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Thomas Watson on Covetousness
Thomas Watson was a Puritan minister in the 1600s who had strong Presbyterian views. His vast intellect and grasp of the Scriptures and of the Christian tradition are evident in his writings. Furthermore, a diligent student will see the practical and searching nature of his preaching ministry. This is one of the things that makes his work so enduring.
One of my favorite of his works is an exposition on the Shorter Catechism. It has been published in an accessible format by Banner of Truth and is titled The Ten Commandments.
Here are some excerpts from the book that demonstrate Watson's keen ability to bring the Scriptures to bear on the soul of man. Specifically, this is what he has to say about the tenth commandment:
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. (Exodus 20:17)
1. You are consumed with coveteousness when your thoughts are taken up with worldly cares.
Watson states, "A good man's thoughts are in heaven; he is thinking of Christ's love and eternal recompense [reward]. A covetous man's thoughts are in the world; his mind is wholly taken up with it; he can think of nothing but his shop or farm."
2. You are consumed with coveteousness when your earthly treasure is at odds with your heavenly treasure.
Watson goes on to say, "He will turn every stone, break his sleep, take many a weary step for the world; but will take no pains for Christ or heaven."
3. You are consumed with coveteousness when all your discourse is about worldly cares.
Watson notes, "It is a sign of godliness to be speaking of heaven, to have the tongue turned to the language of Canaan [our spiritual home]. [A covetous man] always speaks of secular things, of his wares [products for sale] and drugs [temporal pleasures]. A covetous man's breath, like a dying man's, smells strong of the earth. The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious. He speaks as if he had been already to heaven."
4. You are consumed with coveteousness when you are willing to let go of heavenly things for worldly things.
Watson says "[This man] would rather part with Christ than with all his earthly possessions. Cardinal Bourbon said, he would forego his part in paradise if he might keep his cardinalship in Paris. When it comes to the critical point that men must either relinquish their estate or Christ, and they will rather part with Christ and a good conscience than with their state, it is a clear case that they are possessed with the demon of covetousness."
5. You are consumed with coveteousness when you overwork yourself for worldly cares/concerns.
Watson asserts, "He has many irons in the fire; he is in this sense a pluralist; he takes so much business upon him, that he cannot find time to serve God; he has scarce time to eat his meat, but no time to pray. When a man overcharges himself with the world, and as Martha, cumbers himself about many things, that he cannot have time for his soul, he is under the power of covetousness."
6. You are consumed with coveteousness when you’re willing to break the law of God for gain.
Watson states, "He will have the world per fas et nefas [by fair means or foul]; he will wrong and defraud, and raise his estate upon the ruins of another."
All excerpts are taken from Thomas Watson's book, The Ten Commandments published by The Banner of Truth Trust.