10 Commandments Bible Study: Don't Covet What You Don't Have

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How often do you find yourself jealous of something someone else has? The tenth commandment reminds us to be happy with the things we have and not covet what others possess. We live in a society that revs our wants up to a point where we have a hard time discerning what we want vs. what we need. Yet God reminds us of the dangers of coveting too much.

Where Is This Commandment in the Bible?

Exodus 20:17 - "You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor." (NLT)

Why This Commandment Is Important

When we look at why the tenth commandment is so important, we first need to understand what it means to covet something. Dictionaries define covet as to desire something with no regard for the rights of others, to eagerly wish for something, or to have a wrongful desire. The definition has an underlying tone of someone being greedy, so when we covet we have a greedy desire. It is one thing to want something, but another to covet it.

The commandment not to covet is designed to remind us first to be happy with what we have. It also reminds us to trust in God that He will provide. Yet when we covet we have a greedy desire that goes well beyond a simple want. Suddenly nothing we have is enough. What we want becomes all-encompassing, and we hinge our happiness on getting the things we do not have. The desire becomes in itself a form of idolatry.

What This Commandment Means Today

In one hour of television, we're confronted with about 15 to 20 minutes of commercials telling us that we need this or want that.

You have the most recent version of this phone? Not good enough, because here's the newest version. We're always being told that we should want more. Yet should we?

The tenth commandment asks us to look inside ourselves as our own motivations. Want in itself is not wrong. We want food. We want to please God.

We want love. Those things are good things to want. What is key to fulfilling this commandment is wanting the right things in the right way. Our possessions are temporal, they will only please us today, not for eternity. God reminds us that our wants should reflect our eternal life with Him. Also, we must beware of our needs and wants becoming obsessions. When our entire focus is our wants, we can sometimes become ruthless in trying to get those things. We forget about people we care about, we forget about God…our desires become all-encompassing.

How to Live By This Commandment

There are several ways you can begin living by this commandment:

  • Start a gratitude journal. Start writing down every day what you're grateful for. Start slow, maybe five things. Then let it grow. When we see the things we actually have, and how much they mean to us, we tend to minimize our want of things we don't really need.
  • Pray to know God's will. God has a plan for our lives, and we need to pray to know that plan. As we live for what God wants for us, we find that we covet less of what other people have. When we live in God's will, we find contentment. It's not always easy to know God's will because a lot of messages come our way each day, but over time, it becomes easier to tell when we're living right.
  • Use patience. If you find yourself coveting something, wait to get it. Patience is a tool that many people with shopping problems use, and it's helpful in determining what you really want. We tend to be impulsive people, and our ability to get what we want immediately does not necessarily help us evaluate what we really need. If you see something you want, but don't need, hold off a little bit and think about it.
  • Trust God. One of the biggest obstacles we face in our struggle with coveting items is our trust in God. There are times when we face doubts in our faith. There are times when things get dark before they get better. It's not always easy to just trust that God will provide. We're designed in a way that we like our self-sustenance. However, try putting your trust in God to provide what you need. When we accept that God has given us what we need, then we find that we become less covetous of what other people have.
  • Don't compare. When we spend our time comparing ourselves too much to others, we lose a sense of who we are as individuals. God created each of us as individuals. When we look too much to others, we will find that we struggle with overcoming our jealousy. Instead, let's look to ourselves and appreciate what God made each of us.
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Your Citation
Mahoney, Kelli. "10 Commandments Bible Study: Don't Covet What You Don't Have." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/10-commandments-dont-covet-what-you-dont-have-712186. Mahoney, Kelli. (2017, September 3). 10 Commandments Bible Study: Don't Covet What You Don't Have. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/10-commandments-dont-covet-what-you-dont-have-712186 Mahoney, Kelli. "10 Commandments Bible Study: Don't Covet What You Don't Have." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/10-commandments-dont-covet-what-you-dont-have-712186 (accessed March 22, 2018).