Inasmuch as recent polls indicate approximately 75% of Americans believe in the Bible, it is interesting to note the emphasis, or lack thereof, given to basic Biblical teachings such as the Ten Commandments. As previously noted just three of the ten are considered in our judicial system.
One of the least esteemed commandments is number 10, i.e.:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
There are at least six basic Hebrew words that are translated ‘covet’ in the Old Testament. Their English equivalents include desire, wish, crave, long for, lust, gain, greedy, get unrighteous gain, etc.
The precept of coveting is found in the early chapters of Genesis in the Garden of Eden.
“The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Genesis 2:8-9
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2:16-17
Satan, however, tempted Eve to partake of that which was forbidden convincing her she deserved the perceived benefits it would provide.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6
Eve longed for, i.e. lusted for that which God had not given to her. She acted outside of God’s will and instructions. The consequence of her actions, along with her husbands, brought on the universal curse to the earth and all mankind. We anxiously await the removal of that original curse which was caused by actions that began with ‘coveting.’
Solomon, in his Proverbs, addressed the consequences of coveting:
“…So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.” Proverbs 1:19
“He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…” Proverbs 15:27
Other Old Testament references:
“Woe to those who devise iniquity…they covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them…Therefore thus says the LORD; ‘Behold, against this family I am devising disaster…’” Micah 2:1-3
“And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done. When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighting fifty skekels, I coveted them and took them…So all Israel stoned him with stones…” Joshua 7:20-25
Now the New Testament has at least seven Greek words translated ‘covet.’ English equivalents include: to have more, lover of money, desire, jealous, envy, and greed. It is summarized as ‘longing for what has not been given.’
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness…” I Timothy 6:6-10
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.” Hebrews 13:5
For example consider several meanings of the ‘American Dream.’ One common definition includes the current generation should be better off than the previous one. Another popular definition borrows from the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Several thoughts come to mind. Firstly I have yet to find those inalienable rights described as endowed by God in the Bible. They sound more like the rights promised to the citizenry of a well meaning democratic government. Secondly, our national government has taken it upon itself to add to the list of rights of citizens. If these additional rights are above the ability of the individual to obtain then someone else must bear their cost. Such rights are commonly termed entitlements which are funded via the redistribution of wealth which has no scriptural basis.
Next consider the objective of marketers of products and services. Their primary goal is to create a desire within the individual to obtain something not already owned. In other words the goal is to raise one’s level of contentment and redefine ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ The contemporary secular definition of success and happiness is many times measured by the level of asset ownership.
Now the curse pronounced in Eden cannot be removed until its root cause has been removed. And remember the curse was pronounced because man disobeyed God and pursued something that was deemed desirable but not a right to possess. Therefore, the major question is whether our priorities are in line with the Bible or are we as individuals and a nation becoming adept at doing the wrong things better?