Do not covet
Upon turning into the cereal aisle, the four-year old boy fixed his eyes upon the various cereals that were available. The boy’s mother pulled the cart close to the shelves to select a box of nutritious cereal for the family, and at the same time the youngster grabbed a box of the most sugar-laden product on the shelves. He recognized the brilliant colors and designs on the box and he remembered seeing the product advertised while watching afternoon cartoons.
As the mother turned to put the cereal she had selected in the cart, she noticed that her son had also made a selection. After placing her chosen cereal in the cart, she told her son that his cereal choice was not good for him and that they would need to put it back on the shelf. The boy clutched the cereal tightly to his chest indicating his unwillingness to give it up.
The mother tried to persuade her son to put the cereal back on the shelf. His response was a forceful, “No! I want it!”
Next, the young mom sought to take the box of cereal from the boy. As soon as the struggle started, the boy began to scream at the top of his lungs. The mother tried to quiet the boy while she took the cereal from him. With the cereal back on the shelf, the boy continued to scream inconsolably that he wanted the cereal. The embarrassed mother quickly realized that her shopping trip was at an end, pulled the boy from the cart, and headed for the door carrying the screaming child.
Why would the child be willing to embarrass himself and his mom and disrupt a grocery store over a box of cereal?
Is there a commandment that would apply here?
The reason for the problem is found in the Tenth Commandment. Exodus 20:17 states, “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.”
Let’s examine the meaning of the Tenth Commandment that simply stated says, “You shall not covet.”
What is Coveting?
1. What is the meaning of the word "covet"?
2. Does this commandment mean that it’s wrong to want or desire anything? Could we see our neighbor’s bright red sports car and desire to have one like it? Where would we cross the line into coveting?
3. In the introduction above, we see a four-year old becoming emotionally upset over being denied something that he wanted. Do adults also covet? If so, how might they be covetous?
4. Looking at the commandment, why is it wrong to covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, ox, or donkey?
5. Would hoarding be an action of coveting? Why or why not?
A Matter of the Heart
1. Does God’s commandment against coveting deal with what we do or what we think?
2. Why would God direct a commandment toward how we think? (Mark 7:21-23 helps us to understand God’s approach in this commandment. Consider also James 1:14-15.)
3. What happens when a person always selfishly thinks of himself before others?
4. What happens when a person begins to want something so badly that he or she would do anything to get it? Let’s think of some examples of what might happen if our desires get out of control.
COMMENT: The result of letting our desires become our focus is discussed in James 4:1-2
A Form of Idolatry
COLOSSIANS 3:5-6: "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: … passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience"
EPHESIANS 5:5: " For this you know, that no … covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."
1. How does the Bible label our covetousness? What other commandment do we break when we covet?
2. How does coveting become idolatry?
LUKE 12:15: "And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'"
1. Why should we “beware of covetousness”? Consider also 1Timothy 6:7-10.
2. What would be the approach that is opposite to covetousness? Read Romans 13:9-10 and Philippians 2:3-4 and then answer.
3. Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Were the Corinthians covetous in this instance? How do you know? What motivated their actions?
4. We all have things that we want in life such as success, a new car, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a wife or a husband, money, nice clothes, and the list could go on and on. What is the proper approach to the physical things that we want?
5. To whom can we turn to get the things we need? What answer is found in Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 6:25-33.
6. What happens to our lives when we have faith that God hears our prayers and that He will provide the things that we need? How does this impact our relationship with God? Does this help or hinder our relationships with others?
1. Is covetousness a problem in our society? How widespread do you think the problem is?
2. How prevalent a problem will covetousness be in the last days? 2 Timothy 3:1-5
3. How would you summarize living by the Tenth Commandment not to covet? Let’s look at how Paul expressed it in Acts 20:33-35.
If we live by the words of Jesus Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” covetousness will never be a problem.