Tag Archives: covet

Sin Patterns

Studies in Genesis 3

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6 ESV)

Adam was not deceived. His rebellion was deliberate. Eve gave him the fruit and he ate it. He knew the fruit was from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and that God, his creator and the authority over all creation, had forbidden he eat the fruit. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV).

Adam was specifically forbidden from eating the fruit.

Sin involves the whole person. Eve, while speaking to the Deceiver, thought about what she was about to do. She was lied to and accepted the lie as truth. She also used her emotions to view the fruit as desirable in a way different than how God made the fruit. God created all the fruit desirable, that is delicious and nutritious and with a pleasing look. Eve changed the desire from what was intended to that which is coveted. She then acted on her will, driven by her covetous desires based upon a lie. She rebelled and sinned.

Adam ignored his intelligence and emotions and simply acted. There was no thinking that we are aware of, nor feeling that something was wrong. Adam knew that if he were to think about what he was about to do, or feel the fear of the consequences, he would not act. He “turned off” his intelligence and his emotions and simply acted. He rebelled and sinned.

We see two motivations for sin. Eve’s sin involved building excuses to act against the will of God. Adam’s sin intentionally ignored the direction and will of God. I am not suggesting that women have a sin pattern different than men. Sin is sin. Temptation is not sin. But allowing temptation to decide or excuse sin does not either justify or defend sin. The basic pattern for sin follows either building an excuse based upon a lie or simply ignoring the known will of God.

Both Eve and Adam willfully rebelled against God.

Desiring Versus Coveting

Studies in Genesis 3

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 ESV)

We do not know what Eve and Adam were feeling when they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We do know Eve’s thought process. Eve talks with a snake who is controlled by the Deceiver. She believed the Deceiver’s lie about the fruit having a special property other than simple nutrition. She believed the first superstition that actually eating this fruit would give her wisdom and insight and make her like God.

Eating the fruit showed her bent toward rebellion. She and Adam were instructed by God to take care of the tree of the knowledge if good and evil but to not eat its fruit. She wanted something only God could have, to be like Him in all ways, not just with His image, and acted upon this desire. Adam and Eve were given dominion over the Earth. This dominion did not extend to God. He has ultimate authority over all He has created.

Eve and Adam coveted that which was God’s and not theirs.

God uses the word “covet” in this verse. Most translations of the Scripture use the word “desired” but it is the same word used in the tenth commandment in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The word used means to desire, take pleasure in or to delight in. It is something which is desirable or precious. Its first use is in Genesis 2:9 when God creates every tree “pleasant” which means “desirable” and is also translated “covet.” “And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9 ESV). Covet is used in both a good and evil way in Scripture. God made the fruit of the trees desirable and precious.

Rebellion takes that which is designed for pleasure and makes it an object of desire which must be had at all cost. That which is desirable becomes the object of lust. Coveting is wanting a thing more than wanting God. Coveting becomes wanting what someone else owns for your own, which includes wanting what God owns, and planning how to acquire that thing.

Coveting that which belongs to God or others is the foundation of sin. That which drives sin and rebellion is to have what belongs only to God by planning to take it away from God. After the fall people are so completely bent by sin that their natural tendencies are always away from Him. For most there is no conscious thought of God. For Adam and Eve God should have been in the front of their minds. As the ruling authority over the earth, coming under the authority of God, Adam and Eve should have been aware of both their position under God and His position over them. Ignoring or forgetting God is not wise.

Introduction: Matthew 5:17-20

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]

We like to do. Constant activity is a characteristic of the modern Western Church which has activities and programs for everyone, every age, every disposition, every need and want. Then, to legitimize the activity, we throw in a little Bible study or a few verses and a devotional and are quite satisfied with our progress and tell everyone God is smiling on us and what we do. “It’s a God thing.”

We cannot read Jesus’ words and honestly believe doing is enough. Jesus expects us to be a citizen of His kingdom from the eternal core of who we are to the last ounce of concentrated, responsible effort.

Jesus demands those who are His act according to His expectations, while examining their motivation so they are in line with His. He has spent the last 16 verses giving His expectations, showing us what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom. He tells us how the world, which hates Him, will react to those who are His as they are changed into His likeness and image. His likeness is characterized by righteousness and truth and more, and He places us throughout the world as evidence of His person, His authority, His character, His grace.

In these verses, I believe we are seeing the foundation for what He has just stated and what He will state. Living for God is not meticulously following His written laws or demanding others do so. God gave the Law, the precepts found in the books written by Moses, for a specific reason. God’s reason was not to give those who are His the ability to justify themselves before Him by keeping the Law. They could never do this. Only one sin is needed to bring God’s wrath and label the person a criminal, one who violates the Law of God.

Is not the Law a teacher, a means used by God to show man his sin and convince all the sentence and punishment for sin is just?

Paul’s argument in Romans 7 is simple. God’s Law identified covetousness as sin while  revealing and exposing every covetous desire. God’s statement “you will not covet” was not a command to do something any are capable of doing, but a statement revealing man’s utter inability, our total depravity. Still, Paul’s argument does not discount the Law as a teacher.

Ultimately, those hidden in Christ, covered by His blood in death, are released from the sentence of death demanded by the Giver of the Law because of His resurrection.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the Law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. [Romans 7:4-6 ESV]

Paul continued to covet. Christ still saves. From the time Paul was redeemed God began changing him, building into him the characteristics he would carry for eternity. These characteristics conform to God’s character upon which the Mosaic Law is based.

A lawyer, one of those who knew the Law, asked Jesus a question to trap Him, to make Him slip and contradict Himself and the Law. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [Matthew 22:36 ESV]. Jesus, who is the Law, quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and then Leviticus 19:18, verses from the depths of the Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:37-39 ESV].  These two statements are not hidden. In Luke 10:29 the Lawyer tries to qualify his question.  For those in the world having such an answer allows them to keep the  letter of the Law without being held accountable to the substance of the Law. “And who is my neighbor?” the Lawyer asked. What do you think his intent was in asking this question?  Jesus proceeds to tell the parable of the good Samaritian.

Why did God give us the Law? Why did He reveal it to Israel and make it such an integral part of their culture? Why is the Law included in the canon of Scripture? God revealed the Law so those He loves would be driven to Him seeking His grace. Grace does not trump Law, doing away with it, or gutting it’s righteous requirements. Grace reveals the full extent to which God is willing to go to bring those He loves into His presence. It would seen the measure of our spiritual maturity is seen in the depth of love we have for both God and our neighbor.

On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:40 ESV]

God’s Tenth Statement

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.