“Never covet your neighbor’s household or take it away from him.
“Never covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that belongs to him.” (Exodus 20:17)
The tenth Word once again, clearly tells us what not to do. This time, we are not to covet anything that concerns our neighbor. Now, in plain language, to covet means to want something so bad that you would do just about anything to get it. As Mike Bennett points out, “[When the 10th Commandment tells us not to covet,] it gets to the heart of the matter of sin. It looks at our motivations, showing how God wants us to think.”
Some men find it easy to look at the “calendar girls” and compare the silicone models and “photoshopped” images to their wives. That is violating this command (and also dishonoring your wife). For us, coveting includes our neighbor’s cars, electronic gadgets, money, prestige, and all kinds of other things.
Jesus Christ made it clear throughout His teachings that His Father’s law involves more than just what we do, but includes our thoughts and attitudes and approaches. Coveting speaks to the bitterness we feel when we see something someone else has (and we don‘t).
It could be that someone has something because you deserve it more than they do! Maybe they got the promotion you thought you should have had; maybe someone won a free trip to the Caribbean, and you seemingly worked just as hard but had to stay home during a horrible snowstorm.
Again, turning to Tom Bradford, the list of items in this Word that one might be tempted to covet, while completely literal, is also very much in the context of ancient Hebrew life and culture.
The reference to slaves, or man and maidservants, is mostly about property and wealth. Servants were generally purchased, or they had willingly indentured themselves (sometimes called bond-servant) to someone, so they could pay off a family debt, or to learn a trade, or because they were so poor it was one of the few ways they could survive.
The mention of the animals is again about wealth. Since the Israelites were primarily herdsmen, the animals represented whatever they owned. The more animals you had, the wealthier you were. For you, it might be your neighbor‘s Lexus or riding lawnmower.
And, in all fairness to these 3 million wandering Hebrews, they didn’t have anything else to think about, day and night, than wanting what someone else might have. They didn‘t pack up and wander every day. After Mt. Sinai, they only moved a few more times. During their 40 years in the Wilderness, they would stay several months in one spot, until the pasture or water gave out, or when the Lord told them to move.
Once settled, there would have been an awful lot of idle hours to just sit and think. And, people being people, especially as they became dissatisfied with their situation. Out there in the barren desert, what else did they have to do then thinking about what one of their neighbors had? This same thing happens in a welfare society. Folks sit around, idle, thinking about how bad things are? Meditating on how “The Man,” was keeping them down and coveting what others have. Oh, how the politicians feed on that problem.
Scriptures provide all kinds of examples. Turn over to II Samuel and you read about the time David coveted Bathsheba. Then, in I Kings, you read about how Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard. In both cases, their mental sin led to other sins, including murder.
Friends, when we covet, we are giving into a selfish mindset that leads directly to sin and death. Horrible thought, but thank God, Scriptures provide a way out for us:
Contentment. Paul “I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in” He wrote, “I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Generosity. If we learn “to do a lot of good things, to be generous, and to share,” we will be storing up treasure “for [ourelves] which is a good foundation for the future. In this way [we] take hold of what life really is” (I Timothy 6:18-19).
Faith. We can trust in “God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). We can know that God has a glorious inheritance for those who have faith in Him. “No one can please God without faith. Whoever goes to God must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Just in case you are interested, I encourage you to read Bob Deffinbaugh”s explanation of this Tenth Word: “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Coveting — and a Whole Lot More! (Exodus 20:17)”
Well, there you go folks, that completes our look at the Ten Words, which are the Ten Principles on which Yahweh based all the other commands and instructions that He gave to His people. In other words, these are our preparation for what is about to come.
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