Coveting – The Forgotten Commandment

The forgotten commandment.  I am not talking about some obscure reference in some pages of the Bible that haven’t seen the light of day since who knows when, but one of the 10 Commandments codified at Mt Sinai. We forget it, gloss over and yet God thought it important enough to be one of the Ten.

Perhaps because we think it is the least abused commandment while in reality it may be broken more than all the others…

Lets read it in its entirety in Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Archaic term

Covet:  to desire unlawfully or inordinately.

It is sometimes translated lust if that gives you an idea of what it means. It is the desire to have something that you shouldn’t

The Bible defines it as idolatry Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth (in other words – put to death your worldly impulses); fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

What is it about this desire that makes it so bad and important enough to be one of the Ten.


covetousness, which is idolatry: Putting something else before God.

So what we are seeing here is that God considers coveting a form of putting something else before Him. Interestingly this ties the bottom or last of the 10 Commandments with the top or the first.

To covet, to desire inordinately, any thing of your fellow man is to put God second. In one sense you are telling God who watches over you and looks after all your needs that He isn’t doing a good enough job providing for you…and we know that not to be the case. God provides for the sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29) and he sent His Son that we may have life more abundantly. (John 10:10)


I started making a list from the Bible of what covetousness leads to:

  • Injustice and oppression Proverbs 28:20; Micah 2:2
  • Foolish and hurtful lusts 1 Timothy 6:9
  • Departure from the faith 1 Timothy 6:10
  • Lying 2 Kings 5:22-25
  • Murder Proverbs 1:18; Proverbs 1:19; Ezekiel 22:12
  • Theft Joshua 7:21
  • Poverty Proverbs 28:22
  • Misery 1 Timothy 6:10
  • and etc.

It was then I realized that it is really at the heart of almost all sin and then I found James 1:14-15

James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

If there is one thing that I want you to take away it is this. 


It takes us away from the faith:

1 Timothy 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.


These goods will not bring happiness any way:

Ecclesiastes 5:10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.

Exemplified in Achan, in hiding the treasure:

Joshua 7:21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

To say that the tenth commandment is: “Do not covet” … is not entirely correct.

There are things we are to covet or earnestly desire.

Psalm 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

What it boils down to is PHYSICAL V SPIRITUAL and that we are not to covet the physical but to covet the spiritual, the things of God.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth [same word as covet] against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

International Standard Version Galatians 5:17 For what the flesh wants is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to the flesh. They are opposed to each other, and so you do not do what you want to do.

Good News Bible Galatians 5:17 For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do.

Contemporary English Version Galatians 5:17 The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.


God tells us not to harm our neighbor in actions as depicted by commandments #6-8 by word as in #9 and He puts a further onus on us not to do it in thought either.

If we do this we won’t have a part in the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

In essence this is perhaps the most difficult of all the commandments to keep because we are to bring every thought into captivity, but we can do it with the help of God.