X – “Thou shalt not covet”
Did you know that recent surveys have revealed that the financial troubles plaguing most families are not the result of low income? Rather, they are directly caused by overextending a normally adequate income for luxuries and personal indulgence, and by the American habit of installment buying! “Buy now and pay later,” say the advertisements. But the question then becomes “do you really need to buy this item now? And are you sure you will be able to “pay later”?
It is sad to say, but we live in a society based on Lust and Covetousness. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is a popular American slogan. The modern idea is to “get all you can while the getting is good.” The incessant pressure to succeed—which usually means to acquire more money and material property—has spawned more and more idolatry. It is blinding the minds and hearts of millions to the life of God.
Most people get so close to their own sin that they cannot see it. We live in a so-called “Christian” society that in actual fact is based on lust and greed for more and more material things! The frenzied effort to compete with others and get ahead is the source not only of most financial problems, but the real cause of much physical and mental illness, broken homes, and frustrated lives. Most important of all, this form of idolatry leaves one with almost no time, strength or desire ever to become acquainted with the true God—whose living laws and ways alone would bring real inner peace and joy.
Most people fail to realize that the Ten Commandments are living, moving, active laws—like the law of gravity. They are automatic. When you break them, they break you! And that’s how it is with the final commandment of God’s law. Even though it may be broken without the knowledge of any other human being, the penalty for its violation is absolutely certain! “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)
The force of the commandment lies in these words: “your neighbor’s… your neighbor’s…your neighbor’s.” This is a sevenfold guarding of the interests of another. It is not wrong to lawfully desire a wife, a servant, or an ox or donkey. But where the object admired is legitimately out of reach and belongs to your neighbor, it combines lust (this would bring me pleasure) with competitiveness and leaves God out of the equation. Instead of being happy for our neighbor, we become jealous and envious, and that is sin. We may even wonder why God would bless some people and not us!
There is kind of a rule I have found in God’s Word – Action follows thought. What you think, you are. If you secretly reject God’s standard and His way, if in your heart you lust after something that you either cannot or will not come to lawfully possess with His blessing, then—sooner or later—this mental rebellion will prompt outward sin. The actions will then proceed to defy God—to break His law—because the thoughts have been doing this all along! What we think about most will eventually settle in the heart.
Luke 6:45 – “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
This command pierces through all “surface Christianity” and shows whether a person has really surrendered his will to his Maker! It is a searching and fearful principle. Be honest, how do you feel when a friend or neighbor pulls up with a new car? Or buys a bunch of new clothes? Or has a house full of new furniture? Buys a new house? Etc.
The normal mind of the human being is filled with selfishness, vanity, competition, greed, hate, lust. It is a mind cut off from the ways and thoughts of God – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) That is why Jesus emphasized how important it is to get our minds changed, converted and cleaned up when He said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Remember that the mind and the heart always go together. They are traveling companions that will often take us where we don’t really want to go. Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Since World War II, life in our Western society has sped up. We are rushing to make more money. We are in a hurry to have a good time, to get everything we can out of life. On every side, we are taught to compete with our neighbors for social honors and material advancement. We have come to literally crave material luxuries that were in some cases completely unknown just two or three generations ago. We are urged to spend more than we make—to do more than we ought. “You owe it to yourself,” the subtle advertisement reads, putting over the idea that we would be foolish not to buy a bigger car, eat at a more expensive restaurant or take longer and more costly trips. The emphasis is on getting and on self.
On an international scale, the nations of the world fight and kill because of this same attitude of heart. “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.” (James 4:1–2)
Our generation needs these words of the Son of God: “Take heed and beware of covetousness; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Do you understand that? Your real success and happiness in life, Christ said, cannot truly be measured by how new or powerful a car you drive, the kind of home you live in, the clothes you wear, or even the food you eat. Happiness is a state of mind.
Well, it is true that the Commandments join together – And so at this point the last commandment joins hands with the first. For whatever you seek contrary to God’s will, you covet. When you begin to covet material things, you “serve” them. You spend your time, your energy, your money for these things. Want proof – 90% of people receiving a tax refund will immediately start thinking about how to
When we think about the fact that the first four Commandments deal with our relationship with God, and the rest deal with our relationships with one another, It’s no wonder Jesus just combined them into “Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, It’s just that simple.