As we come to the end of our series on the Ten Commandments, it’s noteworthy that God brings the Decalogue to a conclusion with a prohibition against covetousness.
“Coveting” is not a word we often use today but it simple means to yearn to possess something that is not yours. It means to want something so much that it becomes a driving priority in one’s life.
An early example of destructive covetousness in the Bible is the story of Achan in Joshua 7. After the conquest of Jericho, Achan had taken some of the items that should have been devoted to destruction. He saw the valuable items, desired them, took them and hid them. As a result, he brought defeat upon the nation, punishment upon himself and a rift in the relationship between God and His people. This story demonstrates that the effects of covetousness go well beyond the individual.
We live in a society that is racked by covetousness. Our media and advertising promote it in its modern form of materialism. And it is as dangerous and toxic now as it was in Achan’s day.
Jesus also knew the profound importance of where we place our priorities: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
That’s the key phrase the shows us why the Ten Commandments rounds out with the prohibition against coveting.
God’s command against coveting is not because He is anti-property or anti-ambition. He has put ambition and achievement in our hearts. But what God wants us to guard against is when we put our desire for anything ahead of our desire for Him.
John Piper has famously said, “God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him.” If the First Commandment shows us where our heart should be, the Tenth Commandment shows us what will most likely take us away from the fullness of life that is found is a close relationship with God.
The Ten Commandments ultimately call us to bring our lives into line with a gracious, loving God, not to earn His favour but because He has already showered His favour on us.