The Tenth Commandment
James J. Barker

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,
thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, ..." - Exodus 20:17

Text: EXODUS 20:17



1.    Today we will finish our series on the Ten Commandments.  The tenth commandment is different from all the others.  Unfortunately many people do not recognize covetousness as a sin (cf. Romans 1:29-32; I Cor. 6:9, 10; Eph. 5:5; II Tim. 3:1-5).

2.    D.L. Moody said: “I believe this sin is much stronger now than ever before in the world’s history.  We are not in the habit of calling it a sin.  In his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul speaks of a ‘cloak of covetousness’ (2:5).  Covetous men use it as a cloak and call it prudence and foresight.  Who ever heard it confessed as a sin?  I have heard many confessions, in public and private, during the past forty years, but never have I heard a man confess that he was guilty of this sin.  The Bible does not tell of one man who ever recovered from it, and in all my experience I do not recall many who have been able to shake it off after it had fastened on them.  A covetous man or woman generally remains covetous to the very end.”

3.    The other commandments forbid sin in the act – do not kill, do not commit adultery, etc. But the tenth commandment condemns the very desire to act in a wrong way. Therefore, you could say its transgression is a sin of the heart.

4.    The tenth commandment gives us strong proof that God wrote the Ten Commandments (and the rest of the Bible as well).  Think this through with me: No human court of law would be competent to judge this transgression.  How could a human court cast sentence upon a sin that is essentially a sin within the heart?

5.    However, what man cannot see and judge, God both sees and is able to pass sentence upon.  God looks beyond the mere outward act of sin to the fountainhead of evil – the heart (cf. Mark 7:20-23).





1.    Covetousness is basically an inordinate desire for what one does not have.  Many people covet after money (I Tim. 6:9, 10).

2.    D.L. Moody called the tenth commandment a “root-extractor” because it would tear up and destroy this root of covetousness.

3.    Many people covet after money, houses, cars, clothes, gadgets – you-name-it!  Many people are being brainwashed by TV commercials.  Even little children are being taught to be covetous by the constant bombardment of toy commercials on the television.  Parents – this is another good reason to turn the TV off.  If you cannot control it, you ought to get rid of it.

4.    We covet when we set our hearts upon something, especially that which belongs to another.  Often desire has so obsessed a man’s heart that he has resorted to gaining it unlawfully.

5.    That is why our Lord said: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:15).

6.    God has promised in His Word that He will supply all our need, but nowhere is it stated that God will give us everything that we want.  Our wants must be distinguished from our needs.  And our wants should be subject to God’s perfect will as it is revealed to us in the Bible.

7.    A long time ago in Springfield, Illinois, a neighbor heard two little boys making a fuss and so he went outside to see what was going on.  It was Abraham Lincoln walking by with his two sons.  “What’s the matter with your boys?” the neighbor asked. Lincoln replied: “Just what is the matter with the whole world!  I have three walnuts and each boy wants two.”



1.    The tenth commandment shows the impossibility of earning heaven by keeping the law.  God demands not only faultless behaviour, but a flawless thought life as well, which no one possesses (cf. Rom. 7:7).

2.    Therefore, to earn heaven by keeping the law would require a heart that never had a covetous thought.  We might be able to fool others.  We may even fool ourselves.  But we cannot fool God.  His word says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

3.    Someone has called the tenth commandment the door which leads to the violation of all the other nine.  Think about this – why do people commit murder? Covetousness.  Think of the death of Naboth.  Why did Judas Iscariot betray our Lord?  For 30 pieces of silver!

4.    Why do people commit adultery?  Covetousness – “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Ex. 20:17).  Remember David coveted Bathsheba before he committed adultery with her.  And in his case covetousness not only led to adultery but also to lying and murder.

5.    Why do people steal?  Covetousness – remember the sad story of Achan (Joshua 7:19-26).

6.    Why do people gamble?  Covetousness – they want quick money without working for it. A while back, I saw a cartoon.  Two men were sitting on a park bench.  One man was reading a newspaper and the headline read: “The National Gambling Impact Study Commission Report Is Due Next Year.” The man reading the paper says to the man next to him, “It’ll undoubtedly say millions of people are addicted to gambling.”  The second man says, “Bet you 7 to 1 it doesn’t!”  A lady passing by says, “I’ll take 10 bucks of that.” 

7.    It was a humorous cartoon, but gambling is no laughing matter.  Millions of Americans are addicted to gambling.  And it is because of covetousness.

8.    A sure sign that many people in our country are guilty of breaking the tenth commandment is the gambling craze that is sweeping the nation.  Did you know that in 1978 when the casinos first opened in Atlantic City, it was #50 in the nation in per capita crime.  Today it is #1! 

