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Catechism Class LD44A Covetousness


Catechism Class: Lord’s Day 44A Q113 Covetousness.

Text.  Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbours’ house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”

Catechism Q.113. What is required in the tenth commandment?

 A. That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any of God’s commandments should ever arise in our heart. Rather, with all our heart we should always hate all sin and delight in all righteousness. 


We have come to the last of the commandments, the warning against being covetous of something that someone else has.  On the face of it, it may seem that covetousness is a ‘victimless crime,’ for surely looking at someone else’s property, or possessions, and wishing you had ‘one of those,’ cannot harm anyone but yourself? Well, is it?  

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Notice that the prohibitions in this commandment are related to the other commandments in the second table of the law.  The commandments that tell us that we should not murder, not steal, not commit adultery, not tell its about others…. In the 10th commandment all the commandments of the second table are deepened and we are left without excuse.   All the sins of that second table of the law begin in the heart.    

So this commandment is all about MOTIVE. Why we do the sinful things that we do.  A dictionary definition of motive is “Something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”  So, for example a murderer could have acted with the motive of obtaining revenge.  We saw this in our last study too, when we asked, “Can we tell lies to protect others?  Can we do the wrong thing for the right reason?”  Often the motive is that we want something that someone else has.   Let’s see some of the covetous motives here:

  • Envy of property and possessions.  “You shall not covet your neighbours’ house;.
  • Sexual envy.  you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.  
  • Envy of status.  nor his male servant, nor his female servant.
  • Business envy.  nor his ox, nor his donkey.  
  • A universal condition.  In fact we are told that we are not be jealous of anything that a neighbour has that we don’t have. nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”  After all as we learned in our last lesson, dishonesty is all around us, wherever there is a human being there is lying, and deceit, and covetousness because our hearts are always deceitful, and desperately wicked. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, he used this commandment to illustrate how the law brings us awareness of our sin and the condemnation we face.   Romans 7:7 …For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”  A suitable illustration because we all do it, we all are envious at one time or another. 

All of these forms of envy take root within us and can cause us to sin.  To kill, steal, be unfaithful in marriage, and cheat in business, and be generally dishonest.  Envy and covetousness is to admit that we are not content with what the Lord has done for us, and what he has given us at that time.  Covetousness is a sin so serious that if it goes unconfessed and unrepented of and unforgiven, it will have serious consequences, both in this life and on judgement day.  Romans 1:28-29  1 Corinthians 6:9-11   

The opposite of being envious of a neighbour, is to be thankful for our neighbours, to be happy that God has blessed them with whatever possessions they own, and work hard to achieve our own goals in life, with the help of God, knowing that ultimately our comfort, contentedness and peace is not in possessions, in human fleshly satisfaction, in rank or success in life, but is in the Lord, in whom we find our fulfilment and our identity.  Christian contentment is the key.    Read:-  Luke 3:14   Philippians 4:11   1 Timothy 6:6  1 Timothy 6:8.  

Psalm 73:1-6, 16-18, 27-28 (Tune: Mannheim)  

1 Surely God is good to Isr’el
and to those whose hearts are pure.
2 As for me, my steps were slipping,
and my foothold was unsure.
3 For the arrogant I envied
as I saw them live secure.

4 They are not beset by struggles;
they are healthy, fit and strong—
5 Undisturbed by such diseases
as to human life belong.
6 So they clothe themselves with violence;
greed and pride their necks adorn.

16 When I tried to understand this,
it was all too hard for me
17 Till I came into God’s temple—
then I saw their destiny;
18 For on slippery ground you place them,
and destroy them utterly.

27 Those far off from you will perish;
you give them their due reward.
28 As for me, it is a blessing
to be near the Sovereign LORD.
I have made my God my refuge;
all your deeds I will record.

(Sing Psalms FCofS)

In our next lesson we must ask ourselves whether we can ever perfectly keep the law, and what we should do when we break the law.

© BobMcEvoy December 2020

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