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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
The Small Catechism – part 102

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From the Word: Speak to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

From the Confessions: The Small Catechism 

The Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his workers, or his livestock, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not ruin our neighbors’ relationships with their husband or wife, workers, or livestock, or try to lure them away, but encourage them to remain and serve each other faithfully.

Pulling It Together: We should fear and love God so that we do not make plans to steal anything or anyone that belongs to our neighbors. Indeed, we should so fear and love God that we do not even consider such a thing. For evil desires are also sin. Who has avoided both the doing and the thinking about doing? We all sin in thought and deed, or even as we declare in the Brief Confession: “in thought, word, and deed.” All the while, we are constrained to be holy like God is holy. What are we to do, if we take the Scripture seriously? How are we to be holy, holy like God?

We have two options. The first is horrible; the second meets the need. We might take upon ourselves a regimen of pharisaical living, in which we act quite religious and try to convince ourselves that we are not sinners like everyone else. We will not convince the others any more than we convince ourselves.

Or we may finally and fully believe there is a “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). If so, we are made holy by the sacrifice of God’s Lamb (Heb 10:10), not by religious devotion. We do not make ourselves holy; God does that by forgiving our sins (Eph 1:7) based on the offering of a perfect Lamb (Heb 9:14). This is how a person becomes holy; she is simply given the “righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21), being dressed in the holy robes of Christ himself in baptism (Gal 3:27).

When you sin—and when you are tempted to fix your sin by being holy—remember that you are already baptized into Christ Jesus. You are already holy: not your holiness, but Christ’s. Confess your sin, and give thanks that God forgives sinners. What else can you do but lift the cup of salvation and be thankful enough to drink (Psa 116:13)?

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness. Amen.

Click here for resources to learn the Ten Commandments.

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