You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
In the tenth commandment God tells us to not lust for things that don’t belong to you. Don’t become obsessed with things that belong to others. Don’t let something become an idol to you because it has become too important.
The tenth commandment takes us from actions to attitudes. It concerns desire – the desires of our heart. To be clear, the problem is not with desire but with desiring the wrong things, desiring things that don’t belong to us, and giving free rein to our desires.
The problem with coveting things that don’t belong to us is that we believe a lie. We believe the lie that if I had that thing I would be happy. But life doesn’t work that way does it? We get that thing and then we want something else. Our desires and longings are satisfied only in Jesus.
Bruce Marshall, in his book The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith, sagely observed, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”
The opposite of coveting is contentment. God had blessed King David in so many ways, and yet when he saw Bathsheba on the roof, he violated the tenth commandment on coveting. That in turn led to the violation of the eighth commandment on stealing and the seventh commandment on adultery, and finally, the sixth commandment on murder. God’s way is always best! Whenever we break God’s commandments we hurt ourselves – and so often, we hurt others.
In contrast to David, Paul could say, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12). That’s contentment. And that’s where joy and peace are found. God’s way is always best.