“You Shall Not Covet”

TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”
—Exodus 20:17

A Roman Catholic priest who had heard the confessions of 2,000 people said that he had heard every kind of sin and iniquity confessed—even murder—with one exception. He had never heard anyone confess to committing the sin of covetousness.

I think that is because we don’t really know what coveting is. Yet we do it all the time.

What does it mean to covet? Coveting is wanting something that never will be yours, should never be yours, and, in fact, belongs to someone else. The literal definition of the word means to set your heart on something. A better translation would be “to pant after something”—sort of like a predator pursuing its prey.

The apostle Paul said that of all the commandments, this was the one he struggled with the most. Why? Because all the other commandments involve external actions—”You shall not commit adultery” . . . “You shall not kill” . . . “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.”

But then there is “You shall not covet.” That is more difficult to figure out. It is internal. It is wanting something that belongs to someone else and deciding you are going to get it, no matter what.

We read in Colossians 3:5, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

It is not a sin to admire something. It is not a sin to want to be successful in business or to make a good living. But if you become obsessed with it and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, when that is the most important thing in life to you, that can become coveting and idolatry.

Listen Now

1 Chronicles 22-24; 1 Thessalonians 3

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Used by permission from Harvest Ministries with Greg Laurie, PO Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.


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