Best of Daily Reflections: The Tenth Commandment: Don’t Covet
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
Coveting is not just seeing something that belongs to someone else and admiring it, or even wishing that you had something like it. Rather, coveting is allowing that desire to invade and pervade your heart. It’s letting that desire govern your thoughts and guide your actions.
You might wonder what’s wrong with coveting. Again, we’re not talking about fleeting desires, but rather something that takes root in our souls. Coveting often leads us to make poor choices for our lives, working more than we should in order to purchase some unnecessary item. We cheat ourselves, our families, and even our God because we want something that we falsely believe will fulfill us. Coveting can also injure or destroy relationships. When I covet that which belongs to my neighbor, I can easily grow to resent that person. Coveting prevents me from experiencing the contentment that God wants me to know. It can also impede my gratitude. I stop appreciating what I have because I am so desperate for something new. Thus God doesn’t receive the thanks he rightfully deserves, and I don’t experience the joy of his gifts to me.
We live in a culture that encourages, one might even say, that celebrates covetousness. Much of the advertising that permeates our lives attempts to get us to desire that which belongs to another. It tries to fool us into believing that if we only possessed something new, then we’d be happy. Thus our attempt to keep the tenth commandment is surely an uphill battle.
How do we keep from covetousness? Here are some suggestions. First, we recognize it in our hearts and confess it to the Lord, asking for cleansing and renewal. Second, we focus on all that God has given us, allowing gratitude to fill our hearts. Nothing chases away coveting more effectively than pervasive thanks. Unless it is generosity. So, third, we give away our “stuff,” even sacrificially. Fourth, we choose not to nurture desires that lead to coveting. By God’s grace, we don’t let momentary wishing take up residence in our hearts. Fifth, we expose ourselves to those in this world that have so much less than we do, thus seeing our lives in a new perspective. Sixth, we learn to say “no” to the cultural dictum that having more “stuff” leads to fulfillment. We agree with Ecclesiastes that this is truly vanity, and nothing more. Seventh, as we grow in our faith, we learn to be satisfied more and more in the Lord, and not in any thing or any person besides him.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Where do you struggle with coveting? To what extent is the energy of your life flowing according to your desire for that which you don’t really need? What helps you to experience genuine contentment with what you have in life?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, as I think about it, I’m surprised by how easily I can allow coveting to dominate my heart. I see someone with something I want—usually, some new piece of electronic equipment—and I dwell upon getting it for myself. I expect there are other evidences of coveting in my life that I’m not even seeing right now. Show me my heart, Lord, so that I might confess to you and be forgiven.
Fill my heart with contentment and my lips with gratitude, so that covetousness might find no place within me.
Thank you, dear Lord, for all the ways you have blessed me: materially, relationally, physically, spiritually. How good you are to me! Amen.