Christian Churches of God


No. CB79






The Tenth Commandment


(Edition 3.0 20050729-20070517-20211024)


The Tenth Commandment says: You shall not covet. In this paper we will help children understand what it means to covet and how to avoid it.



Christian Churches of God

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The Tenth Commandment

The paper The Ten Commandments No. CB17 is the summary paper which should be reviewed prior to this series on each of the commandments. It includes a general overview of the purpose of God’s Laws and a brief description of each of the commandments.



In this Bible Study series, we have reviewed that there are ten commandments. The Ten Commandments are a set of rules that God gave us in order for us to learn how to show our love for God and our love for our neighbour. The first four commandments help us to worship God and are part of the First Great Commandment. The last six make up the Second Great Commandment and help us show the love of God to our family and neighbours.


In this lesson we will focus on the tenth and final commandment that is found in Exodus 20:17 and Deut. 5:21.


Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”


Deuteronomy 5:21 “‘Neither shall you covet your neighbour’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbour’s.’ RSV


It is interesting that the Roman Catholic religion splits this commandment into two separate commandments. As we learned in the prior lesson on the third commandment, Catholics completely remove the third commandment from their list which states “you shall not have any idols before me.” As we previously learned, the Catholic religion has many idols and statues and simply does not acknowledge the third commandment.  They attempt to justify splitting God’s tenth commandment into two commandments (the ninth and tenth according to their numbering) because in Exodus 20:17 it states neighbours’ house before wife and in Deuteronomy 5:21 it states wife before neighbours’ house. This is not acceptable according to God’s instructions in the Bible.


Most Christian/Jewish religions know and acknowledge that there are ten commandments. The number ten means ordinal completeness and perfection.  Each of God’s ten commandments is in a line order and each one builds onto the next commandment and adds more meaning and direction. Here in the tenth commandment we will see the completeness and perfection of keeping all of God's commandments.  God’s commandments all tie together, and if we break one of the commandments, in all likelihood, we have broken other commandments as well.


What is coveting?

What does it mean we should not “covet” our neighbours’ things? The Hebrew word is chamad (חמד) which is commonly translated into English as covet, lust, or strong desire. Coveting is based in our mind and once we allow the desire to grow stronger and stronger we begin to make poor choices.  It is this strong desire or lusting after someone else’s things that typically leads us to break some of the other commandments. Maybe we want something so badly that we steal it.  Maybe we want to buy something on sale, but it’s only available on the Sabbath.  Maybe we are so focused on physical things that other people have that we forget to focus on God and the blessings that we have. This commandment reminds us to keep our priorities straight. God teaches us in the Bible that our spiritual life, rather than our physical possessions, should be our focus.


Matthew 6:19-21 KJV - Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


This doesn’t mean we don’t have physical things or enjoy our physical things, just that we do so with the right attitude and priorities.


First Biblical example of coveting

When we look at the Bible, we see the first being that coveted was Lucifer (whose name was later changed to Satan). Lucifer and all of the spiritual beings were created perfect. Most of them remained in this state. The Bible describes that eventually iniquity was found in Lucifer’s heart as he coveted God’s throne. 


Isaiah 14:13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north;  RSV


Lucifer convinced one third of the angels to take part in his plan to take over God’s throne.  His name was changed to Satan and he and the fallen host were banished to the Earth. For details of the rebellion see the paper The Creation of the Family of God (No. CB4).


This is a great example of how coveting led Satan to break all of the other commandments.  Satan clearly broke the first and second commandments by placing himself above God, and ended up breaking the remaining commandments as well. He created false religions with other gods and days of worship, he did not honor or respect his Father, his rebellion brought murder and violence to the entire creation, he committed spiritual idolatry by placing himself above God, he bore false witness to his spiritual brothers by leading a rebellion, and as we stated earlier, this all stemmed from coveting God’s throne and position.


The Story of Ahab

1Kings 21 is a story about coveting. The story is about Ahab, the king of Samaria, and what happened to him when he coveted his neighbour’s land. 


 Kings 21 Naboth’s Vineyard

1Kings 21:1-7 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samar′ia. 2And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no food. 5But Jez′ebel his wife came to him, and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” 6And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite, and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it’; and he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” 7And Jez′ebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise, and eat bread, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”


King Ahab had plenty. He looked out of his window and instead of being thankful for everything he owned, he couldn’t see any of that and just saw the vineyard he didn’t own that would be great for a garden. Purchasing the land would have been fine if the man who did own it was willing to sell; but he wasn’t.  This is the point where everything should have stopped. However, Ahab’s strong desire for his neighbour’s property took over.  When Ahab found out Naboth wouldn't sell the land, as it has been in his family for generations and selling it would be against God’s law, Ahab became unhappy and despondent or lifeless, and his wife acted out a plan for how he would obtain it anyway. 


