December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”—Exodus 20:17 (NIV)
I wish, I wonder, I want _________. We’ve all been there—that place where jealousy, covetousness, or desiring things not our own arrests our hearts. And that’s the focus of this commandment: the condition of the heart. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that God is altogether preoccupied with being our sole desire.
To emphasize His point, God repeats the words “shall not covet” twice, which is not surprising. Even non-Christians understand the dangers of being consumed by what others possess. Buddha himself warned, “He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.”
The Greek translation for covet is ḥāmad, and its basic meaning is “desire.” It’s an interesting word due to its complexity. For example, in Genesis 2:9 (NKJV) it’s used to describe the trees (“pleasant to the sight”). But in the next chapter, it quickly shifts intention when Eve looks upon the tree as “desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6 NKJV). This reoccurs throughout Scripture—desire seems to have a motive meter. What is notable; however, is when the desire is good, it’s of godly origin (Psalms 19:10, 68:16; Songs 2:3). So, desire for the divine is healthy.
Where desire goes awry is what God refers to in this last commandment. It’s the idea of being discontent with what we have. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament gives us a picture of what this looks like: it’s an “inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire.” In other words, it’s all about us. Again, this is supported in Scripture in cases such as Achan’s sin (Joshua 7), adulterous feelings (Proverbs 6:25), and idolatry (Isaiah 44:9).
So, we have godly desire and selfish desire, and with this we can segue to discerning the difference. This is where the idea of intention comes into play. When our covetousness, our desires, work only in our favor or draw us away from placing our attention on God, His truth, His will, and His purpose, then we have a problem.
Paul touches on this in his letter to the Corinthian Church. He describes himself as having “godly jealousy.” Note: The word “jealousy” in the New Testament isn’t the same as covet, but the premise is similar. It’s likened to zeal. Paul felt a zealous burden for the Church. He felt responsible for them and worried they’d be drawn away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We should feel the same about the people we encounter—to not be jealous of them but for them. Thereby, making God’s desires our own.
I wish, I wonder, I want ________. For us all, I pray that blank represents how God’s desires arrest our hearts, and we shift our intentions heavenward to glorify God with what we’ve been given and not despair for what we lack. For truly, we are at perfect peace when our minds are stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Pause: Why is unhealthy desire a concern for God?
Practice: Do your best to curb any covetousness you feel (whether it’s for a thing, a talent, or a position) to reflect more on the godly jealousy Paul refers to.
Pray: Father God, help me to shift my desires from earthly things to more heavenly things. All my needs are met in You and the richness of Your grace. May Your grace always be sufficient for me. Amen.
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.