David covets Uriah's wife Bathsheba

You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.--Matt. 5, 27-28


But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: . . . For know ye this, and understand that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.--EPH, v. 3, 5.

The Christians of Ephesus to whom this Epistle was addressed, being recent converts and surrounded by the vices and corruptions of paganism, were exposed to great danger. Especially prevalent in that pagan world were sins of licentiousness and avarice. St. Paul during his imprisonment in Rome, so far removed from the faithful of Ephesus, felt the gravity of the perils by which they were beset, and so was moved by the Holy Spirit to direct this letter to them. He warns them, and through them all Christians, not only to fly the external commission of those capital vices of paganism, but not even to desire or unnecessarily speak of them.

I. Sins of thought and desire in general. I. God has not only forbidden the external sins of adultery and theft, but He has added two special Commandments which prohibit even the desire of these sins. 2. The reasons why God added the ninth and tenth Commandments to the sixth and seventh are: (a) to show that, unlike human legislators, He extends His laws even to interior acts; (b) because evil desires and thoughts are the source and root of all bad actions; (c) to show against the teaching of the Pharisees that even internal acts could be the cause of eternal loss. 3. The ninth and tenth Commandments forbid evil thoughts and desires of all kinds, but lust and avarice are mentioned specifically because they are more common and more easily committed. 4. The real malice of internal sins is greater than that of external sins, because it is the internal act that commands the external commission of sin. Moreover, internal sins are more dangerous to the sinner, because more easily committed, and because it is more difficult to understand their enormity.

II. Internal sins of impurity. 1. The ninth Commandment forbids not only desires but also thoughts, and has reference not only to adultery, but also to all other forms of impurity. 2. The internal sins differ in kind according to the different external sins to which they are directed. These circumstances must be explained in confession. 3. Impure thoughts and desires are always mortal sins, if they are deliberate and are consented to. It is no fault, however, to be tempted to such sins, unless one be the cause of the temptation, or neglects to resist it; neither does it matter how long the temptation lasts, or how frequently it is renewed, so long as the will rejects it.

III. Internal sins of covetousness. 1. The tenth Commandment does not forbid us to desire lawfully to obtain another's goods, nor to long for the same prosperity that another enjoys, provided we do not wish him any harm. 2. The violation of this Commandment consists in desiring unjustly what belongs to another, which may be, (a) by dwelling with pleasure on the thoughts of theft, etc.; (b) by being willing to take another's property, if this could be done; (c) by anxiously looking forward to the death of relatives or others from whom an inheritance or legacy is expected; (d) by wishing the misfortune of others in order therefrom to derive some temporal profit; (e) by desiring to use unlawful means to get rich quickly, etc.

CONCLUSION. 1. The best way to overcome impure thoughts and desires is, (a) to forestall temptations by avoiding dangerous occasions as far as possible; (b) by resisting temptations in the beginning; (c) by diverting the mind to other objects, and especially by raising it to God and holy things. 2. In order to avoid covetousness we should remember, (a) that our purpose in life is not to amass worldly possessions; (b) that nothing is more insecure than temporal goods, and that soon at longest we must leave them all.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; neither shalt thou desire his wife; nor his servant, nor his hand-maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.(1)


It is to be observed, in the first place, that these two precepts, which were delivered last in order, furnish a general principle for the observance of all the rest. What is commanded in these two amounts to this, that if we wish to observe the preceding precepts of the Law, we must be particularly careful not to covet. For he who does not covet, being content with what he has, will not desire what belongs to others, but will rejoice in their prosperity, will give glory to the immortal God, will render Him boundless thanks, and will observe the Sabbath, that is, will enjoy perpetual repose and will respect his superiors. In fine, he will injure no man in word or deed or otherwise, for the root of all evil is, concupiscence, which hurries its unhappy victims into every species of crime and wickedness.(2) Keeping these considerations in mind, the pastor will be more diligent in explaining this Commandment, and the faithful more ready to hear his instruction.


