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August 1, 2009

On the Top 10 List:
Do not Covet -- Work Hard!

Greg Laurie
The misunderstood commandment

    "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."

    Covet: to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably

Coveting is the most misunderstood sin.

Everyone understands "You shall not steal." or "You should not commit adultery."

These are hard physical rules, but coveting is psychological.

These Commandments say you should direct your brain away from a "desire" to steal your neighbor's property or a "desire" to have your neighbor's wife.

You may admire your neighbor's property or his wife, so much so that, you may buy the same sports car he has or you may marry a woman as fine as he has, but you cannot, in good grace, desire and lust for what he has.

It is not healthy for you to desire what you cannot have.

Instead, you should profitably direct your desire to work hard for these same things yourself.

Work hard for what you want -- for that is where true happiness lay.

The Misunderstood Commandment by Greg Laurie

A Roman Catholic priest who heard the confessions of some 2,000 people said he had heard people confess every conceivable sin, including murder, adultery, and much more. But never in all his years, he said, did anyone ever own up to committing the sin of coveting.

Coveting is probably the most misunderstood of the Ten Commandments, one that people often don't even know they are breaking. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it is. After all, if God put it on his Top Ten list, then we had better pay attention.

Coveting is not simply a matter of desiring something you don't have. For example, if you are walking though the mall, see something in a store window, and think, That is cool. I would like to get that someday, it is not coveting; it is admiring.

To covet is different. It means to be devoured by a desire for something that is not yours and cannot be yours. The New Testament translates the Hebrew word for coveting with the Greek word for lust. That gives you an idea of what coveting really is. It is not just admiration; it is lusting after something. Think of a wolf going after its prey. When you see something and think, I am going to get that. That is going to be mine. I don't care how I do it ... I don't care how I pull it off ... I am going to have it, then that is coveting.

Let's say that your friend just bought a new car. You like his car. But that is not coveting; it is admiring. Then let's say that you go down to the dealership and buy a car just like the one your friend bought. That may be copying, but it still isn't coveting. Coveting is when you look at your friend's car, get into it, and drive off with it. That is coveting, which in turn has led to grand theft auto. You desired it and then basically decided it was going to be yours.

Coveting can cripple you spiritually and even destroy you. Think of Judas Iscariot who sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Money was so important to him that he sold out the Savior of the world. The Bible says, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT). This isn't saying that money is the root of all kinds of evil; rather, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

It is not a sin to want to be successful in life. If you want to do well in your field of endeavor, that is not a sin; it is a virtue. You should try to be the best at whatever you go after. But if you want to be a success and you don't care how you get there, whom you step on, or whether you have to steal, lie, or even murder to get there, then that is wrong. That is when coveting actually becomes idolatry, because whatever it is you are pursuing has become more important to you than God himself.

Coveting actually is idolatry, according the Bible: "Don't be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world" (Colossians 3:5 NLT). When you are lusting after someone or something, when you are obsessed with that person or thing and it begins to drive you, then coveting is out of control. That is why God says, "You must not covet ..." (Exodus 20:17 NLT).

Coveting is a powerful and underestimated sin. In the life of King David we find a classic example of how destructive it can be. One night as he was hanging out at the palace and enjoying life, he saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing herself. Then he coveted. He should have stopped there and confessed it as a sin, but David took action. First he coveted, and then he took Bathsheba from her husband Uriah and committed adultery with her. Then, instead of admitting his sin, he tried to cover it up and had Uriah sent to his death on the battlefield. It all started with David's coveting something that was not his and not meant to be his, and it ultimately led to murder.

Prior to his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a very religious man. He was a man who, to the best of his ability, tried to keep the law. But the one commandment that hung him up was coveting. Paul could pride himself on the fact that he didn't steal, lie, commit adultery, murder, and so forth. The problem was that he could control his actions, but he couldn't control his heart.

The Bible says that if you offend in one point of the law, you are guilty of all of it (see James 2:10). God's commandments are like a moral mirror: they show us the truth. We may not always like what we see in a mirror, but the mirror shows us what we need to change. The mirror does us a favor.

In the same way, God's commandments reveal to us who we really are. They are a reflection of truth so that, with God's help, we will change.

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