Friday, February 7, 2014
Life In Christ: Tenth Commandment
LIFE IN CHRIST
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
"YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF"
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
You shall not covet . . . anything that is your neighbor's. . . . You shall not desire your neighbor's
house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.318
2534 The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with
concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and
fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. "Lust of the eyes" leads to the violence and injustice
forbidden by the fifth commandment.319 Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited
by the first three prescriptions of the Law.320 The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the
heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law.
I. THE DISORDER OF COVETOUS DESIRES
2535 The sensitive appetite leads us to desire pleasant things we do not have, e.g., the desire to eat
when we are hungry or to warm ourselves when we are cold. These desires are good in themselves;
but often they exceed the limits of reason and drive us to covet unjustly what is not ours and belongs
to another or is owed to him.
2536 The tenth commandment forbids greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It
forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to
commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods:
When the Law says, "You shall not covet," these words mean that we should banish our desires
for whatever does not belong to us. Our thirst for another's goods is immense, infinite, never
quenched. Thus it is written: "He who loves money never has money enough."321
2537 It is not a violation of this commandment to desire to obtain things that belong to one's neighbor,
provided this is done by just means. Traditional catechesis realistically mentions "those who have a
harder struggle against their criminal desires" and so who "must be urged the more to keep this
. . . merchants who desire scarcity and rising prices, who cannot bear not to be the only ones
buying and selling so that they themselves can sell more dearly and buy more cheaply; those
who hope that their peers will be impoverished, in order to realize a profit either by selling to
them or buying from them . . . physicians who wish disease to spread; lawyers who are eager
for many important cases and trials.322
2538 The tenth commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart. When the
prophet Nathan wanted to spur King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man
who had only one ewe lamb that he treated like his own daughter and the rich man who, despite the
great number of his flocks, envied the poor man and ended by stealing his lamb.323 Envy can lead to
the worst crimes.324 "Through the devil's envy death entered the world":325
We fight one another, and envy arms us against one another. . . . If everyone strives to unsettle
the Body of Christ, where shall we end up? We are engaged in making Christ's Body a corpse.
. . . We declare ourselves members of one and the same organism, yet we devour one another
2539 Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate
desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a
St. Augustine saw envy as "the diabolical sin."327 "From envy are born hatred, detraction,
calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor, and displeasure caused by his
2540 Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should
struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should
train himself to live in humility:
Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother's progress and you will
immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the
merits of others, God will be praised.329
II. THE DESIRES OF THE SPIRIT
2541 The economy of law and grace turns men's hearts away from avarice and envy. It initiates them
into desire for the Sovereign Good; it instructs them in the desires of the Holy Spirit who satisfies
The God of the promises always warned man against seduction by what from the beginning has
seemed "good for food . . . a delight to the eyes . . . to be desired to make one wise."330
2542 The Law entrusted to Israel never sufficed to justify those subject to it; it even became the
instrument of "lust."331 The gap between wanting and doing points to the conflict between God's Law
which is the "law of my mind," and another law "making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in
2543 "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and
the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who
believe."333 Henceforth, Christ's faithful "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires"; they
are led by the Spirit and follow the desires of the Spirit.334
* III. POVERTY OF HEART
2544 Jesus enjoins his disciples to prefer him to everything and everyone, and bids them "renounce all
that [they have]" for his sake and that of the Gospel.335 Shortly before his passion he gave them the
example of the poor widow of Jerusalem who, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.336
The precept of detachment from riches is obligatory for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven.
2545 All Christ's faithful are to "direct their affections rightly, lest they be hindered in their pursuit of
perfect charity by the use of worldly things and by an adherence to riches which is contrary to the spirit
of evangelical poverty."337
2546 "Blessed are the poor in spirit."338 The Beatitudes reveal an order of happiness and grace, of
beauty and peace. Jesus celebrates the joy of the poor, to whom the Kingdom already belongs:339
The Word speaks of voluntary humility as "poverty in spirit"; the Apostle gives an example of
God's poverty when he says: "For your sakes he became poor."340
2547 The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods.341
"Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the
Kingdom of heaven."342 Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety
about tomorrow.343 Trust in God is a preparation for the blessedness of the poor. They shall see God.
IV. "I WANT TO SEE GOD"
2548 Desire for true happiness frees man from his immoderate attachment to the goods of this world
so that he can find his fulfillment in the vision and beatitude of God. "The promise [of seeing God]
surpasses all beatitude. . . . In Scripture, to see is to possess. . . . Whoever sees God has obtained all the
goods of which he can conceive."344
2549 It remains for the holy people to struggle, with grace from on high, to obtain the good things God
promises. In order to possess and contemplate God, Christ's faithful mortify their cravings and, with
the grace of God, prevail over the seductions of pleasure and power.
2550 On this way of perfection, the Spirit and the Bride call whoever hears them345 to perfect
communion with God:
There will true glory be, where no one will be praised by mistake or flattery; true honor will not
be refused to the worthy, nor granted to the unworthy; likewise, no one unworthy will pretend
to be worthy, where only those who are worthy will be admitted. There true peace will reign,
where no one will experience opposition either from self or others. God himself will be virtue's
reward; he gives virtue and has promised to give himself as the best and greatest reward that
could exist. . . . "I shall be their God and they will be my people. . . . " This is also the meaning of
the Apostle's words: "So that God may be all in all." God himself will be the goal of our desires;
we shall contemplate him without end, love him without surfeit, praise him without weariness.
This gift, this state, this act, like eternal life itself, will assuredly be common to all.346
2551 "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6:21).
2552 The tenth commandment forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant
2553 Envy is sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate desire to have them for
oneself. It is a capital sin.
2554 The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the
providence of God.
2555 Christ's faithful "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24); they are led by
the Spirit and follow his desires.
2556 Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are the poor
2557 "I want to see God" expresses the true desire of man. Thirst for God is quenched by the water of
eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14).
317 Ex 20:17; Deut 5:21.
318 Mt 6:21.
319 Cf. 1 Jn 2:16; Mic 2:2.
320 Cf. Wis 14:12.
321 Roman Catechism, III,37; cf. Sir 5:8.
322 Roman Catechism, III,37.
323 Cf. 2 Sam 12:14.
324 Cf. Gen 4:3-7; 1 Kings 21:1-29.
325 Wis 2:24.
326 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 2 Cor. 27,3-4:PG 61,588.
327 Cf. St. Augustine, De catechizandis rudibus 4,8:PL 40,315-316.
328 St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job 31,45:PL 76,621.
329 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in Rom. 71,5:PG 60,448.
330 Gen 3:6.
331 Cf. Rom 7:7.
332 Rom 7:23; cf. 7:10.
333 Rom 3:21-22.
334 Gal 5:24; cf. Rom 8:14,27.
335 Lk 14:33; cf. Mk 8:35.
336 Cf. Lk 21:4.
337 LG 42 § 3.
338 Mt 5:3.
339 Cf. Lk 6:20.
340 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus 1:PG 44,1200D; cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
341 Lk 6:24.
342 St. Augustine, De serm. Dom. in monte 1,1,3:PL 34,1232.
343 Cf. Mt 6:25-34.
344 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus 6:PG 44,1265A.
345 Cf. Rev 22:17.
346 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 22,30:PL 41,801-802; cf. Lev 26:12; cf. 1 Cor 15:28.