Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)1
A covetous person is someone who has little or no regard for his neighbor’s wellbeing, interests, or property. A covetous man is, therefore, inevitably someone who is self-centered, egocentric –the antithesis of “thou shalt love thy neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul paraphrased the Second Greatest Commandment:
Love … does not seek its own. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NASB)
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Conversely, a covetous man only looks for what he can do and acquire for himself. The difference between these types of men is well illustrated in “The Tale of Two Seas” by Bruce Barton:
There are two seas in Palestine. One is fresh, and fish are in it. Splashes of green adorn its banks. Trees spread their branches over it, and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters. Along its shores the children play, as children played when He was there. He loved it. He could look across its silver surface when He spoke His parables. And on a rolling plain not far away he fed five thousand people. The river Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills. Men build their houses near to it, and birds build their nests; and every kind of life is happier because it is there.
The river Jordan flows on south into another sea. Here is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no children’s laughter. Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business. The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.
What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas? Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie, not the country round about.
This is the difference. The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan. For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out. The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously. It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.
The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. This other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead. There are two seas in Palestine. There are two kinds of people in the world.
Because neighborly love, expressed in selflessness, is the opposite of covetousness, it is the principal means by which covetousness, greed, and lust are thwarted.
Everyone lives in one of two states: contentment or discontentment. In the latter, you are miserable and probably well on your way to becoming envious of your neighbor and thereby covetous. On the other hand, the contented man recognizes he is blessed regardless his outward circumstances, knowing Yahweh2 will never abandon him:
Let your conversation [life, RSV] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Hebrews 13:5)
Contentment is knowing Yahweh is in control and, as a result, being satisfied with what you have at any given time:
Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in YHWH, I will joy in the God of my salvation. YHWH God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Discontentment makes rich men poor; contentment makes poor men rich:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Jacob was the picture of such contentment:
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall YHWH be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. (Genesis 28:20-22)
Contentment is being satisfied with what you have but not with who you are or what you have achieved:
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:7-14)
Contentment is not found in having everything but in being satisfied with everything we have. However, a contented man is not without ambition. Although he is content with what Yahweh has given him, he presses on for both the ultimate prize and for anything more Yahweh has prepared for him, that he might employ it in better serving Yahweh and advancing His kingdom.
Depending upon its motivation and objective, ambition can be negative or positive, righteous or unrighteous. The difference is found in whether we are ruled by our money and possessions or whether we rule our money and possessions on behalf of Yahweh and His kingdom. Contentment results from trusting Yahweh and then employing in His service what He provides us:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Contentment is inextricably linked with faith in the sovereignty of Yahweh. When Paul declared he had learned to be content in all circumstances – whether wealthy or in prison, deprived of everything – he was simply professing that he had learned to trust in Yahweh’s sovereign control of his life. He understood that everything was for his good and, more importantly, for Yahweh’s good:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ…. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The road to contentment and happiness is faith, not merely in Yahweh, but in Yahweh’s sovereignty. In order for Yahweh’s sovereignty to truly make a difference in someone’s life, he must not only believe in it, he must embrace it. Some people believe in Yahweh’s sovereignty, but nonetheless reject it and become embittered with Yahweh as a result, which, in turn, often leads to covetousness.
On the other hand, the person who, like Paul, believes, accepts, and rejoices in Yahweh’s sovereignty is able to thank Him for what others would curse Him. In doing so, they experience the peace of Christ that surpasses comprehension:
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious, NASB] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
The person who unselfishly loves his neighbor and unquestionably trusts Yahweh will, regardless his circumstances, be filled with contentment and peace. Such a person will never covet his neighbor’s wife, house, or other possessions.
Walking in the Spirit
Like contentment and covetousness, the Spirit of Yahweh and the deeds of the flesh cannot cohabit:
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (Galatians 5:16-17)
The fruits of the Spirit: love, kindness, goodness, and self-control in particular, stand in stark contrast to covetousness.
Faith in Yahweh, love for our fellow man, contentment, and walking by the Spirit are all means by which covetousness is defeated.
Tenth Commandment Judgment
The Tenth Commandment is the only Commandment for which there is no civil judgment. Because covetousness is a heart sin and because no man can look into the heart of another man, Yahweh has reserved judgment of this sin to Himself:
For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth. (Psalm 10:3)
Yahweh abhors the covetous, greedy, and lustful man enough to keep him out of His eternal kingdom:
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)
The answer for any covetous man today is the same as it was for the covetous in Corinth:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16)3
Men always covets something. If you do not covet Yahweh and His kingdom, you will covet something else. Riches, fame, position, your occupation, sports, or another person will control your heart. This is why Yahweh desires from us more than merely outward obedience. This is why He desires our heart. This is also why it is important that we give Him our heart every day.
And he [Yeshua] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
To covet Yahweh and Yahweh alone, we must die to everything else that might control our hearts. This is the lesson of the rich young ruler. Yeshua (Jesus’ given Hebrew name)4 must replace whatever else might rule from the throne of our hearts, or it will prevent Him from ruling our hearts.
Thou shalt not covet – unless it is Yahweh you covet. Covet, love, and serve Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
1. All Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Portions of Scripture have been omitted for brevity. If you have any questions regarding a passage, please open your Bible and study the text to ensure it has been properly used.
2. Yahweh is the personal Hebrew name of the God of the Bible. “The Third Commandment,” a more thorough explanation concerning the sacred names of God, may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
3. For a more thorough explanation concerning baptism and its relationship to salvation, “Baptism by the Scriptures” and “Fifty Objections to Baptism Answered” may be read online, or the book Baptism: All You Wanted to Know and More may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for free.
4. Yeshua is the English transliteration of our Savior’s given Hebrew name. Jesus is the English transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is the Greek transliteration of the of Savior’s Hebrew name Yeshua. For a more thorough explanation concerning the use of the sacred names of God, “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*
*We are admonished in Matthew 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give.” Although we have a suggested a price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever you can send.
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