Flourishing: Coveting is a desire that doesn’t make sense, either because there’s no good reason to want something, or because there’s no good way to have something. The tenth commandment makes a fitting finale for the other nine, firstly, because it reveals our need for Jesus: No matter how well behaved we are in our actions, we find ourselves wanting to do what we don’t want to do, as if there are two powers working in us. So, this command opens the door for the Gospel by revealing our need for a saviour, only Jesus can change our desires. Secondly, it shows us that the root of the sins mentioned in the other nine commandments is discontentment with God. Contentment with God produces peace and joy, almost regardless of circumstances. But when we don’t trust God’s goodness or power, we become discontent and begin to desire what others have. This makes us unhappy; if we indulge those feelings they grow inside us like a cancer into greed, avarice and envy. Eventually we are tempted to take matters into our own hands and grasp what God has not given us by breaking his law. This relationship between discontentment is particularly relevant to us because there probably has never been a time in human history when it was easier to covet what others have. This is profoundly destructive to our society and a danger for Christians.
Fencing: We must have faith that God is able to transform our hearts, not just forgive our sins, and co-operate with the work of the Holy Spirit to allow God to change us. (Rom 8:12-14) We must cultivate contentment and fight discontentment, especially in relation to how we relate to others. Practical ways to do this include: giving thanks, counting blessings, working diligently, being generous, praying for others, congratulating others, avoding using entertainment as escapism, moderate eating, fasting, not indulging lust or voyeurism, dressing and behaving modestly. When confronted with things we cannot change about ourselves or our situations, we should remind ourselves of God’s grace, we have just what we need to serve him and to be content.
Freeing: This command shows us that sin is not just a consequence of living in a fallen world, it is something we choose to do, we actively rebel against God by choosing to do what is wrong. This highlights the depths of God’s forgiveness toward us in Jesus, who died for us while we were his enemies. Jesus sets us free by giving us the Holy Spirit who is able, with our consent, to change our hearts. The Spirit confirms to us the goodness and power of God, filling us with peace and contentment. Jesus gives us the Spirit who graciously and gradually transforms our hearts while maintaining our freedom, thus making us God’s children, who delight in his law with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, rather than slaves who merely obey it outwardly. God promises not only to begin this process by faith but to bring it to completion.
Fulfilling: In contrast to the way Adam and Eve grasped after what was not theirs, Jesus, who was in very nature God, did not covet the Father’s honour and did not grasp after equality with him. Instead he made himself nothing and became obedient unto death. Because he trusted perfectly in God, he received that which he did not grasp, being given the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow to the glory of the Father. He shows us the way of the Christian life, that if we do not grasp after what we desire through sin, God will give us what we desire and far more. We do not need to take what God will give us freely. Rather, Christ invites us into the positions of sons. Despite the weakness of our love, and the incompleteness of our transformation so far, one day, as co-heirs with Christ we will know the full inheritance of Christ, the perfect knowledge of God, the vision of him, where we perceive his love with diminishment, love in return and overflow perfectly with love to all.