The tenth commandment. The entire commandment is “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.” Exodus 20:17.
This is the only commandment that legislates thought. All the others legislate action. To covet is much more than just wanting something. The Hebrew verb, lachmod, means to want to the point of seeking to take away and own something that belongs to another person. That is just wrong.
There is nothing wrong with seeing something that someone else has and think to yourself, “Gee. I would like something like that too, so I am going to put money to the side and buy one for myself.” The problem happens when a person sees what another person has and wanting that item for yourself. When that happens, then how do you actually get that item? Steal it? Kill for it? Lie for it? You can see how covet means much more.
I think of coveting similar to lusting. A person is so filled with desire to own what another person has that they become obsessed with that item. All you can do is think about it. It fills your dreams and your day time thoughts. Lusting is not just limited to another person’s spouse. People have lusted or coveted after a car, artwork, jewelry, house, and the list does go on. People have murdered to possess someone else’s “goods”.
Whatever belongs to another person must be regarded as sacrosanct. This coveting thing started with Eve. Satan tempted her by telling her about the forbidden fruit. If she would eat it, she would be like God. She was not intended to have the fruit but she was envious and coveted the fruit.
Not all our desires are bad. Our desire to do something useful motivates us to work. Our desire for friendship moves us to become part of a community. Our desire for food motivates us to eat. Our desire for intimacy, including sexual intimacy, moves us to seek marriage. The deepest of all our desires needs to be to know God. To let God and Jesus into our hearts. Every person should have this desire.
Neighbor in this commandment goes beyond who lives in your neighborhood. It does mean anyone, anywhere. Even if it is a celebrity or someone you see in passing. When the commandments were written, people did not travel far. They only knew the people in their village. Today, our neighbors have reached much further with the internet and by all the social media we are able to tap into.
We need to be content with what we have. Too many of us start to wish “if only,”. Problem with if only’s is that there is always another one that follows. The if only’s spiral out of control. A person may think, but I want the best it can be. It was the best it could be in the beginning. You can drive yourself crazy thinking it could be better. Being content does not mean make do. It means be content with what you have. Strive towards getting to know Jesus better. He is everything you really need.