Summary: Covetousness amounts to idolatry. The covetous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And it's an epidemic in America. This study examines the cause, the clues, the consequences and the cure for covetousness.
Let’s turn together in our Bibles to Exodus 20:17. If you’re visiting with us, we’ve been doing a series of studies on the 10 commandments that God spoke from heaven to the nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai. And this morning we’ve come to #10.
A kid’s Sunday school class was studying the Ten Commandments. And they were ready to discuss the last one, and the teacher asked if anyone could tell her what 10th commandment was. And little Susie raised her hand, stood tall, and quoted, “Thou shall not take the covers off the neighbor’s wife.” Well, that’s close, but not quite. Let’s look at it. Exodus 20:17, the voice of God proclaimed to Israel, “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 belongs to your neighbor.”
Covet and covetousness are not words we use very often. We use other words in their place. Instead of saying “I covet that…” We say “If only I had that, then I would be happy.” Or “I want that so bad.” Covetousness is simply an inordinate desire for something, an earnest wanting of something. Another word for it is greed.
Now, we all want or desire things to a degree. We all want to be healthy. We’re going to want lunch here in a little bit. We want friends, don’t we? If the boss at work offered you a raise you wouldn’t say, “Ah, no thanks, I don’t want any more money.” We all want things to a degree, and that doesn’t make us greedy or covetous. Covetousness is an inordinate desire. It is to so want something that you’d be willing to do something wrong or you’d neglect to do something right in order to obtain it or to keep it if you already have it. It’s when having something becomes more important to you than obeying the will of God or the best interest of other people.
And let’s notice again here the things that God told the ancient Israelites that they we’re not to so want. He said to them, “You shall not covet your neighbors house…” Well, that’s definitely relevant to us. How often do you drive around and think, “If only I could live in a house like that. Life would be good in a house like that.” Then secondly God said, “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” Do you ever compare your spouse with the spouse of others or some wife or husband they show you on TV and think “I kind of wish I could trade”? Then God told them you shall not covet his male servant or his female servant… Perhaps we could make a parallel to looking at someone who has a staff, someone who is in a position of prestige and they have people who are under them. And we might think, “I’d like to sit in that chair and be able to just snap my fingers and have all these people moving around. I’d like to be that guy.” And then God goes on, “or his ox or his donkey“. We may never say, “If only I could have that donkey…” But we may say the modern equivalent, “If only I could have that car or that pickup… If only I could have that tractor or those tools…” A donkey and ox back then meant transportation, power, the ability to get work done, the ability to pull heavy things. And then finally God summed it up saying, “or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” His or her career, friendships, appearance, prestige. His or her life circumstances.
This commandment is really, when think about it, just the flip side of the first one. Remember the first one, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” And in the Bible in multiple places we find that the object of your love and devotion is called your god. Your god is whatever it is, whether a being the spirit realm or some earthly thing, that your heart clings to and that’s most important to you and controls your decisions. And so to covet some earthly thing, to love it and be devoted to having it, is to have another god besides God, it is to violate the first commandment. And that’s why the apostle Paul says twice, in Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5, he says in both those passages that greed or covetousness amounts to idolatry, because it is in essence putting something else in God’s rightful place in your heart.
God’s word would have us to know at least 4 things about coveting that we’re going talk about this morning – the cause, the clues, the consequences and the cure.