“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.” (Ex. 20:17).
“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.” (Dt. 5:21).
Introduction: Coveting of the Devil vs. the Covenant of God. The Tenth Commandment addresses the unholy desires of the heart. These include the passions of the flesh and the desires for wealth and status. In the Fifth Century, St. Augustine proposed dividing the Tenth Commandment into two separate commandments and merging the first two commandments together. He believed that one commandment addressed the sin of coveting the flesh while the other covered coveting property. Yet, the problem with his proposal was that God switched the order of the prohibitions on coveting between the first and second readings of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Thus, the Ninth and Tenth Commandments would differ between the first and second readings of the Ten Commandments in the Bible. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and later the Lutheran Church all adopted the Augustinian method of counting. Yet, the Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Evangelicals, and all other Protestants count the last commandment as one. However it is counted, this Commandment addresses the feeder sins that cause you to break the other commandments. If you covet or long for something or someone, that can become your god. That then violates the First Commandment. The Apostle Paul also warned that coveting can become a form of idolatry, which violates the Second Commandment. As representatives of Christ, our coveting can also “profane” God’s name by casting a bad light for what it means to be a believer. This then breaks the Third Commandment. Coveting the things that gratify yourself, can also lead you to break the other Commandments. These include the Sabbath, placing your desires before your parents, hatred or murder, adultery, theft, and lying. The struggle against coveting is something that all believers fight with in some form. If you give in to coveting, you form a bond of communion with Satan. If you fail to rebuke him or flee from Satan’s temptations, God will eventually allow Satan to bind you into an addition. Yet, God is graceful and will give you the power to break free from any kind of drug, alcohol, or sex addition. For those who repent and forgo “coveting”, He promises to bless you with His “covenant”. This is not the covenant of eternal life. Only faith in Christ can provide that. Instead, He promises you the covenant of peace and fellowship with Him.
Coveting is a sin of the heart that leads to more serious sins when left unchecked. The later version of the Tenth Commandment begins with a prohibition against “coveting” a neighbor’s wife. The narrow wording might imply that the prohibited coveting is limited to a married woman who lives next door to you. Yet, Jesus came to shatter these legalistic interpretations. He explained that the mere act of lusting after another who is not that person’s spouse (an act of coveting) is a form of adultery: “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28). Coveting, like the other Ten Commandments, are sins of the heart that defile us: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mk. 7:21-23). God prohibits lusting or coveting the things of the flesh because it leads to other more serious sins. Lusting after another, whether it be in person, through pornography, or soft porn on television or in magazines, can lead to more serious sins like fornication and adultery. Moreover, these lusts put you in communion with the father of the world, not your Father in heaven: “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.” (1 Jo. 2:16). Every believer is at times guilty of this sin (Rom. 3:20). Jesus and Paul analogized sin to yeast, the fastest growing micro-organism (Mk. 8:15; 1 Cor. 5:7-8). If you are entertaining small sins of the flesh with your eyes, they will not stay small for long.
David’s example: coveting that led to adultery, deceit, and ultimately murder. David’s many sins all began as he stood on his roof top and lusted after or coveted his neighbor’s wife: “Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” (2 Sam. 11:2). David most likely knew when to be on his roof to see what he wanted to see. Over time, his coveting could not be satisfied by merely looking. Eventually, his secret coveting lead him to commit adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4). When David’s adultery led to Bathsheba’ pregnancy, he tried convince her husband Uriah to be with her to conceal his sin. When that did not work, he had Uriah murdered to try cover his tracks and to win Bathsheba to himself (2 Sam. 11:14-17). David also became numb to his sin. He was not remorseful about sending Uriah to his death until God confronted him. Thus, nothing good come from David’s unrepentant coveting (Ps. 38:3, 18).
