Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
put, to covet is to desire and crave for something that isn’t currently
yours. What many people may not know is that coveting isn’t always a
bad thing! The Hebrew word that is used in the tenth commandment is “chamad”
- it is variously translated as covet, desire, take pleasure in, lust
after, long for, and enjoy. For many misguided christians, this doesn’t
seem like a good thing! But let’s be clear, God is very interested in
what is desirable, pleasing, and fun for us. He isn’t some “prude” in
Heaven, ruling against any kind of fun or pleasure.
Let me show you what I’m talking about:
Genesis 2:9 “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Hebrew word for “pleasant to the sight” is the same word - chamad. God
made the trees (and by inference, the whole of creation) to be enjoyable
for us and pleasing to look at! God’s intention in creation was to make
things we would want!
Psalm 19:9-10 “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
we see that we should be coveting - craving and longing for - the
judgements of God, found inside the word. Has there ever been a time in
your christian life when you could say that you coveted (lusted for and craved) the words on the pages of the Bible? This is the healthiest place any believer could be in!
When we move into the New Testament, the good type of coveting is still apparent. The Greek word for covet is “epithymeo” - its meaning is still the same: desire, longing, lust, craving.
Matthew 13:17 uses this word: “...for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
In this verse we see Jesus telling His disciples that many righteous men coveted the very days that they were living in - the days when Jesus walked the earth!
Peter 1:12 shows us that it wasn’t just the prophets of old that longed
to know the New Testament realities we’re living in - apparently, even
the angels have this craving! “To them [the prophets]
it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were
ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those
who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from
heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”
So we can see through these verses that there are times when it is right
for us to covet some things! So when does coveting become a bad thing?
When does desiring something become breaking the tenth commandment? The
answer is simple. We can see the difference between godly and godless
coveting in Galatians 5:17 - “For the flesh lusts (epithymeo)
against the Spirit, and the Spirit [lusts ]against the flesh; and these
are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you
wish.” Did you see that? There are two types of covetousness - spiritual and fleshly.
covetousness is only concerned about desiring things that we have no
right to possess. Coveting things that have been devoted to God (i.e.
the tithe) is one of these sinful desires - just ask Achan (Joshua
7:21)! Proverbs 6:25-26 tells us all about the dangers of coveting the
beauty of a prostitute.
But now let’s look at the things that the tenth commandment specifically warns us not to covet.
“Your neighbor’s house...” - We are not to be jealous about where someone else lives.
“...your neighbor’s wife...”
- don’t desire to have someone else’s spouse! But even beyond that,
don’t allow yourself to be jealous of someone else’s family (parents,
siblings, kids, etc.).
“...nor his male servant, nor his female servant...” - don’t envy their position in life. Don’t be jealous of their job, their influence, or the people that look up to them.
“...nor his ox...”
- Cattle and sheep were a means of livelihood in those day. Today we
would say, “Don’t desire or crave your neighbor’s bank accounts or full
wallets.” Don’t be jealous of their wealth!
“...nor his donkey...”
- quite simply, a mode of transportation. Cars, boats, motorcycles -
don’t be jealous of their ways of getting from point A to point B.
“...nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
- If there’s anything else that isn’t mentioned before, it’s listed
right here. The point is simple, don’t desire something that belongs to
desires should be focused on the things that you have a right to
possess. You have no biblical right to desire what belongs to someone
else. In today’s society, especially in light of the various protests
against the “rich”, it’s important to remember that this command still
applies! You have no right in God’s eyes to even long for what someone
else has - let alone demand a part of it! Let’s forget this “class
warfare” mindset and move into total obedience to God’s Word. It’s time
to bring our very desires in line with God’s plan for us!
Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let
your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as
you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake
you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”