The Tenth Commandment states that we are not to covet (Exodus 20:17). To covet is to have a strong desire or greed for anything that is not yours and currently unattainable because it belongs to someone else or lies outside your ability to get. We are allowed to desire to have something LIKE what others have but what is prohibited is the desire to have what belongs to another and/or obtaining it in an ungodly way (i.e., by violating any of the other nine commandments).
We start this study of the Ten Commandments at the end because it is the breaking of this Tenth Commandment that leads to the breaking of all of the others. Think about it, the desire for a co-worker's job can lead to lying to others in order to discredit their performance (Commandment 9 violation), stealing their accomplishments and marketing them as your own (Commandment 8 violation), having sex with someone you are not married to - adultery - in order to obtain favor for a promotion (Commandment 7 violation), hatred of the person with the job you desire to the point of murdering their career or even physical murder (Commandment 6 violation), dishonoring your parents by not living the way they raised you in committing these atrocities (Commandment 5 violation), working seven days a week in an attempt to elevate your performance above your competitors (Commandment 4 violation), saying you are a Christian while doing things contrary to God (Commandment 3 violation), consumed with desire for this job title to the point that it becomes your heart's main desire or idol (Commandment 2 violation), and lastly the job becomes what you serve and depend upon to meet your needs, wants and desires meaning it has become your god (Commandment 1 violation) (Luke 16:13. James 4:4. 1 John 2:15).
Consider the following examples of covetousness leading to turning from God and His ways. The Archangel Lucifer coveted God Himself leading to his invention of sin and mutation into Satan (Revelation 12:3-4;12:7-9. Ezekiel 28:12-14. Isaiah 14:12-15). Adam and Eve coveted(1) what Satan told them the forbidden fruit could provide leading to the fall of mankind. Cain coveted the favor that God had towards Abel's sacrifice leading to the first murder (Genesis 4:1-10). These are but a few of the many examples we have from the Bible and others can be found around us or in the media today.
Realize, Satan entices us to sin(1) by first using our God given desires but tempts us to obtain it in a way contrary to God (James 1:14,15). He uses the desires of our flesh, the desires of our eyes and appeals to our pride in an effort to get us to submit to his will which is sin (1 John 2:16). If we follow Satan's plan then the object(s) that we desire become(s) more important to us than God. Again, at this point what we desire has becomes an idol in our lives (Colossians 3:5) (Commandment 2 violation).
KJV Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Jesus warned us to be on our guard against falling into covetousness (Luke 12:15).
KJV Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
One of the criteria for selection of leaders in the Kingdom of God is that they NOT be covetous (Exodus 18:21. Proverbs 28:16. 1 Timothy 3:2,3).
KJV Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
KJV Proverbs 28:16 The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.
KJV 1 Timothy 3:2,3 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
The Law of Consequence for Violating the Commandment
Those that chose a life of covetousness will find that serving this idol maker will drain you of life (Proverbs 1:19. 1 Timothy 6:9) and bring trouble to your family (Proverbs 15:27. James 4:2).
In The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by English author J.R.R. Tolkien, nine rings of power were given to nine kings who took them without question being blinded by greed. However, the rings were controlled by the evil Sauron (a type of Satan) with the result that the kings that had the rings were never satisfied with their ring but wanted the one most powerful ring - the ring of power - their Precious!. All the while their ring was draining away their lives until they became the living dead. I find this an excellent picture of covetousness - you never have enough and all the while covetousness is draining away your life!
Furthermore, I have seen many in the workplace that have good positions of leadership yet they are never satisfied. They come to think that the only good promotion is the next promotion yet all the while covetousness is draining away their lives and destroying their family or the possibility of one (Ecclesiastes 5:10-13). They are in pursuit of the brass "ring" on the corporate carousel - their "Precious".
Others have destroyed marriages and families by coveting the spouses of others(1) and then seducing them away from their mates. Interestingly, while the the United States the divorce rate for first marriages is near 50%, second marriages is 67% and third marriages is 74%. That speaks volumes to me about continuing to work on the marriage you are in(1) juxtaposed to starting over in a new one - the odds (and God) are in your favor! (Malachi 2:15. Proverbs 5:18) (2).
The Opportunity of Blessing for Keeping the Commandment
The key to staying out of covetousness can be found in the restoration of Apostle Peter. Recall Peter had denied and even cursed Jesus when He was being falsely accused and illegally tried (John 13:38. Luke 22:54-60). Peter had been a fisher of fish when Jesus called him but became a fisher of men (Mark 1:16-18). However, after denying Jesus Peter had returned to fishing likely misguidedly thinking he had lost his place in the ministry (John 21:3. Romans 11:29). After His resurrection Jesus set about to reconcile and restore Peter for indeed this is what the Kingdom of God is all about (Galatians 6:1. 1 Timothy 1:5).
Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times so He asked Peter if he loved Him three times while He served them a breakfast of grilled fish He had prepared (John 21). The first time Jesus asked if Peter loved (Greek agape(1)) Him more than these? This question can be interpreted to mean:
- Do you love me more than the other disciples love me?
- Do you love me more than you love the other disciples?
- Do you love me more than you love the fish?
As silly as the last one sounds I believe it to be the key question! Think about it - fishing for fish was Peter's former career and Jesus wanted him to launch off into a new career of leading in the formation of The Church. Hear our Lord Jesus dearhearts of God - do you love me more than your CAREER?
Selah (i.e., pause and reflect on that thought). Can you say "Amen!" or rather is it "Oh Me!"
In this question lies the key to avoiding covetousness - knowing that God loves us we can unconditionally choose to love the Lord our God with all of our being more than any other person, place or thing (Matthew 22:37,38. Romans 5:8. 1 John 4:19. ). That is, God will become our treasure even as we are His (Matthew 6:21. 1 Peter 2:9). In doing this God will so fill us with His love that we can love others even as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39,40. 1 John 4:7-11). By living in the love of God we will not covet; therefore, we will avoid breaking the other nine commandments as well (1 Corinthians 13:4-8;13:13. Romans 13:8-10). You see, it is not that the Law is irrelevant to Christians but rather what Jesus did was provide a way to fulfill the Law that was not available in the Old Covenant or Testament. That is, Jesus by the new birth made it possible that our spiritual hearts can be filled with His love so that we could live our lives in this love and thus fulfill the Law of the Commandments (Matthew 5:17. Romans 5:5. Ephesians 3:14-21).
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. 13:5 It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. 13:6 It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. 13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things 13:8 Love never ends... 1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
We will then learn we can depend on God, who is love Himself, to meet all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), wants (Psalms 23:1) and desires (Psalms 37:4) thus freeing us from covetousness (Hebrews 13:5. Psalms 91).
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) However, I am not advocating allowing yourself to be harmed by an abusive marriage relationship.