Exodus Teaching - 14 - A Friend to Love

Title: Exodus Teaching - 14 - A Friend to Love
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Teaching Series #14

TITLE: A Friend to Love

TEXT: Exodus 20:15-17


We come now to the final two of the Ten Commandments, commandments nine and ten. Before we move on let me stress that these are the ten commandments, not ten suggestions. They come from God, not Hammurabi. In fact the very idea that Moses got the Ten Commandments from Hammurabi is ludicrous. I find it interesting that the so called higher critics of an earlier day, as well as some of their heirs today, are very quick to jump on the liberal band wagon which seems to seek opportunities to denigrate anything in the Bible that hints of the miraculous. They are quick to insist that Moses copied the Code of Hammurabi, but I have never read where any of them ever accused Hammurabi of getting his code of ethics and laws from Noah or his descendants. Interesting, isn’t it.

It is even more interesting than that, based on what my friend, Dr. Bill Cooper, writes in the first of a series of books on the Authenticity of various books in the Bible. In The Authenticity of the Book of Genesis, he connects Hammurabi with Amraphel in Genesis. He writes that “Amraphel is an English transposition of Hebrew, when Hammurabi is an inadequate and incomplete transposition into English from the Babylonian cuneiform. But directly match the Hebrew with the cuneiform, and we have a different outcome altogether. The two names are, in every sense, identical, or ‘letter for letter,’ as Professor Sayce tells us. For all that modernists say to the contrary, the Amraphel of Genesis 14 is the Hammuabi of Babylon” (p. 89).

Why is that note significant, and why mention it here? I am glad you asked. Amraphel, king of Shinar (Babylon) was one of of a federation of four kings who invaded Sodom and other cities in the area near the Dead Sea after the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, and other kings rebelled against Chedorlaomer.

“In those days Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim (2) waged war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, as well as the king of Bela (that is, Zoar ). (3) All of these came as allies to the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea ). (4) They were subject to Chedorlaomer for 12 years, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. (5) In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, (6) and the Horites in the mountains of Seir, as far as El-paran by the wilderness.” (Gen 14:1-6, HCSB)

Chedorlaomer and his confederates then made war against the nations of he Dead Sea area and defeated them, looting and capturing men and women who would become their slaves, or people who would be sold as slaves. Abraham sent his “servants” and they defeated these powerful kings and their armies, rescued Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family, as well as others, and the also recovered the possessions of the people in the area. Regardless of the power and might of the confederation of kings, God gave Abraham’s servants the victory over them. That must have been humiliating, but it tells me that God did not need Hammurabi to give Him laws, ordinances, and regulations for His people Israel. He could handle it Himself. There is more: those Ten Commandments are adequate and necessary for you and me today. Anyone, Christian, pagan, agnostic, or atheist who breaks any one of the Ten Commandments is a sinner and subject to the judgment of Almighty God unless they repent.

At Sinai, God declared His presence, descended to the top of Mt. Sinai, gave Israel His laws, and entered a covenant with the Israelites. The people all declared that they would obey everything He said. They lied. When Moses had been on Mt. Sinai longer than the expected the people demanded that Aaron give them an idol to worship. He did, and they did. In spite of that the Lord entered a covenant with Israel. Remember this: God established the covenant with Israel, the very best Israel could do was to rebel against the Lord and turn again to idolatry.

I once read the words above the choir loft in a church in New Orleans: GOD SAID, I BELIEVE IT, AND THAT SETTLES IT. After some time, I concluded that when God says it, truth is settled, and it is up to us to obey Him. At Sinai, God said it and that settled it! The people could obey Him or rebel against Him. There is no neutral ground, you either obey Him or you rebel against Him. We must teach our children - and new believers - His law, His will, His way, and His purpose. We must teach them both by example and by word. Now, let us take a look at the ninth Commandment.


“Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:16, HCSB)

Lying in Any Form or Forum Is Condemned.

1. God does not lie. In fact, “...it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb 6:18, HCSB) Samuel wrote, “Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind.” (1 Sam 15:29, HCSB) God does not change His mind? Is that really true? Did He not tell Moses that because of the rebellion of the Israelites who refused to go on to Canaan to possess their possessions He would destroy the Israelites and start over with Moses and create a mightier nation than they? Did not Moses pray for the people, and ask Yahweh to “repent” (KJV) and forgive Israel? Let us see another way to express what Moses was asking the Lord to do: “Turn from Your great anger and relent concerning this disaster ⌊planned⌋ for Your people.” (Ex 32:12, (HCSB) Rather than ask the Lord to “repent” Moses asked Him to moderate His announced option to destroy those who were in rebellion against Him and create a mightier nation from Moses. Think of it: Moses was eighty years old and God would start over with Him and create a mightier nation than those who were in rebellion against Him? Seem impossible? Well, let’s see: how old was Abraham when Isaac was born?!

I will never forget hearing the late Dr. J. Hardee Kennedy explain Isaiah 1:18: “Come, let us discuss this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool.” (Is. 1:18, HCSB) The highly respected Hebrew scholar explained that the results (forgiveness) is conditioned upon the response of the people (repentance). Yahweh is sovereign and He is perfect in all His ways. He does not lie, He is not fickle, and He cannot violate His own holiness. Let us look at some verses that underscore this:

“Once and for all I have sworn an oath by My holiness; I will not lie to David.” (Ps. 89:35)

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: (17) A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, (18) An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, (19) A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (Prov 6:16-19, KJV)

2. Satan has lied from the beginning. Jesus, who knew well the character of the devil, shocked the leaders of the Israelites when He said:

“You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.” (John 8:44)

Satan even lied to Jesus when he promised Him the world if He would obey him. When people lie, cheat, deceive, steal, and defame others they are sinning after the nature and character of the devil. No matter how often they profess to be Christians, they are sinning in the character of Satan.

