What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. (Romans 7:7-11)
I do not ever recall having heard a sermon about the tenth commandment. In fact I do not recall ever having heard the Law taught in church aside from Matthew 22:37-39. When I have heard the Ten Commandments mentioned, it was usually in the form of a list: Thou shalt not… lie, …steal, …murder and to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. I cannot recall anyone including the tenth commandment (Exodus 20:17) in a public rendition of ‘the list’:
“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.” (Exodus 20:17)
That the Church has a kind of popular amnesia about the only commandment that speaks to the interior person seems an odd thing to me if for no other reason than it is the most unique of the Commandments. The first nine, demonstrate how we are to live in relation to God and to others; the missing commandment is about our inward situation, our desire, our character. That which corrupts inwardly springs from covetousness and, if inwardly we are corrupt, we do not have and cannot have a right relationship with others. To violate this commandment is to violate all the others.
The tenth commandment then is also a warning sign: covetousness always comes before the breaking of one of the other nine commandments and when we find ourselves in transgression of another commandment, the tenth commandment has already been broken. It is the thing that causes broken fellowship. James warns “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). It is our own covetousness that prevents us from prayer and it is our own covetousness that stops us from committing our ways to Him.
Remember the tenth commandment, be silent no longer!