“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Welcome to the Foundational Tutorial lessons on the Ten Commandments! These lessons are intended for you to learn what you need to learn; they are not meant as a condemnation or judgement. As born-again followers of Jesus, we’re all still here on Earth because we’re all still learning about the Kingdom and how to live in it. As much as he was the Messiah, Jesus was also a teacher during his time here. His followers are likewise expected to teach others, after they themselves have learned what they need to learn, and practiced it.
We aren’t expected to be perfect (even Jesus wasn’t perfect), but we are expected to strive for perfection (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) and to constantly work at improving ourselves.
The foundation of Jesus’ teachings was the Ten Commandments and everything that stemmed from the Commandments, so we clearly need to focus on them. They are the lifeline for staying on God’s Way, particularly in times of trouble and temptation. You’ll note that there are no asterisks (*) on any of the Commandments. That means there are no exceptions to these ten rules. You break them, you pay the price.
For an overview of the blessings that come from keeping the Commandments and the curses that come from not keeping them, see Deuteronomy 28.
LESSON ONE CONTENTS
- COVETING: A DEFINITION
- A WANT OR A NEED?
- SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, prepping
- JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET
- CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS
- THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING
- tl;dr: SUMMARY
1. COVETING: A DEFINITION
Coveting is no different than any of the other Commandments that we’re not supposed to break. It’s not optional not to covet: It’s a Commandment not to covet.
But what exactly is coveting?
The world “covet” is rarely used these days, and I would argue that the word’s fall out of fashion is by design – of the devil. If you don’t know you’re doing something wrong, you’ll likely keep doing it. That’s a form of temptation. But not knowing you’re breaking a Commandment doesn’t make you entirely guilt-free, because God’s Commandments are written on your heart, just as they’re written on mine and on the heart of every person on Earth, including unbelievers. We may not call what we do “coveting”, but we do have the sense that it’s somehow wrong and is prompted by a spirit other than God’s. As born-again believers, it’s our job to know a temptation when we see one, and it’s definitely our job to know and keep the Commandments, even the ones that seem to belong to another age.
The Commandment not to covet specifically frames coveting in relation to your neighbour. However, we know from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan that your neighbour can be anyone and everyone, not just your actual next-door neighbour. Your neighbour can even be a bank, a business, or even your enemy. So coveting has quite a broad reach.
But again, what is coveting? Simply put, to covet is to have an inordinate (unnaturally strong) desire to acquire something that you don’t actually need. It’s a want rather than a need – something or someone you desire without God’s prompting or blessing. It may also be something (or someone) that someone else has and that you want to take possession of. In this way, coveting includes aspects of greed and jealousy mixed in with desire and pride. Coveting is progressively obsessive and can lead to breaking nearly all the other Commandments in one fell swoop (think of David’s coveting of Bathsheba, and the fall-out from that).
In short, if you want what someone else has but you don’t need, you’re coveting.
The opposite of coveting is contentment with what you have, and cheerful and generous charity.
2. A WANT OR A NEED?
How can you make a distinction between things that you want and things that you need? When you covet (that is, desire something that you want rather than need), it’s almost like a game that you can’t stop playing. You strategize the acquisition; you plan the acquisition; you obsess over the acquisition. You must have the acquisition, and at any price. Maybe you saw what you want in an advertisement, or maybe you saw something that someone else has and that you decided you also must have. This is the classic “keeping up with the Joneses” that was the foundation for much of the now defunct American Dream.
Mass consumerism is based on coveting. It’s the devil’s temptation, mainly through ads, to get you to want what you don’t need, and to prompt you to act on your wants with lures and pressure tactics such as “no money down”, “zero interest payments”, and “Today Only!”. If you want to know what your neighbour has coveted in the past, go to a garage sale. Wants that weren’t actual needs are on full display, ranging from barely used gym equipment to “As Seen On TV!” kitchen gadgets with their box seals still unbroken. None of these things, obviously, were needed or they would have been used and would still be used.
Jesus says that God knows what we need even before we tell him. God knows what we need, and he’s ready and eager to provide it for us. All we have to do is say the word that we need this or that, and if God deems that it is a need, he will provide it. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’ll have extensives experience with this.
3. SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, and prepping
People who engage in collecting, investing and prepping are actually breaking the Commandment not to covet, as collecting, investing and prepping are a form of serial coveting.
