The key to understanding this commandment is in the definition of the word  “covet.” Two different Hebrew words are used in the passages condemning coveting  (Exodus  20:17; Deuteronomy  5:21), and both mean “to lust after or to long for with great desire.” Since  the commandments are given as “you shall not’s,” the desire in this case is for  something that is not the property of the desirer and not rightfully his to long  after. In this commandment, the Israelites are told not to lust after their  neighbor’s possessions—his house, land, ox or donkey, or the people in his  life—his wife or servants, both male and female. The Israelites were not to  desire, long for, or set their hearts on anything that belonged to anyone else. Whereas several of the commandments prohibit certain actions, such as  murder and theft, this is one of the commandments that address the inner person,  his heart and mind. As James 1:15 tells us, the inner person is where sin originates, and in this case,  covetousness is the forerunner of all manner of sin, among them theft, burglary,  and embezzlement. At its root, coveting is the result of envy, a sin which, once  it takes root in the heart, leads to worse sins. Jesus reiterated this very  thought in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that lust in the heart is every  bit as sinful as committing adultery (Matthew  5:28). Envy goes beyond casting a longing glance at the neighbor’s new car.  Once dwelled upon, envy of the neighbor’s possessions can turn to feelings of  resentment and hatred for the neighbor himself. That can turn into resentment  against God and questioning Him: “Why can’t I have what he has, Lord? Don’t you  love me enough to give me what I want?” God’s reasons for condemning  covetousness are good ones. At its very core, envy is love of self. Envious,  selfish citizens are unhappy and discontented citizens. A society built of such  people is a weak one because envious malcontents, as stated before, will be more  likely to commit crimes against one another, further weakening the societal  structure. Furthermore, the New Testament identifies covetousness as a form of  idolatry, a sin which God detests (Colossians  3:5). In the end, envy and covetousness are Satan’s tools to distract us  from pursuing the only thing that will ever make us happy and content—God  Himself. God’s Word tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and  that we should be content with the basic necessities of life (1 Timothy 6:6-8),  because true happiness is not attained by things, but by a personal relationship  with God through Jesus Christ. By this alone do we gain that which is worthy,  true, solid, satisfying, and durable—the unsearchable riches of God’s grace.

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