“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
As we have learned about the Kingdom of God, the Ten Commandments are the charter of the kingdom, its constitution of conduct. The command against covetousness is the last of the Ten Commandments, yet is in no way inferior to the rest. In Hebraic thinking, the tenth commandment is in fact a summary of the rest. Coveting can be viewed as lying at the root of all that comes before, whether it is forsaking God for idolatry, dishonoring his name, continuing to work on Sabbath, or rejecting the authority of mother and father for personal desires. People kill, they commit adultery, and they lie and steal due to coveting.
Yeshua teaches about coveting as being one of the unproductive soils of the heart that cannot bear fruit when the seed of the word is planted in it.
“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things [i.e., covetousness] entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Mark 4:18-19
James went so far as to teach how covetousness is the basis of sin itself:
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust [i.e., covetousness]. Then when [covetousness] has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.James 1:14-15
In our Western way of thinking, we would consider that if covetousness is likened to greed, that the opposite of covetousness might be something akin to generosity. However, the apostle Paul highlights a different view, a different way of viewing covetousness.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.Romans 13:8-10
You see, if coveting is the basis of all that is sinful and contrary to the Ten Commandments, if it is the foundation of all that is harmful to God and others, then love is the overcoming of that poisonous root. This is absolutely congruent with the teaching of Yeshua, since he taught that love fulfills all aspects of the law, both toward God and toward others.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:37-40
Love overcomes everything that is opposed to God, and everything that is opposed to right conduct with others. If covetousness is at the foundation of all that is sinful, then love is its opposite, and the only necessary ingredient to the demise of covetousness throughout the world.
Covetousness is the primary characteristic of the “old man” that must be done away with, as we seek to live the renewed life that God has provided us through Messiah.
… put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts [i.e., covetousness], and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24
True righteousness and holiness can be achieved when we love God and love others, as Yeshua taught. As we do, we fulfill the requirements of the Ten Commandments and we exhibit the type of renewed life that God desires for all in his kingdom.
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