Coveting money will lead to many kinds of other sins. The another part of the Tenth Commandment prohibits the coveting of another’s wealth or property. Coveting money, a form of greed, is also a feeder sin that can lead to a multitude of other sins. These sins can include theft and gambling additions. God warns us that: “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.” (1 Tim. 6:10). “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.” (Prov. 28:22). “A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Prov. 28:20). Solomon wrote: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:8-9). If you covet a life filled with wealth, you will face temptations to hold back on your tithes, underreport your taxable income and steal from employers, clients, or others. You will also face other temptations to lie and be deceitful. You may also face temptations to gamble or argue with your spouse. Studies show that the most common thing to happen to couples after winning the lottery is to get a divorce. If anyone loves these “things of the world,” “the love for the Father is not in him.” (1 Jo. 2:15). Is your heart willed with a love of money?
Have the right motives at work. God wants you to work hard in your job: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” (Prov. 22:29). Yet, work hard for Christ, not for the rewards of mankind: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:23-24). If you work out of a desire to be rich, you work for yourself and not for Christ. If you work for Christ, you should also be motivated to share your wages because your wages come from God (Ja. 1:17). Are you working hard to help others or yourself?
Balaam’s example: coveting money leads to rebellion against God. The Apostle James warned Christians against the “error of Balaam.” (Jude 1:11). Jesus later condemned the church of Pergamum for leading believers into “ the doctrine of Balaam . . .” (Rev. 2:14). One of Balaam’s many sins included coveting money (2 Pet. 2:15). Balaam was a well-known sorcerer in his day. King Balaak solicited his help in casting a curse upon the Jews because the Jewish armies were too strong for Balaak to defeat in battle. God permitted Balaam to go with Balaak’s dignitaries on the condition that he only say what God commanded (Nu. 22:20). Balaam, however, later became filled with greed and planned to earn his money by cursing Israel (2 Pet. 2:15). Yet, God knew his thoughts and became angry with Balaam for his plan to deceive God (Nu. 22:22). God prevented Balaam from cursing the Jews and instead had him bless the Jews (Nu. 23-24). Yet, Balaam coveted the money that King Balaak offered him (Nu. 22:17). He knew that sorcery could not break God’s protection of His people (Nu. 24:1). Just like the devil, Balaam knew that the only way God’s people could be destroyed was if they voluntarily broke God’s law. Having them join with temple prostitutes was one law he figured he could induce them to break (Ex. 34:14-15; Dt. 23:17; Judg. 2:17; 1 King. 14:22-24). Thus, he came up with a plan to have the Jews defile themselves with the Moabite and Midianite woman, who together formed an alliance against Israel (Nu. 22:4). He instructed Balaak to send his most attractive women to invite the Jewish men to Moabite banquets (Nu. 31:16). The women then seduced the men through acts of temple prostitution. The men would have had free sex with the prostitutes in exchange for their agreement to first eat foods sacrificed to Baal of Peor, the Canaanite fertility god, and then to worship him. While Balaak gave into the sin of coveting money, the Jews gave into the sin of coveting what the women had to offer. In both cases, the coveting led to rebellion against God. Are you content with what God has given you? Or, are you rebelling against God’s laws to seek after riches, women, or your own pleasures?
King Ahab’s example: coveting can lead to lies and murder. King Ahab coveted a vineyard belonging to Naboth (1 Kgs. 21:1-3). King Ahab gave into his coveting by stealing the land by murdering Naboth and by speaking lies and false charges against him (1 Kgs. 21:8-16).
Anya and Saphira’s example: coveting money can cause you to rob God of tithes. Coveting can also cause you to rob from God by withholding your tithes. ‘“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.’” (Mal. 3:8-10). The coveting of money overcame both Ananias and Saphira by causing them to withhold tithes from their church (Acts 5:1-3). Their coveting not only caused them to break the Eighth Commandment against theft, their coveting also caused them to break the Ninth Commandment against lying. God then struck them both dead as an example for the Church (Acts 5:4-10). If you seek God first, you have no reason to worry about money or anything else. He will provide for you (Matt. 6:33). Does your love of your money make it hard for you to give back a part of God’s money? Will you tithe when times are tough?
