I covet. It is not very pretty. I do it. I see something and I want it, even though it isn’t mine.
The key to understanding this commandment is in the definition of the word “covet.” Two different Hebrew words are used in the passages condemning coveting (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21), and both mean “to lust after or to long for with great desire.” It is in relation to wanting something that belongs to someone else.
Since the commandments are given as “you shall not’s,” the desire in this case is for something that is not the property of the desirer and not rightfully his to long after.
The good news is that Jesus has redeemed me and paid the price. I am to grow as a disciple and root it out of my life. I have the power to do that by the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.
The command to not covet is the tenth or last of the Ten Commandments and is one of the hardest commandments to obey and it is difficult to see this being broken in others because it is hidden in the heart where only God can see it.
The Ten Commandments can never be kept by anyone except Jesus the Messiah who kept them perfectly.
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.
~God | Exodus 20:17
The Ten Commandments were intended to show us what sin is as Paul said “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:7-12) since “It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (Rom 7:13b).
Coveting is linked with other sins like idolatry and pride
I covet what other people have like their house or their car (ox or donkey), their employees or housemaids (or servants), and anything that a neighbor has. My neighbor doesn’t mean the person living next door. It means anyone that has more than I do.
When I covet, I am telling God that I am not satisfied with what I have because my life is not really defined by my possessions (Luke 12:15) but by profession (John 3:17-18) because “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Luke 12:23). Paul warns me about the pursuit of “things”.
- Ephesians 5:5 — For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:6–7 — Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”
- Colossians 3:5 — Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
- Psalm 10:3 — For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Master.