Another fascinating evening at our Bible Explored group looking at the tenth commandment – “You shall not covet”. This commandment comes last because in many ways it sums up the previous nine commandments. Idolatry, murder, adultery etc. tend to flow from the desires of a heart which is not set on God. There is no eleventh commandment: “You shall not get found out”. But there is a tenth commandment telling us to guard our heart.
Of course there is the question of what coveting actually is. There is sometimes a fine line between admiring something (or someone) or coveting. Admiration involves recognising the beauty and the good in another; coveting turns that recognition into a desire to possess, and leads to envy, jealousy and resentment. Not that everyone sees coveting as a negative; we recognised that so much of our advertising and our material culture is designed to create dissatisfaction with the status quo, and, if not stir up the desire to have our neighbour’s possessions, then at least have the equivalent high-value goods, or better.
So how we change the desires of our hearts? The short answer is, that on our own, we cannot do so. When the rich young man asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life, the one thing he could not do was leave everything behind and follow Jesus (Mark 10:17-28). He might have thought he possessed great wealth, but in truth great wealth possessed him. Or again, the apostle Paul discovered that while the command itself was good, the prohibition against coveting only led him to want to covet more (Rom 7:7-12).
That’s why we ended up tonight in 1 Cor 6:9-11. Many of the offences Paul lists in verses 9-10 are direct breaches of the Ten Commandments, and he is reminding the church that they used to be guilty of such transgressions. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11).
That’s the real change Jesus death on the cross makes for us. We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified. The trouble with the Corinthian church was that they had become dull to these great truths, and saw their freedom in Christ as licence to do as they please. In this season of Lent, as we approach Good Friday, it’s worth asking how much we really value the change Jesus has made in our lives.