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 ESV]
“Covet” can also be translated desire, delight in, hold precious, consider delectable, lust for. There is a slight difference between the statement in Exodus and in Deuteronomy. “And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house” [Deuteronomy 5:21]. Another word is used just before the list of valuables owned by your neighbor. “Desire” means to wish for or long after. You will not lust after your neighbor’s wife or wish for your neighbor’s possessions.
This is God’s last, but not final, statement to those who are His. Are these statements directed only at the people of the nation of Israel or toward all people? Though the statements were given to Moses, and the people of Israel required to follow them, the universal character of the statements demands they apply to all people.
All of the preceding statements point to the thinking of the heart in specific behaviors and how wrong thinking from the beginning brings rebellious activities. This statement lays bare the motivation of the heart, an indictment covering all sinful activity. Where there is one sin there is covetousness. Murderers covets the life of another while adulterers covet the spouse of another. Thieves covet property and liars covets control over truth. With covetousness comes all of the evidence needed to justify judgment, sentencing and execution of the sentence. This statement touches the fiber of every thought and act done by the person corrupted by sin.
Does not God begin these statements by driving home the reality that He alone is God, and that nothing and no one is to take His place? Are not every one of these statements designed to reveal God’s place and how His person, and our relationship with Him, is attacked and compromised or destroyed? You may have heard the worst sin a person can commit, the sin which was the downfall of Lucifer, the foundation for all other sin, is pride. It is not. God tells us plainly the motivation behind all sin.
How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. [Isaiah 14:12-15 ESV]
Satan, Lucifer, the highest angel, wanted God’s place, which means he wanted God gone. His pride is evident but his desire and motivation is to usurp God and make himself higher than his Creator. He coveted God.
The thinking of our hearts are filled with the desires to have what is not ours, to be what we are not, to do what we cannot, to be held up as equal to God. We want to be self-righteous not poor in spirit. We want to be capable of controlling ourselves and our sin. We do not want to mourn over the reality and truth of the full extent of sin as it affects us and the world in which we live. Coveting is the illusion of control in out-of-control lives. It is the belief that only what we think and feel matters. It is the ultimate motivation behind all rebellion against God.
Paul writes to the Romans.
Yet 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. [Romans 7:7-8 ESV]
Paul was the best Pharisee by his own admission. Yet, once redeemed by God, all of his righteous actions and attitudes he considered of no value for the sake of Christ. Why? Because he saw his life measured against Christ’s. He recognized the thinking of his heart was motivated by covetousness and every atom of his being was under God’s condemnation.
Those redeemed by Christ’s blood who remain in this world continue to struggle with covetousness. But our hope ceases to rest in our actions, our attitudes, the thinking of our hearts. Our hope rests in God’s grace. We are His testimony to the fallen world as He prepares us for eternity with Him.