The 10 Commandments Series : #10 Thou Shalt Not Covet
This is part of a 10 Commandment series.
You can find the previous 9 below:
When I look back at my life before Christ radically changed my heart, it was filled with covetousness. The desire to have things that were not rightfully mine. I desired to have women who were not rightfully mine. This resulted in lust and sexual immorality. I looked at the lives of others and desired to be as entertaining or as athletic as them. This resulted in doing whatever it took to draw attention to myself and to be liked by the world around me. I desired to have riches and possessions that would impress. Instead of a profession I was passionate about, I chose a career for the paycheck, I could go on and on.
All these misplaced desires came from a lack of gratitude and a misunderstanding of who I was in relationship to my Creator. I thought the world revolved around me and that I deserved these things. One of the biggest things that I noticed after my conversion was a contentment in Christ that I had never experienced before. Not only did He give me contentment, but He lifted the weight off my shoulders of trying to be successful in the eyes of the world. Do I still struggle with pride and covetousness? Absolutely. I still have to fight against and repent of misplaced desires. But I now understand that the Lord has so greatly blessed me and poured out His grace on me, that I can do nothing but praise His name and thank Him for all that I have.
Gratitude is the natural outpouring of the person who has been regenerated and tasted the grace of Christ in his/her life. The person who has recognized that every good and perfect gift comes from our Heavenly Father above. The true Christian cannot do anything but rejoice in this great salvation. The opposite of gratitude is ingratitude and plays out as discontentment in what we have been given by the Lord. If contentment is the natural result of gratitude then covetousness is the natural result of ingratitude. At the root of discontentment is covetousness, the 10th commandment.
Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”
This commandment comes last in the list that God gives to the Israelites here in Exodus 20:1-21. Some may think that because it is last, that it is the least important but it actually summarizes the root cause of breaking many of the first nine commandments. Of all the commandments, this command attacks the heart the most. Covetousness deals with the inner person, whereas the other commandments primarily focus on what one does outwardly. Covetousness is the launching pad or the gateway drug to many other sins: lust, adultery, hatred, murder, greed, theft, jealousy, envy, etc.
The Hebrew word here for “covet” is neither positive nor negative in itself. This word simply means to have a strong desire or long for something. This can have both positive and negative uses depending on what the object of the desire is. In the context that the Lord gives this commandment in Exodus 20 to “not covet,” we can see that this type of desire is for something that is not to be desired in the eyes of God. The covetousness that the Lord is describing here is a desire to have something which is not rightfully ours, it belongs to someone else. The desire to have a spouse is not sinful, but the desire to have someone else’s spouse is sinful. God further explains what He means by the examples He gives in the latter part of verse 17, in relation to the possessions of one’s neighbor.
The New Testament has much to say about covetousness as well. God’s Word teaches us to “be on your guard against all covetousness” (Luke 12:15). We are told to put to death covetousness (Colossians 3:5) and not let it even be named among us (Ephesians 5:3). The Lord certainly condemns covetousness as it goes against His desire that we would find our joy and satisfaction in Him alone. These warnings serve as reminders that desiring something that is not ours, leads to many other sins as well. These desires might start off small, but if we let them take root, they can grow into grievous sins against our Lord and a lack of gratitude for what He has given us.
So how do we fight against covetousness?
1 . Express gratitude to the Lord for what He has given you.
When was the last time you sat in stillness and just thanked the Lord for the grace and blessings that He has bestowed upon you? Thank Him for your salvation, your job, your gifts, your family, your spouse, your kids, your home, and whatever else comes to mind. I encourage you to stop right now and express gratitude and give praise to the Lord for these things.
2. Admit there are things we desire that are not rightfully ours and ask God to change our heart towards these things.
If we do not take self-inventory of our hearts in the area of covetousness, we will likely never see a change. This causes us to store up evil in our hearts. This is a sin that most people never seem to think of or repent from. But we must realize that if we don’t address sin because we think it’s not that big of a deal, we are giving Satan a foothold in our lives. Let us ask the Lord to remove unhealthy desires and find our contentment in Him alone.
3. Cling to the promises of God about Who He is and trust that He is enough.
We fight sin and temptation with the Word of God. We must cling to the promises of God or we will fall prey to the lies of the enemy and the culture. Here are a few promises that we have: His grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Father knows our needs and richly provides for His children (Matthew 6:25-33). Again, in Hebrews: “Keep your life free from love of money (a form of covetousness), and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5-6). The writer of Hebrews gives the instruction to be content in what we have because of the promise that Christ will never leave nor forsake us. Our hope is in our God, not in the things of this world.
As believers, we should constantly be asking the Lord to purify our hearts and help us find our joy and satisfaction in Him, not in the things that He gives or the things that are not to be ours. This is a part of our sanctification process of growing in holiness. May God align our desires with His desires and remove that which is not in His will for our lives. As Paul says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Let this be our heart and our posture as we look to Christ for our true satisfaction and contentment, showing gratitude in all that we have.
Hunter is the Director of Young Adults Ministry at The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN. He is married to Cheyenne and has one child, Lofton.
- Old Testament, The 10 Commandments