Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

The Tenth Commandment       

             The Tenth Commandment states "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's property."  Have you ever wanted something someone else has?  I remember that as a kid a friend of mine had the amazing Shaquille O’Neal shoes called the Shaqnosis.  Shaq was my favorite player, and I absolutely wanted that shoe.  My friend got the shoe because it was cool, but he also got it so that I could actually see them.  I did not see it that way.  I was so envious of those shoes.  The envy led to unnecessary tension in the friendship.  It did not last long, but this is a great example of what the struggle with following the tenth commandment looks like.  I saw what my friend (neighbor) had, and I wished to possess it for myself.  We all struggle with this from time to time.

              The necessity of this commandment flows from our inner desires.  Those desires at the initial stage are good, like eating when we are hungry or seeking cool A/C when it is warm outside.  When our desires go beyond the healthy limit is when we find trouble.  We are led to greed to possess all these things to satisfy our carnal desires.  That very greed, combined with the envy seen in the childhood story with my friend, create a coveted situation. 

              Ultimately, envy is the root sin this commandment is seeking to vanquish.  According to the Catechism, envy “refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly.” (CCC 2539)  Stealing would be the most apparent actualization of this commandment, but that is already seen in the seventh commandment.  The tenth focuses on the state of one’s heart.  Are we satisfied with what we have or do we yearn for that which others have?  Do we enjoy the simplicity of life or do we obtain more and more hoping to fulfill something from those things?  Are we grateful for what God has blessed us with in our lives or do we grow upset with how others benefit from His blessings?  Which direction does our soul take us?

              This is why Jesus tells the rich young man that in order to inherit eternal life he must sell all that he has.  Jesus sees that attachment to possessions as a hindrance to the life of holiness.  There is nothing wrong with owning things and having nice things in life, but if our souls are driven by possessions and dependence on them, then we risk idolizing them over God.  That is why the tenth commandment is so important.  It calls us to not look at what our neighbor owns as an idol to obtain.  The commandments lead us to focus back on God.

- Fr. Rusty Vincent


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