“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Exodus 20:17 (NIV)
Let's take a moment to discuss the final commandment of the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not covet." But what does that truly mean? The Hebrew word for coveting, chamed, carries both positive and negative connotations depending on the context. In the Ten Commandments, it is mentioned negatively as the root of sinful desire that leads to breaking God's law. However, it's important to understand the root of coveting and its impact on our lives.
In my opinion, the covetous heart is one of the greatest sins in America. Instead of seeking a heart after God's own heart, our society is driven by a constant pursuit of wanting, comparing, contrasting, and outdoing our neighbors. The commercial aspect of our society exploits factors like fear of loss, urgency, greed, and indifference, along with the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality, to foster covetousness. We are enticed by advertisements for jewelry from Kay's, believing that "every kiss begins with Kay," or by the allure of supersized meals from McDonald's, or even by the promises of gadgets and gizmos, whozits and whatzits, and thingamabobs, seen on TV. The intense longing and unquenchable urge to make these impulsive purchases are indicative of a covetous nature.
Coveting, at its core, is an insatiable desire to possess something that rightfully belongs to someone else. It is a common struggle in everyday life, taking various forms such as possessions, relationships, achievements, skills, and talents. In this post, we will delve deeper into the heart of coveting and explore the underlying issues that make it a matter of the heart, extending beyond mere external actions.
Coveting is essentially a heart issue, a deep feeling of discontent that can be masked by our actions. The Bible describes the heart as the place where our emotions, desires, and intentions come from. Jesus made it clear that sin starts in the heart before it shows up in our actions. He said (Matthew 15:19, NIV), "Evil thoughts—like murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander—come from the heart."
Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) also tells us that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" These verses show how easily coveting can take hold in our deceitful and corrupted hearts, leading to sinful desires. Coveting isn't just about our actions, but it's about the attitude of our hearts.
Coveting can take many forms, and it often stems from a deep dissatisfaction or longing for something we don’t have and that someone else owns or enjoys. This sense of lack can arise from comparing ourselves to others, feeling that our lives are incomplete or missing something we believe we should have. The story of Cain and Abel serves as a stark reminder of how deep dissatisfaction and the desire to have what someone else has can lead to destructive actions. Cain's heart was filled with envy, he coveted the relationship Abel had with God. His dissatisfaction and comparison with his brother ultimately led to the first murder in history.
When the heart is left unchecked, coveting is dangerous. Just like the story of Cain and Abel, coveting often leads to envy, jealousy, and resentment, causing us to covet what others have and to be dissatisfied with our own lives. Coveting can also be associated with greed, materialism, and idolatry, where we value possessions or achievements above God and our relationships with others.
In today's society, coveting is often fueled by social media. We are constantly bombarded with images of our friends and acquaintances showcasing their seemingly perfect lives. It's easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to these carefully curated highlight reels and envying what we perceive as a better life. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and a constant need for more, creating a vicious cycle of coveting.
In addition to social comparison, another contributing factor to coveting is the culture of consumerism that we live in. We are constantly told that we need the latest and greatest products, and our desire for status and material possessions is constantly fueled by advertisements. We may not even realize that we are coveting, as it can easily become a subconscious pattern of behavior.
Transformation of Heart
Coveting may appear harmless and innate, a part of human nature. Some even rationalize it as a driving force for personal achievement or a means to surpass others. However, we must not forget that coveting is a sin, leading to various transgressions like theft, deceit, infidelity, and even murder. It corrodes our relationships with others and with God. It robs us of genuine joy, contentment, and peace, leaving us in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction and unrest.
Conquering coveting requires a transformation of our hearts, not just our actions. Let us seek God's guidance and recite the words of Psalm 51:10-12 (NRSV): "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit". We cannot achieve this change on our own, as we are all susceptible to sin. We need God's grace and power to renovate us from within, to grant us a new heart devoid of desires that lead to sin. A covetous heart, a sinful heart, is a heart of stone. In Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV), it is written, "I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." This transformation commences with recognizing our dependence on God, acknowledging our sinful nature, and our inability to save ourselves. It involves repentance, turning away from our sins, and turning towards God with faith and obedience. It requires renewing our minds with God's truth through prayer, Scripture, and a supportive community of believers.
In summary, coveting is a heart issue that can manifest itself in many forms. Social comparison, consumerism and a culture of idolatry can all fuel the fire of coveting. It can lead to envy, jealousy and resentment as well as greed and materialism. While these are all very difficult to overcome, it is possible with God's grace and power. Transformation of the heart requires dependence on Him, repentance, faith and obedience. Ask God to transform your heart so that you will be less likely to indulge in sinful desires such as coveting. Take time each day to focus on His Word and how He wants us to live our lives according to His will. Pray for strength, courage and wisdom when temptations arise that could lead us down unhealthy paths. Renewing your mind daily with gratitude for what God has already provided you is an effective way of breathing new life into your faith journey. With God's help, we can begin the process of overcoming coveting desires today.