We have united these two Commandments because, since their subject-matter is similar, they may be treated together. However, the pastor may explain them either together or separately, accordingly as he may deem it more effective for his exhortations and admonitions. If, however, he has undertaken the exposition of the Decalogue, he will point out in what these two Commandments are dissimilar; how one covetousness differs from another--a difference noticed by St. Augustine, in his book of Questions on Exodus.(3) The one covetousness looks only to utility and interest, the other to unlawful desire and criminal pleasure. He, for instance, who covets a field or house, pursues profit rather than pleasure, while he who covets another man's wife yields to a desire of pleasure, not of profit.


The promulgation of these two Commandments was necessary for two reasons: first, to explain the sixth and seventh Commandments. Reason alone shows that to prohibit adultery is also to prohibit the desire of another man's wife, because, were the desire lawful, its indulgence must be so too; nevertheless, many of the Jews, blinded by sin, could not be induced to believe that such desires were prohibited by God. Nay, even after the Law had been promulgated and become known, many who professed themselves its interpreters, continued in the same error, as we learn from these words of our Lord recorded in St. Matthew: "You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'thou shalt not commit adultery'; but I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart."(4)

The second reason for the promulgation of these two Commandments is that they distinctly and in express terms prohibit some things of which the sixth and seventh Commandments contain but an implied prohibition. The seventh Commandment, for instance, forbids an unjust desire or endeavor to take what belongs to another; but this Commandment further prohibits even to covet it in any way, even though it could be acquired justly and lawfully, if we foresee that by such acquisition our neighbor would suffer some loss.


But before we come to the exposition of the Commandments, the faithful are first to be informed that by this law we are taught not only to restrain our inordinate desires, but also to know the boundless love of God towards us.

By the preceding Commandments God had, as it were, fenced us round with safeguards, securing us and ours against injury of every sort; but by the addition of these two Commandments, He intended chiefly to provide against the injuries which we might inflict on ourselves by the indulgence of inordinate desires, as would easily happen were we at liberty to covet all things indiscriminately. By this law then, which forbids to covet. God has blunted in some degree the keenness of desire, which excites to every kind of evil, so that by reason of His command these desires are to some extent diminished, and we ourselves, freed from the annoying importunity of the passions, are enabled to devote more time to the performance of the numerous and important duties of piety and religion which we owe to God.

Nor is this the only lesson of instruction which we derive from these Commandments. They also teach us that the divine law is to be observed not only by the external performance of duties, but also by the internal concurrence of the heart. Between divine and human laws, then, there is this difference, that human laws are fulfilled by an external compliance alone, whereas the laws of God, since He reads the heart, require purity of heart, sincere and undented integrity of soul.

The law of God, therefore, is a sort of mirror, in which we behold the corruption of our own nature; and hence these words of the Apostle: "I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: 'thou shalt not covet.'" (5) Concupiscence, which is the fuel of sin, and which originated in sin, is always inherent in our fallen nature; from it we know that we are born in sin, and, therefore, do we humbly fly for assistance to Him, who alone can efface the stains of sin.


In common with the other Commandments, however, these two are partly mandatory, partly prohibitory. Both these parts should be distinctly explained by the pastor, in order that they may be perfectly understood by the faithful.

With regard to the prohibitory part, the pastor should explain what sort of concupiscence is prohibited by this law, lest some may think that which is not sinful to be sinful, such as the concupiscence mentioned by the Apostle when he says:

"The flesh lusteth against the spirit,"(6) or that which David so earnestly desired when he said: "My soul hath coveted to long for thy justifications at all times."(7)


Concupiscence, then, is a certain commotion and impulse of the soul, urging to the desire of pleasures which it does not actually enjoy. As the other propensities of the soul are not always sinful, neither is the impulse of concupiscence. It is not, for instance, sinful to desire food and drink; when cold, to wish for warmth; when warm, to wish to become cool. This species of concupiscence was originally implanted in us by the Author of nature; but in consequence of the sin of our first parents it passed the limits prescribed by nature and became so depraved that it frequently excites to the desire of those things which conflict with the spirit and are repugnant to reason.

