The last of the Ten Commandments is:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods
What does it mean to covet? To covet someone’s goods/property is to desire to take those goods/property without just cause. Covetous desires are sinful, just like evil deeds, because an act is the execution of one’s desire. It is worth noting that just as the Ninth Commandment is the expansion of the Sixth Commandment, the Tenth Commandment is the expansion of the Seventh Commandment. The Tenth Commandment prohibits to covet other’s belongings, even if they could be acquired justly and lawfully.
Why does God forbid us from coveting another’s goods? The following are the reasons for this:
- Our desires are boundless and the desires of a person are never satisfied. In the Book of Psalm, it is written that nothing can satisfy the heart (cf. Psalm 103:5). St. Augustine confirms this by stating that nothing other than God can satisfy the yearning of the heart: “Thou hast made us for Thee, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee” (St. Augustine’s Confessions I).
- Covetousness destroys peace of heart, because a covetous person is ever solicitous to acquire what is desired.
- Since the covetous person is attentive in acquiring someone else’s possession, he/she is not able to enjoy with what he/she has in himself/herself. So, the possessions of such a person becomes useless both to the self and to the others.
- Covetousness destroys the love of God and that of the neighbor. Jesus says: “Non one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).
- Covetousness produces all kinds of wickedness, as stated by St. Paul. He says: “… those who desire to be rich fall into temptations, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
The key to understanding why it is forbidden to covet other’s goods is that it might instigate activities like adultery, murder, theft and even bearing false witness. Thus, covetousness destroys the fabric of human community.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.