3. The Lord wants His followers to follow His example, not Satan’s. In response to a question by Thomas, Jesus said, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) No consider the following verses:

“Help, Lord, for no faithful one remains; the loyal have disappeared from the human race. (2) They lie to one another; they speak with flattering lips and deceptive hearts. (3) May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and the tongue that speaks boastfully.” (Ps 12:1-3, HCSB)

“Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field?” (Acts 5:3)

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices (10) and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator.” (Col 3:9-10)

“I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth.” (1 John 2:21)

“These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They were redeemed from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb. (5) No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. The Proclamation of Three Angels.” (Rev 14:4-6)

“But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)

The Ninth Commandment is specific: “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.” I do not believer we do an injustice to the Scripture if we assume that lying in any form or format violates the character and integrity of the Lord. Lying violates the character of God. Looking back to an old commentary, I found this note:

“Thou shalt not bear false witness, etc.—Not only false oaths, to deprive a man of his life or of his right, are here prohibited, but all whispering, tale-bearing, slander, and calumny; in a word, whatever is deposed as a truth, which is false in fact, and tends to injure another in his goods, person, or character, is against the spirit and letter of this law. Suppressing the truth when known, by which a person may be defrauded of his property or his good name, or lie under injuries or disabilities which a discovery of the truth would have prevented, is also a crime against this law. He who bears a false testimony against or belies even the devil himself, comes under the curse of this law, because his testimony is false. By the term neighbor any human being is intended, whether he rank among our enemies or friends.”
—Adam Clarke's Commentary

In the final Book in the Bible, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, given to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, there is a message from the Lord for all of us:

(5) Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (6) And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift. (7) The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. (8) But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars —their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev 21:5-8, HCSB)

Let me ask you a question: Have you noticed that one of the first sins anyone ever commits is to lie to others? When a child begins to respond to his or her parents, what is the first thing they do that reveals that the were born in sin (the Bible does not say a toddler is actually guilty of committing a sin before knows what sin is). We see what the late Dr. W. O. Vault referred to as “the old sin nature.” I have, in this series from Exodus, mentioned both of my brothers when talking about honesty. Now, when it comes to lying, let me tell you about my sister Linda! She was born on January 2 - and no, I will not tell you what year. By the time she was six months old she would look you in the eye and chatter away, even though we had no idea what she was trying to say. At the end of September that same year Mother would tell her to “call the boys” when dinner was ready. Linda would walk to the door and call, “Boys, come get it.” I know, I know. That seems impossible, but that is not the main point here. When Mike was a toddler, Linda would go into the living room and pinch him and run back to the kitchen and tell Mother, “Mike pinched me!” She love to get him in trouble. She was merciless, and she told lies. When they were in high school Linda pretended that she couldn’t do her math or finish a history assignment, so she would talk Mike into doing it for her. I secretly wondered how she was going to make it in college if she couldn’t do high school work. She not only did her own work in college, she did it exceptionally well. She is now principal of her school, but for years she taught gifted children and won local, state, national, and international competition. Yet, she was still dumb enough to marry a Baptist preacher!

We may not all be as cunning, or as successful as Linda was, but we all told lies when we were very young. There are two that you may not remember, but you recognize it in other children today. Something is broken and mother asks her young child, “Did you break that?” You know the lie: “No, I didn’t do it.” Then, to compound the lie, that sweet little girl (or boy) denies guilt, and immediately points to his or her friend or sibling and says, “He did it.” I didn’t do it, he did it! We are born with an old sin nature and that nature will naturally find expression.

I knew a man who was charged with conspiring with others to kill a revenue officer back during the time of the Prohibition. He had to sit by his attorney and listen to a man swear that he had heard the accused say, “I won’t have anything to do with killing him, but I have plenty money for the one who does.” This was testimony that was hard for the defense attorney to overcome, but when that witness left the stand he walked right by the accused and whispered, “I’ve done told my last (blank) lie on you.” I was surprised, after hearing that, when I checked out my assignments from the ASCS office (U. S. Department of Agriculture) and looked trough the list and saw the name of the man who had gotten on the stand and lied about his neighbor.

My grandfather was one of the most interesting people I have ever known. In fact, remembering the articles in the Reader’s Digest at the time, I concluded that he was my most unforgetable character. He would quietly make some statement to the kids on our place on Monday and we would question him about it all week before he before he came up with a better story to explain why the first plan didn’t work out for him. It did, however, take a little of the boredom out of those ten hours a day in a hot cotton field under a blazing sun. He was a practical joker, but he was the kind who had rather become the object of a joke than to hurt someone else. When he was younger he accepted the invitation of an acquaintance who wanted to show him around the plant where he worked. He got there around noon and the man walked him all over the place, explaining in detail each operation with great enthusiasm and pride. Finally, as they arrived back at the starting point, my granddaddy saw that other employees has sat down to eat their lunch. He said to his acquaintance, “Now, when you take over this plant, what are you going to do about these men who are sitting around here doing nothing?” The man looked at those other men and they had all stopped eating and were staring at him. Then he began trying to explain to his friends that he had never said he was going to be their boss. I can picture my grandfather standing there looking sincere and innocent.