9.    Gambling is just another tax on poor people who are too foolish and ignorant to realize they are being hoodwinked.

10. Here is an article from USA TODAY, February 27, 2006 – “Good lottery luck can go bad fast.  Attacks, bankruptcy oftentimes follow winners.”

• William "Bud" Post, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania Lottery in 1988, had a brother who tried to have him killed for the inheritance. Post lost and spent all his winnings. He was living off Social Security when he died in January.

• Two years after winning a $31 million Texas Lottery in 1997, Billie Bob Harrell Jr. committed suicide. He had bought cars, real estate, gave money to his family, church and friends. After his death it was not clear whether there was money left for estate taxes.

• Victoria Zell, who shared an $11 million Powerball jackpot with her husband in 2001, is serving time in a Minnesota prison, her money gone. Zell was convicted in March 2005 in a drug- and alcohol-induced collision that killed one person and paralyzed another.

• Evelyn Adams, who won the New Jersey Lottery twice, in 1985 and 1986, for a total $5.4 million, gambled and gave away all of her money. She was poor by 2001, and living in a trailer.

11. Here is an article from the NY POST, February 26, 2006 – “Tickets To Ruin.” 

Many lottery winners seem to inherit the winners' curse. In the past two years, two winners have been shot dead, one overdosed, one killed her pal in a drunken-driving crash and three others were arrested, including one for attempted murder.

This does not include the dozens of lotto winners who have endured bitter divorces, scam artists and bankruptcy.

"It's just a tragedy — it goes against the American dream," said Hillsborough County, Fla., Police Officer Debbie Carter, who investigated the kidnapping and murder of $20 million lotto winner Jeffery Dampier last July 26.

Already a father of three and grandfather to two, Dampier and his wife adopted two more children after his win and was known in his close-knit community for supporting those in need both financially and emotionally.

His sister-in-law Victoria Jackson and her boyfriend, Nathaniel Jackson, are accused of the shooting Dampier, 39, in the head. They pleaded not guilty on Feb. 2. "The fact that he could help so many people with that money and it was his own relatives who killed him is just so sad," Carter said.

Rick Camat, 31, who shared $87 million with 13 Starbucks co-workers in 2000, was shot dead by cops at a Seattle football stadium Oct. 10, 2004.

Officer Nicholus Bauer, 42, opened fire after Camat shot a 9mm pistol allegedly at a car.

In Cincinnati, police are still investigating the mysterious death of Virginia Metcalf Merida, 51, who was found decomposing in her palatial mansion Nov. 27. She and her husband, Mack Metcalf, won $65.4 million in 2000; both quit their jobs to start their new life. Metcalf, 45, who had a longtime drinking problem, died alone in 2003. Cops are waiting for toxicology reports to determine whether Merida died of a drug overdose.

Minneapolis millionaire Victoria Zell faces charges of vehicular homicide. On July 20, 2004, she crashed her SUV into a truck on the way home from a bar, killing one passenger and paralyzing another from the waist down. Two months later and out on bail, Zell broke off a court-ordered monitoring bracelet to visit her daughter in Duluth. A search of her house produced a small amount of methamphetamine, for which she was also charged. She was sentenced to three months' jail and still struggles with drug addiction.

Perhaps more shocking is the country's youngest lottery winner, Kevin Sutton, who at 19 won $3 million in 1997. On June 26, 2004, Sutton allegedly shot friend Cristobal Lopez, 40, in the head at Sutton's Longmont, Colo., home. Lopez survived and Sutton was charged with attempted murder. He awaits trial. It wasn't Sutton's first run-in with the law since he won. In October 1998, he pleaded guilty to prohibited use of a weapon. In January 2002, he was charged with disorderly conduct after fighting in public, to which he also pleaded guilty.

Last October, Christina Goodenow, 38, won $1 million in an Oregon lottery; cops learned the ticket was bought with her dead mother-in-law's credit card and charged her with fraud.

The most notable of lottery losers is Jack Whittaker, who until last week — when eight ham-processing plant workers in Nebraska, including Tran, won the $365 million Powerball jackpot — was the biggest lotto winner in the country, raking in $314.9 million in December 2002. After Whittaker was arrested twice for drunken driving and hit with a sexual-harassment lawsuit, his granddaughter Brandi Bragg died of a drug overdose Dec. 20, 2004. She was 18. Whittaker, 57, did not return calls to his home in Jumping Branch, W.Va., but his ex-wife has said she wished he hadn't won, adding that had she known what lay ahead, "I would've torn up that ticket."

