What does the tenth commandment teach us?


To be content with what we have.

We’ve done it – we’ve reached the last of the Ten Commandments. But even though it’s at the end of the list, the tenth commandment is still part of the Second Table of the Law. So that means… well, I bet you know where I’m going: it teaches us how to love our neighbors as we love ourselves! In Exodus 20:17, God commands, “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.

“Covet” is a word that we don’t use very much. If you looked the word up in a dictionary, you would learn that it means to really, really, really want something someone else has – to want it so much that you moan and groan and make yourself and those around you miserable! Here’s a little rhyme to help you remember what it means to covet: “I like it, I love it, it makes me want to covet!”

In the tenth commandment, there’s a whole list of things people coveted back in the time of Moses. They would complain that their neighbor had a better house, a cuter wife, and a stronger donkey than they did. But whining and complaining about anything you don’t have is still coveting. From video games to cars to big muscles… if we’re miserable about not having it, we are breaking the tenth commandment.

Instead of complaining and coveting, the answer to this question tells us to “be content with what we have.” To be content is to be satisfied, sort of how your tummy feels after a great big meal. The apostle Paul talks about being content in Philippians 4:11-12: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

According to Paul, it’s possible to be content in every situation. Stuffed or starving, healthy or sick, free or in prison – Paul experienced all these situations. No matter where we find ourselves, Paul makes it clear. The answer is always the same: to be content, not to covet!


+ The tenth commandment gives examples of things people coveted in the past. What things tempt you to covet?

+ What things make it easier to covet and harder to be content?


Phil 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:6-8; Heb. 13:5; Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21; Rom. 7:7

© 2023 Andrew Doane. All rights reserved.