Exodus 20:17 – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
In Exodus 20 we come to the Ten Commandments, God’s laws for living. The first 4 revolve around our relationship with God while the last 6 pertain to our relationships with other people. Have you ever wondered why there are more commandments revolving around your relationship with others? Perhaps God knew that is where our problem would be. Today there are many who believe that they don’t need the church, that it’s just them and God, but from creation to revelation scripture makes it clear that we were built for relationship with both God and people. Jesus reinforced this when He was asked in Matthew 22:37-40 which was the greatest commandment, responded: 37 ’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and great commandment. 39 “And the second is like it: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The truth is that our relationship with the Father flows into our relationship with our fellow man. If I have problems loving others, it is usually because I have a faulty view of God’s love for me. One of the mistakes we often make with these commandments is to make them just as a list. When we do we see them in a descending scale from greatest to least and so we see the last, coveting, as less dangerous or destructive. Coveting is a dissatisfaction and discontent with what God has provided and a longing desire for what He has forbidden to us. Why is converting so catastrophic, because nothing destroys peace like the myth of more. It causes us to chase after more instead of the Master. As we come to the tenth commandment we have to ask ourselves the question, do I have a coveting heart or a contented heart?
- COVETING HEART
US advertisers spent $171.01 billion on paid media in 2013 because they know that they can make people want what they have. They make it look like everyone else has it and are now happy. The problem is that coveting puts our focus in the wrong place and on the wrong person. Exodus 10:17 reminds us that coveting is not confined just to people, personal relationships, possessions that make life easier or more prestigious, we can covet anything. 1 John 2:15 says: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Colossians 3:2 tells us to: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” And Matthew 6:19-21 says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” All these things that we can covert have one thing in common, they are all part of this life and they are temporary. They are a part of the world that we will leave behind when we die, they are earthly not eternal. So the question we should be asking is not “What am I building here?” but “What am I sending on ahead into eternity?” Part of the problem for a lack of peace in our lives is that we are consumed with coveting so we are never content. We need to investigate our own hearts, and deal with our destructive desire for more. Coveting creates a barrier between us and others. Romans 13:9 says: “The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our attitude toward others should be one of love not lust, but it’s hard to love someone who is standing in the way of you getting what you think will bring you happiness and satisfied. Love is characterized by self-sacrifice not by self-gratification. Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn”. Instead of rejoicing with others a selfish covetous spirit causes me to get envious when my neighbor gets something I would want, like a new car or a raise at work. This same covetous spirit causes us to secretly rejoice inside when that new car that they just bought gets banged up in a fender-bender. Covetousness causes me to mourn when others rejoice and rejoice when they are mourning. It twists the truth in our lives, creating a spirit of competition and comparison rather than cooperation. A loving spirit allows me to be glad when someone else is blessed because the focus does not rest on me but on relationship. The fascinating truth is that coveting leads to breaking all of God’s commands, how you might ask? Remember King David, he started into sin by breaking the tenth commandment, coveting his neighbor’s wife. That led to adultery, which broke the seventh commandment. Then in order to steal Bathsheba, breaking the eighth commandment, he committed murder and broke the sixth commandment. He broke the ninth commandment by lying about it, which brought dishonor to his parents, breaking the fifth commandment. He didn’t put God first, breaking the first and second commandments, which dishonored God’s name, breaking the third commandment. Just because coveting is last on the list doesn’t mean its least, it has an effect on all the other commandments. David is not the only one in danger of sliding down the slippery slope of sin. When we look through the commandments we have to ask: Commandment 1, how many of us have put money and possessions ahead of God? Commandment 2, how many have readily bowed at the altars of materialism and greed instead of bowing to God? Commandment 3, how many have blasphemed the name of the Lord in an effort to acquire things? Remember that disregarding God’s Word to obtain what you want in life is blaspheming. Commandment 4, how many have desecrated the Sabbath, refusing to rest because we have made it about money? Commandment 5, how many parents are dismissed, cast aside and dishonored by children too busy chasing careers to care for them? Commandment 6, how many people have been killed because somebody wanted something that belonged to them? Commandment 7, how many marriages have been torn apart because we have become so caught up in earning our salt, that we have neglected our sugar? By the way coveting and lust are in the same family, they are first cousins. Commandment 8, how many have seen their covetous spirit go from attitude to action through stealing? Commandment 9, how many have tried to cover up their covetous spirit by lying, or because they are envious of others have given in to gossip and lie about them? Coveting corrupts us, causing us to rely on self instead of the Savior, instead of turning to God we turn to greed. In Luke 12:15-21 Jesus reminds us how covetousness can consume us, taking over to the point where our real trust lies in our treasurers: 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ’What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ’I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ’Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” It was coveting that brought catastrophe for both the nation of Israel and Achan when he chose greed over God, Joshua 7:19-21 says: “19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Is there any covetousness hiding in your heart? What is it that you long to possess is it priceless and eternal or petty and temporal? How do you diagnose discontent in your life, how can you know if you have a coveting character? Do you ever find yourself saying, or thinking “If only I had…”? Do you do a lot of grumbling and complaining, 1 Corinthians 10:10? Are you jealous and envious of what others have, 2 Corinthians 12:20? Are you preoccupation with your possessions, Luke 12:16-21? Do you find yourself filled with anxiety and fear, Philippians 4:6-7? Are you stingy with what God has given you (Proverbs 28:22)? Does God gets your leftovers (Malachi 1:6-14)? Do you love things and use people rather than using things and loving people, Romans 13:8-10? We need to realize that coveting will rob and ruin our relationships, that the conclusion to coveting is always chaos. Is coveting causing you to trade peace for problems?