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Ten Commandments | Tenth Commandment | You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Goods

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Ten Commandments | Tenth Commandment | You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Goods

The King James Version [KJV] Bible: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.’

Do Not Covet | Live Free

This commandment, found in the Bible in the book of Exodus and also in the book of Deuteronomy, instructs Christians to not covet or desire what belongs to another person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: ‘To desire another’s goods is to commit robbery. Unlawful coveting of another’s goods is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.’ (CCC 2534)

The commandment teaches Christians to respect the property and possessions of others, and not to desire or try to take it for themselves.

How Does The Commandment Relate To Sexual Relationships?

The commandment specifically mentions ‘thy neighbour’s wife’. This can be understood as a reminder to be faithful in one’s own marriage and to respect the sanctity of the marital bond.

The commandment mentions other possessions such as ‘his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass’.

Saint Augustine, a prominent early Christian theologian, wrote in his book On the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is thy neighbour’s: doth not this commandment contain a prohibition against all kinds of evil desires?’

It is normal to have wants and desires, but this commandment reminds Christians to be content with what they have, and not to seek to take what belongs to others. Additionally, it is not to compare ourselves to others, because coveting often comes from comparison.

What Is Envy?

Envy is a feeling of resentment or jealousy towards someone else’s possessions, qualities, or achievements. It is closely related to the concept of coveting, which is forbidden in the ninth and tenth commandments.

The Catechism defines envy as ‘grief at the good of another, arising from the supposition that his own good is diminished’ (CCC 2539).

In other words, envy is the feeling of dissatisfaction or sadness that arises when we compare ourselves to others and feel that we have less in comparison.

Envy can be described as a form of spiritual cancer that eats away at one’s soul.

According to Pope Francis during his Angelus on Sunday, June 30, 2013, he called envy the ‘leprosy of the soul’. He also warned that envy is ‘poisonous’ and ‘a sort of spiritual cancer that eats away at the bones of our Christian life and eats away at love.’

Envy | Sin

Envy is a deadly sin, and is believed to be an offense against both God and neighbour, as it stems from the belief that God has not given enough to us and that we are not content with what we have been given.

Aquinas, the medieval philosopher and theologian wrote in his Summa Theologica: ‘Envy is contrary to charity, which rejoices in our neighbour’s good. Therefore it is a sin.’

Many religious leaders and scholars have written about the negative effects of envy and have urged people to resist the temptation to envy others. Pope Francis states: ‘To envy is to let oneself be dominated by sadness at the happiness of others. It is to create a distance from others and from God, because envy separates.’

How Does Envy Relate To Material Possession?

Envy and material possession are closely related because envy is often directed at the material possessions of others. When we see someone else with something that we desire, such as a nice car, a big house, or a fancy watch, we can feel envy and a sense of dissatisfaction with what we have. This can lead us to covet those things and desire them for ourselves, which is in violation of the ninth and tenth commandments.

Additionally, envy of material possessions can stem from a belief that having more things will bring happiness or fulfilment. This is often referred to as the ‘consumer culture’ and it is the belief that one must have certain material possessions in order to be happy or content. This belief can be dangerous, as it can lead to a constant desire for more and more material possessions, which can lead to an endless cycle of coveting and envy.

Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Laudato si states: ‘A person who wants to hold on to what he has may gradually become convinced that he has a right to possess, and may finally give into the insanity of wanting to possess more and more. In this way, what begins as a desire for possession can end up as an addiction.’

Furthermore, the focus on material possessions can also distract us from the true purpose of life which is spiritual growth and relationship with others. Envy can lead us to become fixated on material possessions and to compare ourselves to others based on material goods, causing us to forget that the real value of life is not in material possessions but in relationships, love, and spiritual fulfilment.