Vol. 16 No 50 – December 10, 2017
Ex 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Deut 5:21, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This commandment is different from the other commandments in that it did not deal with a specific act, but rather with emotional, psychological sin. Therefore, this command, as they all do, teaches us that the main point of this prohibition is inward motivation, desire, lust, and coveting. What was manifest empirically in acts and words in the previous commandments is now seen hidden in thoughts and cravings in the 10th.
This commandment also shows the descending progression of violence in a society that begins with a thought that lead to ruining someone’s personal reputation, the 9th, and can culminate in the 6th, committing murder.
In most instances, it is self-interest that motivates individuals to murder, commit adultery, steal, and bear false witness, which reflects a wrong attitude towards your fellow community members. In the community, the domination of self-interest can easily lead to dangerous actions. This commandment prohibits any desire leading to such actions, exposing wrongdoing at its source. Therefore, the main concern should be having love for God and love for one’s neighbor, which helps to prevent such wrongful actions first in the mentality of your own soul, and then in the community.
Another thing this commandment teaches us is our relationship with God, and specifically His faithfulness, goodness, and provision. Because God loves us and provides for our every need, we do not need to worry about our own provisions that can lead to desiring what other people have. Our Father knows our needs, Mat 6:25-34, and satisfies our deepest longings.
As such, we can view the commands and see how God has poured Himself into them. They reflect His holy character. They are not just a list of rules; they are a reflection of God; His love and provision for us, His children.
How awesome it is that we have a God who has given us His Word! The psalmist reflects on God’s law in Psa 119:97 saying, “How I love Your instruction! It is my meditation all day long.”
The Hebrew Bible, (Old Testament), contains a number of warnings and examples of negative consequences for lusting or coveting. For example, when God was instructing Israel regarding the false religion of the Canaanites, he warned them not to covet the silver or gold on their idols, because this could lead to bringing detestable things into the home and potentially lead to having and worshipping other gods before God.
Deut 7:25-26, “The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.”
The Book of Joshua chapter 7 contains a narrative in which Achan incurred the wrath of God by coveting prohibited gold and silver that he found in the destruction of Jericho. This is portrayed as a violation of covenant and a disgraceful thing.
The prophet Micah condemns the coveting of houses and fields as a warning against lusting after physical possessions, Micah 2:2.
Micah 2:2, “They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.”
The book of Proverbs warns against coveting in the form of sexual lust.
Proverbs 6:25-26, “Do not desire, (lust for in your heart), her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids. 26For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life.”
It also exhorts to protect your heart so the coveting does not rule it, Prov 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Therefore, we are not to envy or desire to take away that which is the property of another, whether it is his home or his wife or his servants, or even his livestock.
And finally, as a blessing to Israel for their faithfulness to God, He would protect them from other nations coveting their blessings. Ex 34:24.
Ex 34:24, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God.”
Conclusion to the OT Usage:
It may have been possible for someone to keep the first nine commandments but no one could have avoided breaking the 10th at some point in time. It may be the least overtly violent and injurious of all the commandments, yet it is the commandment most at the root of all disobedience in that it logically precedes the rest. In this respect, the 10th Commandment is the most forceful of all, because it made people aware of their inability to keep God’s Law perfectly. Yet, this awareness threw them back to depend on God’s grace and mercy, just as He desires it to be.
See video of Moses receiving the Law: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoFSpoAbXLc
New Testament Usage:
This Commandment is reiterated in Rom 7:7; 13:9, therefore, it is a NT doctrine for the Church Age. In these passages it utilizes the Greek verb EPITHUMEO, which is synonymous with the Hebrew CHAMAD and AWAH, that can be used for both good and bad coveting. Here we will note on the bad / sinful type of coveting /lusting in the NT.
This commandment was the basis for Paul’s discovering the Old Sin Nature and that he was a sinful creature who needed a Savior. Paul said that the knowledge of the law, through the command, “Do not covet,” Rom 7:7, elicited every kind of “covetous desire,” vs. 8, in him because of his “sinful nature,” vs. 18.
Rom 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET”.”
Paul is saying, “I would not have known the existence of the principle of the Sin Nature were it not for the 10th Commandment.” This highlights this commandment above all the others, as it directly speaks to the mentality of the soul in regard to sinning, versus overt actions noted in the other Commandment, cf. Eph 5:3-5; James 1:15.
James 1:15, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
As we have noted, covetousness has a psychologically degrading effect upon an individual. It takes away contentment, cf. Phil 4:11-12; 1 Tim 6:6-8, and sets one’s attention on acquiring earthly and temporal things rather than the heavenly and eternal treasures that God has provided for us, cf. Mat 6:20, 33.
Phil 4:11-13, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
The point is, as Paul told Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Tim 6:6. The NT stresses thanksgiving and contentment as proper heart attitudes that contrast covetousness. John the Baptist exhorted soldiers to be content with their pay rather than extorting money by threats and false accusations, Luke 3:14. The book of Hebrews encourages one to keep his life free from the love of money and “be content with what you have” and depend on the promises and help of God rather than trusting in wealth, Heb 13:5-6. 1 Timothy also contains the classic warning against the love of money and stresses that it is great gain to be content with food and clothing, 1 Tim 6:6-10.
