You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. 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 chapter 20, verse 17.
Our discussion starts with the Supreme Court. Did you know that, in the chamber where the nine justices hear arguments and announce decisions, there is a large painting of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments? Quite seriously, how ironic is that? The judicial body that has done more to officially remove all insinuation of God from American public life deliberates – and dictates – law from underneath a painting depicting how God gave the code of conduct that became the foundation of every law in the Western Hemisphere. Maybe God is trying to tell us something. Knowing that bit of trivia, let’s work our way from the tenth to the first commandment, starting with behaviors and ending at the throne of God.
What is coveting and why would God include it in His list of behaviors that we are to beware? Dictionary.com defines “covet” as “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others.”
Think about it: don’t most arguments and disagreements start with some form of envy? If every sin is a subtle (or not so subtle) form of idolatry, then perhaps the parents of that idolatry are pride and coveting. We proudly set ourselves against God thinking we are better than Him, and then we wrongfully desire what is His alone.
It’s more than just envy: it’s poison. When we take our eyes off God and where He is navigating us in our choices, it’s easy to look around and see so much we want or think we deserve. I don’t just want my neighbor’s house, car, job, bank account, or status. I DESERVE it. I transpose what could have been a harmless thought into thinking of it as a misplaced need. It’s a pulled thread that could unravel a much larger tapestry.
God tells us to not covet because He understands that it is the foundation of leading to other sins, the one that is a first step to walking away from Him.
Going back to the Supreme Court, isn’t it ironic that so many of the disputes that end up there are founding in some kind of coveting? Sure there are genuine issues of Constitutional standing, of right and wrong. But, like other courts, the Supreme Court also settles disputes that pit one party’s desire against another. Strip away the legalese and you’ll end up at one party wanting something the other has. Hello: see the tenth Commandment.
And that’s just the easy part of it. There’s more. It dives even deeper into the human heart. Tune in tomorrow.
Lord, I’m guilty of coveting, of wanting things I shouldn’t. Forgive me and teach me to do better.
Read Exodus chapter 1, the story of Israel’s captivity.