Commandment #10: Do not covet

Commandment #9: Don’t LIE!
August 16, 2012
If I can do it, anyone can.
April 17, 2013

Commandment #10

Exodus 20:17:  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

What does it mean to covet? According to, it means

  • to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another’s property.
  •  to wish for, especially eagerly: “He won the prize they all coveted.”


Isn’t it interesting to note that there’s both a negative AND positive interpretation of covet? At least, it seems like that.

But is it so? If coveting has a positive spin, why is it a sin?

It goes back to the Garden of Eden. It always does. All sin goes back there. When God created the garden and put Adam and Eve in it, all was fantastic.  A perfect world, perfect people, and perfect relationships. But the devil had a destructive agenda as he approached Eve to chat about the snack on the tree.  This was her thought process: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” (Gen 3:6)

She felt as if God was holding something back. THAT’s the root of coveting. It’s wrong idea thinking that we lack something, or that we deserve something we don’t have. Eve’s appetite for three different capacities were heightened: physical pleasure (good for food), visual delight (pleasing to the eye) and personal/intellectual significance (good for wisdom). The capacities are not sinful in themselves. God wired us with them. The sin is when we step outside of God’s provision and protection to fulfill the longings. The longing is legitimate. Demanding that it be filled is not.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, the devil used the same approach. He tempted Jesus with food, splendor and power, the same things he used with Eve. (Really? Satan, what were you thinking??? Tempting Jesus with SPLENDOR? Don’t you remember heaven? Good grief!)  But it just shows that over the course of time, Satan has not been able to develop any new approach. He tempts you and me the same way.

When we are discontent or a demanding heart, we covet. It shows we are neither satisfied with what we have, nor confident that God can meet our needs. It diminishes God. It limits Him. And it reflects a sorry lack of faith.

Contentment is learned. In Phil 4:11-13, Paul writes “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Contentment is only found in Jesus Christ. It is an act of your will, a control of your thinking. We know that intellectually, but we don’t live like we believe it. And like many other issues of faith, if we don’t learn the lesson well, God has a way of repeating the lesson. When the Israelites were delivered from captivity in Egypt, it took them just days to forget the astonishing miracles of the 10 plagues. They began to crab and complain about their circumstances. “What’s this manna stuff? Why so much quail?” They were not content. And what happened? God let them wander the desert for 40 years before they found their way to the Promised Land. A trip that should have taken mere days took 40 years.

My prayer is that you (and I!) learn to be content, to not illegitimately demand or reach for things that are not yours, not due you or not going to satisfy in the long run. God promises to fulfill all your needs. Believe it. And live like you believe it. I don’t want to wander in the desert. Do you?

Maureen Zappala
Maureen Zappala
Maureen is the founder of High Altitude Strategies. She’s an ex-NASA propulsion engineer, turned professional speaker and author. She’s a semi-regular contributor to the monthly Toastmaster magazine. And paradoxically, is co-writing a book about Ohio State Football history, (despite being a graduate of U of Notre Dame). Go Bucks. Go Irish. Go figure.

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