Today is Yom Kippur! Which also means it is the last of the Ten Days of Awe. It is only fitting that today we examine how the Tenth Word ties into the other nine as both an imperative and indicative for God.
Wait… what? What are those two words? Glad you asked. Imperative statements are commands, such as Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” Indicative is simply a fancy term that means a stated fact. Throughout scripture we are given indicative statements something that is true. These are the “Thus sayeth the Lord” verses through scripture as well as statements like “by grace you have been saved” in Ephesians 2:5. What’s interesting about the Tenth Word is the possibility that it may actually be both imperative and indicative.
Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
IMPERATIVE – DO NOT COVET
Obviously, the Tenth Word is similar to the other nine in that we are told not to do something. In this case, we are told not to covet – an action that is unobservable. But it is easy to see how coveting could actually lead to the other nine. This is because coveting…
- Turns our focus to other “gods” in our life.
- Tempts us towards defining God in tangible ways, thereby creating an idol.
- Causes us to act in a way that does not carry God’s name well.
- Causes us to abandon Sabbath in order to pursue other things.
- Skews relationships with our parents because we want someone else’s parents.
- Causes anger (or even murder) because we are jealous of someone else’s life.
- Turns us into adulterers because we want someone else’s spouse.
- Tempts us to steal because we intensely covet something.
- Causes us to lie about our own life because we covet someone else’s.
These are just a few ways in which coveting can be connected to the rest of the Ten Words. God calls us to abandon our jealousy of things outside of our life – other homes, other vehicles, other spouses, other families, other vacations, other et ceteras. When we do, the Tenth Word transforms from an imperative statement to an indicative one. It transforms from a command to a statement of fact.
INDICATIVE – DO NOT COVET
Why is this? Because, if we don’t want someone else’s life, home, spouse, family, etc., then we do not covet. We’re happy with our own life, we’re perfectly content with what God has given us, and we’re brought to a place where we simply do not covet. Not because we are fighting against coveting as an imperative command, but because we simply don’t covet. Thus, the Tenth Word becomes a statement of fact rather than a “Thou Shalt Not”.
How do we get to the point where we do not covet? I think the answer lies in contentment. Paul gives us some insight in this this in Philippians 4:10–13. “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Here is a man who knew what it was like to have a lot and to have a little. To be completely safe under the protection of wealthy and influential people and to be in grave danger from those who sought to shut down the Christian faith. Yet, despite this Paul was content. He learned what it means to be content in all circumstances. Why? He understood that everything we have and everything we are is all because of God. When we truly understand this point then like Paul we will not covet.
Spend a few moments asking God to examine your heart and bring any covetousness to the surface. Through repentance, communicate to God that you are thankful for every good gift he has given you. Give thanks for every need he has ever come through for you.