Exodus 20:17 “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.”
This is the last of the 10 Commandments and it moved the heart of the Apostle Paul hundreds of years after the fact. Covet is not a word in common use these days so the Message bible renders this verse “No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.” Reflecting on this Paul wrote to his friends in Rome “I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting” (Romans 7, 8). There is a correlation between our attitudes and our actions. It is good to restrain destructive impulses, to refrain from doing things we know are bad, but if that is the main theme of life it would be a sad and meager life. Self-denial has a proper place but to fulfill the commandment and to enjoy life we need to move beyond wanting what others have- be that things or relationships or abilities and attributes- to embracing how God has made us and where he has placed us. The change we need is one of the heart and that is far more difficult than restraining our actions. The Pauls and the Peters and the Augustines and the Luthers of the Christian faith had the impact they did because they experienced and talked about God changing them from the inside. It is a grace they couldn’t do themselves that God gave to them. Maybe confronting what we covet, what we lust for, what we illicitly long for, is one step down the path leading to that change of heart that God is working in us. What are you coveting this week?