Pride can also cause you to covet power or prestige. Pride is an inflated view of yourself. Pride can also cause you to covet power or prestige and rebel (Is. 1:23). Satan was blessed with great beauty as one of God’s angels. His pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:12-15). Pride may also lead to coveting and your eventual downfall (Prov. 16:18). Do you feel entitled to more power or prestige because of your talents?
Coveting power is also the source of most wars. The coveting of leaders is also the source of wars amongst mankind: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel . . .” (Jam. 4:1-2). Unlike the NASB quoted above, the New King James version and the New International Version translate the word “envious” as “covet.” God condemned one of last kings of ancient Judah for his covetousness that led to his “dishonest gain” and the “shedding innocent blood and practicing oppression and extortion.” (Jer. 22:17). World War II provides just one example of how the coveting of leaders leads to wars. On June 14, 1940, the Nazis and the Soviets signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to divide Eastern Europe between them because both coveted these foreign lands. Yet, the Soviets had made a Faustian bargain. On June 22, 1941, after the Nazis had gained control of the continental Western Europe, they attacked the USSR and within weeks took the Soviet occupied Eastern Europe. Their coveting could not be satisfied. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the American Navy in Pearl Harbor because America was blocking their invasion of the oil fields in South East Asia. They needed to invade oil fields to invade other lands that they coveted. How many wars could we avoid if leaders did not covet their neighbor’s lands?
Korah’s example: pride leading to the covetous desire for power and rebellion. While the Jews wandered in the wilderness, Korah was the head worship leader. His name meant “ice,” and he coveted the power and prestige that Moses had amongst the tribes. His inflated view of himself caused him to believe that he was entitled to more power and respect. He secretly conspired with 250 “men of renown” to demand that Moses share power with them (Nu. 16:2). Being blinded by their pride, these men believed that God would accept their fire and incense offerings (Nu. 16:18). Yet, because of his covetousness and rebellion, God opened the ground and swallowed up Korah. He was sent “alive” into Sheol (Nu. 16:31-33). God then killed the other 250 rebellious leaders with fire (Nu. 16:35). God later used a plague to destroy 14,700 others who rebelled to protest the loss of the 250 leaders (Nu. 16:49). Unless you are asked to violate God’s laws, a Christian is never permitted to rebel against authority (Ro. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). How should a believer know if a prospective leader is a Godly leader or one who simply covets power? (Matt 7:16-20; Jam. 1:5).
Aaron and Miriam’s example: coveting power can lead to gossip and slander. While camped at a place called Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron sinned against God by murmuring against their leader and brother Moses (Nu. 12:1). They complained that Moses did not share authority with them. They believed that they were entitled to more power because God had prophesized through them in the past (Nu. 12:2). Because Miriam initiated the murmuring, God afflicted her with leprosy for seven days (Nu. 12:10-15). We are not to covet what another person has. Aaron and Miriam felt that they deserved more power because they were filled with pride. Do you feel underappreciated in your job because you believe that you are smarter, better educated, more talented, or more charismatic than those around you? Should you worry more about this sin when you struggle or when everything is going well?
Anything you covet can become an addiction and your idol. If you covet the escape offered with drugs or alcohol, money, gambling, pornography, power, or prestige, those things will eventually become your idol and addiction: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). David also warned against turning your job and the things that you can create with your God-given talents into idols: “The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man’s hands.” (Ps. 135:15; 115:4). If you covet the initial pleasures of drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, money, power, or prestige, eventually those unholy things will turn you against the Lord: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth [Mammon] [or greed].” (Matt. 6:24). If you covet something unholy, you will eventually become addicted to it. If you enjoy an evil escape, your passions may burn to return to it (Ps. 81:12). Is there anything of this world that you crave more than God?
Solomon’s example: his coveting sex turned his heart to idolatry and away from God. Solomon was the wisest man alive (1 Kgs. 4:30). Yet, he coveted women who liked him for his wisdom, wealth, and power. His coveting lead him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines, who led him astray (1 Kgs. 11:3). His lusts turned his heart away from God: “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (1 Kgs. 11:4). He then began to serve other gods and did evil in God’s eyes (1 Kgs. 11:5-6). Do the lusts of the flesh rule over you? Or, do you control them?