When my grandfather was a young man he entered the race for county sheriff and asked a friend who lacked my grandfather’s slight speech impediment o make speeches for him. At one place the man stood up to make a “stump speech”, as it was called in those days, and introduced the my grandfather. He said, “There is just one difference between my candidate and George Washington - George Washington couldn’t tell a lie and my candidate can’t tell the truth.”

In the introduction to my commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the church at Ephesus, I included an illustration that seems appropriate here.


“How would you meet Kenny Wagner?” Chaplain Roscoe Hicks of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman probably anticipated my interest because all the papers in the region had been carrying the story of his recent surrender to authorities after years of freedom. I was a ministerial student at Mississippi College, taking a course in criminology under Dr. R. R. Pearce. I had stopped by Parchman on my way home to Sledge, Mississippi to interview the chaplain concerning rehabilitation of criminals.

How would I like to meet Kenny Wagner? Wow! I had heard stories about Kenny Wagner for as long as I could remember. Kenny Wagner was the most notorious criminal in the history of Mississippi. He had killed several people in three or four states, but according to reports he had killed them in “shoot-outs” with law enforcement officers after they opened fire. This was all years before. For years he had trained bloodhounds and used them to run down escapees. His marksmanship was legendary and when a bloodhound trailed an escapee to a house the word was that if the bloodhound touched his nose to a door, Kenny Wagner stuck his foot through it and stepped in with a .38 S&W in his hand, and he always took the man back to Parchman. His reputation was such that, no matter how vicious the criminal, or how desperate, he did not resist the gigantic Kenny Wagner. Except for his closest friends, nobody called him Kenny, and no one called him Wagner. He was always Kenny Wagner.

The chaplain told me that Kenny Wagner had surrendered because of failing health. He needed medical treatment. He had apparently lived with friends near Corinth, Mississippi for years and even though all the neighbors knew him, no one reported him. Many suspected that many authorities knew where he was and that he might have been paroled if other states had not wanted to extradite him.

Chaplain Hicks drove me to the hospital on the sixteen thousand acre Parchman farm (there was also a six thousand acre farm near Lambert), and when we got out of his car he said “you can go on in and talk with Kenny Wagner. I have someone else I need to see.” By then we were in front of the hospital door and before I could ask how I would know him, the chaplain had veered off in a different direction. There were bars inside the main doors and as I approached there was a very large man standing facing me on the other side of the bars, his face in a space between two bars and either hand holding a bar on either side, even with his shoulder and a little higher.

The door opened and the man stepped back and as I entered he greeted me. I introduced myself and he acknowledged my introduction and immediately began talking without giving me his name. No one had to tell me I was talking with the infamous Kenny Wagner. I liked him immediately and understood why almost everyone liked him. There was genuine warmth in his smile and friendliness in his voice. I was all but inundated with mixed emotions - whatever I may have anticipated, I was not prepared such a gracious and open man as he. I had had cons to try to con me before and I would have them try it many times afterwards, but Kenny Wagner showed no interest in trying to con me. He was simply frank and honest.

After visiting for a few minutes standing just inside the door he told me he was weak and needed to lie down, and motioning me to the bed next to his in the prison hospital, he stretched out with his head propped up on pillows. I asked questions I wanted to ask, questions friends in my criminology class might find interesting. He answered my questions and expounded on them. For example, I said, “I recently read that alcohol was involved in 94.6% of the cases in which one is sentenced to prison. Would you agree with that?” He responded, “It’s higher than that. It is involved in almost all of them.” That was before drugs and gambling became major factors.

As we talked I cleared my throat a few times and noticing it, Kenny Wagner reached around and picked up a little plastic tube with some little discs in it and handed it to me. “Take those. They gave them to me for my throat.” As he continued talking about his surrender and comments Governor J. P. Coleman had made him, I sat on the side of the other bed facing him, holding the lozenges. This man has killed several men and he wants me to take these strange looking pills!?!?
“Go ahead and take them,” he commanded. I said, “Yes sir,” and put one in my mouth. While I was still wondering what I had in my mouth, I realized he was still talking about Governor Coleman when I heard him say, “I could put a bomb under him.” He’s killed several men and now he wants to put a bomb under the governor?!?! I’m not sure I should be hearing this.

When I finally found an opening, I asked him if believed in God, and if he believed Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He cut in, “ I don’t have anything against God. A preacher told me one time that if I wasn’t for Him I was against Him. I don’t have anything Him, so I must be for Him.” I never got him back on the subject of his salvation because he immediately launched into a deliberation on his ethics and standards, his philosophy of life. He looked me squarely in the eye and declared, “I will never tell you a lie (flashback - a bomb under the governor!), and I would respect your sister just like I respect my sister.” I believed him. How sad that a lot more church members do not live up to Kenny’s Wagner’s standards in these areas. Before leaving, I even realized that he was talking about putting a political bomb under the governor. Whew!

As soon as the chaplain and I left for his office, he asked, “Do you think he will ever be saved?” I answered, “No. He has too much pride.” Chaplain Hicks responded, “Another preacher told me the same thing a few days ago.” It was obvious that he had not taken me to see Kenny Wagner to satisfy my curiosity. He was genuinely burdened for his soul. We both grieved eight days later when Kenny Wagner and went to hell by his own choice.

