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The Tenth Commandment - Do not covet

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Upon turning into the cereal aisle, the four-year old boy fixed his eyes upon the various cereals that were available. The boy’s mother pulled the cart close to the shelves to select a box of nutritious cereal for the family, and at the same time the youngster grabbed a box of the most sugar-laden product on the shelves. He recognized the brilliant colors and designs on the box and he remembered seeing the product advertised while watching afternoon cartoons.

As the mother turned to put the cereal she had selected in the cart, she noticed that her son had also made a selection. After placing her chosen cereal in the cart, she told her son that his cereal choice was not good for him and that they would need to put it back on the shelf. The boy clutched the cereal tightly to his chest indicating his unwillingness to give it up.

The mother tried to persuade her son to put the cereal back on the shelf. His response was a forceful, “No! I want it!”

Next, the young mom sought to take the box of cereal from the boy. As soon as the struggle started, the boy began to scream at the top of his lungs. The mother tried to quiet the boy while she took the cereal from him. With the cereal back on the shelf, the boy continued to scream inconsolably that he wanted the cereal. The embarrassed mother quickly realized that her shopping trip was at an end, pulled the boy from the cart, and headed for the door carrying the screaming child.

Why would the child be willing to embarrass himself and his mom and disrupt a grocery store over a box of cereal?

Is there a commandment that would apply here?

The reason for the problem is found in the Tenth Commandment. Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor’s.
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states, “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”

Let’s examine the meaning of the Tenth Commandment that simply stated says, “You shall not covet.”

What is Coveting?

1. What is the meaning of the word “covet”?

2. Does this commandment mean that it’s wrong to want or desire anything? Could we see our neighbor’s bright red sports car and desire to have one like it? Where would we cross the line into coveting?

3. In the introduction above, we see a four-year old becoming emotionally upset over being denied something that he wanted. Do adults also covet? If so, how might they be covetous?

4. Looking at the commandment, why is it wrong to covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, ox, or donkey?

5. Would hoarding be an action of coveting? Why or why not?

A Matter of the Heart

1. Does God’s commandment against coveting deal with what we do or what we think?

2. Why would God direct a commandment toward how we think? (Mark 7:21-23 Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
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helps us to understand God’s approach in this commandment. Consider also James 1:14-15 James 1:14-15 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
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3. What happens when a person always selfishly thinks of himself before others?

4. What happens when a person begins to want something so badly that he or she would do anything to get it? Let’s think of some examples of what might happen if our desires get out of control.

COMMENT: The result of letting our desires become our focus is discussed in James 4:1-2 James 4:1-2 1 From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.
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A Form of Idolatry

COLOSSIANS 3:5-6: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: … passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience”

EPHESIANS 5:5: ” For this you know, that no … covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

1. How does the Bible label our covetousness? What other commandment do we break when we covet?

2. How does coveting become idolatry?

Combating Covetousness

LUKE 12:15: “And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'”

1. Why should we “beware of covetousness”? Consider also 1Timothy 6:7-10.

2. What would be the approach that is opposite to covetousness? Read Romans 13:9-10 Romans 13:9-10 9 For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 10 Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
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and Philippians 2:3-4 Philippians 2:3-4 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
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and then answer.

3. Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 2 Corinthians 8:1-7 1 Moreover, brothers, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yes, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; 4 Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take on us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us by the will of God. 6 So that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. 7 Therefore, as you abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that you abound in this grace also.
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. Were the Corinthians covetous in this instance? How do you know? What motivated their actions?

4. We all have things that we want in life such as success, a new car, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a wife or a husband, money, nice clothes, and the list could go on and on. What is the proper approach to the physical things that we want?

5. To whom can we turn to get the things we need? What answer is found in Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
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and Matthew 6:25-33 Matthew 6:25-33 25 Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature? 28 And why take you thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say to you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
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6. What happens to our lives when we have faith that God hears our prayers and that He will provide the things that we need? How does this impact our relationship with God? Does this help or hinder our relationships with others?


1. Is covetousness a problem in our society? How widespread do you think the problem is?

2. How prevalent a problem will covetousness be in the last days? 2 Timothy 3:1-5 2 Timothy 3:1-5 1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
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3. How would you summarize living by the Tenth Commandment not to covet? Let’s look at how Paul expressed it in Acts 20:33-35 Acts 20:33-35 33 I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yes, you yourselves know, that these hands have ministered to my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
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If we live by the words of Jesus Christ, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” covetousness will never be a problem.