Jesus’ test for idolatry. How do you know if something you crave or covet in your life has become an idol? It is an idol when it becomes an addiction that you cannot ignore. Ask yourself if you would willingly or easily part with it if Jesus asked you to do so. When Jesus asked a rich man seeking to follow Him to give up his wealth, the young man left with sadness in his heart because he was unwilling to do so: “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matt. 19:21-22; Mk. 22:21-22; Lk. 18:22-23). When we deny God and exalt ourselves, we also commit a form of idolatry. Isaiah warned against those who proclaimed: “‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (Is. 47:8-10). Do you place your own desires before God?
Satan can only offer fleeting counterfeit pleasures. The pleasure Satan offers to the person who gives into covetousness never last long (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting. Alcohol is just one of many examples of this: “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, so that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.” (Hab. 2:5). The greed or coveting of money can also never be satisfied with more money. “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11). “Sheol, and the barren womb, Earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘Enough’”. (Prov. 30:16). The pleasure of alcohol, drugs, adultery, and theft all quickly fade. If a gambler is successful, how frequently is the gambler content not to gamble? If an adulterer escapes being caught, how frequently is the adulterer content to stay monogamous? If you spoil your child and give them every gift that he or she wants for his or her birthday or Christmas, how long will it be before you child wants something else?
The example of the Jews in the wilderness. While the Jews wandered in the wilderness, they repeatedly gave into covetousness. They left with “a large number of livestock” (Ex. 12:37). Yet, they still coveted the “pots of meat that they had in Egypt.” (Ex. 16:3). God promised to “rain bread from heaven for you . . . every day, that I may test them . . .” (Ex. 16:4). The Jews failed God’s tests. They tried to hoard the Manna that God provided. They did so even when told not to do so (Ex. 16:20). They were then told not to collect the Manna on the Sabbath. But they tried to do so anyways (Ex. 16:27). Later, the Jews complained about the Manna that God gave them (Nu. 11:34). They again craved the meat that they had in Egypt. To show them the evil in their hearts, God promised to give the complaining Jews meat for an entire month, until it went out the peoples noses. He promised that it would become loathsome to them (Nu. 11:20). Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “meat,” “basar,” can also be translated as “flesh.” The place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (Nu. 11:34), which means the “graves of greediness” or “craving.” It was a place where the entire society became consumed with greed. Today, in Western economies, people are encouraged to buy and hoard things in excess of what they need. Are we any less deserving of God’s wrath?
Satan seeks to place you into bondage to sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place you into bondage and, like he did to Solomon, cause you to turn away from God (1 Kgs. 11:3-4). He seeks to make us slaves to the flesh: “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink, who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!” (Is. 5:11). Ultimately, this can become a form of idolatry (Col. 3:5). If we give in to coveting, the devil will enslave us: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). Jesus also explains that “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21; Lk. 12:34). If we give in to coveting, Satan places our flesh at war with God’s Spirit. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity . . .” (Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). In the end, we must pick that which we will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). If you choose the flesh, you are at war with the Spirit, “[t]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). Which master are you serving?
To show our need for God, He will hand the unrepentant coveter over to his or her desires. If you turn from God and fail to ask for help from your bondage, God will turn you over to your bondage until you call out for Him: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they knew the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). “[God] gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:105). Are you trapped in any type of bondage or addiction? Are you crying out for God to free you? Or, do you like your chains too much?
Know the value of the mercy and grace you have been given. God is slow to anger and wants no one to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, God is a consuming fire of righteousness (Heb. 12:28-29). He will eventually cast out the unsaved who rebel against His laws (Ps. 5:10; Ez. 20:38). Like the other Nine Commandments, the penalty for coveting is also death (Jam. 1:14-15; Heb. 10:28). A coveter who has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5; see also Rev. 2:14; 2:20). If you know the price for coveting, are you trying to warn your unsaved friends?
