In this message we look at the 10th Commandment: “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.” While all the other commandments have an external or observable quality to them, this one doesn’t. This commandment is directed toward our hearts, our inner person.
The Hebrew word translated as covet means to desire. Desire all on its own is not a bad thing. The commandment doesn’t prohibit desire, it prohibits desire for the wrong things. Our neighbor’s house (which includes material things but also non-material things like success, status, and wellbeing), spouse, servants, and animals are all off-limits as legitimate objects of desire.
The Westminster Confession of Faith describes what the 10th Commandment prohibits this way: “The tenth commandment forbids any dissatisfaction with what belongs to us, envy and grief at the success of others, and all improper desire for anything that belongs to someone else.”
This is a very important commandment because there is a lot at stake in keeping it. In many ways, this commandment is foundational for all the others (outward sin begins in the heart), it subverts our relationship with others because we end up valuing what they have more than we value their wellbeing, and it also contributes to what Augustine defined as ‘disordered loves’.
By way of application to our daily lives, we must more and more, knowingly, live in God’s sight. He doesn’t just see what we do, He sees what’s going on in our hearts. We also need to avoid comparison with others. It inevitably leads to us either devaluing ourselves and what God has blessed us with or it leads to a false sense of superiority over others which also devalues what God has blessed us with. Thirdly, we must practice ‘kingdom contentement’ in which we ‘seek first’ the things that belong to God’s kingdom way of life and trust in His promise to always provide what we need. Finally, we must share well. Sharing is the opposite of coveting and will help to drive it out of our hearts.