The Ten Commandments of God, as recorded in Exodus 20:3-17, are not declarations of rules or restrictions from God to His people. Rather, they are ten ways to express our love to God. Jesus admonished us in John 14:15, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.” This command affirms the fact that our obedience to God should be rooted in our love to Him. Put another way, if we love God, we ought to love God in the way He wants to be loved. He wants us to love Him through obedience to His commandments. Hence, the commandments are embedded in love, not merely a law, and can be referred to as “Love Letters” from God to us.
In our series on God’s “Love Letters,” we’ve now come to the tenth and final love letter from our Lord which says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”1
Some might say, “This command doesn’t apply to me. I don’t covet. More than that, the word ‘covet’ is an antiquated word. In our contemporary world, no one walks around saying, ‘I covet what you have. I covet your possessions. I covet your property.’”
Yet, the relevant application of this love letter is simply this, “Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s. Don’t be greedy.” Put another way, “You must not be envious of your neighbor’s house, or want to sleep with his wife, or want to own his slaves, oxen, donkeys, or anything else he has.”2 For when one covets, one is essentially saying, “I want what you have, and I’ll take it by any means necessary. It’s yours, but I want to make it as mine.”
A loving God seeks faithful followers who trust Him for sustenance.
A covetous mindset, however, does not exemplify the reliance on God for one’s sustenance, necessities, or resources. When one acknowledges the sovereignty of God, one typifies the familiar cliché’, “What God has for me, it is for me!” This means I don’t have to crave or hanker after another person’s possessions or property, but instead, I fully believe and epitomize the words of the apostle Paul, “But my God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”3
Jesus specifically tells us in Luke 12 to avoid being covetous. He says, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” He then follows with a parable of a farmer who was blessed with an abundance of goods. To accommodate the enormity of his crops, the farmer built greater barns to store his goods. After considering all of his wealth and goods, the farmer then says to himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”4 But God then replies to Him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”5
The message for us is clear. Life is not promised to any of us. We can covet, be greedy, or desire what’s not ours, but the day is coming when God will ask us to give an account of our stewardship and there are one of two words that we will hear. If we’ve been obedient and manifested our love to God, we’re going to hear “Faithful.”6 But if we have not, we’re going to hear, “Foolish,”7 for those who have been covetous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.8
Let’s not live and die as fools! Let’s however, live for Christ, keeping His commandments with the blessed anticipation of hearing Him say, “Well done!”
This article is part of our 2018 March / April Issue
CARLTON P. BYRD, D.MIN., is Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church in Huntsville, Alabama and the speaker and director for Breath of Life Television Ministries.
*All scriptural texts are taken from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
1 Exodus 20:17
2 Ibid., TLB
3 Philippians 4:19
4 Luke 12:19, NIV
5 Luke 12:20, NIV
6 Matthew 25:21
7 Luke 12:20.
8 First Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Matthew 25:21