This message marks the end of the summer series in the Ten Commandments, with the 10th Commandment found in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Not being content with what God has given you, but wanting what someone else has – God calls this coveting. And notice, unlike most of the other commandments, this one says nothing about outward behavior. It points exclusively to the heart. Coveting is an inward desire of the heart. In this way, the 10th Commandment connects to all the others. Being satisfied enough in God that so that God’s people would not long for what others had, whether that be other gods, or possessions, or relationships or honor.
1. God’s People Discontent in God
For Israel, would God be enough for them? Would they trust Him to provide? Would they find their identity and their hope and their greatest treasure in their covenant with God? Would they worship Him alone, or return to the idols of their past? This last commandment gets to the heart of their worship and trust in God.
Remember, the Hebrews had just been freed from hundreds of years of Egyptian slavery. When they were slaves, no real possessions. Everything belonged to their master. The homes they lived in. The clothes they wore. The tools they used. Even the children they had. A slave owned nothing. Everything belonged to someone else.
But when God freed them from Egypt, he blessed them with Egyptian treasures as payment for those years of slavery. Gold and silver and fine garments. And traveling through the desert, God also provided for them food and water and protection from attacking armies.
God’s people would become discontent. We will see in later chapters how they become discontent with God’s presence and decide to build a golden calf. They wanted a god fashioned by their own hands, just like other nations.
Israel was not content with God as their king. They coveted the kings of other nations and wanted an earthly king of their own. Over and over, the breaking of the 10th Commandment caused God’s covenant people to break covenant with Him, because their hearts always wanted something else, something more, instead of recognizing what they had been given, and finding contentment in God alone.
2. The Perfect Contentment of Christ
As the Israelites found out, the law can tell them what sin is (coveting). But the law can’t change their hearts. Only a Savior could do that. Jesus modeled and He taught that true joy is only found by being content in God alone.
For instance, Jesus was perfectly content in God’s provision for the body. Jesus knew what it was to be hungry, to be tired, to be in pain. But He trusted the Father’s provision for His needs. Jesus modeled this in the Lord’s prayer when He prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus knew the Father would provide for His needs.
To teach his disciples that God would always provide for our needs, Jesus pointed to things in nature. God feeds the birds. God clothes the flowers of the field. How much more does God love you and will provide for your needs? With that in mind, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus was also perfectly content in God’s provision for the soul as well. He sat down at a well in Samaria. His disciples went into town to buy food. Jesus talks with the woman at the well who was living in sin. He revealed Himself and the gospel to her. When the disciples returned, they urged Jesus to eat something.
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:32–34)
More than food, Jesus was satisfied and fed by doing the will of the Father.
3. Our Contentment in Christ
Coveting doesn’t just happen overnight. It is made up of other sinful thoughts and behaviors that feed it and lead up to it. Like steps on a journey, these are the steps that lead to a coveting heart:
- Comparison – Seeing what others have and comparing it to what I don’t have. Without comparison, there would be no coveting.
- Greed – I need more.
- Pride – I deserve more.
- Doubting God– Doubting His provision, that either God has not given me what I deserve, or has allowed bad things you don’t deserve. (See James 4:2; Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5)
What’s the remedy? The Gospel. The good news that in Christ, we have been given the forgiveness and mercy we don’t deserve, while he took the punishment we do deserve. In Christ we have been born again, washed clean, made new, loved and accepted and adopted by God. That’s who we are because of what Christ has done.
Knowing that, rehearsing that truth, letting that truth become our constant reminder, then our heart begins to change. Instead of coveting, we want to take a different path. We want to take steps toward contentment in Christ:
- Gratitude – Recognizing my blessings and giving God thanks for them guards my heart against wanting more.
- Humility – Realizing I already have more than I deserve.
- Generosity – Freely giving of what I have instead of keeping it for myself
- Faith – Trusting that God will always provide. (See 1 Tim. 6:6; Col. 3:1-2; Phil. 4:11-13)
As we meditate on the truths of the gospel, we will see our hearts change and soften. Our souls will be guarded against coveting by cultivating a godly contentment in Christ.
And that can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit pointing us to the beautiful truths of God’s word. By the Holy Spirit reminding us of all the amazing ways God has blessed us, how God has provided for us, rescued us, kept us, and continues to every day of our lives.