The Lord God wrote that you shall not covet anything that is not given to you or does not belong to you. How many people understand the implications of covetousness?
Before we can understand a language, we have to learn it. When one hears and reads what people, who call themselves Christians, say about the Ten Commandments, we start to learn why the Satan has them in his grip.
The Ten Commandments are the only words that were written by God Himself. Yet how many people know them? Most people think that they are so simple they dismiss the Ten Commandments. Even though covetousness is easy to understand, unless it is fully understood, people will go on and suffer from succumbing to its power over them.
Covetousness is how sin came about. Some will say that pride or vanity is how sin came about. Yet why would anyone murder another person because of pride alone? A proud person merely asserts superiority. Just have a look at all the atheists that exist. They are proud and think they are superior to those who accept the truth about the Lord God creating the Universe. Of course, matters would be different if atheists coveted something that Christians had, such as some territory that possessed underground springs which produced the elixir of life from the fountain of youth. Atheists might want to kill to obtain it. Therefore, pride alone is insufficient to bring about sin; whereas, in the beginning, if a person coveted what another person had, this might be cause for murder. Was there a murderer that brought sin about in the beginning? This is what Jesus said:
You are of your father the Devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Why did the father of lies become a liar?
Although, this is not clearly stated in the Bible, it is clearly implied, the liar coveted something that was not his. Had the liar not coveted something that did not belong to him, he would have had no need to lie.
What is a lie? According to one dictionary definition, a lie is “A false statement deliberately presented to be true.”
Why would someone make a false statement and present it as the truth? People do this when they covet something that they would not be able to get otherwise.
Take the encounter of Jesus with the rich ruler:
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)
If you know the Ten Commandments, you will realize that Jesus mentions only five when addressing the rich ruler.
The first four commandments and the commandment concerning coveting do not get a mention. The only reason that I can think of for Jesus doing this is that the first four commandments are directives concerning God's relationship to us humans (providing one understands the true significance of the Sabbath), and the last of the Ten Commandments concerns the desires of the heart. If a person desires the truth, and desires to know the Lord God, then to keep the five mentioned commandments by Jesus in the above quotation from Luke is insufficient.
To keep the five commandments that deal with human relationships are good to do if you only want to make friends and do not desire to fall out with people, including your parents. However, the most pressing problem we all have is death. What are we going to do about death? How are we going to overcome death? How are we going to make our lives meaningful? Being born only to die is a futile existence.
Coveting has to do with the heart. The heart is where our thoughts come from. The heart is the spiritual center of our being. In this sense, when speaking of the heart, the reference is to the spirit that enables us to think: to know right from wrong, good from evil and what is true and what is false.
At birth, God gives us a spirit imbued with desire to possess knowledge. Knowledge means that we can know what is good, right and true and not have to experience evil. Knowledge also means having the ability to know God and appreciate the immense power, knowledge and infinite, eternal characteristics of His nature and being. This is what the Bible says that Adam and Eve knew, until they disobeyed God.
We are born into a spiritual climate that is evil. Even if we were born into a household where we did not have to make a decision that required us to do anything that caused us to break any of the above commandments, just like the rich ruler, there would come a time when we would have to make a decision between seeking and not seeking God. If we were to covet status in the eyes of others rather than be humble before our God and accept that we are dependent upon Him, we would do what Satan (Lucifer, the Devil, the Ancient Serpent) did. We would have to tell a lie. We would have to say that what we have to offer is better than what the Lord God has to offer. We would have to deceive people, so they would not look to the Lord God and obey Him.
When we begin to realize what covetousness does, we start to realize why God says that to covet what other people have is evil. Covetousness is not just a matter of not taking other people’s goods and rights, but it is also about challenging God in the same way the first sinner did. Look what the Apostle John writes concerning Cain and the Devil.
He who commits sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
And not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:12)
Cain was of the evil one because he coveted something that his brother possessed (God's blessing), so he killed his brother (Genesis 4:2-9). Without covetousness, Cain could not have done evil. The same as the Serpent tempted Eve, if she did not covet what she was tempted with, Adam would not have sinned. Yet the Bible tells us that Devil sinned from the beginning. He did this by coveting what Adam and Eve had. The Devil severed the trust and impaled the relationship between the Lord God and the man and woman whom He created in His image. Cain, in his shortsightedness, sought to do the same.
Covetousness therefore lies at the root of all sin. Covetousness is a distortion of the creative ability that we possess to appreciate life in all its richness. Yet desiring what is good and true is to seek the satisfaction of knowing God, to possess the indwelling of His presence and to grow in appreciation of the truth. Jesus spoke of people being hungry and thirsty for spiritual sustenance (that is, desiring righteousness) and being satisfied (Matthew 5:6). The Apostle Paul encourages people to desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:39)—unfortunately, the King James Bible uses the word “covet” instead of “desire” in these two verses. If we covet something, we desire wrongfully that which does not belong to us or to which we have no entitlement.
To desire wrongfully our neighbor’s belongings or rights is to deny ourselves the privilege of self-discovery and the exploration of our potential for creative good that our Heavenly Father has endowed us with by creating us in His own image.