My neighbor next door has a boat. He has offered to take me out in it several times, and sadly I have yet to be able to accompany him on any voyages. I like boats; in fact I wish I had my own boat.
My neighbor across the street has an outdoor shed. It’s big; it’s glorious. He can fit all kinds of stuff in there. That’s what I need, a place to store my lawnmower so I can get it off the front porch. (No, I don’t have a garage.) I could also fit all kinds of other stuff in there that I really need.
Just about every one of my neighbors has better cars than I do. They are big and fancy and were manufactured in this millennium. I want a car like that, too. As I write this, I am awaiting an air conditioning repair man. All my neighbors have air conditioning. I know this because while I was sleeping with the window open last night in an attempt to stay cool, I heard my neighbor’s AC units cutting on and off while they regulated a cool 74 degrees. I wish I had air conditioning.
Command #10: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. Or wife. Or servants. Or ox. Or donkey. Or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Do you realize what kind of position this puts us in? Every time we see something that someone else has, and we want it. We go against the way that God desires for us to live.
It’s funny that this is command #10. In our society, one that tends to rank things, we believe that because this is number ten it must have some sort of diminished importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. This command has some serious teeth. So let’s explore the implications here.
First, every time we desire to own something that is not ours we are essentially saying that the things that God has provided for us are not enough. Central to the teachings of Jesus is the principle that we should be fully reliant on the Father to provide all our daily needs. We see this in His teachings on prayer (Matt 6:11). Jesus tells us that in our petitions to the Father, all we should be interested in seeking is that which would need for today. When we covet what others have, our actions reveal the nature of our heart’s desire for more.
Which brings us to point number two: When we covet other’s possessions, we are giving over to wanting to store treasures for ourselves as opposed to the treasures of Heaven. We all know that we can’t take it with us when we die. Truly, coveting is the first step towards materialism. Have you ever noticed that the more you have, the more you want or think you needed? For instance, if I had a boat—and I’m not faulting my neighbor for having a boat—but if I had one, then I would need all sorts of other things to go along with it. I would need a vehicle to pull it. I would have to outfit with all the necessary equipment. I would need to put gas in it to operate it. It’s an endless cycle, and eventually I would "need a bigger boat." Jesus is clear; the pursuit of possessions for the sake of possessions is the wrong pursuit.
Thirdly, coveting leads to worry. I had an epiphany the other day, a moment of clarity if you will. I realized that the things in life I really worry about aren’t terrorism or natural disasters or even sicknesses—be it that of me or my own children—its stuff. I worry about stuff. I worry about the fact that I have too much of the stuff I don’t want and not enough of the stuff I do. Seriously, this is what I worry about. A life full of worry is not the life that a follower of Jesus is supposed to have. "So do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat, or what shall we drink or what shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things and your Father in Heaven knows that you need them." At the core of coveting is worry. Worry can be a paralyzing force that keeps the most pure hearted believers from truly following Jesus. (A word of caution here, we can’t mistake worry-free life for care-free life.)
In the movie The Silence of the Lambs there is a very profound scene that proves the genius of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. When trying to identify who is behind the "Buffalo Bill" murders, Dr. Lecter asks Agent Starling who this person is at his heart. She replies that he is psychopath and a lunatic. Lecter responds with a resounding no; he explains that those things are what he has become because of what he is in his heart. So what is he in his heart? Dr. Lecter says that, "He covets." The lesson is this, he is covetous and the things that he sees everyday and wants for his own lead him down a path of destruction.
Take this lesson to heart; a covetous way of life is a dead-end street that will lead you to destruction as well. The next time you want something, just because someone else has it remember the lesson of The Silence of the Lambs and the genius of Dr. Lecter.