You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not covet your neighbor's house or field, or his manservant or maidservant, or his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
I. THE STORMY ELEMENTS OF NATURE SERVE AT TIMES AS THE FITTING ROBES OF DEITY. All natural objects are the projections in space of his creative voice. He spake and they appeared. He is still behind all phenomena - the only real substance. Since he is all-wise, the sole fount of knowledge, the true Revealer of secrets, he is properly said to be appareled with light. The rainbow is his diadem, the morning sun is his radiant face, the thundercloud his chariot. To human eyes, he can only be visible in such forms as these. His holiness can be visibly expressed in no other form than fire. The profound inscrutable ness of his will is best made manifest by the "thick darkness." His insufferable glory is attempered by a cloud. His kingly power is betokened by a "great voice." Such is his fitting environment.
II. THE NEAR APPROACH OF GOD IS INTOLERABLE TO SINFUL MEN. The unrenewed man shrinks from contact with absolute purity. He is in an uncongenial atmosphere - like a fish out of its native element. What tremendous losses foolish man submits to rather than abandon sin - losses of privilege, friendship, joy! So Peter prayed, when the vision of Christ's wondrous power dawned on him, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But the renewed man yearns and pants for a nearer, and yet nearer, approach to God. "I pray thee, show me thy glory!" This is his joy - to be near God, to grow like him. And yet, how often do we shrink from the passage of death, the passage by which we penetrate into the inner palace of Deity! Whatever brings us into nearer fellowship with God ought to be welcomed.
III. A SIGHT OF GOD KILLS EITHER THE SIN OR THE SINNER. There is no question that God intends the former, but if the guilty man will not part with his sin - identifies himself with it - then he too dies. To know God, and his redeeming Son, is tantamount to eternal life. But to know God only in his judicial character, to have defective acquaintance with him, alarms and kills. The love of sin perverts the judgment, and destroys good logic. These Hebrews said, "We have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth;" and then they inconsistently add, "Therefore why should we die?" In presence of that mystic flame, they promise loyal obedience. If only life may be spared, and God's commands be conveyed in a less alarming manner, they pledge themselves to be his liege servants. Alas! men little know their own weaknesses! So men still say that if they had such a revelation as they wished - such in degree, and such in kind - they would yield compliance! Yet the real difficulty arises not from defects in the external revelation, but from the internal disposition.
IV. GOD'S APPORTIONMENT OF HONOR AND DISHONOR APPROVED BY MEN. HOW different his language to different persons! To some, "Go, get you into your tents again;" to another, "Stand thou here by me." To dwell near to God, and to enjoy his revelations of light and love - this is really man's crowning privilege, this his heaven. Yet the bulk of men are blind to their own good, dead to noblest joy. To possess any pleasure, their environment must be suited to their character; the external must correspond with the internal. "Depart from me!" says man to his Maker. "Depart from me!" responds our God. "Out of our own mouths we are judged."
V. OBSERVE GOD'S INTENSE LONGING FOR MAN'S GOOD. How pathetic are such ejaculations as these, "Oh that there were such a heart in them, to fear me always!"
1. Religion must be a matter of the heart.
2. Religion is not a compulsory, but voluntary, service.
3. Religion commands the allegiance of the whole man - his reverence, submission, and practical service; and that not spasmodic, but continuous.
4. Religion brings largest benefit to ourselves and to our children. Even bad men have, at times, desires after a better life - fitful moods of regret and aspiration. God, in his wondrous patience, smiles on these - approves a passing thought or a transient feeling-and says, in his paternal love, "Would that this frame of feeling continued!" These are the openings of opportunity's golden door.
VI. THE WORLD'S OBEDIENCE IS DEPENDENT ON HUMAN MINISTRIES, The majority of men will not listen to God unless he speak to them through human agencies. Men will only read God's Word as it is written, in large capitals, in saintly lives. Thus God commanded Moses: "I will speak unto thee... thou shalt teach them, that they may do." The pardoned man becomes God's interpreter to the world. "Speak thou to us," they say, "and we will hear." "As Christ was, so we are to be in the world" - light-bearers. The heathen nations learn only through the Church the redeeming work of God. - D.
