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Discussion 4 to the 10th Commandment
On the Tenth Commandment

by Matt

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I enjoyed your discussion of the 10 Commandments' morality, and agreed with (or at least understood your point on) all but the last.

I think "Thou shalt not covet" has more value than you give it. Certainly we're going to see the things of others and have the momentary covetous thought, as you note. I think there's a difference, though, between that impulse and actually coveting something. Coveting is almost an activity, a "craving" as noted in one of the definitions helpfully attached earlier in the thread. It's not so much "I want that" as it is "I want that I want that I want that". Long about the third time you aspire to another's possessions, one would hope that an adherent of the Ten Commandments would start to remember that there's a Godly injunction against doing so. Failure to include that Commandment might lead the covetous person to pursue that which they covet. (I'm willing to cut the Old Testament a break on the idea of a wife as property. As you noted earlier, mores have changed since it was written.)

Admittedly, the endgame of that little scenario is already covered by "Thou shalt not steal" (and by "Thou shalt not kill", which covers the rather morbid "forfeiture-by-death" angle). But if the idea is really to steer the adherent along the true path, following up "Don't steal" with "Don't even THINK about stealing" isn't necessarily a bad idea.

As an aside, the noted hedonist conservative writer P.J. O'Rourke suggested that this Commandment could be interpreted as a capitalist manifesto. Not only is it a warning to wealth-redistributers, who would seek to take the money of the rich and give it to someone else, but it also tells the adherent, in effect: "Go get your own." Sort of a "be fruitful and multiply" thing.

Thanks for the discussion, and the opportunity to contribute.