[EPHESIANS: The Supremacy of God; The Sufficiency of Grace, by Johnny Sanders.
See Commentaries under this writer’s name.]

I grew up in the home of a man who taught us to tell the truth, and while there may have been times when it seemed that we were playing the game of Truth of Consequences, my father stressed the importance of telling the truth. He set a good example for us, as did out godly mother. Mother quoted Scripture, Daddy illustrated the application of it. A young man who lived on our farm was watching my father work on his truck, car, or tractor, and since the young man was always talking it was not surprising that he talked all the time my father was working. At one point he mentioned his friend, whom we all knew, and with obvious admiration, began telling my daddy, in my presence, how his buddy would take a date for a ride before taking her home. He would drive from the delta up into the hills and when he got to some dark area he would stop and try to impose his will on the date. If uncooperative he would threaten to put her out and make her walk home. The young man was laughing about his friend’s new approach to dating. My father looked up at the man from our farm and said, “That is as sorry as the devil!” The young man asked, “Do you mean you think I am sorry?” He shouldn’t have asked.

When I moved to a new church in Bastrop, Louisiana I found myself working with some dedicated and committed Christian men and women. One day, one of our deacons, Perry Talley, pointed toward Mr. Ollie Canterberry and said, “If I had a million dollars I would trust it with Ollie Canterberry as soon as I would trust it with Chase Manhattan Bank.” I would discover in time that Mr. Canterberry was just as honest with his word as he was with a dollar. For some time Mr. and Mrs. Canterberry gave a widow who lived by them a ride to church. This widow had a gruff personality and whatever came to her mind she said it. I know. She called me all the time with questions that surprised me: “Brother Sanders! They said on TV they are going to come in and take our Bibles!” I said, “They didn’t say Bibles, the said bottles.” The issue was recycling.

One Sunday as they drove home from church she said, “Ollie, what is wrong with that church?” Mr. Canterberry said, “Miss Mac, there is nothing wrong with the church except for people like you. You don’t come regularly and you don’t’ tithe. You don’t do anything but gripe and complain.” Mrs. Canterberry told me about the conversation, and while I never saw Miss Mac in church again, I continued to receive her phone calls after she joined another church. The phone would ring and I would hear her gruff voice. At 2:00 A. M. one morning the phone rang and it was Miss Mack calling from the hospital: “Brother Sanders, will you pray that I can get some sleep?!” I said, “Yes mamm, I will, but have you called the nurses’ station?” She said, “I don’t want to disturb them.”
We had a family on roll who never came to church, but I was told that they had come before the man and his wife bought a convenience store. One day, he said to Mr. Canterberry, “Ollie the reason I don’t go to church is that I can’t afford to pay my tithe.” The small, frail, asthmatic Mr. Canterberry said, “The first thing you are going to have to do is to stop lying about your tithe.”

My brother Mike is an interesting lawyer. While people, including lawyers, love jokes about lying lawyers, Mike has established a reputation for honesty. He told me some twenty-five years ago that he does not trade on an image of being a Christian attorney. He gave me an illustration about the way some lawyers work when they go into conference with another attorney and his client. They may say, “my client will only pay so much.” The other side demands more, so he asks them to wait while he calls his client. He leaves and goes to get a cup of coffee and an hour later he return to say, I got them up just a little, but they will not pay any more.”

One day, a young attorney came to Mike’s office and told him that he had discovered that he had misrepresented something in court that day. Mike said, “Then, you go back to your office and write a letter to the judge explaining just how you misrepresented it, and tomorrow morning when court opens you be standing in front of the judge and you apologize to him and hand him that letter.”

Mike was reared by parents who believed in honesty and taught him the importance of it. He in turned took my son under his wing and showed him how to practice the honesty and integrity I had taught him at home. I sincerely appreciate what each one tells me about the other one. I remember something John about his Uncle M ike. He was working for Mike’s law firm between his graduation from the local university and moving on to LSU Law School. Mike was a young partner in a firm with more mature, and highly respected lawyers. Mike took John with him to the local mall and when they went through the checkout line he wrote a check and the cashier looked at the name of the law firm on the check and said, “I have heard about them. How do you like working for them?” John was impressed when his Uncle Mike said, “Oh, it’s a good job.” He never told her he was a partner in the firm. Recently, John saw his kindergarten teacher in Bastrop, Louisiana and she asked what he was doing. He said, “I am working for the DA’s office.” She seemed surprised: “John you were so smart! You should go to law school and be a lawyer yourself.” He said, “Well, I have already been once, and I am not going back.”


“Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17).

A. We Must Define Covetousness.

We must know what it means to covet in order to avoid it. We must know what it means to covet in order to know when we cross the line from “following a good example” to coveting someone else’s accomplishments, gifts, possessions, or blessings. Have you ever heard about some blessing that came to another person and thought, “Why doesn’t something like that happen to me?” You read that someone dies and when the will is read someone the family least expects to be included is left a significant amount of money. We hear of that and we may (1) celebrate with the one who is blessed with the gift, (2) wonder what he will do with the money, (3) think what we would do with it, (4) wish we were so blessed, or (5) covet what that person has received. The question is, how do we know when we have crossed the line from being surprised at what my neighbor has received to wondering why did he receive it and not I?

