The Shorter Catechism, 24
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Q79: Which is the tenth commandment?
A: The tenth commandment is, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbourís house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbourís wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbourís".
See Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21.
Q80: What is required in the tenth commandment?
A: The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.
You shall not covet; that is: you shall be content with what you presently have. You shall not covet the things that are of your neighbour; that is: you shall not begrudge what he has, but shall have a right spirit toward him and his possessions. So, in short, the tenth commandment requires two things:
First, it requires full contentment with our own condition. We should be content with what we have. "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have", Hebr. 13:5. Let we not covet after things we donít need, but "having food and raiment let us be therewith content", 1 Tim 6:8. We know that God cares for all the beasts of the earth. Much more will He care for us. He gives us enough. He gives us so much, or so less, as He thinks it good for us. Let us therefore be content with the measure He gives us. He better then any of us knows what is good and enough, or necessary for us, so letís be content with the portion our heavenly Father gives us. It is God, Who has put us in a certain condition. Let us be content, nay, fully content with what He has decreed over us.
Secondly, this tenth commandment requires a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all this is of him. Possesses our neighbour more wealth? Let us be content therewith. Has he a better condition? Let us not covet this. Is he glad, and is he doing well? Let we rejoice with him. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep", Rom. 12:15. We should have a charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour. "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth", 1 Cor. 13:4-6.
Q81: What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A: The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his.
"You shall not covet", says this commandment. Why are we sometimes coveting? Because we are not content with what we are, of what we have. Discontentment is the cause of envy and coveting. "You shall not covet", says the commandment. This means, "You shall not be discontent"; and: "You shall not envy or grieve at the goods or your neighbour". Coveting is an inordinate affection to things that are not our own. Therefore, when it is said "you shall not covet", this also means, "you shall have no inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is not of you". This tenth commandment forbids three things:
First, it forbids all discontentment with our own estate. "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer", 1 Cor. 10:10. The people in the desert murmured, and what was the result? They were destroyed of the destroyer. So, this is the result of discontentment. They were, in the desert, not content with the situation they lived in, but repeatedly murmured. Destruction was the end thereof. Be you therefore not discontent with what God has given you. He better then you knows what, and how much, is good for you.
Secondly, the commandment forbids envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbourís house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbourís wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbourís". Have the other people more then you? "You shall not covet". Have they more riches? "You shall not covet". Live they more comfortably? "You shall not covet". Is everybody healthy except you? "You shall not covet". Has somebody a good job? "You shall not covet". Do never envy your neighbour, and be never grieved as his wealth. "Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another", Gal. 5:26.
Thirdly, the commandment forbids all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is of our neighbour. "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry", Col. 3:5. Note that Paul calls covetousness idolatry. These things are your members which are upon the earth. Covetousness is earthly-mindedness, which is not becoming for anyone that is a member of Christ. Mortify your earthly members, in order that your new members, those of Christ, may revive and flourish. All inordinate motions and affections are from this earth, and should be mortified. "You shall not covet".