You cannot save yourself from the penalty for coveting. Your study of the Tenth Commandment should make clear you can never fulfill it on your own. Only through Christ is your salvation possible (Ro. 3:9-12; Gal. 2:16; 2:21; 3:23-24). Do you give thanks for what Christ saved you from? If you give into coveting, how thankful are you?
Any honest believer has coveting of some form to repent of. Through your study of the Tenth Commandment, your sins of coveting should be revealed to you through the Holy Spirit (Ro. 3:20). We all have at times been ruled by covetous desires: “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain . . .” (Jer. 6:13). “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.” (Eph. 2:3). Paul, for example, stated that he only knew that he was a covetous man through his study of the Law: “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.’” (Rom. 7:7). Thus, we have all sinned in God’s eyes (Ro. 3:10, 23). If you deny your sin, God will confront you with it: “Yet you said, ‘I am innocent; surely His anger is turned away from me.’ Behold, I will enter into judgment with you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.”’ (Jer. 2:35). If you deny that you have coveted, you will be shown by your actions on Earth to be a liar before God (1 Jo. 1:10). Our God is “jealous” of anything that draws us from Him (Ex. 34:14; Dt. 5:9). Thus, repent of your coveting in whatever forms it has taken in your life.
God is faithful to forgive all who repent. If you have given into coveting, God will forgive you if you repent: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13). If you repent, you will also have the Holy Spirit to guide you: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’ (Acts 2:38). Provided you gave restored those you have wronged, if you continue to feel guilt after your confession of sin, your guilt is from the Devil, because God will remember your sin no more (Ro. 8:1). Are you letting any of your prior sins hold you back from serving God?
(1) To fight covetousness, be a slave to righteousness, which includes love and charity. When you repent and accept Christ, you become a “new creation.” (2 Cor. 5:17). You are also part of God’s “royal priesthood.” (1 Pet. 2:9). Through Christ, your old self and your old covetous desires will burn away: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that your body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin . . .” (Ro. 6:6). There will, however, be times when some aspects of the old coveting flesh returns to tempt us (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). A former addict may, for example, be tempted by covetousness to return to bondage because the flesh and the Spirit are at war with each other: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit . . .” (Gal. 5:17). Christ warns that “the flesh profits nothing?” (Jo. 6:63). To fight the flesh as a saved believer, you must become a slave to a lifestyle that is wholesome and fulfilling in Christ: “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Ro. 6:18). To do this you must renew your mind every day to dwell on what is good: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” (Rom. 12:2). As you renew your mind, covet the things of God: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps. 42:1-2; Matt. 6:6; Matt 6:19-24; 13:44-46; 1 Cor. 12:31; Phil 3:7-14). The most important part of becoming a slave to righteousness is practicing selfless love and charity toward others (1 Pet. 3:8). Love is the antithesis of coveting and lust. “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb. 13:16). “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. . . . In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:33-35). True religion is helping those in need (Jam. 1:27; 1 Pet. 4:10). Become addicted to things that bring love and charity to others. Volunteer so that you become addicted to loving and helping. Give so that you become addicted to the joy of helping. Restore others so that you become addicted to healing. Pray for others so that you become addicted to prayer. Spend time with your children and spouse until you become addicted to him or her. Keep reading the Bible until you become addicted to it and the Holy Spirit will guide your path. Through prayer, make your own list to selflessly love others and follow it.
(2) To fight covetousness, fear God by hating evil things. Contrary to what some may think, head knowledge of the Bible is not all you need to ward off coveting. Aaron’s example shows us that head knowledge can sometimes make the coveting and pride harder to see. He and Miriam spoke against Moses because they coveted his authority (Nu. 12:1-2). Aaron, however, had witnessed God destroy Pharaoh’s armies. He also witnessed 3,000 people die after Aaron succumbed to peer pressure and built a golden calf (Ex. 32:26-28). Aaron was the high priest who knew both 10 Commandments and rest of God’s rules. Yet, his head knowledge of the law was alone not enough to keep him from coveting his brother’s power. Even Solomon, the wisest man alive and the author of most of the proverbs, gave in to this sin as his covetousness led him to take 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kgs. 11:1-8). His wisdom and head knowledge also was not enough to keep him from coveting: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Ps. 111:10; Job 28:28; Ecc. 12:13). The fear of the Lord is not fear that God will arbitrarily strike you dead. It is instead hating the one thing in life that you are allowed to hate, evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” (Prov. 16:6). When you hear gossip, do you flock to hear about it? Or, does the gossip repulse you? Do you enjoy reading or watching stories about evil things in this world? If you constantly embrace evil things, should you be surprised if you become numb to evil?
