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." (Exod. 20:17; Deut. 5:21)
One of the features that is interesting about the tenth commandment is the fact that it does forbid coveting your neighbor's husband, as if to say this commandment does not apply to women. However, the commandment is worded this way because of the patriarchal manner in which God viewed the family and the covenant community. God, from the beginning, established male leadership within the home and within the covenant community (Gen. 2:15-18). Thus, because wives are not above their husbands and children are not above their parents (Exod. 20:12; Eph. 5:22-24), then what is obligatory for men is obligatory for women and children as well. If it is wrong for God to lie, then it is wrong for humans to lie. If it is wrong for men to covet, then it is wrong for women and children to covet.
What is also interesting about the tenth commandment is that it is the only one that pertains to internal sin, a state of mind, a desire. All the other nine commandments have to do with external behavior. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t bow down and worship false gods. However, the tenth commandment forbids us from desiring that which does not belong to us. It’s the one commandment no one was ever stoned for in the Old Testament. Thus, what does it mean to covet and why is it sinful? To covet is to desire that which does not belong to you, that which you do not have, that which belongs to someone else. Understanding that God is sovereign and that all good things come to us from the hand of God (James 1:17), then to covet is to say to God that you deserve more than what he has given you. To covet after another man’s wife, another women’s husband, another person’s property, to covet after someone you are not married to (i.e., lust), is to express discontentment over that which God has given you. It is to imply that God is withholding something from you which you deserve. To covet is to imply that God somehow owes you more than what you have. Ultimately, to covet is to question the goodness and trustworthiness of God. To covet is to impugn the character of God.
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