Building a foundation for our desires to be godly and appropriate
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, they were in a specific order. Did you ever wonder why the last Commandment was to not covet? To covet in its most basic sense is “to have a strong desire for” something. What was there about the human propensity to want that God saw fit to leave it as the final thing to remember? Because wanting spiritually good things is good, we must assume that all coveting can’t be bad.
The key here is figuring out where to draw the line. Are there degrees of goodness or evil attached to what and how we covet? Fortunately, the Bible provides us with ample evidence so we can not only perceive where the line is, but we can also learn how to stay away from it.
In Genesis, when God created the Garden of Eden, it says every tree was “pleasing” to the eye. The word for “covet” in the tenth commandment is the very same word as “pleasing” in Genesis. This means God built humanity to possess this characteristic of desire, so it's natural and healthy to have it. The problem with coveting or delighting in something is not the fact that we do it; rather, it is the object of that emotion.
Coveting is a sin of the heart
It develops on the inside where others cannot necessarily see it. Biblical history tells us Satan was the original coveter. He is prophetically spoken of in Isaiah as having his mind and heart set on raising himself up to the level of God. He focused on his throne being in the place of God’s throne. Satan, then known as Lucifer, desired something that was not and could not be his. He wanted God’s power and place taken from God and reserved for himself. This is the kind of coveting the tenth commandment warns us about.
Israel’s tenth commandment focused on not coveting several things specifically relating to our neighbor. This focus reinforces two important points:
- It confirms that all desire to want or delight in things is not evil, as “coveting” is not categorically condemned.
- It tells us just how bad it is to want your neighbor’s house, or spouse or life. The difference here is important. It reveals how a healthy desire for something can become dangerous when that desire has jealousy and obsession attached to it.
In the New Testament, being covetous is always and alarmingly associated with the worst kinds of sins. So, how do we put all this together? Check out our August 17, 2020 podcast, “Thou Shalt Not Covet – Is it Wrong to Want?” for more. We break down the details of what the 10th Commandment warns against. We pinpoint the pattern that always exists when we inappropriately covet and uncover scriptural remedies. Coveting, having a desire, can be really detrimental. But it can also be a powerful motivator for good. Learn the difference so you can live the difference!
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