“You shall not covet…” (Exodus 20)
This is the tenth and last commandment on this list but it may be almost impossible to keep without the help of the Holy Spirit! That’s because this commandment is about how the heart thinks! It tells us not even to secretly want things that are not ours. It tells us there is a wrong way and a right way of “wanting”.
Everybody wants things. That’s natural. God knows we have wants and desires.
About our physical needs, Jesus Christ taught,
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
He told us not to worry about our needs. Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily bread” assuring us that God knows before we even ask what we need.
God is a Giver by His very nature. He gives lavishly. God doesn’t want to deprive us. God wants to give us all good things! He already gave us His best gift – Yahshua (Jesus), Immanuel, “God with us”! Then He poured out His Holy Spirit for all believers to enjoy!
God goes beyond our needs and gives us things just for enjoyment! But God doesn’t want us to make things into idols.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
God wants us to enjoy the things He has given us, but not to rely on them or hope in them. We should love the Giver above the gifts!
God also promises that for those who “delight in Him”, He will give us the “desires of our heart”. (Psalm 37:4)
When I was in India on a mission trip, I noticed how happy the Christians were. They had very little material things. One home we were in had only a dirt floor. But the people were joyful. Jesus is our joy and no one can take Him away from us! But if we “covet” things, above the LORD Himself, then we cannot enjoy His Presence.
His sweet, comforting Presence was with me the whole time in India, and that made it a very special time for me, even though I did not have all the comforts of home!
So wanting in itself is not wrong. But on the other hand, God doesn’t want us to be greedy. He doesn’t want us to covet things, where we chase after them above all else. He wants us to know true contentment.
When we want things so badly that we will do anything to get them, including breaking God’s commandment, then we have become covetous. To steal or lie or cheat to get what we want is wrong. To put things we want before God is wrong and the Bible compares it to idolatry!
“… everyone … who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5)
Why should we covet material things, when we have an eternal inheritance in heaven? Should we let covetousness steal from us our inheritance from God?
SIN BEGINS IN THE HEART
Before one steals something, one usually covets it. That means to want it inappropriately.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
Here’s a little “math” problem to illustrate.
Jack is visiting at a friend’s home. There’s a cool toy that he sees. He really likes it and wants it, so Jack sticks it carefully in his pocket and takes it home. Ooops. How many commandments did Jack just break?
One. Jack wanted something so badly that he was willing to steal from his own friend to get it, breaking the Tenth Commandment of not coveting his neighbor’s goods.
Two. Jack actually stole the toy, breaking the Seventh Commandment – DO NOT STEAL.
Three. In that moment, that thing became more important to Jack than obeying God. He put some silly THING before God Almighty! That breaks the FIRST COMMANDMENT to love God first and foremost.
Four. Jack was not loving his neighbor as himself and therefore breaking the commandment that Jesus gave of “loving your neighbor as yourself” by stealing his property. (Matthew 22:39)
Then maybe Jack went home and his dad asked him where he got the toy. Jack lies to cover up his theft. Oops, there’s another sin. We’re up to five! And it all began in the heart with coveting!
It’s a good thing our Heavenly Father forgives us our many sins!
Thankfully, later that night, Jack hears the Holy Spirit whispering that he did wrong and Jack repents and the next day he returns the toy to his friend. God wants to fix things when we mess up! But we need to be obedient to His Word and repent of sins and wrong thoughts.
ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE OUR HEARTS
The Tenth Commandment shows that we can sin in our thoughts before there is even an action.
But how can one stop oneself from wrongly wanting something? How can we change what we think and want?
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He gives us a new spirit and His Holy Spirit comes to live inside us. The Holy Spirit within us begins to change us as we spend time with God. As we read His Word, He changes our minds. He changes our desires. We start to want better things, spiritual things that will last for eternity. We start to understand that God loves us and trusts that He gives us all that we need. God gives us contentment.
GOD’S SECRET WEAPON AGAINST SIN
The Holy Spirit inside us is our “secret weapon” against sin!
‘So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the [sinful] desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
Flood your heart with thanksgiving and praise to God, fill your mind with His Word, speak forth His promises and His Holy Spirit will overcome those bad thoughts and desires!
ANOTHER GREAT SECRET
The Apostle Paul wrote:
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Paul was saying that no matter what circumstance he finds himself in, he is able to be content, at rest and at peace. He can go through all kinds of situations and things because the Holy Spirit of Christ within him continually strengthens him! Isn’t that a great secret? But this “secret” he shares, for it is something that every Christian can have in Christ: to be at peace and to be content NO MATTER WHAT!
Paul was not wishing he were someplace else, and not wanting for more than he had. He knew that he was on the very path where God wanted him. He was content just being in the will of God. There is great joy in knowing you are in the will of God!
Let us pray as the psalmist prayed:
“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.”
Let’s be content and thankful for the many blessings we do have! Let us pray to be a Giver like our heavenly Father! Shalom!