“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 belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17
It’s very interesting to note, at least to me, that the mixed multitude lost it after this, the 10th Commandment.
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Exodus 20: 18-21
Granted, it was the totality of the situation that caused the people to plead to Moses for mediation, but I still think it is interesting it came right after the commandment to not even desire your neighbor’s stuff.
It is difficult to express the difference between wanting what we don’t have and coveting, especially in a world of intense marketing and consumerism. Every commercial that comes on the television or radio tells us how great out lives would be with a new car or a new 70” gazillion DPI television. The grass is always greener on the other side, dontcha know! Look how good your neighbor’s life is because of his shiny sports car or, worse, some special pills that make him feel like he is 20 years younger! This world is constantly trying to make us feel inferior because someone next door may have something better than us.
Israel was quite guilty of coveting a number of times. They were taught specifically not to go after the gods of the other inhabitants of planet earth. They were commanded to not even consider those gods or the practices associated with them. But Israel coveted the gods of the gentiles. Israel was not set up to have a king, either, but they wanted one. Why? Because they wanted to be like the other nations. God even told them the king would send their men off to war and press both men and women into service while confiscating 10% of their income and the choicest lands, but the Israelites’ covetousness of the kings of their neighbors was too much to bear.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30
Despite what we are told by some of our Protestant brethren that the law was ended at the cross, Yeshua actually ratchets up the law here at Matthew 5. He is telling us that covetousness is the root of many sins, if not all. Just lusting after another woman is the same as acting on that lust. Coveting is a very hard commandment to follow. Thank God for Yeshua’s mediation!