Do you find yourself wishing you had what others have? Are you always striving for more than what you have now? And is that really a bad thing? What does the Bible say about being content?
“You shall not covet…” – Exodus 20:17
This week we will address the tenth and final commandment. It is found in Exodus 20:17: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
The word “covet” used in this verse is a translation of the Hebrew word “chamad.” It means to strongly desire; to lust or long after something or someone. It can mean to find something or someone pleasant or pleasing.
This commandment is not specifically taught by Jesus. But Paul uses it in Romans 13:9: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The Greek word that is translated “covet” in this Romans verse is “epithumeo.” It means to long for, to lust after, or to set one’s heart upon someone or something. It can also mean to strongly desire, be passionate about, or to focus on.
This can be good or bad in our marriages. If we desire and find our spouse pleasant and pleasing, that is good. However, these commandments are given in the negative—“you shall not.” Therefore in these cases the desire is for something the person does not have a right to focus on or long after.
Notice in Exodus one of the things we’re told not to covet is “your neighbor’s wife.” Paul includes committing adultery along with coveting in his list of “you shall nots” (Romans 13:9). One of the Ten Commandments we’ve already discussed is the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
Adultery begins when we covet someone who does not–and should never–belong to us. But covetousness can harm our marriages in other ways.
When we do what the tenth commandment warns us against and covet “anything that belongs to [our] neighbor,” it leads us to place our emphasis on things other than those that please God.
This inappropriate emphasis includes forsaking important things such as our relationship with God and our spouses. And this will always be destructive to our marriages.
I always ask couples in marriage counseling if they spend time together studying God’s Word and praying. Very often I hear a similar response: “We know we should, but we just don’t have time.”
I explain that they can’t hope to have a good marriage without spending time together with God. Their reply many times is that I don’t understand their situation. They have to work many hours to provide the things they need. They just don’t have time.
It’s true. Our lives on this earth are busy. And time is limited. But we each have the freedom to choose how we will use our time. And we base that choice on what we see as most valuable.
When we don’t have time for God, it is a sure recipe for disaster in our lives and marriages.
Even Jesus made time to spend with His Father while He was here on earth. We read, for example, in Luke 5:16: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” If Jesus had time for prayer in His busy schedule of saving the world, surely we do.
Here are some things for us to think about as we struggle with coveting. I say “we” because I include myself in this battle against our sinful flesh. We all struggle with it. And we all must have victory over it to have the marriage God desires for us.
If you struggle with covetousness, you’re struggle is with discontentment. For this is what leads to coveting. When we are not content with what we have–or what God has provided for us, we want what someone else has that we see as better.
Perhaps it is a woman who you see as more physically beautiful than your wife. Maybe it is a man who listens more attentively to you and seems more interested in you than your husband. Suddenly your spouse doesn’t appear to be as wonderful as you once thought. And discontentment begins to settle in.
This is why Jesus warns us about discontentment and the coveting it leads to over and over again. We read in Luke 12:15: “Then he (Jesus) said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’”
The word translated “greed” here is the Greek word “pleonexia.” It is a synonym for the Greek word “epithumeo” that we discussed earlier. In fact in the King James Version, we read Luke 12:15: “And he said unto them, ‘Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth’” (bold mine).
God’s Word gives us the solution for coveting what someone else has. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-12: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 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.”
Paul is someone who does not covet because he is content no matter what is happening in his life. He reveals the source of that contentment in the next verse in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul’s focus is always on Christ and what He has done for him, not on himself.
We read about this often in Paul’s writings. He writes in Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
He also writes in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Where is your focus? The answer to that question will make all the difference in determining if you covet or if you are content.
Another solution to overcoming covetousness, therefore, is to put God’s truth into our minds and hearts instead of the world’s lies.
Jesus teaches in Mark 7:21-23: “‘For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person’” (bold mine).
The Greek word translated “greed” here is again “pleonexia” that we discussed earlier. Therefore, if we fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth from His Word, the Holy Spirit will use it to help us fight the lies of Satan that fill our world. And we will be able to do as Paul tells us in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (bold mine).
We live in a culture that glorifies covetousness and greed. It promotes grasping all that we can. It encourages acquiring and hoarding. All of these forces fight against the teaching of Christ. And we can only fight against it with the full armor that God has given us (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Covetousness and greed are one and the same. It is the ever growing desire for more. It is the lack of contentment. Much like an anaconda snake, it will squeeze the spiritual life out of us. And it will squeeze the life right out of our marriages.
Get rid of coveting in your life and be content. For discontentment cannot co-exist with a God-centered life and marriage.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what you learned from it. Discuss ways you will apply it to your marriage.
♦ Spend some time evaluating how you use your time and other resources. Do you spend too much time and/or money on things of the world, and not enough on the things that please God, including your marriage? Honestly evaluate how much time you spend with God in ways such as Bible study and prayer. Discuss ways you can improve on this.
♦ Each of you answer the question posed in this week’s teaching: Where is your focus? However you answer it, ask your spouse to help you to keep your focus on Christ. Commit to making this a matter of prayer for each other this week and beyond.
♦ If you’d like some help in fighting this battle of your mind and heart, read the series we did on the armor of God and our marriages, You can find the first post to the series at this link: Protecting Your Marriage with the Armor of God – Part 1: We’re in a Battle. (Links to the full series can be found on our Couple’s Bible Study page.)
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Make sure to ask God for His guidance and strength to keep your focus on Him this week and beyond. Ask Him to help you have the contentment that only He can bring us.
We have mentioned before that praying scripture can be helpful. This week it can help to pray Proverbs 30:7-9: “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. 9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Next week we will conclude this series with some final thoughts on the Ten Commandments and how they affect our marriages.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the GUIDING YOUR MARRIAGE WITH THE TEN COMMANDMENTS series:
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Making God First
Part 3: Worship and Honor
Part 4: A Sabbath Day
Part 5: Honoring Your Parents
Part 6: Don’t Kill Each Other
Part 7: On Adultery and Stealing
Part 8: Being Honest
Part 10: Love and Devotion
All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.