If we do not know what it means to covet how do we know when we covet? Earlier, in looking at other commandments I quoted, with permission, I quoted my long time friend Dr. Paul E. Brown, and as always, I wonder, “have I crossed the line from admiring his ability to write so brilliantly on a subject,” to coveting his gift! Here is one point he makes on the subject of coveting:

“The word “covet” is used in different ways in the Bible. It is sometimes used simply to mean, “to want very intently.” In that sense, there are things which we may rightly covet. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 the apostle Paul wrote, “But covet earnestly the best gifts”, the NIV translates it, “eagerly desire.” Paul went on, then, to speak in the following two chapters of how we ought to seek diligently to have love in our hearts, and of how we ought to desire spiritual gifts, especially one; he said, in 1 Corinthians 14:39, that men should “covet to prophesy”, meaning that we should earnestly desire to speak God’s truth boldly, clearly and appealingly.

“But in this tenth commandment, and in many other places in the Scriptures, the word “covet” is used in a totally different sense, a very negative sense, in this verse, and numerous other passages, it means “to desire unlawfully.” It certainly isn’t wrong to want good things, or to work vigorously to gain them, but we’ve crossed the line into covetousness when we yearn for things that are off-limits. That includes yearning for too much, and it especially includes yearning for things that are not intended for us, things that could never rightfully be ours.

“Bruce Larson, speaking on this tenth commandment, entitled his sermon, “Looking Over The Fence.” He asked if there is anyone who has never looked over the neighbor’s fence and envied the neighbor’s house, vehicles, money, wonderful marriage, health, self-confidence, social position, friends, great job, successful children, looks, talents, or at least something that the neighbor has or is. The fact is that every last one of us has at times “looked over our neighbor’s fence”, not necessarily literally, but at least figuratively. The truth is that this commandment nails every last one of us, without exception, and that has been true throughout history. In Jeremiah 6:13 we read this lament: “...from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.” [Dr. Paul E. Brown, sermon on the tenth commandment, posted under his name on SermonCity.Com]

It is necessary for us to face up to this sin and find a way to deal with it. How do we know when we have committed this sin if we cannot identify it? In fact, I have heard about some else’s good fortune and wondered, “What would I do with a blessing like that?” In the first place, we are showing godly love for that person if we only celebrate with him, but while thinking about it do we ever stop and wonder, “have I just looked over my neighbor’s fence?” (As Dr. Bown expressed it). I see people driving a BMW and appreciate the quality of the automobile, but I can honestly say that I do not covet my neighbor’s BMW. My sister and brother-in-law fly to Ireland, Israel, Australia, London, or Paris and I am happy for them, but sense absolutely no covetousness in my celebration of their blessings. Then I hear that someone has received some recognition for service to the Lord. Am I genuinely happy for that person or do I wonder, “why him and not me?” Am I looking over my neighbor’s fence?

B. The Tenth Commandment Covers a Multitude of Sins.

1. Do not covet your neighbor’s house.

a. In the first place, we need a good working definition of “neighbor.” My neighbor must be important to me, and to the Lord, because the ninth commandment is, “ Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Ex 20:16) Here one’s neighbor may be anyone with whom he may come into contact on a regular basis, anyone living in his community. Billy Antley is my neighbor on one side and Billy Littleton is my neighbor in the opposite direction. Don Antley live between Billy Antley and me one side, and in the other direction, Ronnie Whitehead lives between Billy Littleton an me. Someone may build a house between Billy Littleton and Ronnie Whitehead, and if so I have a potential neighbor in that person. It is not distance or proximity that makes one a neighbor, even though we may refer to someone as a neighbor whom we do not know at all. We just know that he lives near us.

If you continue reading in Exodus and then go on to Leviticus and Deuteronomy you will find that the Lord places a lot of emphasis on our relationship with our neighbors. In a sense, the Lord provides us with a training manual in our relationship with our neighbors. Once, Jesus was asked
by an expert in the law,

(25) “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

(26) “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?”

(27) He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
(28) “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

(29) But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)

How did Jesus answered this “expert in the law”? He told him the story of the Good Samaritan. This “expert in the law” hated Samaritans. Do you suppose he changed his mind after he heard what Jesus had to say? I doubt it. Hatred and prejudice runs deep! The question we might ask here is, should I draw some new lines in my neighborhood?

b. Then we need a good working definition of “your neighbor’s house.” We must think not only in terms of our next door neighbor, or the really good friend who asks us to check on his or her house while they are on vacation. More importantly, we must not identify our neighbor only by his or her house. Here, Jesus is talking about those who live in the house.

c. My mother knew a neighbor when she saw one. She also knew how to be a neighbor to her neighbors. In f act, my mother was possibly the best neighbor I have ever known. I would go back home to Sledge, Mississippi and listen to people tell me about the things she did for her “neighbors” and realize that I would never have thought of some of those things. She opened the Sledge Discount Store after I left home and she dressed John and Mark until she had a brain tumor which required surgery. The surgeon, in Memphis, told us that the longest any patient of his with a tumor with roots that deep in the brain had lived was eight months. She lived eight years and the first few years were not so bad but the last couple of years were really challenging ones. Even from her bed she maintained her witness for Jesus Christ.

When we checked the records at her store after her surgery we discovered that she was helping one lady buy a car so she could visit her mother in a nursing home. She hired one lady so she could get in enough time to qualify for Social Security. There were always bags under the stage inside the windows. I asked my father what one bag was and he said, “That’s something your mother put back for Allen.” Allen was their pastor and he was in seminary. Mother put back shirts and pants for him. Of course, she picked shirts, pants, and belts for John and some things for Mark, even though he was very young when the tumor caused her to lose her voice while teaching her Sunday School class..