You can argue that a child needs a doll, but there is no arguing that an adult needs 100 dolls, or 100 collector plates, or 100 pieces of art. Collecting is a form of coveting. It is always prompted by desire or obsession to have something, rather than the need to have something. It may, on the surface, seem relatively harmless, but it is still a form of coveting and shouldn’t be done.
There is also no arguing that an adult needs 100 homes (or even more than one). Real estate investment is a major temptation in coveting, and we’re seeing the impact of this particular form of coveting today. The more people pour into the real estate investment market, the higher the demand for real estate, and so the higher the real estate valuations. The result is skyrocketing real estate prices that are not only preventing much of the world’s population from purchasing a home, but also causing rental prices to soar. The cost of basic shelter now takes up most of renters’ earnings. The coveting of real estate by investors is the reason for this. If you currently hold a mortgage, you’re part of the problem. You’re also guilty of coveting.
Investing in the stock market is another glaring form of coveting. The whole idea behind it is to get more money than you need by investing more money than you need. If ever there was a realm of mammon, this is it. Stock market investing also includes elements of obsession, greed, addiction, recklessness, and fear-driven decision-making. Steer clear of the stock market or any form of investment.
Besides, investing is a form of money-lending. Jesus says we’re to lend, expecting nothing in return, and that’s not much of an investment strategy. You’re better off taking any “extra” money you might have laying around and giving it (not lending it, giving it, no strings attached) to someone you know personally who’s working hard but struggling financially. That is far better stewardship of God’s blessings to you, and you will be bountifully blessed in return.
As much as many of you won’t want to hear this, prepping is a form of coveting. When you buy or plan to buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, you’re coveting food and supplies. We live in New Testament times, not Old Testament times. We’re not like Joseph in Egypt, who stashed away enough food for seven years to survive a famine; we’re like Jesus, who had just enough food for his needs at any given time.
Now, your needs at any given time are linked to your access to food and supplies. If you only go shopping once a month, you should get a month’s worth of food and supplies; if you go shopping once every six months, you get six months’ worth of food and supplies. God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. It would be illogical and foolish to get one day’s worth of food and supplies if we’re not able to shop again for nearly a month. We should get what we need, not what we want or what others tell us we should want.
And there’s the crux of prepping: Prepping is an industry that is at heart a cult. As an industry, it’s built on pressure sales tactics, and as a cult, it’s driven by fear. According to preppers, you can never have enough food or supplies stashed away, so you’re always accumulating more and more, well beyond your needs. This is all done in preparation for a fabled time (SHTF) that has yet to come.
You should also keep in mind that when you buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, the demand for the food and supplies goes up, which means the price goes up. So prepping is not only contributing to shortages in food and supplies for other people, but is also contributing to increases in the cost of food and supplies. If you’re a prepper, you’re guilty of causing hardship to others through shortages and rising costs.
If you’re still hanging onto Joseph as an example of your alleged need to prep, remember that Joseph was a prophet. Through an ability and blessing given to him by God, Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about the coming famine. Joseph didn’t advise Pharaoh to accumulate 7 years’ worth of food and supplies because he was pressured into doing so by sales tactics and fear; he acted based on a dream interpretation given to him directly from God.
Finally, does your desire to prep come directly from God or from the prepping cult? In one of his parables, Jesus talks about a prepper-type character who had enough food and supplies to last him for a lifetime. He had so much, he had to tear down his storage barns and build bigger ones to hold everything. But did Jesus admire him for him that? No, he called him a fool. Within 24 hours of the guy thinking he could take it easy for the rest of his days, he died. All his prepping was in vain. He had put his faith in his own preps instead of putting it in God to provide for him. As a born-again believer, you don’t want to be that guy.
4. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET
John was Jesus’ cousin and was older than Jesus by a few months only. Even so, he’d started his ministry work well before Jesus did, and had gathered quite a loyal following by the time Jesus arrived on the scene. As a prophet, John well knew his role as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight”. He baptised people in the River Jordan as a sign of their repentance. He even baptised Jesus.
During one of his baptising sessions, John was asked by various people how they should live their lives as newly baptised penitents. This is what he advised:
“He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise…. Exact no more than that which is appointed you…. And be content with your wages” (Luke 3: 11-14).
This is a good summation of how to live a life free of coveting, to show gratitude to God for his blessings, and to cheerfully and willingly help others in need. Being born-again doesn’t make you exempt from any of these things; in fact, being born-again makes you even more beholden to live a life that’s free of coveting.
5. CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS
The Old Testament tells us that “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, and Jesus tells us that we should “lend without expecting anything in return.” Both of these directives fly in the face of borrowing or lending money through common mechanisms like credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.
It’s quite possible to live without a credit card. I do. I have a “smart card” that acts like a VISA card, but is loaded with my money. If you’re a born-again believer, there’s no reason to have a “dumb card” (that is, a traditional credit card) if the smart card option is available. Non-smart credit cards act as a form of loan, which means they are a form of coveting that enables you to buy more than you need. You don’t need to use them.
It’s also quite possible to live without a mortgage or any other form of loan. I do. I rent and I make do with the money that I earn or is given to me. It’s always enough. It’s extraordinary how God provides exactly the amount I need at any given time, almost to the penny.
As my grandmother used to say: “The Good Lord provides”, and indeed he does. As long as we keep our end of the deal, God will keep his. The only time I ever went short as a born-again believer was many years ago, when I broke a Commandment and didn’t heed God’s advice to do something. I learned my lesson from these mistakes and have never done them again.
We can’t expect to live as we choose, breaking the Commandments at will, and then expect God to keep blessing us. Born-again believers are especially held to task in this regard: We’re like the family’s eldest children who have to set a good example for the younger ones. That’s also Jesus’ role for us.
There’s no need either to lend or to borrow, not for any reason. If we keep up our end of the deal, the Good Lord provides us with more than enough. If you can’t afford to buy a house, rent one. There is no excuse or justification for a born-again believer to be in debt to anyone for any reason. Jesus never was, and we’re to follow the example set by Jesus, not by the world.
6. THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING
The root of coveting – the reason that it’s wrong – is this: When you covet, you’re saying that God is either unable or unwilling to provide for your needs. You’re saying that you know better than God, and that what God is providing for you is insufficient. Coveting is a sign of ingratitude for God’s blessings. It’s a sign of weak faith or even no faith. Instead of saying “I rely on God”, you’re saying “I rely on me”. It’s a shifting from worship of God and his abilities to a worship of you and your abilities. It’s cutting God out of the life equation.
Are you guilty of coveting?
This is the question you need to ask yourself.
Don’t tell me the answer; I don’t want to know. It’s none of my business. You’re the only one who needs to know whether or not you’re guilty of coveting, and if you are, you’re the one who needs to make the decision to stop doing it. That’s the right thing to do. God is patient, but at some point, time is up, so don’t wait too long do to the right thing when you know it is the right thing to do.
Remember that, when they got the call, Jesus’ disciples and followers walked away from everything – homes, spouses, children, jobs – everything. God then provided for their every need as it arose. The spirit of coveting drives us to acquire things that we want rather than need and to be discontented with the blessings that God has already given us. As such, coveting involves major aspects of “the grass is greener on the other side”, but we know from personal experience that it is never greener; it only appears to be greener when viewed from a distance.
If you are guilty of coveting through any of the various ways and means that the devil uses to tempt us, you need to stop doing it. That’s the bottom line. How and when you stop is up to you, but the sooner, the better. You have no idea how much more time you have on Earth, and you don’t want to be standing before God on Judgement Day, knowing you should have stopped doing something but choosing to keep doing it. That is not how you want to be standing before God when you’re time comes.
Again, when they got the call, the disciples left everything. They just got up and left. Jesus did, too, prior to starting his ministry work, and Paul followed suit after he’d converted. These are all excellent examples of lives lived without coveting. These examples are meant to be followed.
7. tl;dr: SUMMARY
- If you have more than you need or want more than you need, you’re coveting and need to stop doing it.
- Coveting comes wrapped up as all kinds of temptations, from collecting to investing to prepping, and even to borrowing money to buy a house or car. If you have to borrow money to buy something, you don’t need it. If you continue to want what you can’t afford and can only get through borrowing, you’re coveting.
- If you keep God’s Commandments and follow Jesus’ example in everything you do, God will provide for your every need. Jesus told us that God knows our needs even before we know them ourselves, and just as he provides for all his creatures on Earth, he gladly provides for us.
- If you’re grateful for and content with what you have, you will avoid coveting. Be grateful and content. Keep God’s Commandment.
“Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in my affliction.”
(Psalm 119: 92)