Our Friday series on the Ten Commandments takes us to the Ninth and Tenth Commandments.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What is the Ninth Commandment?
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbor's inheritance or house, or get them in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
What is the Tenth Commandment?
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor's wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
Concordia: A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord includes a helpful summary of Luther's thoughts from the Large Catechism:
Luther says that God gave these two commandments to ensure His people knew that stealing is not only the physical act of taking unjustly from another, but is also the desiring of something that is not ours, such as our neighbor's wife, servants, or any property belonging to our neighbor. These commandments are not broken with the hand or the mouth but with the heart. They remind people who consider themselves virtuous that they too, by nature, sin. Toward the end of his explanation, Luther offers a powerful and critical theological insight. All the commandments constantly accuse us of sin and reveal to us where we stand under the Law in God's eyes: guilty! This is the chief purpose of the Law, to show us our sin (p. 392).
Luther says it well:
In whatever way such things happen, we must know that God does not want you to deprive your neighbor of anything that belongs to him, so that he suffer the loss and you gratify your greed with it. This is true even if you could keep it honorably before the world. For it is a secret and sly trick done "under the hat," as we say, so it may not be noticed. Although you go your way as if you had done no one any wrong, you have still injured your neighbor. If it is not called stealing and cheating, it is still called coveting your neighbor's property, that is, aiming at possession of it, luring it away from him without his consent, and being unwilling to see him enjoy what God has granted him.
So how do you know if you've sinned against the Ninth or Tenth Commandments? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have strong wants, desires, or cravings that consume my thoughts?
- Do I resent or envy those who have more than I?
- Do I neglect my marriage, family, church, and other relationships in a desperate attempt to satisfy the wants and desires of my flesh?
- Have my wants kept me from being happy with and thankful for what God has given me?
- Am I discontented with the spouse the Lord God has given me?
- Am I discontented with the job I have or the employees I supervise?
- Have I neglected to urge someone to remain faithful to his or her spouse?
- Have I wanted my neighbor's husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, workers or property to be mine?
- Have I fostered discontent with the congregation, its pastor, or leaders, and failed to urge members to stay and do their duty in the Divine Service, praying, giving and serving.
And remember, your heavenly Father is the giver of all good gifts. And most importantly, He has given His Son as an eternal sacrifice for the sins of the world. In Christ you have all that you need, and more to come! Amen.