However, if well regulated, and kept within proper bounds, it is often still the source of no slight advantage.


In the first place, it leads us to supplicate God continually, and humbly to beg of Him those things which we most earnestly desire. Prayer is the interpreter of our wishes; and if this lawful concupiscence did not exist within us, prayer would be far less frequent in the Church of God.

It also makes us esteem the gifts of God more highly; for the more eagerly we desire anything, the dearer and more pleasing will be its possession to us.

Finally, the gratification which we receive from the acquisition of the desired object increases our devotion and gratitude to God.

If then, it is sometimes lawful to covet, it must be conceded that not every species of concupiscence is forbidden. St. Paul, it is true, says that "concupiscence is sin";(8) but his words are to be understood in the same sense as those of Moses, whom he cites,(9) as the Apostle himself declares when, in his Epistle to the Galatians he calls it "the concupiscence of the flesh," for he says: "Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."(10)

Hence that natural, well regulated concupiscence which does not go beyond its proper limits, is not prohibited; still less do these Commandments forbid that spiritual desire of the virtuous mind, which prompts us to long for those things that war against the flesh, for the Sacred Scriptures themselves exhort us to such a desire: "Covet ye my words,"(11) "Come over to me all ye that desire me." (12)


It is not, then, the mere power of desire, which can move either to a good or a bad object that is prohibited by these Commandments; it is the indulgence of evil desire, which is called "the concupiscence of the flesh," and "the fuel of sin," and which when accompanied by the consent of the will, is always sinful. Therefore only that covetousness is forbidden which the Apostle calls "the concupiscence of the flesh," that is to say, those motions of corrupt desire which are contrary to the dictates of reason and outstep the limits prescribed by God.


This kind of covetousness is condemned, either because it desires what is evil, such as adultery, drunkenness, murder, and such heinous crimes, of which the Apostle says: "Let us not covet evil things, as they also coveted";(13) or because, although the objects may not be bad in themselves, yet there is some other reason which makes it wrong to desire them, as when, for instance, they are prohibited by God or His Church, for it is not permitted us to desire these things which it is altogether unlawful to possess. Such were, in the Old Law, the gold and silver from which idols were made, and which the Lord forbade anyone to covet.(14) Another reason why this sort of vicious desire is condemned is that it has for its object that which belongs to another, such as a house, servant, field, wife, ox, ass, and many other things, all of which the law of God forbids us to covet simply because they belong to another. The desire of such things, when consented to, is criminal, and is numbered among the most grievous sins. For sin is committed the moment the soul, yielding to the impulse of corrupt desires, is pleased with, or does not resist, evil, as St. James, pointing out the beginning and progress of sin, teaches when he says: "Every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured; then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; but sin, when it is completed, begetteth death."(15)

When, therefore, the law says: "Thou shalt not covet," it means that we are not to desire those things which belong to others. A thirst for what belongs to others is intense and insatiable; it is written: "A covetous man shall not be satisfied with money,"(16) and of such a one Isaias says: "Woe to you that join house to house, and lay field to field."(17)

But a distinct explanation of each of the words, in which this Commandment is expressed, will place the deformity and grievousness of this sin in a clearer light.


The pastor, therefore, will teach that by the word "house" is to be understood not only the habitation in which we dwell but all our property. In this sense the word is used in Scripture. Thus when it is said in Exodus that God built houses for the midwives (l8) the meaning is that he improved their condition and means.

From this interpretation, therefore, we perceive, that we are forbidden to indulge an eager desire of riches, or to envy others their wealth, or power, or rank; but on the contrary we are directed to be content with our own condition, whether it be high or low. Furthermore it is forbidden to desire the glory of others since glory also is comprised under the word "house."

