You shall not covet

10. “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.” / Area: Conscience

Covetousness is a root sin. Covetousness means to desire something that belongs to someone else. Covetousness is therefore not being content and happy and satisfied and thankful for the things that God has given you. The greatest thing God has ever given humanity was His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:32) when He became a human being. Because God gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16) to this world, we can have everlasting life in the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to His disciples: “if you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” God has given us His Son, Jesus Christ, so that He can give us His best, Himself, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17). If you know that God has given You His best, Himself, and if you have truly received the Holy Spirit you will be dissatisfied with all the other things the world offers. It is true that God gives us many good things that are not God, good things, like a wife or children, or a husband, or education or food and water and houses and good clothes, and all these things are good, but they are not the best. God is the best. We can thank God, and we should thank and praise God for all the other good things He gives us richly to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). We should be deeply thankful for every good and perfect gift that is from above (James 1:17), but it should never compete with the greatest Treasure, who is God. When you don’t realize this and when you are not satisfied with all that God was, is and will be for us in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit, covetousness is inevitable.

If we have this perspective on God’s all-sufficiency, then we will be content with the things God gives us, whether they are few and of little monetary value or whether they are of much monetary value. Paul said: “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing let us be with these things content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Covetousness is idolatry as the Bible says (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5) because it makes God’s gifts instead of Himself our hope and trust and treasure. That is why Jesus said we cannot serve God and Mammon (Money) at the same time. We will either love the one or the other. And if our hope and trust are in what money can buy or in God’s gifts we will never be satisfied, because when will enough things be enough? As Augustine said: “our hearts are restless until we find rest in God.” We may add: Our hearts are dissatisfied until it is satisfied with God in Christ Jesus. When we look to God and treasure him above all and love Him above all, then we use the gifts of God and the things God gave us for His glory and not to be content. The glitter and applause of the world cannot eternally satisfy our spiritual thirst. We were made to be satisfied with God alone and unless you have come to rest in God’s all-sufficient, all-satisfying presence you will wander in the world after things, more things, other people’s husbands or wives or more money or fame or prestige or success and it will leave you eventually empty and disillusioned and lost.

This commandment not only forbids unlawful desire of what mankind possesses but also of another man’s achievements, his intelligence, his talents, his opportunities and his unique personality. This command helps us to be content with the unique persons God has made us and not to compare us with one another (2 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:4-5) and to covet and desire to be more like Jesus Christ. That kind of desiring and coveting is not sinful but commanded. The will of God is that we all come to the unity of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

The Heidelberg Catechism says the following about this commandment: “That even the smallest inclination or thought contrary to any of God’s commandments never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness.” Question 114 goes further and says: even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience, yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some but all the commandments of God.

The Bible is replete with commandments to give thanks to God for who He is, what He has done and what good gifts He has given us (See 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Phillippians 4:5-7; Colossians 4:2; Psalm 92:1; Psalm 107:1). As Paul said: “For what makes you to differ from another? And what have you that you did not receive? Now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you have not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). If it is true that all we own, all we are, all we have, all our gifts and talents and abilities and resources and opportunities are given to us from God, we ought to be the most thankful of all! Let us make it a habit to count our blessings one by one.

This commandment forbids the following sins:

Covetousness: desiring things belonging to another person

Greed: excessive desire for food or wealth or possessions

Discontent: dissatisfaction with what God has given you

Idolatry: worship of idols (an image or person or thing worshiped other than God); not having God uppermost in your affections

Jealousy: resentful towards a rival for what he owns, what he has accomplished, what he knows, his successes, his abilities, his personality

Envy: discontent aroused by another’s possessions or success.

Socialism: a political and economic theory that resources, industries, and transport should be owned and managed by the state. Socialism is institutionalized envy.

Love of money: making money the thing you trust in

Unthankfulness: not being thankful and grateful

Grumbling: complaining in a bad-tempered way

Complaining: say one is dissatisfied; say one is suffering from pain

Scripture to consider: But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be named among you, as become saints; neither filthiness, not foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting: but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:3,4).

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