“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.”
Many centuries ago there was a king of Israel named Ahab. He wanted the vineyard of a man named Naboth, so he could make the vineyard into a vegetable garden. Naboth would not give the vineyard to the king. He said it was his inheritance. Ahab was actually like a child who didn’t get his way. He laid in bed and wouldn’t eat. We would say he coveted the vineyard. That word “covet” means he wanted something that belonged to another person.
The king’s wife was the evil queen Jezebel, and she had Naboth killed, so that Ahab could have the vineyard. The Ten Commandment forbids coveting. That is, it forbids desiring something that belongs to somebody else. Today we will see in the Bible that we are not to covet what belongs to another person.
Turn to Exodus chapter 20. In Exodus 20 the Ten Commandments are listed. In Exodus 20, verse 17, this is the Tenth Commandment. “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.”
Again, that word “covet” means to desire something that belongs to another person.
DO NOT WRONGLY DESIRE ANYTHING
In verse 17 we have a list of things we are not to covet. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. We are not to want to take a person’s house away from him. It may be a house that we like. His house might be better than ours. We should not wish we had his house. We should not covet our neighbor’s wife. Remember Jesus Christ talked about lust where He said that if one lusts after a woman, it is as if he has committed adultery with her in his heart. He talked about the spirit of the law and gave that as an example, so we are not to lust after someone else’s wife or husband, for that matter.
It says nor his man servant nor his maid servant. In our time we really don’t have servants. Sometimes we will have employees. We are not to lust after or desire someone else’s employees to the point where we would use evil means to try and get that person to work for us. It says nor his ox nor his donkey. Some of us have animals. We should not wrongly desire someone else’s animals. Maybe someone has a fine breeding cow, for example, or a bull. We should not lust after that and desire that. We don’t want his animal. Or in a more modern society, instead of animals we may have cars and trucks that get us around similar to the way an ox might pull a cart and a donkey might be ridden. In more modern societies in the world we have cars and trucks. We should not be coveting someone else’s car or truck.
This verse does not try to include everything that we are not to covet. Instead what it does is at the end it says, “nor anything that is your neighbors.” That covers everything, doesn’t it.
If we were to look up the word “covetousness” in a Strong’s Concordance, we would find in several places where the apostle Paul wrote that we are not to be covetous. We won’t turn to those right now.
What does coveting lead to? We already mentioned lust for someone else’s wife and how it breaks the spirit of the commandment against adultery, the Seventh Commandment. It can lead to an act of adultery as well. Think how serious an act of adultery is. We think how happy a couple is on their wedding day, and then they may have so many pleasant memories over the years. Maybe they have children that they love. Adultery ruins all of that. Their family may be broken up. Even if it stays together, their love will never be the same. That is where sexual coveting leads.
This is another example. What if our neighbor finds a job that pays very well or he receives an inheritance. Would we want his money? It is not our money to have. Would we be thinking about his money every time we talk to him? We could ruin our friendship with him by coveting his money. It is better to rejoice that he is prospering. Maybe we need to work a little harder, so we can prosper, too.
THE PROCESS OF SIN
Turn to James chapter 1. In James chapter 1 we see the process of sin. What starts sin? Where does sin come from? James chapter 1, starting in verse 12: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But 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. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
Here is what we go through when we sin. Our desires cause us to be tempted. We might want something that belongs to somebody else, and we are tempted to steal it. At that point, we have broken the Tenth Commandment. If we think about it enough, we might deceive ourselves into believing that it is something that we desire to have and that we deserve to have it. Then, if those thoughts go on long enough, we might steal it. At that point, we have broken the commandment against stealing, the Eighth Commandment.
When we see ourselves starting this cycle of sin, we must stop it. The earlier we stop it, the easier it will be to keep from sinning. As soon as a thought enters our mind to want something that belongs to somebody else, pray for strength and put out that thought.
Turn to James chapter 4. This even happens on a national scale. It’s not just individuals we are talking about here. James chapter 4, verse 1: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
This even happens on a national scale. One country covets the land, wealth, or people of another country. They may try to justify it by saying they need the land to separate themselves from their enemies. Or they may say they need the wealth because their country has very few national resources. The neighboring country does have resources, and they deserve to have that. Or they may desire the people. They may covet the people of another country saying they need labor, so they take them as slave labor. All these things have happened over the years.
This covetousness leads to war, which is murder on a large scale. We look forward to the Millennium when Jesus Christ is ruling on the earth, and there will be no more war.
Turn to I Timothy chapter 6. Having a lot of money does not make people happy. Millions of people in prosperous countries have luxuries that the rest of the world can’t even dream of, but what they have does not make them happy.
GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT
Let’s read I Timothy chapter 6, verses 6-8. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”
Godliness with contentment is great gain. We are to be living godly lives, learning to develop that godly righteous character and be content doing it. That is the gain that we will enjoy. Be happy with food and clothing if that is all we have. So many in the world don’t even have the necessities of food and clothing.
Verse 9 of I Timothy chapter 6: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
A person desiring to be rich will be tempted, will be snared, will be caught in a trap and fall into these foolish and harmful lusts and desires. It will be just like drowning.
Verse 10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The sin of covetousness leads to more sin.
Sometimes a person will live for years with just the necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. It is not an easy life, but he can be happy. Then he might have a chance to earn more money. He must be careful not to love that money. He might covet more money, or he might never want to help others with his money. Either way, evil can creep into his life. He could lose his relationship with God, and he will not care about his fellow men.
Turn to Luke chapter 12. We do not want to love things more than people. It is very simply stated. We do not want to love things more than people. This is Jesus Christ talking in Luke chapter 12, verse 15: “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’”
The value of our life is not in our money and things. Our value is in the character of spiritual gold, silver, and precious jewels that we are developing. Our value is in the Holy Spirit which begets us, so that we can be born into the family of God and live forever.
COVETOUSNESS CHOKES THE WORD
Turn to Matthew chapter 13. Matthew 13 is the chapter that has the famous parable of the sower and the seed. There is a lot to be learned from that. We are to develop spiritual fruit, and covetousness can prevent us from bearing that fruit.
Let’s read Matthew chapter 13, verses 1-9, the parable itself. “On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”
Now let’s read the explanation of this parable starting in verse 18. Matthew 13, verse 18: “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
Now this is the part that we are the most interested in.
Verse 22 of Matthew 13: “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.”
The cares of the world often are about money or about protecting the things that we have. We think about protecting our riches and protecting our money. We worry about what is going to happen to them.
It talks about the deceitfulness of riches. Yes, riches are deceitful. They can make you think that riches are more important than anything else. Money can become a god to us if we let it. If we worship a false god of money, we won’t be developing spiritual fruit in our life.
Read verse 23 of Matthew 13: “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Let’s turn to Matthew chapter 6. Some of us like memory verses, which are verses we like to memorize. Here’s one in Matthew 6, verse 33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
We don’t need to covet. We don’t need to think we have to do everything on our own. We don’t have to think we need to steal from people. No, of course not, God will provide what we need.
GIVE VS. GET
Let’s turn to Acts chapter 20. Several years ago there was a minister of God named Herbert W. Armstrong. He learned that there were two ways of life. The one way he called “get,” and that means to get more for a person’s own self at the expense of others. The person wants to get money, power, and things for himself at the expense of his fellowman, letting his fellowman suffer and maybe stealing it from his fellowman.
The other way of life Mr. Armstrong called the way of “give.” This is a way of outgoing concern. That’s how Mr. Armstrong defined love. It is an outgoing concern, and it is that giving way of life. This is when we give what we can to others to make their lives better. We do what we can for others. We look to other people’s needs more than to our own. It is a very rewarding way of life.
In Acts 20, let’s read verse 35. This is the apostle Paul speaking to the elders. “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
It is better to give than to receive. It is better to give than to get. The way of give is better than the way of get.
A PURE HEART
The apostle Paul referred to Christianity as a way. Turn to Matthew chapter 5. Christianity is a way of life. It is a way of life that is opposite to covetousness. Let’s read Jesus’ instructions starting in Matthew chapter 5, verse 1. We commonly call these The Beatitudes. “And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’”
It says, “poor in spirit.” That means to be humble. That means not having our minds on ourselves all the time. It’s not having our minds on what we can get from others, or how great we might be, or how much power we can get over others. We should not have covetousness. Instead be poor in spirit—be humble.
Let’s continue in verse 4 of Matthew 5: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Meek is being humble and also being teachable. When we see in the Bible what we need to be working on such as covetousness, if that is an issue, then we overcome it.
Verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Remember righteousness is defined as keeping the commandments. We hunger and thirst for that. We want to keep God’s commandments, including the Tenth Commandment against covetousness.
Verse 7 of Matthew 5: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Instead of covetousness we sincerely want to give to other people. That is a pure heart and a pure motive.
Verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Instead of striving for what other people have and what belongs to others, we are peacemakers. We make peace with others.
Let’s skip on to verse 14: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
We are to be a light showing God’s way of outgoing concern in a covetous world.
Remember Christ is coming quickly. He will marry His bride, the Church, when the Church has made herself ready. We must get rid of the spots and blemishes in our character. One of the spots may be wrongly desiring what other people have. Instead of coveting, let’s look for ways to give to other people.