The words that follow, "nor his ox nor his ass," teach us that not only is it unlawful to desire things of greater value, such as a house, rank, glory, because they belong to others; but also things of little value, whatever they may be, animate or inanimate.

The words, "nor his servant," come next, and include captives as well as other slaves whom it is no more lawful to covet than the other property of our neighbor. With regard to the free who serve voluntarily either for wages, or out of affection or respect, it is unlawful, by words, or hopes, or promises, or rewards to bribe or solicit them, under any pretext whatever, to leave those to whose service they have freely engaged themselves; nay more, if, before the period of their contract has expired, they leave their employers, they are to be admonished, on the authority of this Commandment, to return by all means, until they shall have completed their full time of service.

The word "neighbor" is mentioned in this Commandment to mark the wickedness of those who covet the lands, houses and the like, which lie in their immediate vicinity; for neighborhood, which should make for friendship, is transformed by covetousness from a source of love into a cause of hatred.

But this Commandment is by no means transgressed by those who desire to purchase or have actually purchased, at a fair price, from a neighbor, the goods which he has for sale. Instead of doing him an injury, they, on the contrary, very much assist their neighbor, because to him the money is much more convenient and useful than the goods he sells.

The Commandment which forbids us to covet the goods of our neighbor, is followed by another, which forbids us to covet our neighbor's wife--a law that prohibits not only the adulterer's criminal desire of his neighbor's wife, but even the wish to marry her. For of old when a bill of divorce was permitted, it might easily happen, that she who was put away by one husband might be married to another. But the Lord forbade the desire of another's wife lest husbands might be induced to abandon their wives, or wives conduct themselves with such bad temper towards their husbands, as to make it necessary to send them away.

But, in the Gospel dispensation, this sin forbidden by this Commandment is more grievous because the wife, although separated from her husband, cannot marry another during his lifetime. He, therefore, who covets another man's wife will easily fall into one or another criminal desire, for he will desire either the death of the husband or the commission of adultery.

The same principle holds good with regard to women who have been betrothed to another. To covet them in marriage is also unlawful; and whoever strives to break their engagement violates one of the most holy of promises.

And if to covet the wedded wife of another is entirely unlawful, it is no less so to desire in marriage the virgin who is consecrated to religion and to the service of God. But should anyone desire in marriage a married woman whom he thinks to be single, and whom he would not wish to marry if he knew she had a husband living, certainly he does not violate this Commandment. Pharaoh(19) and Abimelech,(20) as the Scripture informs us, were betrayed into this error; they wished to marry Sarah, supposing her to be unmarried, and to be the sister, not the wife of Abraham.


In order to make known the remedies calculated to overcome the vice of covetousness, the pastor will explain the positive part of the Commandment, which consists in this, that "if riches abound, we set not our hearts upon them," (21) that we be prepared to sacrifice them for the sake of piety and religion, that we contribute cheerfully towards the relief of the poor, and that, if we ourselves are poor, we bear our poverty with patience and with a holy joy. And, indeed, liberality to the poor is a most effectual means of extinguishing in our own hearts the desire of what belongs to another.

Concerning the praises of poverty and the contempt of riches, the pastor will find little difficulty in collecting abundant matter for the instruction of the faithful from the Sacred Scriptures and the works of the Fathers.(22)


Likewise this Commandment requires us to desire, with all the ardor and all the earnestness of our souls, the consummation, not of our own wishes, but of the holy will of God, as it is expressed in the Lord's Prayer. Now it is His will that we be made eminent in holiness; that we preserve our souls pure and undented; that we practice those spiritual duties which are opposed to sensuality; that we subdue our unruly appetites, and enter, under the guidance of reason and of the spirit, upon a virtuous course of life; and finally that we hold under restraint those senses in particular which supply matter to the passions.


In order to extinguish the fire of passion, it will be found most efficacious to place before our eyes the evil consequences of its indulgence.