Neither shalt thou desire.Matthew 10:19). Defraud not, take not away. Christ Himself made this alteration of the word in the last commandment, and knew best the meaning of it. He makes coveting and defrauding the same, because he that inordinately desires that which is another's doth it to his wrong. To wish any. thing hurtful to others is unlawful, though we never outwardly act what we design. "He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person" (Proverbs 24:8). He merits that denomination on the account of those purposes of mischief which are in his heart. And as the Decalogue, so the Gospel declares this truth. Our Saviour interprets lascivious desires to be lascivious deeds (Matthew 5:28). This is the Christian law, that the inward fault is to be accounted for; the will alone makes us obnoxious, though we proceed no further. We are forbid not only to entertain any intentions and wishes, but any imaginations and thoughts tending to the hurt of others. Secondly, I come to speak of the affirmative part, or the duties enjoined in this commandment. Here, then, we are bid to act out of an inward principle of holiness. The law doth not only exact of us external obedience, but internal sanctity. And the Gospel doth this much more, it enjoins us not only to cleanse our hands, but to purify our hearts (James 4:8). As we must take care of our lives, so we must expel all vicious appetites, lusts, and desires out of our minds. We must regulate our intentions and purposes, and rectify our thoughts and imaginations. This likewise is required of us in the affirmative part of this commandment, that we desire and wish in our hearts all good to our neighbours; that we be so far from coveting what is theirs, that we continually aim at their welfare, and employ our thoughts in promoting it. Besides, this is another part of the positive precept, that we be content with what is our own. We are bid here to acquiesce in God's providence, and to rest satisfied with the condition He hath placed us in. In short, then, if we would have the general sum of both the negative and affirmative part of this commandment, it is thus comprised in the apostle's words, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5). Here is forbidden an inordinate coveting of what we have not, and a being discontented with what we have. So that I think I shall accomplish the design of this commandment by treating distinctly of these two, covetousness and contentment. I begin with the former. First, as to its nature. It is an inordinate desire after those worldly goods which we have not, and which it is not fitting we should have. I say, it is an excessive desire after those things. And this is one main thing that constitutes the sin of covetousness, as we may gather from the description of it in the sacred writings. Those who are addicted to it are said to be greedy of gain (Proverbs 1:19). And covetousness itself is set forth by that greedy creature the horse leech with its two daughters, i.e. its double forked tongue wherewith it continually sucks blood (Proverbs 30:15). This comparison is used to express the insatiableness of those persons' desires who are given to avarice. Secondly, as covetousness is an immoderate, so it is an inordinate and irregular desire of worldly goods. For —
1. It is a desire of them as they are our neighbour's. And thereby is intimated to us that the covetous have an evil eye, and grudge at the good of others. They are angry that they have not a monopoly of worldly riches, and it grieves them that anyone hath a share of them besides themselves.
2. The inordinacy of this avaricious desire of the things of this world consists in this, that it is a longing after them as the chief good. Riches are desired by the covetous for themselves wholly, and are reckoned as the greatest happiness. In the second place, I am to display the evil and mischief of this sin. And this I will do by showing —(1) Covetousness and the love of the world are the source of most sins in men's lives (1 Timothy 6:9). There is no kind of sin almost that you can mention but it springs from this root. Covetous persons break all the commandments. There is no sin but it will thrive upon such a root, there is no vice but this will supply nourishment to it. But a good conscience cannot grow upon it, and nothing that is virtuous can prosper.(2) And so I proceed to the second particular, which will give us a further account of the evil and mischief of covetousness, namely, that it is the source of punishment. And here I will show first that this vice is its own punishment. The same judgment befalls the covetous that befell Korah and his company, they are swallowed up of the earth, and they cannot extricate themselves out of this misery. This greedy appetite never suffers him to say, It is enough: but in the fulness of his sufficiency he is in straits (Job 20:22). And we are told by another wise man, that "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase" (Ecclesiastes 5:10). This is the genuine effect of covetousness, and this impossibility of being satisfied is a continual torment. Again, these persons, as they torment themselves, so they are judicially punished by God. Sometimes the hand of God blasts them immediately, as Gehazi was smitten with leprosy. Sometimes they are found out by the magistrate, and made sacrifices to justice, as Achan with his golden wedge. And sometimes through the judgment of God men of violence are permitted to spoil them of what they have so sordidly raked together. At other times we see that they are abruptly cut off in the career of their covetous pursuits (Jeremiah 17:11). Sometimes they are their own executioners, as the covetous Judas was. Lastly, the covetous are punished in another world. The third and last thing I undertook, which was to offer proper remedies against this inordinate desiring of the things of this world. The general expedient is that we must study to moderate our appetites and affections, we must take pains with ourselves to bring our souls into a right temper, for it is the mind that causes all the disturbance in us; wherefore, if this be not duly disposed, no condition will please us, and we shall be perpetually craving and uneasy. The more particular rules are these —
1. Know and remember this, that riches and abundance are commonly indulged to the worst of men, and hence you may conclude they are of no great worth. Christ chose poverty, and left it as a portion to His disciples, and the holiest men have been denied the riches of this world. Let us meditate on this, in order to the disengaging of our souls from a covetous desire after wealth and abundance.