In some cases, lottery winners saw their cash siphoned off by soon-to-be-ex-spouses.

Connie Parker, 74, of Melville, L.I., picked up a $25 million lotto ticket in February 2003 while shopping for a Valentine's Day card for her husband of 16 years, Kenneth. Three months later, Kenneth sued for divorce and half her lottery take, claiming he had given her $20 to buy the ticket. She settled with him in January for $1.8 million.

And in November 2004, then-bankrupt Queens parking attendant Juan Rodriguez, 49, won $149 million Mega Millions jackpot. That same week, his wife, Iris, filed for divorce and sued for half.

Some newly minted millionaires simply don't know what to do with it all.

Evelyn Adams, 53, won the New Jersey lottery twice — in 1985 and 1986 — for a total $5.4 million. She now lives in a trailer after gambling and giving it away to so-called friends. In 2001, the bank foreclosed on a house she had bought with her winnings.

"Honey, I'm the type of person who would give people the shirt off my back, and that's what happened," she told The Post in 2004.

Words of wisdom came from bankrupt $16.2 million lotto winner Bud Post, 66, before he died of respiratory failure at his Seneca, Pa., home Jan. 15.

"Everybody dreams of winning money," he said. "But nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork." In the two weeks after Post collected the first of his 26 annual payments of $497,953.47, he spent more than $300,000. He acquired a liquor license, a lease on a Florida restaurant for his brother and sister, and a used-car lot for another brother. He also bought a twin-engine plane, though he did not have a pilot's license. Within three months, he was $500,000 in debt. When he died, he was living on a $450 month disability pension.

12. So we know covetousness is behind gambling and all the troubles associated with gambling.

13. Why do people work on the Lord’s Day?  I’m not talking about professions where they have to work, such as doctors or policemen, etc.  Why are all the stores open on Sunday?  Covetousness.

14. Why do people lie?  Covetousness.  It was covetousness that led Ananias and Sapphira to lie about how much money they received from the sale of their land (Acts 5).

15. Many other examples of covetousness could be cited.  There is no question that the tenth commandment is a sin which begets every other sin.

16. We have looked at the definition of covetousness, and the nature of covetousness.  Now let’s look at the cure for covetousness.



1.    At the root of all covetousness is a basic distrust of God’s providence.  Covetous people lack faith.

2.    The covetous person is not satisfied with God’s provision for him.  He wants more.  But remember – God created us and He knows what is best for us.  And the void in man’s heart is too big to be filled with the fleeting pleasures of this world.

3.    Only the Lord Jesus Christ can fill a man’s heart and satisfy his cravings.  This is the only true cure for covetousness!

4.    All my life-long I had panted for a draught from some cool spring

     That I  hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within.

     Hallelujah!  I have found Him whom my soul so long has craved!

     Jesus satisfies my longings; Through His blood I now am saved.

5.    Perhaps there are some here this morning who are saved but yet have been covetous.  Beloved, learn to be content.  The apostle Paul said: “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

6.    Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

7.    I like the farmer who visited a big shopping center for the first time. When he was later asked what he thought, he said: “I don’t know when I’ve seen so many things I could do without.”

8.    Many years ago a man tried an experiment.  He owned ten acres of land next to a highway and put up a big sign saying: “These ten acres will be given to the one who is perfectly content.”  It wasn’t long before a man came knocking on his door.  The man opened his door and asked, “What can I do for you, my friend?”  The visitor replied: “As I was traveling down the road, I noticed your sign that says you will give this ten-acre piece of land to the one who is perfectly content.  I’m here to claim it.”

·        The owner then asked, “But sir, are you perfectly content with your lot in life?  Are you satisfied with such things as you have?”

·        “Certainly,” the visitor answered.  “I’m happy and satisfied.  Life has been good to me.  I have nothing to complain about.  I am perfectly content.”

·        “Then, my friend,” the owner said, “if you are perfectly content with your lot in life and with your possessions, why do you want these ten acres?”



1.    The Bible plainly teaches that covetous people cannot enter into heaven (cf. I Cor. 6:9, 10; Eph. 5:3-6).

2.    The Bible says “for because of these things cometh the wrath of God” (Eph. 5:6). D.L. Moody used to tell of a wealthy man who was asked to make a contribution to a worthwhile charity.  This text was quoted to him: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Pro. 19:17).  The man refused to make a contribution and said he did not want to wait to get paid back by the Lord.  Moody said this: “He was dead within two weeks.  The wrath of God rested upon him as he never expected.”

3.    Our Lord told the parable of the seed that was sown among the thorns, “and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22). Don’t let covetousness and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word of God.  Turn to Christ now and He will save you.

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