IDEA: We need to understand the tenth commandment before we can obey it.

TEXT: "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" (Exodus 20:17).

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s" (Deuteronomy 5:21).

PURPOSE: To help listeners discern legitimate desires from evil desires.

The tenth commandment states, "You shall not covet." That’s not a word we use every day.

I. What does it mean to "covet"?

The American Heritage Dictionary (4th edition, 2000) tells us that to covet is "to feel blameworthy desire for that which is another’s; to wish for longingly." It is also "to feel immoderate desire for that which is another’s."

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1996) tells us that to covet is "to long inordinately or unlawfully, to hanker after something forbidden, to wish, long or crave for something (especially the property of another person)."

Our English word comes from the Latin word cupere meaning "to desire," which in turn comes from the Sanskrit word kup meaning "to become excited."

II. To covet can be a good thing.

The Hebrew word translated covetousness also means "desire, delight."

The tenth commandment doesn’t tell us that we shouldn’t have any desires.

God has given us desires and has filled the world with delightful things for us to enjoy.

God gives to His creatures the desire to acquire, which in itself is not wrong.

If animals didn’t have this desire to acquire, they would die.

Squirrels hoard nuts in the fall in order to survive the winter.

Birds collect straw, mud, feathers to build nests to make a place for eggs and new little birds.

God also gives human beings the desire to acquire.

Our God-given survival instincts are related to this desire to acquire.

God gave us a desire to produce-–to subdue the earth and have dominion over it (Genesis 1:28).

God has given us the desire to succeed, putting us in this world to achieve something, to be something. There is no particular merit in failing at reaching our goals.

To wish for something with eagerness isn’t necessarily bad.

In 1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul tells his readers to covet earnestly the best gifts.

III. But the sense of "covet" in the tenth commandment is negative, not positive.

The Hebrew word used here is chamad, and it simply means "desire," but in the tenth commandment it is evil desire.

This is the reason the translators of the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagint) chose to translate chamad with the Greek word meaning "lust, passionate longing."

When we talk about the tenth commandment, we have to distinguish legitimate desires from evil desires