“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 is your neighbor’s.”” (Exodus 20:17, ESV)

Obviously to understand this 10th commandment we need to know what the word “covet” means.  The Faithlife Study Bible helps us out:

The Hebrew verb for “covet,” thachmod, does not condemn the general acquisition of possessions or the desire to collect things. It speaks to obsession or a desire so strong that it compels someone to violate another person’s property

What coveting does not necessarily mean is having stuff.  It appears that having stuff in the Scriptures is neither here nor there, neither inherently good, nor automatically evil.  It is what we do with our stuff that matters.  If it controls us and we cannot live without it and we hoard it as if we did own it all and no one can have it, then our stuff has become an idol and we have transgressed this 10th commandment.

On the other hand, if we hold it loosely and do not treasure it in our hearts and release it gladly in the service of our King [whose stuff it is anyway], then we are not coveting.

What coveting means is an out of control desire for things of any stripe, whether that be money, or nice cars, or stylish clothes, or the particular character or gifting we see in someone else, coveting can infiltrate our lives in any number of ways and is usually so subtle that we don’t recognize it until it has taken over and controls our lives.

The New American Commentary summarizes: “The entire verse is a prohibition against any sort of coveting of what someone else already rightfully has, with enough examples given as to leave no doubt that nothing properly owned by someone else can be coveted.”

I would agree, but also extend coveting to an out of control desire to have something that I want whether or not it is owned by someone else, thus a brand new car, or brand new clothes when we pursue them for their own sake and because of our own desires and not out of need would seem to me to be coveting.

Coveting is so subtle that I wonder who has not fallen prey to the tenth commandment at one time or another [or multitude of times].  Perhaps we would best listen to Jesus in regards to coveting, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

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