‘You shall not covet .... ’
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17; cf. Deuteronomy 5:21
This commandment of the LORD teaches us that God requires not only outward holiness, but inward holiness as well. Not only are our actions to be pure, but our thoughts and desires as well. Thus, we learn that we not only sin when we commit adultery or take our neighbor’s property or goods; we sin when we desire what belongs to our neighbor and is not rightfully ours.
Therefore, we are not to covet or desire our neighbor’s house, his wife, his servants or employees, his stock or any of his property. Rather, we are to trust in the LORD God and be satisfied in Him and in that which He has given us.
The Bible teaches us: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).
We may not realize it, but our hearts, as they are by nature, are filled with evil thoughts and desires. When we entertain these thoughts and desires, they grow and often even lead to sinful words and actions. Cf. Matthew 15:19.
This is why God warns against the sin of covetousness, for it is contrary to God’s will and desire for us and leads to acts of disobedience and rebellion. The Bible is filled with examples. David lusted after Bathsheba and took her, even committing murder to cover up his sin of adultery. King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard and committed murder to get it. Judas desired money and betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Rather than coveting, which leads to death, the LORD God would have us trust in Him and be satisfied with what He gives us. The Bible tells us: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6; cf. Psalm 37:3ff.).
From this commandment, we truly see that God commands and desires that we be holy as He is holy — in thoughts, desires, words and deeds (cf. Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48). Though we have miserably failed to keep God’s holy commandments, Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, has fulfilled them for us by living a holy life in thought, word and deed. He also went to the cross and there bore the full punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world that we might have God’s pardon and forgiveness, and life everlasting in heaven through faith in His name (cf. 1 John 1:5 – 2:2).
O dearest Jesus, forgive me for my evil thoughts and desires as well as for my sinful words and actions. Cleanse my heart and give me a genuine desire to live for You. I ask this for the sake of your holy and precious blood, shed for me upon the cross. Amen.