Bible Study: The Ten Commandments

[This post is one of the sections from our recently published Bible study guide available for free download]

“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

3 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

5 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

6 Thou shalt not kill.

7 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8 Thou shalt not steal.

9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:1-17)

The ten commandments are frequently divided into two different “tables”:

• The first table (Commandments 1-4) are concerned with man’s relationship with God

• The second table (Commandments 5-10) are concerned with man’s relationship with man

When asked what the greatest commandment of the law was, Jesus responded by saying,

“Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

With these words Jesus summed up the entire law, and each of these two commandments corresponds to one of the “two tables” of the law. It is only through God’s revelation that we can know how to behave towards our neighbor, so naturally the laws concerning our relationship with God must have priority, both in Jesus’ summary of the law and in the Ten Commandments. Without knowing and obeying God we would not know how to love our neighbor properly.

The First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”

The First Commandment is the starting point of man’s relationship with God. Man must recognize that there is only one true, almighty and all-knowing God. This is the principal fact of all reality. It tears out the root of all atheistic and polytheistic systems. It declares that the world is not a chaotic continuum of competing forces, as we see in the Greek paganism of Homer or in modern secularism.

The fact of one true God must be established before we can even begin to consider questions of moral conduct; for if there is not one infallible God determining right and wrong, there can be no morality. If there were multiple gods with different moralities competing for supremacy with each other, then morality would change, and we could never know which god might have the upper hand on any given day. If there were no god at all—that is, if there were no transcendent reality—there could also be no morality, because morality is something that transcends the physical world and it cannot be derived from purely material objects. Before we can even think thoughts like “this act is evil” or “this act is good,” we must presuppose that an eternal, unchanging law-giver exists.

The Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”

The Second Commandment condemns idolatry, which was at the center of pagan religious practice. Ancient pagans made idols out of stone, wood or other physical materials. These idols were made to resemble animals, men, or fantastic creatures. Natural objects and phenomena like the sun, moon, stars, seas and rivers were also personified as gods and worshiped.

The essence of paganism is therefore focusing on an object that has been created by God (such as the sun) and rendering to this object the honor that is rightfully due to God. When viewed properly, everything in nature points to the Creator; but fallen men are blind to this truth. The process of turning away from God into the practice of pagan idolatry is described by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (Romans 1:20-24).

In addition to worshiping objects created by God, idolaters also end up worshiping their own human skill. They set up the work of their own hands as a god that can grant them blessings. This absurd aspect of idolatry is explained by the prophet Isaiah.

“Then shall it [a tree] be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.” (Isaiah 44:15-17)

The Third Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain”

The Third Commandment prohibits the vain use of the name of God. Here we are forbidden from speaking all of the common obscenities that make use of the divine names. We are also forbidden from using the name of God in false oaths and in any light or frivolous conversation. As we say in the Lord’s prayer, “hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9); the name of God is to be hallowed, that is, kept holy. The LORD is the Almighty Creator, ruler of heaven and earth, and our lives are completely in his hands. It is utterly foolish to invoke his name in a casual or empty manner. Every time we speak his name we should strive to maintain deep respect and reverence for the one we are naming.

The Third Commandment also serves as a warning against vain speech in general, which is frequently condemned throughout Scripture. For example, Jesus tells us,

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

The apostle James also warns of the great evil that is brought about by an unbridled tongue,

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:6-8)

It is through the improper use of speech that we spread evil rumors and convince fellow men of false doctrines, thereby leading to the destruction of their souls. As Christians we are required to honor God in everything we say, and this starts by following the Third Commandment.

The Fourth Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”

The Fourth Commandment forbids work upon the seventh day of the week. This is the only one of the ten commandments that seems to have a ritual function. While polytheism, idolatry and blasphemy are wrong because they directly deny God or contradict his nature, God commands a day of Sabbath rest to commemorate his creation of the world. Unlike the commandments against polytheism, idolatry and blasphemy, there would be nothing contradictory about God altering the commandment about the Sabbath just as he altered the commandments about animal sacrifice.

