The Ninth Commandment
The Ninth and Tenth
Commandments declares You shall not covet
your neighbor's wife.
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.” Exodus 20:17
The Catholic decision to split the commandment into two separate commandments and to make the ninth commandment merely “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” also focused on a prohibition against sexual desire for someone else’s spouse.
As with each of the previous Commandments, it is directed toward our relationships. It specifically deals with the thoughts that threaten those relationships and can potentially hurt ourselves and our neighbors. Our motives define and govern the way we respond to everyone we come in contact with. Our transgressions of God's law of love begin in the heart as Jesus confirmed. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:21-23
Covet means to crave or desire, especially in excessive or improper ways. It tells us that some desires are wrong. Coveting is an immoral longing for something that is not rightfully ours. That is usually because the object of our desire already belongs to someone else. But coveting can also include our wanting far more than we would legitimately deserve or that would be our rightful share. The focus of the Tenth Commandment is that we are not to illicitly desire anything that already belongs to others.
Our natural inclination is always to think of ourselves first. We are far more interested in what we can get rather than what we can give. That is the essence of what God is denouncing in the last two Commandment. He tells us to stop thinking only of ourselves and to quit seeking only our interests. Coveting is the selfish approach to life and selfishness is the root of our transgressions of God's laws. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” James 2 You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.” James 4:1-2
As James points out, coveting can be a root cause of many sins including murder and warfare. If not controlled, what begins as a thought becomes an obsession that leads to an act. All of us have “conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Ephesians 2:3. We have all let our desires rule our behavior. Accordingly, we have all sinned (Romans 3:10, 23).
Covetous persons are held by their own greed as surely as beasts with cords, or fish with nets, or men with chains. Coveting captivates our minds and tears down our convictions. A covetous person becomes "me-centered." They begin to neglect their life with God, and find no time for service, Bible reading, and prayer.
The Ninth Commandment you shall not covet your neighbor's wife is given, addressing all men! It warns them of over-straining the physical instincts, which are first awakening and aroused in mind! Since the initial glint when meeting a woman, it often escalates in a man through thoughts, ending up with forbidden sexual desires. This inner desire, although it does not manifest itself towards the woman in an outwardly visible way, is something unhealthy and therefore harmful.
This is another commandment that might appear to be for adults only or perhaps for swinging singles. It's actually for anyone whose mind and heart can hold sexual thoughts. It means a lot more than not looking with longing at a suntanned, bikini-clad neighbor though. Some have interpreted it as banning any thoughts of that neighbor and any sexual thoughts at all. A more possible and human reality is that thinking about sexuality and sexual activity is a natural part of growing up.
Thinking about things sexual is not "bad"; rather, allowing yourself to get hung up on such thoughts can and will create problems. A typical problem will be that you find it hard to shake such thoughts, and may even wish to encourage them. And that's where you pass over the line into sin. It works better though in trying to keep this commandment to attempt a positive maximum of thinking of others as whole persons, not as sex vending machines.
The commandment is rooted in a time when women were considered to be property, and some versions of the 10 Commandments even lump the ninth with the 10th, concerning not coveting another's property. If we uproot it from those times, and plant the value in the present, it takes on a whole new meaning.
While the equality of women and men has been put into law, attitudes still need to be reshaped. The underlying value this commandment carries for modern days is to work for the equality of everyone—men and women, young and old, of every race.
This Commandment speaks about the thoughts relating to a woman. When talking about the neighbor’s wife, then all women belong here. Therefore this phrase does not concern only the actual person of the neighbor’s wife, but also his daughters and sisters. God’s Commandment is meant to be all-encompassing. It speaks about the necessity of purity in a man's relationship towards women in general.
James writes, 13 “No one experiencing temptation should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15.
The whole thrust of this commandment is summed up by Jesus in Matthew 15:19–“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.”
The classical Christian term for covetousness is concupiscence.
Concupiscence does not mean sensuality. It means disordered desire.
Concupiscence names the intensity of our desire which, when turned away from God, distorts everything we do or don’t do.
In biblical terms, the focus isn’t on human sensuality and sexuality, but on the human “heart”–the core and center of our humanity and all its impulses, including the physical.
Jesus was drawing from the Old Testament and Jesus intent was to point out to his audience that coveting a woman is a form of adultery.
The emphasis Jesus was making was not on admiring a beautiful woman, but rather on having a discontent heart. Jesus wants husbands and wives to be committed to each other and not have a cheating heart.
It is not sin for a man to find a woman beautiful or
attractive. I own a nice car and it is ten years old. When I see my
friend's brand new car, I can find it attractive and I can even think
about buying one. But if I stop there I'm not coveting. If I decide, “I
have to have one of those”; then I begin to covet.