“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17 (WEB)
You shall not covet:
- your neighbor’s house
- your neighbor’s wife
- your neighbor’s male or female servant(s)
- your neighbor’s ox
- your neighbor’s donkey
- anything that is your neighbor’s
Covet: desire, lust, covet in various translations
Hebrew root: something of value or delighted in, to want something that is pleasant out of desire or lust
Hebrew root: “man watches”: friend; close companion; neighbor; shepherd
Coveting is desiring something that belongs to another person. This is not a desire to purchase or trade for the object, neither is it a a wish to have something similar. It is a consuming thought that what the other person has should be and should have been ours. Even more broadly the root implies that it is a lust to have something, an inordinate desire. In the new testament, covetousness is called idolatry, meaning that the desire has become all-consuming. It has become an object of worship. Again, this suggests that covetousness is broader than simply wanting what belongs to your neighbor. Thus it can encompass numerous vices, e.g. greed, materialism, gluttony, avarice, love of money, envy, etc.
It is important because strife, misery, and unhappiness are rooted in covetousness. It is harsh and bitter, virulently manifesting in individuals, families, and society. When a person breaks this commandment it never remains hidden. Their heart becomes increasingly bitter toward both the possessor of the things coveted and the things themselves. Resentment, anger, scorn, and hatred boil over often and are vigorously transmitted to others because covetousness loves company.
It poisons culture and society and cannot be removed except that the object of the heart’s greatest desire be Christ.