Exodus 20:17

Sunday Morning Bible Study

June 22, 2008


How much is enough?

When Dean, was six years old, one of his teeth fell out. He took that precious little treasure and put it under his pillow, expecting something in return. When he woke up the next morning, the Tooth Fairy had brought him a quarter. A few weeks later, another tooth fell out, and the same thing happened. When a third tooth dropped out, Dean had had enough. He wrote a little note and put it under his pillow. It read: Dear Tooth Fairy: I have been a good boy. I wonder if you could give me $1 for my tooth, because I could use more money.

Submitted by Kevin Miller, executive vice president, Christianity Today International

In 1955, the largest soda McDonald’s offered was 7 ounces. In a little over 50 years, it has swelled six times that size to 42 ounces. In a recent international marketing campaign, McDonald’s is pushing their super-sized drink more than ever, lovingly naming it “Hugo” to entice customers. Should someone choose to grab a Hugo, he or she will be taking in over 400 calories in the drink alone.

Brian Lowery, associate editor, PreachingToday.com; source: "Dashboard," TIME (8-6-07) and www.mcdonalds.com

The photograph is of two drinks from Burger King. Taken by Flickr user Ian Wilson. According to Ian, “For perspective’s sake, the drink on the left is the size of a large drink in the UK. The one on the right is the American version.”

We often speak in broad economic terms, identifying people as being haves or have-nots. A 2007 study by the Pew Research Center seems to indicate such categorization is going to be increasingly difficult because our perceptions of wealth are quickly changing. Researchers found that only 43 percent of middle-income Americans view themselves as being a part of the haves—down 18 percent from a similar study done in 1988. The same study found that of America's wealthiest, 19 percent actually considered themselves a part of the have-nots.

"Primary Sources: Doubling the Dream," www.theatlantic.com (December 2007); as seen in "Currents," Discipleship Journal (March/April 2008

We’re almost done with our journey through the Ten Commandments.

Today we’re going to be talking about the tenth commandment …

:17 "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."

Let’s define some terms:

In the Hebrew (Old Testament), there are several words used:

covetchamad – (the one in our text) covet, take pleasure in, delight in. The word isn’t always a “bad” word, there are many good proper things to delight in.

covets‘avah – desire, incline, covet, wait longingly, again not always a bad word.

covetousnessbetsa‘– unjust gain, profit acquired by violence; this one is always bad.

In Greek (New Testament), there are two different words that are used:

covetepithumeo – to have a desire for, long for; to lust after, to desire things forbidden. This too is not always a bad word. But sometimes those strong desires are for the wrong things like:

(Mat 5:28 NKJV) "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

covetouspleonektes (“more” + “to have”) – one eager to have more, esp. what belongs to others; greedy of gain, covetous. This word is always bad.

The command is not completely vague, but God gives us some examples of things we shouldn’t covet, probably things that we might tend to covet.

neighborrea‘– friend, companion, fellow, another person. Don’t just think of the guy who lives next door. It’s anybody that’s not you.

your neighbor’s house – it’s not wrong to delight in your house, it’s wrong to want your neighbor’s house.

your neighbor's wife – it’s not wrong to “covet” your own wife. It’s wrong to covet your neighbor’s wife.

male servant, female servant, ox, donkey, and just in case you still don’t get it, God clarifies and says “nor anything that is your neighbor’s”.

Summary: Coveting is: The desire for the wrong thing.

All about coveting

1. Coveting brings misery

(Prov 21:25-26 NKJV) The desire of the lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to labor. {26} He covets greedily all day long, But the righteous gives and does not spare.

The Hebrew word for “desire” is another form of the word “covet”, a nicer form of it. The lazy man “kills” himself with desire. He wants this and he wants that, but because he doesn’t work, all he’s left is desires that never get fulfilled.

Coveting makes you miserable. You are unsatisfied.

(Prov 27:20 NLT)  Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.
David’s oldest son Amnon (2Sam. 13) became obsessed with his half sister Tamar.  Day after day he was miserable until he came up with a plan to rape her.  And then he was still miserable as his lust turned into hate.
We talk ourselves into thinking that we “need” certain things, when we don’t need them at all.  We simply are “lusting” after them.

2. Coveting is serious

Of all the commandments, this is the one that people tend to laugh off. Murder we get. Stealing we get. But it doesn’t seem that it’s all that bad to “covet” your neighbor’s house, does it?

(Eph 5:1-6 NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. {2} And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. {3} But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; {4} neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. {5} For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. {6} Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Man’s greed is one of the reasons that God’s wrath is coming.  It should not be one of the things that characterizes a Christian.

(1 Cor 5:9-11 NKJV) I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. {10} Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. {11} But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person.

Some people might think that we need to stay away from all people who do bad things like immorality or coveting.