2. Observe the design of God's afflicting hand. Remember this, that He sends outward crosses on purpose to diminish our immoderate longing after these things.
3. Divert your worldly designs by those that are spiritual. Mind these things, which are of the highest nature: covet earnestly the best gifts; labour to be rich towards God. Be always earnestly seeking the graces of God's Spirit, communion with Him, and His love and favour. Thus cure your malady by revulsion.
4. Always carry in your eye the other world, and then you will be cured of your immoderate longings after this. Look up to heaven and contemplate that, and then the earth will seem to be but a poor, shrivelled point. Thus I have propounded the proper remedies which you may successfully make use of for the extirpating of covetousness and the immoderate love of the world. And because you can do nothing of this without the Divine aid, forget not to be frequent in prayer. I come, then, now to that which is the positive part of this commandment, namely, contentedness. And here I am to show —
1. The true nature of it.
2. The excellency and benefit of it.
3. The means of attaining it.First, I will give an account of the true nature of contentment. And this we may learn from what hath been said concerning covetousness, for true contentment is opposite to covetousness, and therefore is rightly defined a cessation of all covetous desires, and an acquiescing in what we have. Contentment therefore denotes these two things: first, that the desire of what is absent is taken off; secondly, that there is a satisfaction in what is present. For this is certain, that our ease and comfort consist in having what we desire, and in being pleased with what we have. Now, then, if a man desires something and yet wants it, or hath something and is not pleased with it, he cannot possibly be contented. Here, then, is the noble art of Christianity to take off the edge of out appetites, to qualify or to quench our thirst, and also to make us in love with the present, to bring our minds to an acquiescence in the condition that God places us in. This latter is the chief thing in contentment, and, indeed, comprehends the other; for if we contentedly enjoy the present, we shall not enlarge our desires to things that are absent. This is enjoined us by the apostle in Hebrews 13:5, "Be content with such things as ye have," or, "with the present things," for so it should be translated. Secondly, the excellency and benefit of contentment are to be treated of. First, this must needs be a very excellent grace, because it argues a brave and generous spirit. Secondly, it is attended with pleasure as well as honour. Thirdly, it is also profitable (1 Timothy 6:6). A contented mind is impregnable. We are rich with a treasure that none but ourselves can rob us of. Fourthly and lastly, to sum up all in a word, contentment makes us happy. Now, he that hath arrived to the art of contentment must needs be happy, because his will and the things he converses with exactly suit with one another. The third thing is to show what are the proper means of attaining this excellent grace of contentedness. Here I will propound these following directions: — First, in order to contentment it is necessary that we understand aright the true nature and disposition of the things of this world, that we form right conceptions concerning them. In the first place, we must know that they are in their own nature indifferent. They are not really good, and so not the proper objects of our desires. Consider this, and be content. Secondly, let us consider how little will suffice us, and how unnecessary the abundance of the things of this world is. Thirdly, another effectual way to procure contentment is to make a balance, and indifferently to poise both your crosses and your blessings. If you will take the pains to lay the latter in one scale, as well as the former in another, you will make them even, though one seemed to you to be weightier than the other. Have you never heard that the wind and tempest which battered the vessel and tore its sails drove it at last to the desired haven? Valerius Maximus tells us of one in a Tyrian ship who was struck into the sea by a wave on one side, and presently another wave on the other side of the ship hoisted him up into it. So with respect to those things which we are now speaking of, there is an abundant requital. Whenever there is any loss or adverse event there is constantly some compensation goes along with it — at least, if we rightly and skilfully improve the adverse accident, for thereby we may turn blanks into prizes. There is never anything taken from us but we may find there is some supply made for it, or else there is something yet left behind that may make us forget our loss. Wherefore under this head let me advise you, instead of reckoning