Sunday, 17 December 2000 00:00

Deadly Desires

Exodus 20:17 (KJV)

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

The last six commandments deal with human relationships. This commandment is the only one of the last six that is not written into the laws of any society. You can't legislate the heart. However, this is the very commandment God used to convict, and eventually convert Paul. The Apostle was a Pharisee and a teacher of the law of Israel. But in Romans 7 Paul says that sin "wrought in me all manner of covetousness." He obeyed the law externally but found himself guilty before God because of his heart of covetousness.

  1. What does "coveting" mean?
    Covetousness simply means—"a strong desire." There is nothing wrong with having strong desires. We all desire to eat, sleep, etc. Spiritually, Peter says we are to "desire the sincere milk of the Word." Paul said to "desire the best gifts," and Jesus said, "desire righteousness of God." A two-fold biblical definition of "coveting" would be:
    1. To strongly desire something possessed by another...
      "Thou shalt not covet... anything that is thy neighbors" (Exodus 20:17). King Ahab in I Kings 21 is a prime example of the dangers of covetousness.
    2. To strongly desire something prohibited by God.
      When Jericho was destroyed God told Israel not to take anything. But Achan "coveted" (Joshua 7:21) some gold, silver, and a Babylonian garment. He took them and as a result Israel was judged by God at the battle of Ai. Wanting or desiring is essential to physical and spiritual life, but it can become an evil thing.
  2. How is "coveting" manifested?
    1. Envy—an inability to be happy for the success of others. Envy is the mother of covetousness and "envy is the rottenness of the bones" (Proverbs 14:30).
    2. Complaining—murmuring about one's circumstances. "Let your conversation be without covetousness and be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 8:5).
    3. Greed—grasping for more riches with no thought of giving. John Gill said, "A covetous man is like a small creature with no passage through. It takes in all it can but lets out nothing. The covetous man and this creature burst with their own fullness."
    4. A general discontentment with life—an inability to learn satisfaction in God.
  3. How is "coveting" managed?
    Since coveting is a sin of the heart, the only way it is managed is for there to be surgery upon the heart by the Great Physician. In essence, Jesus Christ can make a person content in this life, regardless of his circumstances. But if you find yourself as a Christian fighting the sin of covetousness, there are two things that might help.
    1. Remember you are but a transient in this world... an understanding of your own mortality will always help you keep in focus what is important in life.
    2. Rejoice in God's eternal love for you. The Apostle Paul describes the love of God for His people in Ephesians 3:17-19. He then prays that we might "know" this love and when we do, we will be "filled with all the fullness of God" (v.19).

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