Mother was the church treasurer and when a check was returned for insufficient funds someone from the bank would call her at her store was next door. She would go over and see whose check had been returned and usually give them the money to cover it. She did not want then to be embarrassed.

Mother, (Miss Claudine to younger neighbors) was also one of the hardest working people I have ever known. We lived on a farm and in her younger days she worked in the field ten hours a day and still handled the cooking, house work, and laundry (including the ironing). She got up at 4:00 A. M. every day (and called me at 4:15 so I could milk and tend to livestock!). She also worked out two big gardens, put up vegetables and put up food for the winter. She would go to the woods and pick black berries and make jelly and preserves. She had fig trees and we always had fig preserves. She bought peaches and friends would invite her to pick pears and plums.

Mother worked out those two gardens and picked peas and beans so she could share them with neighbors and she always planted with Bro. and Mrs. M. C. Waldrup in mind. Bro. Waldrup was the Director of Missions who planted churches all over the three counties in north west Mississippi (Riverside Baptist Association). He preached at our church for several years and after he moved on Henning Andrews peached every Sunday morning at 9:00 o’clock. He was pastor of the Lula Baptist Church, our sponsor when our church was a mission. We got home in time to hear Dr. R. G. Lee on TV, eat Sunday dinner, and then watch Billy Graham at 1:00 P. M.

Mother also had a number of younger ladies who came to see her to talk about problems. There was one thing they knew and that was that anything they told her would never be repeated. She counseled people for years. She love her church, studied her Bible and taught a Sunday School class for years. If she found a family that was not in church she would get someone to go with her and she would visit them and try to persuade them to accept Jesus Christ and come to her church. This was a horrifying experience for my younger Mike whom she took with her to one place. There was food all over the floor, and evidence that a toddler had “used the bathroom” under the dining table. A toothless old man, she assumed the grandfather, would grab the younger children and “gum” their arms. Mike stayed as far from him as possible for fear that he might be next. The family told Mother they didn’t have any gas to go to church so she gave them ten dollars (gas was about thirty cents a gallon) so they could buy gas to come to church. The next Sunday folks at the church saw the family drive by their church and assumed they were going to the holiness church a couple of miles from there. That didn’t bother Mother. She was just glad they were going to church.

Who was Mother’s neighbor? The black family who lived across the road from our long driveway were exceptional neighbors. Garfield and Lottie Mae Ellis had a large family, but one by one most of them moved to Chicago. A few returned to the farm or to Memphis. I was home from Mississippi College one Friday night and after everyone else was asleep there was a knock at the front door. I went to the door and Tommy, the son nearest my age was standing there. He told me that he had his girlfriend at his house and that they had been to Clarksdale and when they stopped by his home his mother had smelled beer on his breath and wouldn’t let him drive their car. He begged her for three hours but she would not give in to his pleas. By this time I could smell no beer on his breath. He asked me if I would drive him to take his girlfriend home. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my key and handed it to him. The next morning my car was parked where I had left it - with the keys in it, which was not uncommon at the time and in the area.

I am not convinced that my mother understood who Jesus meant by “neighbor” any better than many theologians and pastors I have known. I include myself among those pastors. We could, however, all learn from her. Of course, there were times.... When I was in high school and had grown enough to wear one of my father’s favorite shirts, Mother gave it to me (I think). She let me wear it and after that she always ironed it and put it with my clothes, so I assumed it was mine. Then there came a time my parents brought a man to our house whom they had known before they ever moved to the delta from the north Mississippi hills. The man was known for two things: he was lazy and he was always filthy. Mother had decided they might still reform him. My parents had him to take a bath and gave him some clean underwear and a clean shirt and clean pair of pants to wear to town so they could help him try to find a job.

The next morning he stepped out earing my all time favorite shirt and there wasn’t one thing I could say about it! But no one could keep me from thinking about it. It was gone forever. They told Willie to get in the back of the truck and he got into the bed and stood behind the cab as was common in that day in that area. I often did it.

When my parents returned even my mother was disgusted. When they got to town, seven miles from our home, they discovered that Willie had taken a dip of snuff as soon as they left the house and he would spit it and the wind blew it all over what had been “my” shirt. It was covered with spots and speckles of snuff by the time they got to town. He didn’t find a job, in case you wondered.

Some time after that we had built a house on our farm for my mother’s father, who was absolutely the most unforgettable person I have ever met. The house was about a quarter of a mile if you went around the road and about half that if you cut across the new ground where the trees had been cut. I often spent the night with him and we would listen to the St. Louis Cardinals on his radio.

One time my father had hired hands to chop cotton (that’s hoeing for city folks) and Willie and his wife were working along with our family and people who lived on our place. My grandfather was convinced that he could encourage people to improve their looks or habits by “bragging on them,” or complimenting them. It had worked at times so he decided to try it on Willie’s wife. He stopped in the presence of my mother and others, leaned on his hoe handle and said in a kind voice with a slight speech impediment, “Co-rina, you are a fine looking woman.” She smiled and the rest of us were so embarrassed we didn’t know what to say. I knew to expect more and I was not disappointed.
My granddaddy kept all the kids from being bored to death by mentioning a trip to New Orleans and having them (or us) question him all week. We would be going with him to Old New Or-leans, and we would meet a ship and buy a whole stalk of bananas. I could taste them. Sometime Friday we would learn that he had a conflict and couldn’t go. The next week he might have a different story and he very masterfully manipulated us into believing he was sincere. Then, once again, we would find out he was “pulling our leg.”