God wants us to reach out to the people in the world who do bad things, not stay away from them.
What God wants us to stay away from is people who say they are Christians, but live a life of immorality or coveting.

3. Coveting leads to more sin


It was teddy bear carnage at the Wookey Hall Caves, a teddy bear museum in western England. In the summer of 2006, a Doberman pinscher guard dog named Barney "just went berserk." In an evening rampage, Barney shredded about 100 of the bears on display. But what really got everyone's attention was that he tore apart Mabel—Elvis Presley's teddy bear.

Mabel is currently owned by an English aristocrat named Benjamin Slade who lives close to the museum. He had reportedly paid something like $75,000 for the bear at a Memphis auction, and then loaned it to Wookey Hall Caves. The museum's general manager, Daniel Medley, reported: "I had a very embarrassing phone call with the owner. He's not very happy at all."

What would possess Barney the guard dog to become so angry? To be so violent? The dog's handler, Greg West, speculated that it might have been either a "rogue scent" that "switched on Barney's deepest instincts, or it could have been jealousy," because, according to West, "I was stroking Mabel and saying what a nice little bear she was."

At any rate, West spent several minutes chasing Barney before he could wrestle him to the ground and end the canine's act of vengeance. Photos of the dog after he had been quieted show him sitting on his haunches and looking very contrite. No dogs are allowed now at Wookey Hall Caves.

Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: Alan Cowell, "Doberman on Guard Duty Whacks 100 Teddy Bears," New York Times (8-3-06)

Barney was jealous. He coveted the attention that the teddy bear was getting. So he destroyed all the teddy bears. Bad dog.

In the book of Joshua, the children of Israel are finally beginning to conquer the Promised Land. Before they take the city of Jericho, they are warned about not taking any souvenirs. One of the reasons God was bringing them into the land of Canaan was to bring judgment on the wicked practices of the Canaanites. God didn’t want His people getting caught up in the very things that were bringing judgment. The warning was:

(Josh 6:18 NLT) Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on all Israel.

After an amazing victory, the people set off to capture their next city, but instead of another victory, they were easily defeated by the Canaanites. It turned out that the reason was because of a man named Achan. He had taken something from the city of Jericho, something that was supposed to have been destroyed. Achan explained:

Jos 7:21 "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."

He didn’t just “covet” those forbidden things, he decided to take them and bring great trouble on Israel.

4. Not coveting is a mark of maturity

In the Bible, several times the issue of coveting comes up when discussing leaders, people who are mature enough to lead others.

When Moses is thinking about choosing leaders in the nation:

(Exo 18:21 NKJV) "Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

Solomon adds some insight to those who are leaders:

(Prov 28:16 NKJV) A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.

Paul gave Timothy some traits to look for to see if a man was mature enough to be a leader in the church:

(1 Tim 3:3 NKJV) not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous;

Paul himself was an example of what this kind of maturity looked like:

(1 Th 2:5 NKJV) For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness; God is witness.

(1 Th 2:5 NLT) Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you very well know. And God is our witness that we were not just pretending to be your friends so you would give us money!

Here’s the point – the Bible gives us clues as to what real spiritual maturity looks like.

If you are a person who never has “enough”, a person who is always looking for another new “thing”, who is always looking around to compare themselves with other people to make sure they have the latest “stuff” – then you have some growing up to do.

Answers to coveting

1. Death required

If I’m going to get a handle on coveting, I’m going to be experiencing a kind of “death”. I need to learn to die to these passions that are wrong.

(Col 3:5 NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

(Col 3:5 NLT) …Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

It’s interesting that Paul links “coveting” with idolatry. When God gave instructions to Israel about going in to conquer the Promised Land, He told them what to do with the “idols” they found:

(Deu 7:25 NKJV) "You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; you shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it; for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.
It’s not easy learning to “die” to our desires. Dying is not fun.


A [2006] medical study reveals just how difficult change is for people. Roughly 600,000 people have heart bypasses a year in America. These people are told after their bypasses that they must change their lifestyle. The heart bypass is a temporary fix. They must change their diet. They must quit smoking and drinking. They must exercise and reduce stress.
In essence, the doctors say, “Change or die.”
You would think that a near-death experience would forever grab the attention of the patients. You would think they would vote for change. You would think the argument for change is so compelling that the patients would make the appropriate lifestyle alterations. Sadly that is not the case.
Ninety percent of the heart patients do not change. They remain the same, living the status quo. Study after study indicates that two years after heart surgery, the patients have not altered their behavior. Instead of making changes for life, they choose death.
Change is that difficult. The majority of the heart patients choose not to change. They act as if they would rather die.
Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church (B & H Publishing Group, 2006), p. 229; submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California
These folks are faced with two kinds of death – they can learn to die to their desires for that great big animal-style three-by-three with the triple thick chocolate shake and fries, or they will die of a heart attack.
If I’m going to get the benefits of growing out of greed, I’m going to have to “die” to my desires.

