Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 54: The Last Four Commandments
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 54: The Last Four Commandments

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

The Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Commandments, which prohibit adultery, stealing, and bearing false witness, all serve to maintain peace. Ideally, people would choose to respect marital bonds, to recognize the legitimate property on their neighbors, and to not lie. In the New Testament, Jesus served as a living model for these and other values. However, the ancient Hebrews needed a codified system to establish boundaries of behavior, and the Ten Commandments were likely very helpful in maintaining community.

The Tenth Commandment recognizes that envy fuels mimetic violence. Jesus understood the source of conflict and destructiveness. He said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder [6th Commandment], adultery [7th Commandment], fornication, theft [8th Commandment], false witness [9th Commandment], slander.” (Mt 15:18-19) When we covet what our neighbor has, we find ourselves in mimetic rivalry, which leads to resentment and, eventually, violence. The Tenth Commandment does not condemn wanting more; it discourages us from wanting to take what belongs to our neighbor. Of course, the usual reason we want more is mimetic desire; if we did not covet, we would likely be very content with far less possessions.

Humans are mimetic creations, and mimetic desires are universal and unavoidable. Yet, mimetic desire of one’s neighbor’s possessions threatens to tear communities apart. The solution is not to eliminate mimetic desire, but to find a better model than one’s neighbor to admire and attempt to emulate. The First Commandment instructs us to love God. In other words, our desires should be directed at God, not our neighbor or our neighbor’s possessions. It follows, then, that the model for our desires should be God’s loving desire for the whole creation. Therefore, the Tenth Commandment, not to covet (i.e., not to love one’s neighbor’s wife, servants, animals, or possessions), is closely related to the First Commandment, to love God.

Next week, we will consider Jesus’ Great Commandment, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

Go on to: Part 55: The Great Commandment
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