“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
- Exodus 20:17
Here we come to the other bookend of the Ten Commandments. Where the first commandment could be considered the definition for establishing a relationship with God instead of worshiping ourselves and our own interests, the tenth commandment can be considered motivation for all of our sins against Man.
When I started this series, I talked of the bookends. Coveting can lead to many sins. Stealing is literally taking something that belongs to another, because you want it. Committing adultery is the same thing, but with people instead of things. A strong motive for murder, or even getting angry, is coveting what someone else has. The police dramas will say ‘love and money’ are the two big motives, but we can relate both of those to jealousy, envy, or covetousness. If we aren’t coveting or comparing ourselves to the Jones, we wouldn’t see what we want. We could focus on God.
What is the goal of all marketing on the media outlets today? “We have something here that you want (even though you don’t know that you want it – yet).” They add false identifiers to enhance the desire by making you think you will look sexier with new hair, new jeans, and those gotta-have shoes.
Do you know that this car can go 150mph in second gear? Yes, I need that car, since the top legal speed in our present home state is 65mph. I was recently in Texas, but their top speed in East Texas is only 75mph, half that of the sporty car’s capability. Yet, people see the ad and they have to have it. When you get one in your driveway, the next door neighbor will get the next model that is even faster in order to drive 40mph to the grocery store to get eggs.
The guy who dies with the most toys wins.
Is that bumper sticker on your car?
As for my wife and I, we saw others getting ahead and we were not. As a result, we felt we were falling behind by comparison. It didn’t bother us for our sakes as much as knowing that the kids in the school yard were also comparing. What made it worse was that we knew what immoral actions were required for the other people to get ahead. Sometimes, you just want to lament as Jeremiah did in Jeremiah 12:1. “You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?”
Yet, justice is a job for God. Comparison with others questions God’s sovereignty and causes us to covet anything and everything of our neighbor’s possessions. We need to look at what we have and decide if we have enough to do God’s will on this earth. We will find ourselves to not be lacking.
Another area that we fail with regard to comparison while looking over the neighbor’s fence is in doing good. Yes, we act like we think there is a scale of good, gooder, and goodest. (made up words to make the point) Let’s say that the neighbor has a drinking problem. We then consider ourselves higher on the ‘good’ scale than our neighbor. We go to church and see the people that have spotty attendance and never go on mission trips, but we’ve been on one mission trip and never miss a Sunday (almost). Doesn’t that account for something? Yet, we sin double time. We envy the sinner’s pleasure while we lament our aches and pains from doing God’s work rather than giving God the Glory while in His service. Really? Have we forgotten that we are saved by Grace? Jesus said in Matthew 19:17 that only God is good. Yet, we still compare on the ’good’ scale.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but he coveted the wife of Uriah, the Hittite. In 2 Samuel 11, David sees what he wants. He takes it (her). He has Uriah killed in battle.
Let’s see, with one little look over the fence into the neighbor’s yard (Commandment in parenthesis)…
- King David put himself above God in what he desired (#1).
- Could we say that he made an object of worship out of Bathsheba? (#2).
- He had Uriah killed (#6).
- He committed adultery (#7).
- He eventually took her into the palace after Uriah was killed (#8?).
- He tried to cover up his actions (#9 – in a way).
The reason for the bookends, is that they both violate the Greatest Commandments to Love God and Love our fellow man.
As for King David and Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11 starts with David looking over his neighbor’s fence and ends with a profound understated sentence.
“But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
- 2 Samuel 11:27b