Cornelius Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Ques. 113. What doth the tenth commandment require of us?
Ans. That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary to any of God’s commandments, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness.
Lord’s Day 44, Heidelberg Catechism
One thing have I desired!
That will I seek after!
That I may consciously dwell in the presence of my God all my days!
To keep my eye focused upon His glorious majesty, His infinite perfections, virtues, praises!
And to extend needy hands to Him, the Fountain of every good and perfect gift, that out of His fullness I may receive abundant grace, even one gift upon another!
My needs are so many. The desire to live is still present with me. Along with that, I need to breathe, to eat, to drink, to be active, and to rest.
I need to think, to plan my day, to do my work, to be a part of my family, to have friends and companionship in the communion of the saints.
Also my spiritual needs are so many, for which I covet the best gifts of love and devotion to my God.
For among all my many and various needs, this is the greatest: that I may know Thee, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent! Covenant fellowship with God, along with His approval and blessing, always remains my greatest need: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
Coveting belongs to my very being as rational, moral creature, which is so deeply dependent upon my God!
I am reminded of the rich young ruler, who came to Jesus with the burning question in his soul, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered: Keep God’s commandments, particularly the commandments of the second table of the law. The young man remembered that this was what the scribes had taught him as far back as he could remember. He had always tried to keep the letter of the law all his life, but it had not given him the peace with God, which his soul so greatly desired.
Then Jesus told him to sell all his earthly goods, take up his cross, and become His disciple. “One thing thou lackest,” Jesus had said; that one thing is required by the tenth commandment, reminding you that you shall love the Lord your God with your whole being, for keeping the commandments is a matter of the heart!
The young man went away sorrowing. Never before had he realized how strongly his heart was attached to his earthly possessions. How difficult it would be to put them all away. Yet we may believe that by the grace of God he did it. For Jesus had compassion on Him.
Our holy coveting has turned to sin and is now corrupted by sin!
Our first parents coveted the fruit of the forbidden tree in paradise.
Cain was jealous of Abel, hated him and killed him.
Joseph’s brothers envied him and sold him as a slave into Egypt, where Potiphar’s wife lusted after him. After all, he was an attractive young man.
David lusted after Bathsheba, even though he had many wives. Before all was said and done, he had committed adultery, murder, theft, and virtually every other sin.
Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard as his own, and left it to his wife to dispose of Naboth, so that he could claim the vineyard.
Judas was a thief. He sold Jesus to the enemy for thirty pieces of silver. He tried to spare his life by joining the enemy, yet he ended up hanging himself and dashing headlong into hell.
This list becomes endless. For obviously covetousness lies at the root of all sin. It is the root of all evil! For sin is more than giving in to bad influences, more than bad habits. Sin is a matter of the heart!
Scripture speaks of sin as ‘missing the mark’. The mark, the target of our lives is set by God, because He is God! We always miss the mark, because we always, often even deliberately, aim in the wrong direction!
Our hearts are evil, filled with carnal lusts. Jesus warns us, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man,” (Mark 7:21-23).
Paul tells us that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” and “to be carnally minded is death,” (Rom. 8:6, 7).
John in his epistle speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life as so many manifestations of the love of the world, and the things of the world, which love is contrary to the love of God.
The tenth commandment reaches down to the root of our sins, condemning not merely the outward act, but the wicked, corrupt nature.
The final command of the law is very specific!
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” A man must not covet the woman God gave to someone else. Likewise, a woman must not desire the husband that belongs to another woman. God joins to every man his own, divinely appointed wife, and to every woman her divinely chosen husband. This is for life, even until death brings the parting. No one shall relinquish his or her mate to another. This is simply a divine ordinance that man may not ignore. Yet what happens? A neighbor’s wife is so much nicer, so much more appealing than a man’s own wife. A neighbor’s husband is far more affectionate and considerate than a woman’s own husband. Sometimes mates are exchanged. Sometimes the one leaves the divinely appointed mate to seek out or to lure one that is more desirable. All sorts of lustful sins are committed within and outside of the marriage bond. We know, better than God does, whom we should love. The root is covetousness, which God hates, even as He hates idolatry!
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass,” (Deut. 5:21). Today we would say, thy neighbor’s house, his car, his land, his job, his motor home, his cottage, or any of his many earthly treasures. This can readily reveal itself in selfish greed. The rich man of the parable is a good example of that. We read, “The field of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly.” That was God’s work. Yet the man gloated as if he had himself to thank for the wonderful crop. He planned to build bigger barns to store his immense crop. And then he would say to his soul—his soul, mind you—”You’ve attained! You are well insured for many years to come. Eat, drink, and be merry; forget about that miserable Lazarus who lies at your gate!” But God said . . . “Thou fool!”
No, money is not the root of all evil. But the love of money, the covetous nature is!
Why does a drunkard or a drug addict ruin his health and his reputation, steal and kill to satisfy his cravings, and bring disaster upon himself and his family?
Why does a person bring untold grief upon his parents, his wife and children by carrying on with another woman, or vice versa? Why is the divorced person still dissatisfied?
Why does the thief begin with petty stealing (maybe a nickel or a dime that stings his conscience at the time) and end up with a crime that ruins his business and sends him to jail?
Why does a person enjoy being dissatisfied, always craving more than he or she has, always complaining, never content? Why does the spendthrift waste his money, and the miser greedily cling to it?
But why add more? The answer is that covetousness is a matter of the evil heart and the corrupt nature! From the heart are the issues of life!
How do we escape from this evil? Will some new, firm resolution deliver us? Will an external reform hold control of the heart? Jesus speaks of sweeping the house clean of one devil, and thereby preparing it for seven even worse devils. He also tells of devils that cannot be driven out, except by close communion with God. There are selfish, carnal lusts that cannot be overcome except by humbling ourselves as needy, helpless creatures before the face of our God!
In all sincerity our prayer must arise to heaven, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23, 24)
My God says: Be thou holy, for I am holy! Be thou perfect, for your heavenly Father is perfect!
That does not mean that I can make this a nice ideal in my life. Nor does it mean that God is pleased with an imperfect faith and an attempt at holiness. Pretty good is not good enough!
The holy, righteous God has the right to require of me that I love Him with my whole being in everything! And that I extend my love to my neighbor, to be concerned about his welfare as much as my own!
And I? I see it now. I am evil, born in sin! I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor! O wretched man that I am! Nothing less than sincere sorrow and daily repentance can please God!
My only escape is in my Savior Jesus Christ, who was my Savior on the cross and is now my Savior in heaven! I begin to understand what Paul meant when he said, “For to me to live is Christ!” Christ is the reason for my life, Christ is the source of my life, Christ is the power within my life, Christ is the purpose of my life. He is my goal in all my life! Only in Christ can death be gain for me!
At the feet of the apostle I learn to say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content!” Yet I must learn it anew time and again!
True thankfulness is extending needy hands to heaven, pleading for grace that Christ may be my all in all!
One desire: My God! In Christ Jesus!! Forevermore!!! AMEN.