(3) To fight covetousness, deny yourself physical pleasures including what you watch. If you give into all of your covetous desires, you cannot follow Christ. You must deny yourself of your unholy desires: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”’ (Matt. 16:24-26). “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened . . .” (1 Cor. 5:7). “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). Guided by the Spirit, you must exercise self-control: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:8). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16; 1 Pet. 4:7). “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14). Part of self-denial involves choosing not to watch or read certain things. Jesus warned that: “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23). Job denied himself by making a covenant with his eyes: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). If you do not control your covetous desires, they will ultimately consume you: “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:14-15). By denying yourself here on Earth, you will also “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20). Denying yourself does not mean a life of deprivation. If you seek after God’s righteousness, He will give you every material thing that you need: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you have a spouse, stay faithful to the spouse that God has given you. If you have a television subscription that includes inappropriate channels that cause you to stumble, canceling the subscription. If the internet causes you to stumble, install filters. If you have ever felt the desire to feed an addiction, have you ever fasted to deny your flesh?
(4) To fight covetousness, avoid a covetous brother or sister who can pull you off your walk. Jesus met with sinners to heal them. You should follow His example by helping those who have either strayed from God’s light or those who have never sought it out. Yet, you must be careful that your ministry to help others trapped in darkness (if you have one) does not become a snare in your own walk. A believer who hangs out on a social basis with another believer gripped with covetousness like greed or sexual sins can be easily be pulled off his or her walk. “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:3). “For they seek after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 2:21). We can also cause others to stumble in our walk. You must: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9). Do you hang out with people who love the Lord and enjoy reading the Word? Or, do all your close friends love drugs, alcohol, and pornography? If the latter is true, should it be any surprise if the worldly things around you eventually become your favorite as well?
(5) To fight covetousness, be thankful by praising God for your underserved gifts. When you covet, you are effectively saying that you are unhappy with what God has given you. God tells us that “godliness with contentment” is “great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6; Heb. 13:5). Thus, we are to do all things “without grumbling or disputing.” (Phil. 2:14). In “everything,” we are to “give thanks.” (1 Thess. 5:18). Have you repented about your complaints regarding what you don’t have? Do you give thanks for everything, even when times are bad?
(6) To fight covetousness, be humble. Like Satan, another reason for coveting is if you feel entitled to more than what you have. To keep yourself humble, praise God for all your gifts (1 Cor. 9:15; Col. 3:17; 3:23). Every good and perfect gift in your life comes from above, not from you (Jam. 1:17). Are you giving credit to God for your accomplishments?
(7) To fight covetousness, be in constant prayer for yourself and for others trapped in addiction. “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). You can take refuge in God when you submit to Him in obedience and in prayer: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” (Col. 4:2). Ask God to give you what is holy and what will satisfy you: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Lk. 11:13). Seek God’s wisdom with the same intensity that you work for money and He will bless you with wisdom: “For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:3-5). God’s wisdom is more rewarding than jewels: “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.” (Prov. 8:11). “My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.” (Prov. 8:19). Are you praying for God’s shield of protection and His wisdom?