As I said, I could tell something was going on, and my granddaddy didn’t disappointed me. On this day, as I listened, I heard him say to this woman, “Co-rina, “If you go home and take a bath and put on a clean dress, you would be a fine looking woman.” It was a little embarrassing to me, but he was old enough to be her father, and Mother was there listening to everything that was said.

I believe he was convinced that his compliments would cause her to go home and take a bath and put on a clean dress. He mis-read the signs that day, especially when he added, “If you ever get tired of old Willie, you let me know.” We were all embarrassed, which I imagine was part of his reason for bragging on “Co-rina”.

Two weeks later we got a good rain - good because we didn’t have to chop cotton, disc a field or pull turn rows. My father thought the rain was good because the cotton needed it. We heard someone come up on the porch and were surprised when we went to the door and saw Granddaddy standing there with “Corina”. He turned her over to my mother and then he sat in the porch swing with his head down and then every so often the humor of the situation hit him and he would chuckle. That was the best entertainment my brother James and I had all summer.

Finally, he told us what had happened. He had just finished breakfast and was clearing the dishes from the table when he heard a knock at the door. He went over and opened the door and there stood Corina - in her Sunday best. She had walked nearly two miles to get to his house. She said, “Mr. Lee, here I am!” He said, “I see you are, but what are you doing here?” She said, “You told me that if I ever got tired of Willie to let you know. So, here I am.” All he knew to do was take her over to our house and turn her over to Mother. He continued to sit in the porch swing with his head down and from time to time we would hear him chuckle. James and I could not imagine a better day that summer. To get rained out of the field was enough by itself, but to get out of work and have such entertainment as well made it a day to remember.

Who were my mother’s neighbors? Anyone who needed her. What about her neighbor’s house? Anyone who lived in the neighbor’s house, or even the house itself if there were needs that she could meet, or find someone else to help with them.

I preached a revival in Sledge many years later and was surprised when a number of people came to me to talk about my mother, who had been dead about twelve years at the time. One lady said, “Your mother was my best friend.” I didn’t even know she knew my mother, and I visited often. A business man said to me, “your mother was the best woman in the world.” Of course, I knew he was exaggerating, but I understood that he had been impressed with all the good and godly things my mother did without calling attention to herself.

God gave us the tenth commandment and Jesus taught us to love our neighbor. My mother understood and practiced what God commanded, and what Jesus taught. I have known a number of theologians who could have learned something from my mother. In fact, I wish I had learned more from her.

2. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife. Until recently in America we did not need a definition of “your neighbor’s wife.” Today, marriage had been perverted by some, and that perversion has been legalized by he Supreme Court of the United States. However, I am not going to pursue that today. Years ago, I visited a man whose wife had been having an affair with another man, a man who had a reputation for just that kind of behavior. This man, whom he had thought was his friend, had been having an affair with his wife. Let me make one point very clear: your best friend does not lust after your wife. Your husband does not run off with your best friend! When that happens someone has been deceived. A true friend respects his friend’s wife, children. This is especially true with Christians. Christian men and women must, for the sake of their testimony for Jesus Christ and for their love and commitment to a friend, prayerfully flee from temptation, just as Joseph did in Potiphar’s home.

Sadly, the man who had been having the affair with the wife of the man who had called me was accidentally killed when he fell from a deer stand. I was called to preach his funeral. That was a sad situation. He stood before the Lord much sooner than he could have anticipated. I am sure his family prayed that he had repented.

3. Do not covet your neighbor’s slave. Since we do not have slaves in America, may we just set that aside and let those countries where slavery is legal deal with it? I think not. Sadly, we are grieving over slavery that has not existed in America in since the Civil War, but we hear almost nothing about slavery in other parts of the world. There are publications that tell us about Christian families in which parents are murdered by radical Muslims, who then sell their children into slavery, but even descendants of slaves in America know little about the slavery that is still going on in Africa and the far east today.

There is a slavery going on in America today, but far too little is being said about it. There is a very evil form of slavery, and slave trafficking going on in America and I learned about it, not from the media, or from law enforcement, but from the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe where I serve on the Board of Trustees (as a very poorly qualified chairman of that board). The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home (LBCH) is involved in many different ministries today, far beyond that of an orphanage. Dr. Perry Hancock, President and CEO, informs members of the board of trustees about these ministries and our effort to provide a safe haven for young girls who are caught up in this vile form of slavery in which they are kidnaped and taken across the country to Mexico where they are sold as sex slaves to wealthy people in the Middle East and Far East. Those who are rescued need the protection, security, and ministry of godly people who will minister to them. Vile, evil men covet, and buy these young girls to satisfy their lust while condemning Americans for being immoral.

4. Do not covet your neighbor’s donkey. Believe me, I have never coveted my neighbor’s donkey. Or his horse or mule for that matter. When I was a child my father owned six mules and it was my task to feed and water them. My father cut a hollow cypress tree from which he cut a log which he split and nailed a plank across each end to form a long watering trough. I had to pump water into that water rough every morning and every afternoon for those mules and for a cow and calf. After buying the first tractor he began selling the mules. Finally, the last mule got our of the pasture and ran off. A neighbor, Tom Carlisle, came to our home and told my father he had located our mule. He was in a poor farmer’s lot. My father said, “I don’t think it’s mine.” Relief seemed in sight for me. But Tom set about to convince Daddy that it was his mule and Daddy kept saying, “I don’t think it’s mine.” I am not sure I was praying, but I was doing some serious wishing that my father would not change his mind, and that Tom would go home! I finally got my wish and never had to care for another mule. Our last mule got out and ran away - and he was not coming back!

5. Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. Covetousness often focuses on your neighbor’s house, his car, his lawn, his business, or his (or her) popularity, talent, or friends. Children may covet a neighbor’s toys, teen aged boys may covet their neighbor’s athletic gifts and skills. Teen aged girls may covet their neighbor’s clothes, jewelry, beauty, popularity, and talents. The point is, covetousness is alive and well on planet earth today. Covetousness lies at the root of many other sins, especially lying and stealing, but at times it breaks out in violence and murder. It may be behind the attitude that leads to murder, which Jesus condemned in no uncertain way.

C. Covetousness Covers a Multitude of Applications.

Let me repeat that: covetousness covers a multitude of application. It really does. Many other sins are born and bred in covetousness. Covetousness leads some to steal, some to lie, and others to commit acts of violence. Burglaries, robberies, purse snatching, and today, identity theft. Someone at church told us someone had been seen going through garbage bags at a local dumpster, looking, not for aluminum cans, but for identification papers that might be used in a number of ways to steal from those who do not shred papers.

I speak often with a juvenile prosecutor who has a lot of experience with juvenile delinquency. He has spoken at a governor’s conference, worked for the Supreme Court, and the state legislature. He is often quoted in the news paper or on the evening news. His work with juveniles is confidential and he does not violate that confidence, but he does speak with me in general terms about youth issues and it is very enlightening. Many of those problems are born of covetousness.


We have looked at the Ten Commandments in this series. Now, I would like for us to look at all of them together one more time (this is from the KJV):

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me Ex. 20:3).

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (20:4).

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain (20:7).

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy (20:8).

5. Honour thy father and thy mother (20:12).

6. Thou shalt not kill (20:13).

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery (20:14)

8. Thou shalt not steal (20:15)

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour (20:16).

10. Thou shalt not covet... (20:17).

We have seen the Ten Commandments posted in various places and our forefathers were more than happy to see them posted in public places. In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States has the Ten Commandments displayed prominently, and they were displayed prominently when that body ruled that they cannot be displayed in public places. In fact, from what some of our leaders have said, and from votes some have cast you would think the Ten Commandments were a greater threat to our nation than radical Islam, Socialism, Marxism, or Humanism.

I thank God that I grew up in a time when we could sit in a classroom in our public school and look above the teacher’s desk and off to the left and see a picture of George Washington, the father of this country, and on the opposite side we might see a display of the Ten Commandments. I remember when our teacher announced that she was passing out a note that told our parents that any student who returned a signed note would be permitted to ride a school bus to the opposite end of our county to see the movie, The Greatest Story Ever Told. It was the story of Jesus Christ.

If a student misbehaved and a teacher chose to explain that using God’s name in vain violated one of the Ten Commandments that student’s parents appreciated the teacher for teaching their child that.
I remember the time my coach and principal approached me and asked if I had seen anyone in the dressing room when I dressed early so I could catch my school bus after baseball practice. He told me that someone had stolen some money from James. He quickly added that he knew I didn’t take it, but I may have seen someone. I told him I heard Dean say someone had stolen forty-five cents from his pocket a few days earlier. My coach said that someone had stolen five dollars from James and added that he worked hard for his money, serving late at night as a watchman for a cotton compress. At that time a lot of students might earn from $2.00 to $3.00 during the summer or on Saturdays chopping cotton ten hours in temperatures just below or just above 100 degrees.

If a student steals something, or gets caught cheating, guess what his first response will probably be? Right! They will deny their guilt. In other words they would lie. A thief will lie and a liar will steal. There was a time in America when teachers could emphasize the importance and relevance of the Ten Commandments.

We do not have to teach children to lie, the father of liars, Satan, will cooperate with their fallen human nature to motivate them to lie. You don’t have to teach them to steal, you must teach them why they should be honest. You do not have to teach your neighbor to lust after his neighbor’s wife, or even his daughter. Satan will feed his lust with pornography, movies, and television programs that will feed his lust. I recently scrolled through the long list of programs offered by DISH Satellite system and discovered that even in what was once the Family Viewing time, most of the movies that evening, and for several evenings were rated R, even though the great majority of Americans are demanding G rated movies and programs. Why is that? People want to see G rated movies, but producers keep turning out R rated movies. That doesn’t make sense, does it. It doesn’t make sense to those who do not believe in a literal devil, but the movie and television industry continues to turn out PG-13 and R rated programs.

Now, consider with me the response of the Israelites to the giving of the Ten Commandments:

(18) “All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain ⌊surrounded by⌋ smoke. When the people saw ⌊it⌋ they trembled and stood at a distance. (19) “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”

(20) “Moses responded to the people, ‘“Don’t be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin.”’ (21) And the people remained standing at a distance as Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Ex 20:12-21, HCSB)

When the Lord entered a covenant with the Israelites the said, “We will obey,” but before long they were demanding that Aaron mold for them a golden calf like they worshiped in Egypt. You and I may have promised many times to obey the Lord, but we have all “sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). What must we do about it? We must repent and ask the Lord to forgive us for breaking his laws and for sinning against Him:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)