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 is your neighbor’s.
The Ten Commandments do not go easy on us as they come to their close. Each of the four commands prior to the tenth deal primarily (though not exclusively) with our actions. This one takes a different approach, taking aim at our desires and our attitudes.
When God forbids coveting, He confronts us with a seemingly universal problem—the desire to have for ourselves what God has chosen to give to another. The object of our envy may take any number of forms—prestige, positions, and possessions, to name just a few. The apostle John knew how easily our hearts fall into coveting when he warned us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world … All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-17).
In addition to understanding what and how easily we are tempted to covet, it’s important to acknowledge the ruinous effects coveting has on us. It spoils relationships and lies behind many of our disagreements; it is impossible to love someone while we covet something they have. It makes us selfish. And it causes us to fixate on material things.
All of these effects are touched on by one of Jesus’ warnings related to coveting. When a man approached Him with concerns about his inheritance, Jesus bypassed the question to get to the heart of the problem—and the warning is precisely what our covetous hearts need to hear: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). How easily we forget this very truth, believing instead that true and lasting joy would be ours if we could only have a little more money, a little more fame, a little more free time, or a little more of whatever else we see others enjoying and covet for ourselves.
So how do we combat this dangerous sin? If coveting is a disordering of our desires, then we must actively cultivate right desires. Through Bible reading and prayer, through worship and fellowship, we can increase our appetite for godly things, all the while purposefully shrinking our appetite for worldly things. These kinds of habits will lead us into lives of contentment, so that we can say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26).
Do you long for your heart to be content? Do you want to guard against coveting? Then seek and find satisfaction in God alone. Next time you find you are sad for yourself rather than happy for another because they have a blessing that you do not, ask God to enable you to say to yourself, and to mean, “There is nothing on earth as great as knowing God. There is no earthly blessing that can endure to eternity. Therefore, I shall be satisfied in Him, and Him alone.”
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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, thegoodbook.com. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.