Compliance with the Ten Commandments brings the blessings of God’s covenant. Your salvation in Christ is a “free gift” that cannot be earned (Rom. 6:23). Yet, separate and apart from your salvation through Christ, God promises conditional “blessings” for those who follow His law with the right motivation: “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Ex. 15:26; Lev. 26:3-13; Dt. 28:2-14). If you choose the covenant over covetousness, God promises to bless you in several ways:
(1) Your needs (not wants) will be met. If the Jews followed God’s Law, He promised rain for the produce to grow (Lev. 26:3-5; Dt. 11:10-17; 32:1-3; 1 Ki. 18:41-46). He also promises to provide for you today if you trust Him (Matt. 6:25-34).
(2) You will have God’s Shalom peace. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised to give them peace (Lev. 26:6). If you follow the Law, you also can enjoy the Shalom peace of God that surpasses human understanding (Phil 4:7). Your conscience will also be clean (1 Pet. 3:21). “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Ro. 8:6).
(3) Enemies will not harm you. If the Jews followed God’s law, He further promised victory over their enemies (Lev. 26:7-8; Ex. 23:22, Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). A thief or enemy cannot steal your treasures if they are stored in heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
(4) You will bear the fruit and joy of the Spirit. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised that the Jews would be fruitful and multiply (Lev. 26:9-10). Jesus also promised you an abundant life in the Spirit, not a life of misery (Jo. 10:10).
(5) Your prayers will not be hindered. If the Jews followed God’s law, He further promised to dwell with His people (Lev. 26:11). Today, the Holy Spirit dwells within you (1 Cor. 6:19). Your prayers will not be “hindered” when you obey (1 Pet. 3:7). “We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he does listen to anyone who worships him and does his will.” (John 9:31; Prov. 15:29; Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15).
(6) God will break your bondage to sin and addictions. If the Jews followed God’s law, He also promised to be their God, break them of their yoke of bondage and help them to walk erect (Lev. 26:12-13; Ex. 20:2). Through Jesus’ death, our bodies have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If we have been freed from being slaves to sin, we instead should become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). Through faith in Christ, we have the strength to break any covetousness or addiction (Phil. 4:13).
(7) God will reward you in other ways. Obedience also brings other rewards and blessings: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jo. 13:17; Lev. 26:11). “But happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov. 29:18). “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:11). “Surely there is a reward for the righteous . . .” (Ps. 58:11). “But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.” (2 Chr. 15:7). “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” (Dt. 29:9). “[B]e careful to do according to all the law . . . so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Josh 1:8). “[H]e who sows righteousness gets a true reward.” (Prov. 11:18). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; Lev. 18:5). If you do not boast of your works, Jesus will also reward you (Matt. 6:4; 10:41; 1 Cor. 3:9-15; Rev. 2:26).
Choosing Covetousness, can also bring curses. Even if you have eternal salvation through Christ, God promises “curses” or earthly discipline in the form of hardships for those who reject the covenant and choose to submit to the Devil’s covetousness (Lev. 26:14-37; Dt. 27:15-26; 28:15-68). This can include addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and sex (Ro. 1:24-33). God disciplines you when you are willingly wayward in your walk because He loves you and wants to guide you back with His rod (Heb. 12:6). Are you using your grace as a license to covet and rebel against His laws? (Rom. 6:15).
Our nation will either be cursed or blessed for its choices. Most westerners have grown accustomed to the notion that faith is something that has no place in public discourse. Yet, God warns that His blessings or curses await a nation depending upon whether it decides to accept His Law (Dt. 28). The curse or discipline can be lifted once a nation repents. This is exactly what happened after the people of Nineveh repented in response to Jonah’s warning (Jonah 3:1-10). Today, we see coveting promoted in every aspect of our society. This is also exactly what Paul predicted would happen: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.” (2 Tim. 3:1-15). God will punish a nation that openly embraces covetousness (Micah 2:2-3). Will you answer the call to restore in love those caught in the bondage of sin? (Gal. 6:1).
Your prayers for the nation can make a difference. Your prayers can also help others trapped in addiction and rebellion. Moses’ prayers repeatedly saved the Jews after they rebelled against God (Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 11:2; 14:18-22; Nu. 16:21-24). Are you praying for your nation and for those trapped in addictions? Will you fast for those trapped in addictions?