Summary: Coveting is not wrong...provided you covet the right things.
Today, we’re looking at the tenth commandment, Exodus 20:17: "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Johnny was looking through the chain-link fence at the beautiful apple tree next door, and the next-door neighbor came out in the yard and saw this.
He said, "Johnny, are you trying to steal one of my apples?"
Johnny said, "No, sir. I’m trying not to."
In this tenth commandment, do you wonder if the Lord is overstating what He’s already said? Is He stretching this? Is He adding seemingly repetitive words to what He’s already said just to round it out to ten? Wouldn’t "The Nine Commandments" sound just as good?
He’s already said, “You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14).
Why would He say, “...You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife..."?
He’s already said, “You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15).
Why would He say, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s property"?
It’s What’s Inside That Counts
The fact is it all begins in our heads, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what He’s saying to us, and that’s exactly what Jesus said to us. We sometimes think when we read the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus is saying something new when He said, “You’ve heard it said, ’You shall not commit adultery,’ but I say to you, ’Do not think adultery.’" He’s not saying anything new. He’s repeating the tenth commandment. The Lord is saying, “Watch what gets into your head. Watch what happens to your heart. It is what is inside that counts."
The reason God loved David so much was David understood it’s not acting religious and doing religious things that God seeks so much as people who love Him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God understood what that was going to do as those sins multiplied in their lives, and our Lord put a guard by the tree of life.
He said, "It’s not right. It would be unmerciful for people to live forever as sinners, to live forever in a world where they keep hiding from God when they’ve done wrong, to live forever in a world where brothers kill brothers. It wouldn’t be right for people to live forever in a world like that." So, in His grace, He mercifully kept them away from that source of everlasting and non-ending life.
Our Lord is saying to you and me, “You need to put a guard on the entrances to your mind. Post a sentry, some heavenly, angelic guard to watch what gets into your ears, your mind, and your eyes because it all begins in your head." Success or failure depends upon what you let get into your head. Character or lack of character depends upon what you let get into your head. Doing well or doing bad always begins with a thought. So the Lord is saying, “Watch what gets into your head."
He was a wonderful young man who came from a very modest family, but he had something that set him apart from all others. He had a deep love for God, and this made him one of the most respected and powerful people in the land.
He faced adversity and success, knowing each of these was an impostor, and he lived well. He was made the leader of his country.
We’re not told about his personal wealth except that it was vast, but we’re told about the legacy he left to his son ... twenty million dollars a year, tax-free, in gold. He had parks and zoos, and his home looked like a museum instead of a place to live. He had resorts all over the place and fantastic riding stables.
But one day, from his penthouse, this man saw a woman, and he coveted her. He coveted his neighbor’s wife, and the avalanche that came from that brought such agony to his soul. He lost the respect of his armies and his nation.
He learned what it’s like to be out of fellowship with God. We’re never out of our relationship with God if we’re Christians, but we can be out of fellowship.
That’s a terrible thing. His children did weird things, saying, “If our dad doesn’t do any better, why should we?"
He died a wonderful, old man, having done many great things and having restored his fellowship with God and much of his nation. However, he was always terribly scarred in his witness, in his life, and in his joy because one day he coveted his neighbor’s wife.
They were a wonderful couple, members of our church. He was a hard-working man.
She was a beautiful woman. They had two lovely daughters. He was innocently out visiting with one of the other ladies in the church, another teacher in the Sunday School class where he taught. He was chairman of deacons. She was the minister of education’s wife. One thing led to another and finally they quit going visiting and started to going to a motel. When it all ended, several families in the church had suffered a divorces. It was like a row of dominoes.