In addition to the weekly Sabbath rest, God also commands the observance of Sabbath years and Jubile years:

“…When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:2-4)

“And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” (Leviticus 25:8-10)

The apparent ritual nature of these commandments combined with certain passages from the New Testament, such as Colossians 2:16-17, has caused many Christians to conclude that the Fourth Commandment is no longer binding under the New Covenant. Other Christians have strongly maintained that the commandment is perpetually binding, but that the day of observance has been transferred from the seventh day of the week (Saturday) to the first day of the week (Sunday) to commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still other Christians (such as Seventh-Day Adventists) hold that the the seventh day of the week is still the proper time for Sabbath observance.

Regardless of our interpretation on the details of when the Sabbath should be observed, it should be acknowledged that a general principle of rest on a specific day is good for the soul of the individual, the family and the community (or nation):

1. For the individual, not having a day of rest would certainly cause him to become overly strained and suffer ill consequences both mentally and physically

2. For the family, a lack of a common day of rest contributes greatly to the disunity we observe today in American families. This is in addition to other measures that have been taken to destroy the family unit, such as children being sent off to public schools for the majority of the day, away from their family, and separated from their siblings via age segregation.

3. For the community, the abolition of a common day of rest makes it impossible to observe Sunday (or Saturday) together as a community, set aside for corporate worship. The Soviet Union in the early 1900’s practiced this very method in their attempt to eliminate Christianity from their empire.

Early America observed a common day of rest (Sunday) wherein all businesses were closed. This action honored God in acknowledging that it is not by our own labor or might that we have any of the wealth or blessings that have come upon us:

“Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God…And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:11, 17,18)

Observing the Sabbath acknowledges that our salvation, our health, our wealth, and everything we have, does not come from the arm of the flesh, but from the hand of God. The same principle of faith was illustrated in God’s provision of double the amount of manna on the 6th day of the week in Exodus 16. The same could be said of the Sabbath year:

“And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.” (Leviticus 25:20,21)

Various communities in early America observed a Sabbath year, and like many of God’s laws, obedience to the law of the Sabbath year had practical benefits; in this case, it was the health of the land as noted by R.J. Rushdoony:

“By this rest, the soil also is restored and revitalized. By allowing the field to go to weeds, the weeds of the field are given the opportunity to bring to the topsoil minerals from below and pruned, and again renew their vitality. The fruit which falls and rots again contributes to the soil. The value of the sabbath in regenerating the soil is very great. But man, lacking faith, prefers his own work to God’s work, and his proposed rest to God’s sabbath….. The earth clearly is renewed by rest, or it is exploited ruthlessly and finally turned into a desert, as witness Babylon and the Sahara.” (R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, The Craig Press: 1973; The Fourth Commandment, Section 2: The Sabbath and Life, pages 141-142)

As Christians, we are to acknowledge our dependence upon God in all areas of life. Observance of the Sabbath is a practice in faith and a denial of viewing ourselves as our own salvation. Whether, as a people, we acknowledge the sabbath as Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, as Saturday, as Sunday, or whether we view every day to be equally holy (Romans 14:5-6), the principles of the sabbath ought to be taken serious by all who are God-fearing.

The Fifth Commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother”

The Fifth Commandment is the first of the ten commandments that regulates our behavior towards other people, and it is the only one that specifically references an authority relationship. While elsewhere the Bible discusses the proper roles of husbands and wives and of magistrates and citizens, these authority relationships are not mentioned directly in the ten commandments.

Outside of the relationship that we have with God and his Church, there is no more important relationship than that with our immediate family. Properly honoring one’s parents is the cornerstone of a healthy family, and by extension of a healthy society.

“Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)

“My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” (Proverbs 1:8,9) Additional related Proverbs; 6:20-24, 19:26, 20:20, 23:22-25, 30:11-14,17

Although he was the Son of God and the Lord of all creation, Jesus made himself subject to his earthly parents (Luke 2:51), providing an example that we are all to follow. During his earthly ministry, Jesus strongly emphasized the importance of our duty toward our parents:

“But he answered and said unto [the Pharisees], Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:3-9)

Thus we can conclude that whatever religious devotion we appear to have, if we fail to honor our father and mother, and provide for them, our religion is vain and our worship of God is hypocritical and false. Paul builds upon this premise in his 1st letter to Timothy:

“But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1Timothy 5:8)

When we are reconciled to God through the atonement of Christ, we are given the spirit of adoption and can rightfully call on God as our father:

“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

By choosing the parent-child relationship as the principal human model for our relationship with our Creator, God indicates how much esteem we are to show to our earthly mothers and fathers.

Violating the Fifth Commandment and encouraging others to do so was one of the main strategies used to undermine Western societ y, starting with the cultural revolutions of the 1960s. Both the public schools and the media encourage children and adolescents to view their parents as fools and bigots worthy of ridicule, rather than honor. The family patriarch has especially become the target of vile insults and mockery, as the “idiot father” has become a stock character of countless television sitcoms.

While we currently have very little control over the civil government or the media, we do still possess a level of influence over our own families. Therefore the most immediate and significant step we can take toward reforming society is reforming our own families. This is done by making the Fifth Commandment the foundation of the family structure.

The Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”

With the Sixth Commandment we have the first of a series of “thou shalt not” statements. Commandments six through ten show us the most grievous offenses we can commit against our neighbor, and it is natural that we start with the commandment against murder. In the account of Cain and Abel we see that murder was the first offense committed by one man against another that was recorded in the Bible.

Throughout the Scriptures God emphasizes the contrast between life and death; this pair of opposites is frequently used to illustrate important spiritual truths. Prior to being converted to Christ, we are dead in our sins,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Jesus says that Satan was a murderer from the beginning,

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning…” (John 8:44)

John 8:44 is directed specifically at the impenitent Jews, but we must not allow this fact to give us any false security. As Gentiles and even as professed believers, we are in great danger of coming under the same condemnation. As John tells us,

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:14-15)

While the Sixth Commandment clearly forbids the physical act of murder, the Bible teaches us that there is a much deeper meaning here as well. Satan is a murderer not because he caused a physical body to stop functioning, but because he tempted our first parents to sin. Sin brought in the curse of physical and spiritual death; and sin that goes unpardoned leads to eternal damnation in the world to come.

We can see why Jesus accused the impenitent Jews of the first century of being murderers just like Satan. For centuries the Jews have promoted ideologies that lead to spiritual death for themselves and for all those who are duped into believing their lies. We can also see why John used such harsh language for professing Christians who do not exhibit the love that God demands from them toward their brethren. Hatred is the root cause of unlawful killing (murder). Therefore, the Sixth Commandment, when understood spiritually, must forbid unlawful hatred as well.

Furthermore, as the visible Church, we are called by God to witness to the truth of the Gospel. When we engage in hatred and feuds against our fellow Christians, we send the message to the world that the Gospel is false, and that the Gospel does not really transform hearts and grant peace to those who accept it. By failing to be the Church that God wants us to be, we drive away others into eternal death.

Finally, hardly any comment is needed in response to those pacifists who attempt to use the Sixth Commandment to condemn all use of violence by either individuals or the state. The pacifist argument is simply absurd, given that elsewhere in the Mosaic law God gives clear instructions on the execution of criminals and the waging of war.

Certainly, as Christians we are to practice the doctrine of loving our enemies, blessing those who persecute us, and doing good to those that hate us (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:14). We must be cautious not to err on either side of the issue. We are required to hold a general attitude of love, peace, honor, and blessing toward others, e ven when we receive the opposite treatment. Yet this does not entail that we are to be silent or apathetic in protecting our families, tribes, or nations, or in defending the innocent.

The Seventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”

While the Bible condemns many sexual sins, the crime of adultery is the only one of these that is explicitly mentioned in the ten commandments. The Fifth Commandment protects the institution of the family by requiring children to honor their parents. The Seventh Commandment, protects the institution of the family by requiring marital chastity. The Fifth and Seventh Commandments are also connected in that they both govern relationships that are used as images of the relationship between God and believers. Scripture describes the Church as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2), and the prophet Ezekiel compares apostate Israel to an adulterous wife:

“I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work…But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was…Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them.” (Ezekiel 16:12-13,15,17)

By using the marriage relationship as an image for his relationship with us, God both emphasizes the solemnity of marriage and brings out the intensely personal nature of his love for us. Marital infidelity is a great tragedy and it has always been one of the main causes that drives men and women to commit murder. The emotional pain that is caused by adultery cannot be overstated and we ought to meditate frequently on the fact that our sins grieve God in a similar manner.

In addition to the emotional pain that adultery can cause to the betrayed spouse, this horrible sin also has serious negative consequences for society. Adultery poses a great risk to the proper inheritance of land and property, especially in the ancient world when DNA tests could not be used to determine paternity. When society adopts a soft attitude on adultery and frivolous divorce (which is itself a kind of adultery, see Matthew 19:9) children are robbed of the stability of the family. The irregular family situations that result from adultery and divorce cause countless other problems for the children involved.

Once society becomes addicted to sexual immorality, the depraved masses will do whatever it takes to maintain this debased “freedom.” Parents will murder their own children through abortion and the aging, childless population will invite in foreigners to conquer their ancestral lands.

Just as with the Sixth Commandment, the New Testament also explains the Seventh Commandment in a way that expands it to condemn evil thoughts as well as evil actions:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27,28)

When we allow our heart to desire things that are contrary to the law of God, a part of us is tacitly saying that God’s judgment is in error. This form of desire or covetousness is the main idea behind the Tenth Commandment.

The Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”

With the Eighth Commandment, God not only forbids theft, but establishes private property. If theft is wrong, then there must be some objects that belong by right to certain individuals. This is one commandment in particular that cannot be understood in isolation from the rest of the Mosaic law.

Men of different political beliefs have entered into endless debates and conflicts about what constitutes theft. To a left-wing socialist the entire capitalist system involves theft. To an extreme libertarian any sort of state control over private property is theft. Some fiscal conservatives argue that funding our government with debt is robbing future generations who will be forced to repay our loans. Some pacifists think that any land or wealth won by conquest is a form of stealing.

Without further clarification from an authoritative source, it is impossible to say what exactly theft is. The Bible, being the word of God, lends clarity and judgment. The scriptures establish the following principles:

• It is just to hire workers for a wage (Leviticus 19:13)

• Under certain circumstances, territory and riches can be won by military force (Deuteronomy 20)

• Certain types of wealth cannot be concentrated in the hands of a few oligarchs (Leviticus 25)

Those who seek to define theft without thoroughly examining the law of God will ultimately end up relying on their own faulty, subjective impressions of justice. It is evident that all legal codes not founded on divine revelation will have an unstable, irrational foundation.

We have already noted the significance of the family in the Mosaic law in the Fifth and Seventh Commandments. Concern for the family is very much at the center of the commandment against stealing as well. The Eighth Commandment establishes the validity of private property, and private property is essential to establishing familial authority.

Ancient Israel (as well as traditionally Christian nations) was an aggregate of tribes, clans and families; it was not simply an aggregate of individuals. In order for these families to possess any real authority, it was necessary for them to have a real economic independence from the state. Oppressive taxation, the welfare state, a debt-based economy, “free trade” and mass immigration have all contributed to impoverishing the family. The patriarch of the family has been supplanted by the state, and children today look at their parents more as roommates than as authority figures.

The Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness”

The Third Commandment and Ninth Commandment both condemn forms of evil speaking. The Third Commandment, being on the “first table” of the law, forbids us from speaking false or impious things in relation to God, while the the Ninth Commandment, being on the “second table” of the law, forbids us from speaking lies in relation to our neighbor.

God is always truthful. The Bible tells us that, “God is not a man, that he should lie” (Numbers 23:19) and Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). By contrast, fallen angels and fallen men are both distinguished by their deceitfulness. Jesus defines Satan as being the father of lies:

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

This passage brings out the great evil of lying by comparing it to murder. Lies told in courts of law lead to the subversion of justice and loss of trust in the magistracy, bringing death to society. Lies told in religious matters can lead to the eternal damnation of souls. Even “small” lies about our neighbors are seen as great sins in the eyes of God.

The following scriptures demonstrate how serious God takes the subject of speaking only true and edifying words:

• Jesus declares that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)

• Solomon proclaims under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Lying lips are abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 12:22)

• The LORD commands through Moses in the law of God, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.” (Leviticus 19:16)

• Paul the Apostle instructs believers, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Christians are responsible for every word that they speak. If we strive to observe Paul’s injunction in Ephesians, we will find it very difficult to engage in common gossip. Spreading unflattering information about others is almost never done for edification. When the information that we spread is unverified or gained second-hand we are in even greater danger of breaking the Ninth Commandment.

As Christians our primary calling is to be witnesses to the truth embodied in Jesus Christ; we must cease to lie one to another, having “put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). We are called to relate the true facts concerning the life, death and resurrection of the Word made flesh. Bearing false witness against our neighbors is the complete inversion of the Christian’s calling.

The Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet”

When considering the Sixth Commandment and Seventh Commandment we observed that certain New Testament passages teach that simply desiring to commit sin is sinful in itself. In the Tenth Commandment we see that the Mosaic law taught this same principal. This is the only commandment in the “second table” of the law that directly applies to the inner state of our hearts.

The Tenth Commandment forbids the Pharisaical approach to ethics that focuses exclusively on outward behavior while allowing evil thoughts within to flourish:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”(Matthew 23:27-28)

Covetousness is not only dangerous because it might eventually lead to the outward sins of adultery and theft, but because it makes people despise God’s law and become discontent with his providential rule over creation. Those who abstain from outward sins out of fear of punishment while secretly wishing they could do what is forbidden are certainly not sons of God. The Bible tells us,

“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.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Failure to obey the Tenth Commandment has had serious repercussions for all of society. The Apostle Paul is bold to say that, “the love of money is the root of all evil”(1 Timothy 6:10), and when we look at the ideological foundations of capitalism, Marxism and other revolutionary ideologies, the truth of this statement is evident. According to the Scriptures, even slaves should find contentment in their situation and serve their earthly masters sincerely:

“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the LORD, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:22-23)

Contentment with one’s lot in life has been the foundation of all traditional Christian societies; this contentment ensures that social change occurs gradually and organically. Anti-Christian ideologies like Capitalism and Marxism place greed at the center of human motivation and make a virtue out of the vice of envy.

The envy-based ideology of racial egalitarianism has grown especially pernicious in recent years. The purveyors of this ideology encourage the inferior races of mankind to envy the achievements of the white race and they argue that the injustice of “racism” is the only reason why the inferior races have not enjoyed similar levels of success.

Egalitarian ideology is especially dangerous because the God-ordained racial differences that are so obvious to unbiased eyes cannot be overcome. No amount of social engineering or revolutionary restructuring of society will ever bring Negroes to the same level as whites; thus Negroes are left in a perpetual state of unfulfilled envy. The solution to the problems of envy-based ideologies is in the commandment against covetousness and the numerous Biblical passages that demand us to be content.

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