Written by the very finger of God, expressing His will, and handed over to Moses on two stone tablets at Mount Sinai thousands of years ago.
Jesus Christ revealed them as binding, clarified the spirit behind many of their basic principles, and even added to them with his edict to love your neighbor as you love God.
The 10th Commandment serves to rebuke us and restrain us from overly desiring what is the property of another man, popularly expressed as: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”
This commandment is meant to protect men’s natural property rights against the injustice of his fellow men, against ‘covetousness’, which is said to be an unreasonable desire for that which we do not possess.
The Church could be said to break down this command into two primary ideas: ‘property’, and men’s ‘rights’ to same. Your ‘property’ is anything for which you are the person who would enjoy the full right to dispose of it in any manner not forbidden by law.
The Church has always recommended voluntary poverty, but has accepted and taught that private property rights are indeed just. In 1903, Pope Pius X in his encyclical Motu Proprio wrote that “Unlike the beast, man has on earth not only the right of use, but a permanent right of ownership” and further that “Private property is under all circumstances…a natural right..”
What it is your ‘right’ to hold or own designates a specific object of justice. It is defined by the Church as a moral or legal authority to possess, claim, and use a thing as one’s own.
There are many obligations and conditions that come with these rights, but the basic premise is that you have a right to the objects that you possess lawfully and morally, and even have the right to defend this possession physically if appeals to authorities are not fruitful or possible.
The bottom line is that God in His commandments, Christ in His teachings, and the Church inspired by the Holy Spirit to expound on this all support your basic rights to private property.
But just as clearly all expressly forbid you from taking that which is another’s property, which they have a right to, and even to desiring those specific objects.
Can you be inspired to want something, based on what another has? Of course: “Man, that’s a great car, I’m gonna get me one of those!”
What you cannot do, however, is desire that man’s car so much that you take that specific car from him. In stealing someone’s car, in stealing money from your parents drawer, in stealing office supplies from your work place, in intentionally never returning a book to the library you have sinned grievously.
In desiring something that is not your property, in the thought alone, you are sinning. In desiring something so much that you take it from another, you have broken one of God’s most basic commandements, the 10th commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”
This is another in a series of both ‘Sunday Sermon’ postings, which come each Sunday here at the website, and which can all be accessed by searching under that label, as well as a continuation of a series on each of the ‘Ten Commandments’ in particular, which itself can be accessed by searching under this label.