Verses 8-16 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who dwelt with Naboth in his city. 9And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people; 10and set two base fellows opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death.” 11And the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who dwelt in his city, did as Jez′ebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters which she had sent to them, 12they proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. 13And the two base fellows came in and sat opposite him; and the base fellows brought a charge against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city, and stoned him to death with stones. 14Then they sent to Jez′ebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” 15As soon as Jez′ebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jez′ebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.


Wow - look what happened. Naboth’s wife was so focused on getting Ahab his neighbour’s property that she had him killed.  Likewise, Ahab was so consumed by his lust for more property that he didn’t care what it took to get it. 


This whole process started with just a thought. Under the first covenant, Ahab broke the commandment: “you shall not covet”, because he wanted something so much he and his wife had to kill someone to obtain it. Today, after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are under the second covenant because we have the Holy Spirit to help us understand. We need to understand that we should not even think about wanting something so much we would like to take it from someone. Ahab really broke the commandment while he was standing at the window wanting or lusting after another man’s field.  We all need to realise sin begins in the mind and that is where we need to stop it and attempt to control it. 


Verses 17-29 Then the word of the Lord came to Eli′jah the Tishbite, saying, 18“Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samar′ia; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed, and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”20Ahab said to Eli′jah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21Behold, I will bring evil upon you; I will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22and I will make your house like the house of Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, and like the house of Ba′asha the son of Ahi′jah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23And of Jez′ebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jez′ebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ 24Any one belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and any one of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat.”


25(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jez′ebel his wife incited. 26He did very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.) 27And when Ahab heard those words, he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. 28And the word of the Lord came to Eli′jah the Tishbite, saying, 29“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the evil upon his house.” RSV


Once Ahab’s punishment for breaking God’s law was told by the prophet Elijah, Ahab immediately humbled himself before God and repented. His life was spared, although he and his family had to endure hardships to learn their lesson.


This story of Ahab and Naboth can relate to the story of Jesus Christ and Satan. Naboth symbolizes Jesus Christ who was content with his position as a son of God. Naboth was content with his position and wanted to hold onto his property to preserve his inheritance. Ahab on the other hand, was like Satan who was not content with his position and coveted God’s throne. Both Satan and Ahab had to endure hardship as a result of breaking God’s laws. The good news is that in God’s infinite wisdom, He also created a plan to reconcile all beings back to Himself, both physical and spiritual. In the future, Satan, like Ahab will be made aware of his sins. Satan will be made a man and have a chance to also repent in the Great White Throne Judgement.


Isaiah 14:12-17 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' 15But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit. 16Those who see you will stare at you, and ponder over you: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, 17who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?' (RSV)


(For more information see the play Lesson:  The Battle of Christ and Satan (No. CB81) and the paper Who Is Satan (No. CB60)).


Different Ways We Can Avoid Coveting

It is not wrong to want things; we just need to be careful not to cross over to coveting.  This requires faith on our part to wait and trust God to give us things when the time is right. God is the great giver and wants to give us blessings, yet we need to obey Him first. In Psalm 37:4 it tells us first to focus on God and then He will give us the desires of our heart. God is the perfect father and gives us what we need when we need it.


Psalm 37:4  Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. RSV


One of the great examples in the Bible is found in Luke 4, the temptation of Jesus Christ.


Luke 4:1-13 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit 2for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" 5And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." 8And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" 9And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; 10for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' 11and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 12And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (RSV)


Satan was trying to tempt Jesus Christ with things that Satan coveted:  power, authority, glory, and the ability to test God. Jesus Christ was able to withstand Satan’s temptations by understanding God’s way of life and staying true to God’s laws.  Jesus used scriptures to answer Satan and was not tricked into coveting what he didn’t have.



Just like the example of Jesus Christ, we need to know what the opposite of coveting is and focus on that. Be appreciative and count our blessings. We can learn to make a special effort to appreciate the good things in our lives. Some people actually write down what they are grateful for as a way to focus on the positive things that occur in their life on a daily basis.  We are to practice pure undefiled religion, do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. When we are doing these positive things we will greatly reduce the tendency to covet.


James 1:27  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world  RSV


Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?


In Romans we learn how we are to love another. If we truly love one another we will not be caught coveting things that we don’t have.


Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. RSV



Coveting begins in the mind as a thought.  In order to combat some of these thoughts, we need to learn not to focus on what we don’t have, but what we do have and learn to be content in that.


Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. RSV


Psalm 103:2-5  Bless the Lord, O my soul,  and forget not all his benefits,  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live[a] so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (RSV)


Our true treasure is not here on earth, but in our relationship with God the Father.  Physical things will always pass away, but our relationship with God will endure forever.  Remember what Jesus Christ said to Matthew:


Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. RSV


As we finish up the studies on the Ten Commandments, remember God did not create the commandments to be a burden; rather they are a blessing helping and guiding us to develop our relationship with God the Father and those around us. 


1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. RSV