“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
In the beginning, there was a lie. “You will not certainly die.” Satan gave false testimony against the Lord, implying that God wasn’t good, that God was a liar. And then there was covetousness. Adam and Eve wanted what God had: complete knowledge. Satan wanted to be king.
In the trail to the cross, there were more lies. False witnesses standing before the Sandhedrin, inventing anything to trap Jesus. And there was covetousness, a desire in the hearts of the Sadducees for power, specifically Jesus’ power.
The last two of the Ten Commandments are not in any way last in importance. They are killers, capable of stripping humanity of Eden and capable of falsely condemning the Son of God. As with any sin, they are the opposite of God’s ways. He is the God of truth. He is the owner of all things and in Himself perfectly content. To choose to lie or to allow oneself to covet is to choose walking in darkness. To be the opposite of God and to imitate the Father of Lies.
Unfortunately, false witness and coveting come terribly easy to us. Slander sits on the tips of our tongues. Coveting lies restlessly in our hearts. We want to reduce them to “white lies” and “a natural urge to have what is good,” but we know they are more. We rarely confess them because we rarely get caught in them. They are so easy to hide, and if they come into the light, excuses are not hard to create. We fool ourselves so well.
But the Lord hears every word, and the Lord knows every desire.
But it was just a desire, we say. I did not act on it! Ancient moralists (and certainly some modern ones) did not usually recognize that a thought or desire could be considered wrong. Unless they were carried out into acts, secret longings were regarded as free of responsibility. It is of great importance then that God’s law should distinctly “assert a control over men’s thoughts and feelings, since they are the source of all that is evil in word and act” (Ellicott’s Commentary). We are to take every thought and desire and every word captive! We cannot watch ourselves too closely. But how hard it is!
Do you want to choose honesty? Do you want to choose contentment? Do you, like me, find these two commandments two of the hardest to obey?
Spend time dwelling upon the God who is Truth. Look on the face of Jesus; He is perfect contentment. No lies come from His lips. No desire comes to Him except that which is completely in line with the Father’s will. When someone deserved praise, He praised them. When someone needed condemnation, He spoke that truth as well. Rather than hold back blessings for Himself, He gave freely. In Christ, every promise was fulfilled. There was not a single blemish on our Lamb of Sacrifice. Imitate Him and you walk in the right direction.
And when the story becomes “exaggerated” without your intending it to, if you hold silent when you should speak, if you find yourself longing for something your neighbor has, the cross will be here for you. These two commandments, as much as any of the others, require the blood of Christ. Praise God for His mercy today.