“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)
The last of the ten commandments warns us against covetousness! To covet is to enviously wish for or long after what someone else has.
God is not against us aiming for or desiring the best things of this life. He even promises to grant the desires of our hearts…
“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4)
Not all desires are evil, but covetousness is a negative desire, in that it often involves feeling more deserving of a particular thing than its current owner. It breeds an ill emotion towards people who have what we wish for.
If you are not yet convinced of how dangerous covetousness is, remember that it was the cause of the first murder in human history. As of today, it is still the root cause of many wars, murders, robbery cases, adultery, betrayals, and injustices of all kinds.
Remember also that the beginning of sin in the human race was when the desire to be like God was planted in the human heart by the devil.
Covetousness in a person’s heart can be so subtle that without an honest self examination, it can go unnoticed and its devastating effects can run wild.
Alistair Begg put it so nicely: “If we are to say no to covetousness, we must learn to say yes to contentment. This involves learning to be content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). Much of our discontentment may be traced to expectations that are essentially selfish and more often than not completely unrealistic.”
Why does this end the commandments? Perhaps because the end of covetousness will mark the end of the ills we face and position us properly to live to please God.
Let’s always keep in mind Jesus’ admonition…
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)