Among those evils the first is that by obedience to the impulse of passion, sin gains uncontrolled sway over the soul; hence the Apostle warns us: "Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof." (23) Just as resistance to the passions destroys the power of sin, so indulgence of the passions expels God from His throne, and introduces sin in His place.

Again, concupiscence, as St. James teaches,(24) is the source from which flows every sin. Likewise St. John says: "All that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life." (25)

A third evil of sensuality is that it darkens the understanding. Blinded by passion the sinner comes to regard whatever he desires as lawful and even laudable.

Finally, concupiscence stifles the seed of the divine word, sown in our souls by God, the great husbandman. "Some," says St. Mark, "are sown among thorns; these are they who hear the word, and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust after other things, entering in, choke the word, and it is made fruitless." (26)


They who, more than others, are the slaves of concupiscence, the pastor will exhort with greater earnestness. Such are the following: Those who are addicted to improper amusements, or who are immoderately given to recreation; merchants, who wish for scarcity and who cannot bear that others, by engaging in business, hinder them from selling at a higher or buying at a lower rate; those who wish to see their neighbor reduced to want in order that they themselves may profit in buying or selling; soldiers who thirst for war, in order to enrich themselves with plunder; physicians, who wish for the spread of disease; lawyers, who are anxious for a number of cases and litigations; and artisans who, through greed for gain and with a view to increase their own profits, wish for a scarcity of the necessaries of life in order that they may increase their profits. All these are offenders against this Commandment.

They too, sin gravely against this Commandment, who, because they are envious of the praise and glory won by the achievements of others, strive to tarnish in some degree their fame, particularly if they themselves are idle and worthless characters; for fame and glory are the reward of virtue and industry, not of indolence and laziness.

Sermon: The Ninth and Tenth Commandments
by the Rev. J. V. Schubert

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house; neither shalt thou desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his (Ex. xx. 17).

What do the last two Commandments teach us?

They teach us not to covet or desire, that is, to insist upon having anything that belongs to our neighbor. We must not covet his property, nor his office, nor his rank, nor his good name, nor his happiness, nor his achievements; we must not begrudge him any of these things.


Evil desires lie at the root of all sin.

When the devil was still an angel of light, he said to himself: "I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, ... I will be like the Most High" (Is. xiv. 13, 14). He desired to be equal with God. His evil passions made him arrogant and so he broke the greatest of all the commandments, and did not acknowledge God to be his Master.

The serpent in Paradise asked Eve why she did not eat the forbidden fruit, and told her that, as soon as they ate thereof, they would be as gods, knowing good and evil. These words made Eve think about the fruit, and desire to taste it. At length she yielded to the temptation and ate it, thus plunging herself and the whole human race into misery. Her evil desires made her disobey God.

Achab coveted Naboth's vineyard, and when Naboth refused to sell it, Jezabel found false witnesses, who swore what was untrue about him, and he broke the Second Commandment. Thus Achab and Jezabel sinned grievously in consequence of yielding to covetousness and evil desires.

Many people work hard on Sunday, in order to make money. Their desire for wealth makes them break the Third Commandment.

Core, Dathan and Abiron were jealous because God chose Moses to be the leader and Aaron to be the high priest of His people. They coveted these high positions for themselves, and their evil desires made them rebel against God's representatives on earth, and thus they broke the Fourth Commandment.

Absalom coveted his father's throne, and consequently he rebelled against David, and persecuted him.

Cain was jealous, because God preferred Abel. He did not control his angry passion, and so it led to his killing his brother, and breaking the Fifth Commandment.

The Pharisees were jealous of our Lord, because He could work miracles, and because many people followed Him. Their jealousy made them plot His death.

Herod coveted his brother's wife, and, yielding to his wicked desire, took Herodias to live with him. St. John rebuked him, but he would not listen, and cast John into prison, and finally cut off his head. To so great a crime did his evil desires give rise.

Judas wanted money, and his love of it made him first cheat, then be a traitor, and finally commit suicide.