up what you have not, to consider what you have; and this will lead you to contentment. You can never sufficiently thank God for letting you enjoy the use of your hands, your feet, your eyes, your tongue, for these are much greater things than any you can name that you are destitute of. Consider that you have your liberty, which is an unspeakable blessing; that you are provided for daily with a sufficient portion of meat and drink; that you have not only necessary food, but raiment; that you have a habitation to shelter you from the injury of the weather. Consider, likewise, that if we labour under some particular grievance, yet God generally continues to us some blessing which makes amends for it. Set, then, your health against your poverty, and know that some wealthy persons would purchase the former, though they had the latter into the bargain. Or perhaps you are afflicted with an unhealthful state of body, with pain and torture, But then you may be supported under this grievance by reflecting on those considerable mercies which God hath not deprived you of, as a competent allowance of the other good things of this life — the help of physicians, many obliging friends and relations, a good name, etc. Fourthly, in order to contentedness, it is requisite that we be not solicitous about the future. Our present ease depends much on our behaviour as to the future. Therefore here we are to regulate ourselves, and to take care that we be not inquisitive and anxious about the events that are to come. "Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire," saith Solomon (Ecclesiastes 6:9). It is better to enjoy the good things that are present and before our eyes than to follow after future and uncertain objects with vain inquiries and wishes, for "this walking of the soul," as the Hebrew in this text elegantly hath it, this ranging of our minds, will certainly create us trouble and dissatisfaction. Wherefore let us confine ourselves to the present, and thankfully enjoy that, and not trouble our thoughts with what shall befall us hereafter. Fifthly, to cherish and preserve in him this excellent frame of spirit, he strives to learn the art and skill of making the best of all that happens to him. Sixthly, be not dejected and discouraged by what the men of the world, who have their portion in this life, are wont to suggest to you. Lastly, be thoroughly convinced of the Divine Providence which rules the world and takes care of us, and firmly depend and rely upon this, and then it is impossible you should be discontented. Seeing Infinite Wisdom governs the world and manages all things to the best ends and purposes, we may fully persuade ourselves that all things shall work together for our good.
( J. Edwards, D. D..)
(S. Walker, B. A.)
1. When we desire things that are unworthy of us, as when Nero wished to be applauded as a stage performer, or when a great man, like Browning's "Lost Leader," is led aside from his path by the offer of some petty title or distinction; and, alas! if we look into our own hearts, we shall often find, almost with a sudden shock of shame and dismay, how miserably petty are some of the objects around which our imagination is building its castles in the air.
2. Again, desire is wrong when it throws us off our balance, and makes us take a one-sided view of life.
3. Desire is clearly blamable when we allow it to absorb us and make us forgetful of the needs of others.
4. Again, desire is wrong when indulged in such a way that the failure of what we desire makes us discontented.
5. Again, if our ambition, our love, our de, ire, makes us forgetful of God, is it not worse still? There is, however, one other thing I should like to say. Primarily, and roughly speaking, God does fulfil, or shows us how to accomplish, our wishes. There is a decided a priori probability that we shall get what we want. As an exquisite fragment of Greek poetry tells us, Hesperus (the evening star) brings everything home: the sheep to the fold, and the child to the mother. So we may say of the evening of life, in very many cases, it has brought to the man or the woman the objects of lifelong desire. "All things," as we say, "come round to him who waits." But it is also possible to have a wrong desire fulfilled, and to mourn its fulfilment as our bitterest misfortune. "Occidat dum imperet (Let him kill me if he only reign!)," said Agrippina of Nero, and her aspiration was terribly realised. The thirty pieces of silver were the "desire" of Judas Iscariot! How often do we see this still! The moment we try to force God's will we desire wrongly, and are sure to repent of it.
(J. P. Newman, D. D.)i.e. the love of God; and he who keeps the last commandment checks the fountain of all sin, namely, evil desire, whence flow all wicked works" (1 John 2:15). What does this command require of us?
