You shall not covet

Last updated on June 20, 2021


“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.” (Exodus 20:17)

This last commandment may be the least “obvious”, since coveting does not immediately damage others and thus seems harmless. The apostle Paul admits: “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.’” (Romans 7:7)

This commandment is not about our deeds or words, but about the intention of our heart. If we want to take something that does not belong to us, this damages our relationship with other people. If we don’t fight this longing, we will probably end up stealing or lying or even murdering to get what we want. The love of money or possessions causes all kinds of evil, and therefore we need to stop coveting.

Moreover, God wants the first place in our heart for Himself. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…” (Deuteronomy 6:5) That doesn’t work if we are coveting all kinds of other things.

Psalm 37:4 gives good advice here: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Does ‘covet’ still play a role in your life?

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