You see how evil desires cause men to break every one of the Commandments. God wished to remove the root of all wickedness from our hearts, and so He ordered us to desire nothing evil. A man who has banished all such desires from his heart is not likely to sin.

Evil desires lead to misery, even if at first sight it seems as if to possess our neighbor's goods would be to our advantage. Lot wanted the richest pastures, and deprived Abraham of the best parts of the land, but he did not prosper; robbers attacked him and carried off his property, and he had to take flight when Sodom was destroyed. He suffered many troubles through trying to get the best pastures, whilst Abraham, who was less grasping, fared better.

Jacob coveted his brother's birthright and his father's blessing, and in order to obtain them he cheated Isaac and Esau, but his sin was punished. He had to flee in solitude and poverty; Laban cheated him of his wages, his own sons deceived him and he had many sorrows.

Giezi coveted Naaman's wealth, but his riches only brought upon him the fearful disease known as leprosy.

Absalom coveted the royal crown, and perished miserably. Pharao wanted the Israelites to work for very low wages, and his greed caused his death in the Red Sea.

Evil desires are like a will-o'-the-wisp, luring men to destruction, and God warns us against them by saying: "Thou shalt not covet." They spring up in our hearts like weeds, and beset us from childhood onwards, but they do not proceed from God, since He is good, and nothing bad comes from Him. They were planted by the devil in the heart of Adam and Eve on the day of their fall into sin, and we have inherited concupiscence from them. It is like a disease, and Satan is always trying to make it grow and flourish in our hearts. Ought we to look on and do nothing to stop him? In Paradise God said that He would put enmity between men and the serpent. The devil is our enemy, and because God hates him, we too must hate him, and refuse to obey when he wants us to do wrong. To us, as to Cain, God says: "The lust (to sin) shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it." The devil often tries to put wicked thoughts and desires into our minds, as he did into Eve's. Beware! If he says at night: "You are very tired; do not say your prayers," tell him that you mean to say an Our Father more than usual, to pay him out. If, when you are in trouble, he suggests that all your prayers have been in vain, and that God does not listen to your requests, answer: "You would be pleased if I were to murmur against God, like the Israelites in the desert; but you are tempting me in vain. I will be as steadfast as Joseph and Job; I will do nothing to please you."

Some Sunday morning he may whisper: "Why should you go to Mass? Stay at home, and have a good sleep." Get up at once, and tell him that he has made you do so. If your parents give you some work to do, he often suggests that they are hard upon you, and that you had better say: "I won't do it." Then you must remind him that God's representatives have more right to your obedience than he has, and you are not his slave.

Perhaps he has before now put it into your mind to take a stick and strike someone. If he does this again, tell him that you are not, like Cain, his obedient servant.

Sometimes he comes with a whole bevy of impure spirits who force their way into your heart, and try to take possession of it, and befoul it with nasty thoughts. Show them who is master, and drive all the dirty rabble out or your mind, as Jesus drove out those who denied the Temple.

There must always be enmity between God's children and the devil, and we are bound to stifle the evil thoughts and desires that he puts into our minds. Only a coward gives way to them; it is our duty to resist the devil's suggestions. It may not be easy to get rid of him, for he is cunning, and, when one plan fails, he tries another, but that should not trouble us. In a battle the bravest soldiers meet with most opposition, and we can overcome the devil on earth, just as the good angels overcame him in heaven. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Fight bravely under our Lord's banner, and some day He will say to you: "Well done, you have fought the good fight, receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love Him."


Is it never right to desire anything for ourselves?
The Israelites in the desert desired bread, water and meat, and God supplied them. Job asked to be cured of his disease, and his prayer was granted. The lepers besought our Lord to heal them, and He did what they asked. Zachary and Elisabeth prayed for a son, and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Our Lady wished the guests at the marriage feast in Cana to have wine, and her request was granted. Can you think of any more similar instances?

It is right to ask God for anything that we really need, and that it would be good for us to have. The only things that we must not ask for are those that would be an occasion of sin.

