The Ten Commandments: 10
The tenth and final commandment given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai is: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” In many ways this, the last commandment forms a perfect circle that brings us right back to the first commandment. You’ll see what I mean in just a few moments.
To covet means “to wish for earnestly.” To really truly want something. This is not the same as briefly thinking about or fancying a certain thing. To covet also means, “to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately.” Inordinately means in a disorderly, or unmoderated way. When you covet you are basically obsessing over something that belongs to someone else.
God realizes that it is possible that each of us might admire or even want something or even someone who doesn’t belong to us. This happens often in life such as when we want the fancy car that someone else is driving or the nice spouse that belongs to someone else. Sadly it reaches even further as sometimes we find that people covet the life of others. We see this with celebrities that are idolized and marketers use this passion of covetousness against us. Since they know that we desire to be just like our favorite celebrities they put these celebrities in commercials to encourage us to be like them. It is also common to see people who covet admiration or power or influence.
When the human heart covets it is chained to it’s desires. This doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because we allow certain thoughts to marinate in our minds and hearts for too long. We allow them to sit and pollute until we find it hard to imagine life without them. Some of the desert fathers tell us that it is difficult, even impossible to keep bad thoughts from coming into your mind. It is simply a reality of life. On the other hand we are reminded that what we do with those thoughts makes all the difference in the world. Do we cast those thoughts aside and continue gazing towards God and His commandments or do we put everything else on pause in order to indulge the idea that has been presented to us? What we do with the thought is very important but there is another important aspect to fighting the passion of covetousness: thankfulness.
In his last sermon before dying, the noted priest Fr. Alexander Schmemann said “Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation.” Those are very important words. They remind us that at the heart of the Christian faith is the idea of complete and utter thankfulness for everything that has been given to us, even those difficult and less than perfect situations. St. Paul writes “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess 5:18).
It is the life of thankfulness that keeps away the passion of covetousness. Instead of wishing I had what belongs to someone else, I turn my eyes back to God and thank Him for all of His blessings in my life though I am unworthy of them. Our whole life is meant to be a life of thanksgiving. Even the communion we receive here is properly known as Eucharist or Thanksgiving. We should be quite thankful people. We were undeserving of God’s grace and yet He sent His Son for us. We have been taught the ways of God by the Lord Jesus Christ instead of being left as lost and wandering sheep. We have been given the gift of godliness. We have been given the sacramental mysteries to bless and strengthen our life and communion with the Lord. We have received an inheritance with the saints.
On top of all the heavenly and spiritual blessings, God has given us physical comforts and blessings that many in this life have not had the privilege to receive. Most of us have loving families, more money that we will ever use, big homes and the list goes on. We Christians are called to a life of thanksgiving. As I mentioned earlier, this, the last commandment does a great job of pointing us right back to the first commandment “You shall have no other gods before me.” To covet means to obsess and a Christian is only given the freedom to obsess over God and His commandments. To give any created thing the attention and the desire of the heart is to do more than covet, it is to idolize.
The only way out of this vicious cycle is to turn our eyes to the source of all our blessings. We have to begin the day with prayers of thanksgiving for everything. We give thanks when we wake from sleep for a new day. We give thanks when we sit down to eat a meal. We give thanks even during tribulations, knowing that God has a plan for our lives. This life of thanksgiving keeps away covetousness as well as some forms of depression and anxiety. It brings a special form of joy and even opens the door to salvation or life in Christ.
Trust in God and “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess 5:18).