I. THAT WE SHOULD NOT WELD TO EVIL DESIRES. This is the easiest requirement.
1. The story of Ahab and Naboth's vineyard is a terrible example of the result of yielding to covetousness. Yet how many Ahabs are there who lust after their neighbour's house, etc., and who, when the neighbour has come down in the world and a friendly hand might raise him, do not stretch out that hand, but eagerly seize hold of the coveted possession!
2. How many are there also who, out of envy and covetousness, will disturb the peace of a household — raising discord between man and wife, between servant and master! Not more than one in ten can be found, perhaps, who would, on the contrary, seek to reconcile, in love and faithfulness, husband and wife, and how many will seek to draw a good and faithful servant even from a friend's service, with promise of higher wages, etc.! How many will either possess themselves of what is another's; or, if that cannot be, with the wickedest meanness seek to destroy or spoil the possession!
3. In this commandment God puts a check on the sin and evil desires which haunt men's hearts like savage creatures, ready to break forth in shameful deeds. He knows that wicked desires manifest themselves universally: envy, which covets a neighbour's goods; hate, which seeks a neighbour's undoing; fleshly lusts, which flame out in debauchery, pride, vanity, etc. But the apology of men, "Sin was stronger than I," will not stand; but "Let not sin reign" (Romans 6:12).
II. THAT WE SHOULD NOT NOURISH EVIL DESIRES IN OUR HEARTS. This is a much harder endeavour.
1. Men can weaken and repress such desires, but they can also excite, foster, and indulge them. The poor boy who fled from the shelter which had been accorded to him through the frost and snow of a winter's night, until the desire to steal which the ticking of a watch aroused in him had vanished, thus bravely conquered evil desire.
2. Many who have not seized a neighbour's possession have yet coveted it, and have not put restraint on this desire. Some would not injure a neighbour, but are yet rejoiced when misfortune falls on him. The envious man may never attempt to ruin another's happiness; yet if the evil thoughts were clearly brought to the light of day, how would he himself shrink from them!
3. Even when such evil desires do not blossom into deed, yet they are reckoned even as deeds in the pure light of heaven. Adultery and uncleanness, murder and revenge, envy and anger, are classed as "works of the flesh."
4. We may not prevent evil thoughts coming into our minds, but we may take care that they gain no footing within us. "You can't prevent the birds flying about your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair, said Luther. Through labour, prayer, remembrance of God and our Saviour we can give evil thoughts no place in our hearts.
III. THAT WE SHOULD HAVE NO EVIL THOUGHTS IN OUR HEARTS. This is the most difficult endeavour.
1. "Thou shalt be holy, for I am holy." "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." It is not enough that we should repress, etc., these evil desires; we must seek to banish them entirely. Not only must the weed be repressed; it must be uprooted. Can we do this? Let us hear the apostle (Romans 7:18-35).
2. But here our power has an end. Like the young man who came to the Saviour, we may keep outwardly, in appearance, all the commandments; yet this command is put here to show us that yet we have not attained — that our hearts are not yet fully temples of God; that though our lives might seem perfect to men, yet God calls us by nature lost and ruined. Thus before God stand those who say, To do good is the best religion. Truly, in doing good, religion manifests itself; but to attempt by our own little display of common honesty, etc., to make ourselves rich before God, and to despise the Christian faith, is vain. To say that this good-doing is the best religion is to lie.
3. God looks on the heart. He measures the actions by the heart. He looks not merely on the stamp which the coin bears, but at the metal from which it is formed above all. Woe to us were there no other way to life than perfectly keeping the commandments! But thank God, we have our Christian faith. The blessing we gain from an earnest consideration of this commandment is that it brings home the fact that salvation is not by the law alone, and makes us eager to learn the good news which is called the Gospel, and which tells us that "the just shall live by his faith."
(K. H. Caspari.)
LinksDeuteronomy 5:21 NIV
Deuteronomy 5:21 NLT
Deuteronomy 5:21 ESV
Deuteronomy 5:21 NASB
Deuteronomy 5:21 KJV
Deuteronomy 5:21 Bible Apps
Deuteronomy 5:21 Parallel
Deuteronomy 5:21 Biblia Paralela
Deuteronomy 5:21 Chinese Bible
Deuteronomy 5:21 French Bible
Deuteronomy 5:21 German Bible
Deuteronomy 5:21 Commentaries