“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife,
nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything
that is your neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”
Coveting has been defines as the uncontrolled desire to acquire. Covetousness is the mother of all sins. All 9 of the previous commandments are rooted in it. It is an excessive desire for some- thing you don’t have. There’s nothing wrong with wanting certain things, like something better for your family, etc. But this is an excessive desire that compromises convictions to gain some- thing you want. It is also an envious desire for what someone else has desiring what they have to be yours.
The other commandments deal with actions, but this one with attitude. The others are about behaviour but this one is about our mind. It is the mother of the other 9 sins in the command- ments:
Confusing our wants with our needs goes to the heart of coveting and explains why we are so often driven by the desire for more and more. We fail to see that life’s greatest fulfillment is not found in accumulating things but in knowing God.
The tenth commandment may seem like an add-on compared to such big-ticket items as mur- der, stealing, lying, and adultery, but it is foundational to all the other commandments and en- sures peace and contentment. It is the only command that zeroes in on a forbidden attitude rather than an action. Yet it is a safeguard against the temptation to break the other nine com- mandments.
David’s covetous desire for another man’s wife led to adultery, stealing, and murder (2 Samuel 11). And a desire for more and more pleasure, power, or possessions can destroy family relation- ships and cause us to lie to others. And because covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), it also keeps us from having and maintaining a right relationship to God.
There’s nothing wrong with having things, it’s when you are dependent on things and the want of more things that it becomes sin. Now, there is only one area where the Bible encourages us to covet. It says, “But covet earnestly the best gifts” (I Corinthians 12:31). We are to look around us and see faithfulness, loyalty, dependability, love and other good things in the lives of Christians and covet those things. We should desire and seek after the fruits of the Spirit and not after the earthly possessions that belong to our neighbour.
Lord, help us to be content in You.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.
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