Inside the Ten Commandments – Part IV :: by Gene Lawley

Coming this far in considering these commandments, one might begin to wonder how well Adam held up under the vivid evidence of the results of his disobedience and its effect on mankind as he approached his tenure of 930 years of age. But the sordid tale goes on.

8. “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Stealing something that is not your own can become a developed habit, done without second thought, and one’s associations can be a major contributor to that kind of lifestyle. “Someone has observed, “If you want to become a bank robber, just hang around with some bank robbers for a while.”

Lack of commitment to the Lord, coupled with greed and self-elevation, may well lead to that kind of habit. Those who do not know the Lord, and perhaps some who do know Him, are not aware that the Lord is very benevolent to those who belong to Him.  He tells us in Psalm 84:11:

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory;no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

In another place, we are told, “You have not because you do not ask” (James 4:2), and promises of His provision are numerous throughout Scripture. Perhaps that is why we are told more than once that, “the just shall live by faith.” Believe those promises.

There is an old folk tale that speaks to this topic, about “how to catch a monkey.”

In a tropical region the natives were trying to get control of the monkey population to save their meager crops, but catching the monkeys who were pilfering their produce was not working. They would skitter away into the trees before the natives could get to them. Finally, they came up with an idea, after some observations of the habits of the monkeys.

Things that glittered were a fascination to the critters, so they put a glittering object of some sort in an empty, small-mouthed glass jar fastened securely to a tree. The monkey reached in, closed his fist upon the glittering object, but could not remove his fisted clutch on the treasure. The monkey would have to release his clutch on the object, but he would not do it, and that unyielding greed got him caught! (Sounds like some of us Christians, sometimes!)

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that sooner or later a thief’s driving urge to steal that which he desires will result in capture.

Paul, in Philippians 4:11-12, gives us a developed attitude picture of one who has found contentment in the Lord, looking to Him as his source of all needs:

“…For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

In subsequent verses he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (13), and then ushers us into the presence of his source for the supply of his needs with this: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (19). It is clear that one who has his heart fixed on trusting the Lord will not be one given to stealing whatever he wants.

9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

Bearing false witness is lying, not being truthful. And, “little white lies” are still just that–lies. Perjury is the term used in court, and it carries a heavy penalty. Perhaps that is why two witnesses are required, according to the law of Moses. Bearing false witness can also be identified as slander, wherein someone makes a false characterization of another person. How does gossip fit into this?

There are some things this God of love surely hates, as told in Proverbs 6:16-19:

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
1. A proud look,
2. A lying tongue,
3. Hands that shed innocent blood,
4. A heart that devises wicked plans,
5. Feet that are swift in running to evil,
6. A false witness who speaks lies,
7. And one who sows discord among brethren.”

Psalm 15 sets a high standard for those who would desire to remain in God’s favor:

“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?

“ He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord.

“He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”

Somewhere in all of this analysis there must be a place for the “Golden Rule,” and this must be it:

“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).

Now, as it is said, “we are getting down to brass tacks.” Notice that the Lord put near the top of the list that one encounter in which men (and perhaps, too, some women) are most vulnerable. But is the grass ever any greener in that other pasture?

The word used here is “covet,” which also means lust, as in 1 John 2:16:

“For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Look closely and you can see all three of those variations of lust driving the activities we are told to avoid. As a matter of fact, it may not be too much of a stretch to think of this tenth commandment as a summary of the other nine. Self-centeredness seems to motivate all disobedience of the commandments.

What better commandment could Paul have used to describe his own ongoing warfare with his flesh but this one–Romans 7:7-12:

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evildesire.

For apart from the law sin was dead.  I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

He goes on in that context to describe his struggle of the flesh versus the spirit that he experienced. Some have maintained that this portrays Paul’s life before he was saved, yet he writes the same description of the struggle of flesh and spirit in Galatians 5:16-18:

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Here he is using the same basic language as in Romans 7 and the first part of Romans 8 on how to be victorious in the warfare, and here he is clearly writing to Galatian Christians. As we are told in other places, God is no respecter of persons. If Paul did not have the same struggles other Christians have, then how could he honestly challenge other believers to follow him as he follows Christ (Philippians 3:17).

However, his directives in concluding Romans 7 and continuing on in Romans 8 of how to keep this tenth commandment are universal to all Christians—“walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Likewise, he also directs the Galatians. It is summed up in this oft-repeated statement: “the just shall live by faith” (and not by works, even the keeping of these commandments).

Finally, to summarize this look “Inside the Ten Commandments,” it must be with the only honest conclusion we redeemed sinners could have, along with the Apostle Paul:

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).