Jesus in the 10th commandment: Coveting (Exodus 20:17)

In the last commandment of the famed 10 commandments, God instructs his people not to covet.  But what exactly is coveting?  Coveting is the yearning to possess and have more than what is currently in one’s possession.  Joan Chittister describes coveting this way, “[It] is the spiritual disease of unbridled desire.”  She goes on to declare this disease narcissistic, or completely self-focused and self-gratifying.

This simple definition brings the 10th commandment full circle to the first commandment, 

You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3).

Coveting is the sign that our vision has shifted from God to something other than God.  We are looking towards the physical world to meet our needs instead of toward God.  That is why the author of Hebrews declares,

Let your way be without covetousness and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”” (Hebrews 13:5).

In fact, Paul urges all believers to


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).

In prayer, the minds focus is redirected toward the one who provides all we need for life.  In prayer we can thank God for what we have, not what we are lacking.  There are always plenty of generous gifts from our Father’s hands to occupy us for hours.  And when we learn this, we will be able to declare like Paul,

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13).

So where is Jesus in all of this.  Truly he is the object of all our deepest longings and desires. We want security, wealth, power, love, a home built upon luxury and finery, health, and many other things.  All of these can be fulfilled only in Christ.  He alone is the rock of security; he alone possesses the cattle on a thousand hills.  He alone can love us unconditionally and provide us a home that will never wear out.  He alone can restore true life to our mortal bodies and he alone is to be the object of all we need.  In fact,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

The fact of the matter is that we have nothing to covet, for we have everything in Christ that we need in order to thrive in our relationship with God and others.  To believe otherwise is to declare the Word of God to be false.

But even more than that, Jesus displayed for us the reality of a life completely satisfied and dependent upon the Father, strengthened by his Spirit and devoted to the Lord.  He is the one who fulfills our desires, but even more, he is the one who fulfills the command by remaining single mindedly focused on the Father.  So the next time we find ourselves desiring something we don’t have, let’s look to Christ and see how he is the fulfillment of our deeper longings.



About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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