2. Prayer

God’s desire is that we learn to look to Him for the things we desire.

We looked at this next passage when we talked about “murder” and “hate”, but you’ll see that it deals with what leads to murder – greed.

(James 4:1-6 NKJV) Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? {2} You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. {3} You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. {4} Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. {5} Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"? {6} But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

The issue starts off being about the conflicts we have with people, even the kinds of conflicts we have in our own hearts.

We find that the conflicts come from the desires, the “lusts” inside us for the things we don’t have. That’s coveting.

James’ answer is to learn to ask God for these things and then be satisfied with what He gives us.

What does that look like?
If I see “stuff” like a new car that fancies my eye, try asking God for it.

I might find out that my desire is out of line and will feel kind of silly for thinking of asking God for a Ferrari.

If I go to the mall and see the latest fashion in the window, try praying first. Of course if you don’t pray right this can backfire…


A woman was married to a miserly man. She had to fight for everything she got. One day, she told him she was going window shopping. He said, “Look, but don’t buy.” A few hours later she came home with a new dress. “What is this?” her husband fumed. “I thought I told you to look but not buy.” “Well,” she explained, “I saw this lovely dress and thought I’d try it on, and when I did the devil said, ‘It sure looks good on you.’” “Right then you should have told him, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” her husband exclaimed. “I did,” she answered, “but when he got behind me he said, ‘It sure looks good from the back, too.’”

-- Bernard Brunsting, "The Lord's Laughter,"

If I start having a desire for food (something that happens when you’re on a diet), try asking God for it.

When Jesus was fasting for forty days, hungry, and tempted by Satan to abuse His power for His own sake by turning stones into bread, Jesus said,

(Mat 4:4 NKJV) But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

The idea is that Jesus had learned to be satisfied with the things that come from God’s mouth, the things that God declares are right, the things that God provides.

We learn to “ask” for our desires, and let God “speak” and answer however He wants to.

When I have that sex drive heating up inside me, I need to be asking God for sex.

If I’m single, I need to realize how God might be answering that prayer. He might give me the ability to have self-control. He might bring a person into my life to marry. What God will NOT do is answer me with immorality – stuff like pornography, prostitution, premarital sex, etc.

(Prov 6:23-26 NKJV) For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life, {24} To keep you from the evil woman, From the flattering tongue of a seductress. {25} Do not lust (Heb. word for “covet”) after her beauty in your heart, Nor let her allure you with her eyelids. {26} For by means of a harlot A man is reduced to a crust of bread; And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.

If I’m married, God will answer that prayer in a different way. God may answer that prayer through my spouse. God may answer that prayer by giving me self-control to wait until the right time.

Note from James: (James 4:6 NKJV)  But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
If we learn to humble ourselves, we will find that God will answer our prayers with “grace”. He will even give “more grace”.
We will learn to find that His “grace” is enough. It’s all we need.

What does “grace” look like?

Sometimes grace looks like the very thing we are asking for, except we realize that it has been a gift from God.

Sometimes grace is nothing more than contentment from knowing that God loves me and that I can survive without the thing I’m asking for.

3. Learn contentment

(Luke 12:13-15 NKJV) Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." {14} But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" {15} And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."

We make the mistake in our materialistic society of thinking that the more and better “stuff” you have, the more important you are, the more valuable you are as a person.

There’s that old bumper sticker that said: “He who dies with the most toys wins”.

Jesus is saying just the opposite.

Are you facing conflict inside your heart because you want to get some new thing? Are you hoping that getting this “thing” will make you happier? Are you thinking that it will make you feel better about yourself? Danger Will Robinson.

(Phil 4:10-13 NKJV) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. {11} Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: {12} I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. {13} I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

contentautarkes – sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or processing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest

(Phil 4:12 NASB) …I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry…

I like that – there’s a “secret” to learning contentment in life. It’s not something that many people know about.
Paul says that he has help in learning to be content in his circumstances – Jesus will help him in all things.
We often like to quote Phil. 4:13 before lifting that 150lb. barbell. Paul talked about something a bit more difficult, learning to be content.

(Heb 13:5 NKJV) Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

contentarkeo – to be possessed of unfailing strength; to be strong, to suffice, to be enough; to be satisfied, to be contented

The writer tells us the secret of contentment – it’s God’s presence.

We aren’t told to be “content” because God will give us what we ask for.
We are told to be content because we have God with us.
He is all we need.

Do you believe that?

We all have this emptiness inside of us.  It’s a hole in our heart.
People try to fill the hole with all sorts of stuff.
Only Jesus can fill that emptiness.