It was quite right for Jacob to wish for riches, but wrong for him to desire Esau's birthright, as he could not have that without depriving Esau of it, and doing him harm. It was right for Lot to want rich pastures, but wrong to claim the best parts of the country, as thus he inflicted loss upon Abraham.

There was no harm in Achab's wanting the vineyard, if Naboth had consented to sell it; but it was wrong for the king to cause Naboth's murder.

There was no harm in Judas' wishing for money, but it was very wicked of him to steal it and to betray his Master, as in this way he injured our Lord.

Desires are not lawful if they cannot be gratified without causing pain and loss to others.

A glazier might lawfully pray for work; but he must not pray for a hailstorm to break all the windows in the neighborhood, because in that case he would earn money at the injury of others, and God says: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." You might lawfully wish to have as good a servant as someone else has, but you must not try to entice that servant into your employment, for "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's servant." A doctor might wish and pray for a good practice, but he must never wish for a terrible epidemic to give him more patients. A lawyer must not desire that people will quarrel and go to law, for: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods."

We never ought to want anything that we cannot have without unlawfully depriving someone else of it.


What is the chief thing that we ought to ask of God? Our Saviour tells us that we may ask much and frequently. He teaches us this lesson in the beautiful parable of the man who came in the night to ask his friend for some loaves. (Luke xi. 5-13). In this parable He says: "Ask and you shall receive," and in another place He promises: "If you ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it you" (John xvi. 23). What kind of prayer is most pleasing to God? When Solomon came to the throne, the Lord appeared to him in a dream by night, saying: "Ask what thou wilt that I should give thee." And Solomon said: "Thou hast made Thy servant king . . . and I am but a child . . . Give me therefore an understanding heart, to judge Thy people, and discern between good and evil." This request was pleasing to the Lord, who said to Solomon: "Because thou hast asked this thing and hast not asked for thyself long life or riches . . . but hast asked for thyself wisdom to discern Judgment, behold, I have done for thee according to thy words, and have given thee a wise and understanding heart. ... I have given thee also riches and glory, and if thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my commandments, I will lengthen thy days" (3 Kings iii. 5-14).

This story teaches us what the chief thing is that we should ask of God. What do most people desire? What would you ask for, if God appeared to you in a dream?

The chief things for which we ought to pray are things that will do good to our souls, viz., truth and wisdom, and also God's honor and glory. If we ask for these, He will give us earthly riches and prosperity, as He gave them to Solomon. Our Saviour tells us: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His justice, and all other things will be given you in addition." We ought to think first of our souls, and of what we need to enable us to keep the commandments; God will supply us with everything else that we really require. There are many instances of this in Holy Scripture.

Joseph was careful to obey all God's commandments, and he enjoyed great honor and power in Egypt.

Abraham kept God's law, and became the ancestor of the chosen people, who were to inherit the Promised Land.

Jacob arrived at Laban's house a poor man, but he acted according to God's will, and acquired great wealth.

David obeyed God, and killed Goliath. He became king and was our Saviour's ancestor.

Think also of Ruth, Job and Tobias.

It is true therefore that, when people have sought first the kingdom of God and His justice, all other things have been added unto them. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." What have you sought and desired hitherto? What ought you to have desired? Have you always received the things for which you have prayed? No; I will tell you why God did not grant your prayers. Our Saviour says: "Seek God's justice." If we do not keep the commandments, we are not seeking God's justice, and so the other things that we should like to have are not given us. If God is to hear your prayers, keep the commandments, and seek God's kingdom, i.e., heaven. Then everything else, that is good for you, will be given you in addition.


