Commandment #10: Coveting, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, December 17, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17b)

Last week I wrote about why Exodus 20:17 is split into two commandments, so this week we’re looking at the latter part of the verse, which is the tenth and final commandment in this passage.

Again, we’re talking about coveting here. Coveting basically means a yearning, a longing, a craving, or a desire to have something. Our neighbor is any other person. Wanting anything that belongs to someone else is coveting that thing from our neighbor.

The first part of this verse talked about coveting our neighbor’s house, and this verse goes into more detail about other thing we may covet. However, this list seems a bit dated to our culture; personally, I can’t say I’ve ever coveted a donkey!

But we have to remember the context of this passage, that God gave these commandments to Moses and the people of Israel while they were wandering in the desert after leaving Egypt. In their culture, servants and livestock were their most valued possessions. Even a wife was considered property to some extent back then, so it’s definitely a different culture than we have today. Even the explanation of this commandment from Luther’s Small Catechism (written in 1529) seems a bit dated to today’s culture: “We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”

However, the principle still applies: we should not covet anything that belongs to some else, out of our love for God. Today, perhaps this commandment would instruct us to not covet your neighbor’s car, cell phone, or money, and to not desire to do unlawful things to get what’s not yours. As with all of the commandments, we desire to follow this one out of our love for God. God has created all people in His image, and because of that we should desire to not harm any person in any way, including by even desiring what they have.

This is definitely a hard commandment to follow, especially in this commercialized Christmas season. The entire advertising business is built on getting people to want what they don’t have! The intent of this commandment is not to make us all be minimalists, but specifically to not desire to take away what belongs to another person. It’s not that we can’t desire to have anything, but we should not desire that which belongs to another person. That desire can lead to envy, which often leads us to sin against God, perhaps even by breaking another commandment and stealing.

Jesus included coveting in a list of things that defiles a person, as recorded in Mark 7:20-23: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Even Paul touches on coveting when explaining the law in Romans 7:7: “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

We know that we should not desire to have what another person has, and as we approach the Christmas holiday I encourage you to keep that in mind in all aspects of your life.

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