1 Tim 6:6-10, “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
In studying the 10 Commandments, Paul also discovered, as we have seen, that they were designed as principles of freedom. The 10th Commandment forbids covetousness because, when unchecked, it destroys individual freedom. Covetousness is an expression of the lust pattern of the Old Sin Nature; and when the lust pattern is allowed to control the soul, emotional revolt of the soul (ERS) results. When ERS leads a person’s soul, it causes various sins that infringe upon the freedoms of others. When a maximum number of people in a national entity are operation under the ERS, freedom is destroyed within that society or nation.
In commemorating the 10th Commandments, Adam Clarke writes, “This is a most excellent moral precept, the observance of which will prevent all public crimes; for he who feels the force of the law that prohibits the inordinate desire of anything that is the property of another, can never make a breach in the peace of society by an act of wrong to any of even its feeblest members.” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary.)
In addition, the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians regard the sin of covetousness as a kind of idolatry and list this sin along with sexual immorality and impurity, which give rise to the wrath of God, Eph 5:3-6; Col 3:5-6. Therefore, to covet leads to a life of misery and anguish whether you obtain your lustful desires or not.
In the first NT utilization of the principle of “coveting,” Jesus enlarged on all of the commandments utilizing “coveting / lusting” in reference to being the genesis of all sins, because they emanate from within a man’s heart, Mat 5:21-48; 15:19.
Mat 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust (EPITHUMEO) for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Mat 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.”
Jesus also used the noun PLEONEXIA, πλεονεξία that means, “greediness, avarice, or covetousness,” to make this point that the sins that defile a person are sins coming from untamed desires in the heart, Mark 7:20-22; Luke 12:15.
Mark 7:20-23, “And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man”.”
The Gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ warning to guard one’s heart against covetousness, Luke 12:15, “Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions”.”
James also portrays covetous desire residing in the heart as being the internal source of temptation and sin, James 1:13-15.
James 1:14-15, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
James goes on to describe how covetous desire leads to fighting and that lack of material possessions is caused by not asking God for them and by asking with wrong motives.
As we noted above, “lusting or coveting” comes from the Greek Verb EPITHUMEO, ἐπιθυμέω that means, “desire, long for, and lust for or after.” It can be used for both good and bad desiring, like the Hebrew words CHAMAD and AWAH found in the Decalogue. It is used of a sinful nature in Mat 5:28; Acts 20:33, (Paul defending his ministry); Rom 7:7; 13:9 (social justice code); 1 Cor 10:6; Gal 5:17; James 4:2.
Gal 5:17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”
James 4:2, “You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”
The Noun EPITHUMIA, ἐπιθυμία means, “desire, longing, or craving,” and is used for sinful mentality in Mark 4:19; John 8:44 (“of your father the devil”); Rom 1:24, (God gave them over to depravity); Rom 6:12; 7:7-8; 13:14; Gal 5:16, 24; Eph 2:3; 4:22; Col 3:5; 1 Thes 4:5; 1 Tim 6:9; 2 Tim 2:22; 3:6; 2 Tim 4:3; Titus 2:12; 3:3; James 1:14-15; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11; 4:2-3; 2 Peter 1:4; 2:10, 18; 3:3; 1 John 2:16-17; Jude 1:16, 18; Rev 18:14, and the Noun EPITHUMETES, “one who lusts for,” 1 Cor 10:6.
Putting a few of these verses together tells us of the detrimental effect of coveting and that we should turn from covetousness to producing the Fruit of the Spirit.
Mark 4:19, “The worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
Rom 6:12, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts.”
Eph 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Titus 3:3, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
Eph 4:22, “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.”
1 Peter 4:3, “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.”
Rom 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
Gal 5:16, “I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Gal 5:24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Col 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
2 Tim 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Paul further warns us of the sinful life using “covet and covetousness” in the NT with the Nouns PLEONEKTES, πλεονέκτης that means, “one who desires more, a greedy or covetous person,” in 1 Cor 5:10-11; 6:10; Eph 5:5, and PLEONEXIA πλεονεξία, that means, “greediness, avarice, and covetousness,” in Rom 1:29, (with OREXIS, “strong lusting,” vs. 27); 2 Cor 9:5; Eph 4:19; 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thes 2:5; 2 Peter 2:3, 14.
The mental attitude of coveting that leads to actual “taking advantage of someone,” is found in the verb PLEONEKTEO πλεονεκτέω that means, “take advantage of, defraud, and exploit,” in 2 Cor 2:11; 7:2; 12:17-18; 1 Thes 4:6.
“Lust” is also found in the Greek Verb ZELOO, ζηλόω that means, “strive, fervently desire, be zealous, be jealous, or envious,” and the noun ZELOS ζῆλος that means, “zeal, fervor, jealousy, or rivalry.” It is used for sinful behavior in: Acts 7:9; 17:5; Gal 4:17; James 4:2, (KJV, which adds “covet” after “kill”), and Rom 13:13; 1 Cor 3:32; 2 Cor 12:20; Gal 5:20; James 3:14, 16.
Rom 13:13, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.”
James 3:14, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.”
James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.”
1 Tim 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing (OREGOMAI) for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.”
1 Cor 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”
Finally, as I noted in the OT usage, I heard a homicide detective once say, “all crimes are motivated by one of three things; money, sex / relationships, or power.” Coveting is behind them all, as noted in 1 John 2:16; 2 Peter 2:10; 1 Tim 6:10; Heb 13:5, cf. Gal 5:16.
1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world”
2 Peter 2:10, “And especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, …”
1 Tim 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Heb 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…”
Therefore, Gal 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life.
So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!