blessings, that thing become an idol to you. “Covetousness is idolatry” (Col. 3:3).
Then, whatever you idolize you put in place of the true God. And you break the 1st commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
The apostle Paul said: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servant ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16)?
When you begin to covet material things, you “serve them.” You spend your time, your energy, your money for these things. In such a situation, you have neither time nor energy to really study the Bible, or to spend an hour in earnest prayer before the One who gives you life and breath. And you find yourself being “stingy” and jealous of the money you owe your Maker or finance the proclamation of His truth.
By this simple process, the material things you lust for and covet literally become your “God.” For you truly serve and worship them and find in your life little time, strength and wealth with which to serve the true God with all of your heart, strength and mind.
Do you see?
Covetousness is a terrible thing for it cuts you off from the fellowship and blessings and love of the great God of Heaven who made all that is, but intended that this material creation be used in his service and for his glory.
And, in practical daily life, covetousness violates the basic principle of the way of life set forth by all the commandments of God and by Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus summarized this principle when He said; “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
If you strive to see how much you can give to others and serve them, you will find the true way to happiness and eternal life. You will need to ask God for His help and Spirit. But you will find that this positive approach is the only way you will be able to keep the 10th commandment.
In learning to lovingly, sincerely and intelligently serve your fellow man, and to serve and worship the true God, you will find the only real sense of fulfilment and joy in this life. And in the New World to come, you will be given eternal life and glory in a Divine government literally based on the principle of love, of giving, of the joy of serving and contributing to the lasting happiness of others.
May God help you to follow the example of His Son in obeying His law. And may you, through surrender and obedience., develop the very character of God. Thus, by His mercy through Christ’s sacrifice, and through your surrender to His will and law, you may be given everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.
With this article, we have completed the exposition of the Ten Commandments the great spiritual law which the eternal God set in motion to govern the relationship of man with God, and man with man.