The Large Catechism HTML version

I.9. The Ninth and Tenth Commandments
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's
wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that
is his.
These two commandments are given quite exclusively to the Jews; nevertheless,
in part they also concern us. For they do not interpret them as referring to
unchastity or theft, because these are sufficiently forbidden above. They also
thought that they had kept all those when they had done or not done the external
act. Therefore God has added these two commandments in order that it be
esteemed as sin and forbidden to desire or in any way to aim at getting our
neighbor's wife or possessions; and especially because under the Jewish
government man-servants and maid-servants were not free as now to serve for
wages as long as they pleased, but were their master's property with their body
and all they had, as cattle and other possessions. Moreover, every man had
power over his wife to put her away publicly by giving her a bill of divorce, and to
take another. Therefore they were in constant danger among each other that if
one took a fancy to another's wife, he might allege any reason both to dismiss his
own wife and to estrange the other's wife from him, that he might obtain her
under pretext of right. That was not considered a sin nor disgrace with them; as
little as now with hired help, when a proprietor dismisses his man-servant or
maid-servant, or takes another's servants from him in any way.
Therefore (I say) they thus interpreted these commandments, and that rightly
(although their scope reaches somewhat farther and higher), that no one think or
purpose to obtain what belongs to another, such as his wife, servants, house and
estate, land meadows, cattle, even with a show of right or by a subterfuge, yet
with injury to his neighbor. For above, in the Seventh Commandment, the vice is
forbidden where one wrests to himself the possessions of others, or withholds
them from his neighbor, which he cannot do by right. But here it is also forbidden
to alienate anything from your neighbor, even though you could do so with honor
in the eyes of the world, so that no one could accuse or blame you as though you
had obtained it wrongfully.
For we are so inclined by nature that no one desires to see another have as
much as himself, and each one acquires as much as he can; the other may fare
as best he can. And yet we pretend to be godly, know how to adorn ourselves
most finely and conceal our rascality, resort to and invent adroit devices and
deceitful artifices (such as now are daily most ingeniously contrived) as though
they were derived from the law codes; yea, we even dare impertinently to refer to
it, and boast of it, and will not have it called rascality, but shrewdness and
caution. In this lawyers and jurists assist, who twist and stretch the law to suit it to