"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods." If we obey the letter of this commandment, have we done all that is required of us? No, we are still far from behaving as true disciples of Christ should behave; He taught us by His example how we ought to interpret this commandment. He was poor, yet He never cared for wealth, nor wanted the possession of others. He was content to remain poor, and to say: "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." He died stripped of everything, even of His clothing. But, poor as He was, He never desired anything for Himself; His one thought was to help others. How easily He could have made Himself rich! But we nowhere read that He asked for money; He went about helping others. At the marriage in Cana He came to the assistance of the hosts, and furnished them with wine. At Naim He consoled the sorrowful widow, and gave her back her son. He took pity upon lepers and restored them to health. When He Himself was hungry after His long fast, He worked no miracle, but when the multitude in the desert was in need of food, He satisfied thousands with a few barley loaves. Innumerable sick people came to Him, and went home cured. He was always most ready to help the very poorest, whom every one despised. The Pharisees looked down upon the penitent woman, but our Saviour welcomed her when she sought forgiveness; He took pity upon the man who had suffered for thirty-eight years, and He did not refuse mercy to the thief upon the cross.

He was always the Good Samaritan, helping by preference those who were most poor and miserable. He wished nothing but good even to His enemies, and showed them much kindness. Think how He cured the servant Malchus, whose ear had been cut off. He loved the poor more than His own life, and He died on the Cross in order to redeem sinners. "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John xv 13). He laid down His life for enemies as well as friends. He sought not His own welfare, but the salvation of both friends and enemies; He desired nothing for Himself but the eternal happiness of all mankind. Nothing for self; everything for others-- Christ's very enemies acknowledged that this had been His rule in life, for they said, as He hung on the Cross: "He saved others, Himself He cannot save."

You see how our Divine Saviour interpreted the last commandment and changed its meaning. It was no longer: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods," but: "Thou shalt desire what is for thy neighbor's good." Do whatever men ask of you, provided it is right and expedient. "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you also to them" (Matt. vii. 12). "Let no man seek his own, but that which is another's" (i Cor. x. 24). "In humility let each esteem others better than himself, not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's (Phil. ii. 3, 4). Our Saviour wishes us to love one another, and so in His farewell discourse He says: "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" (John xiii. 34, 35).

1. Exod. xx. 17.
2. Aug., lib. I. Retract, c. 15; epist. 200; lib. 9. de civitate Dei, cc. 4, 5.
3. Quaest. 77. in Exod.; St. Thomas, IIa. IIae. q. 122. a. 61 ad 3. et 4.
4. Matt.v.28.
5. Rom. vii. 7. 6. Gal. v. 17. 7. Ps. cxviii. 20.
8. Rom. vii. 20.
9. Exodus xx. 17.
10. Gal. v. l6.
11. Wisdom vi. 12. 12. Eccl. xxiv. 26.
13. I Cor. x. 6. 14. Deut. vii. 25, 26.
15. James i. 14; St. Thomas, la. IIae, q. 4. art. 17, 8; August., llb. 12. de Trinit. c. 12; de serm. Dom. in monte c. 23; Greg. horn. 19. in Evang., lib.
4. Moral, c. 27; in respons. II. ad interrog.; Aug. and Jerome on first
chapter of Amos.
16. Eccl. v. 9. 17. Isa. v. 8. 18. Exod. i 21.
19. Gen. xii. 20. Gen. xx. 21. Ps. Ixi. II.
22. Jerome, ep. I. ad Heliod.; 8 ad Demetriadem; 150 ad Hedebiam; quaest. I et 16 ad Pammach.; Basil., in the Longer Rules, interrog. 9; Chrys., in ep. ad Rom. on the words: "salutate Priscam"; Cassian., lib. de institut. Monach. cc. 13, 33; Collat. 23. c. 26; Greg., hom. 18 in Ezech.; Amb. in c. 6. Luc.; Leo the Gr., in serm. de omnibus Sanctis.; Aug., lib. 17. de civ. Dei; epist 98. ad Hilar.; epist. 109.
23. Rom. vi. 12. 24. James iii. 14. 25. I John ii. 16.
26. Mark iv. 18, 19.

(Music: If you Love Me by Tomas Tallis (16th Century)
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