The purpose of God’s Law
All of creation has been created to show forth the nature of God (Romans 1:18-20.) As such the natural world operates according to God’s decree and law. In the same vein, the Law that He has given to us reflects His nature. His Law shows us not just what is pleasing in His sight but what is in our best interest. Like a doctor who tells his patient not to eat certain foods for his health, so God has instructed us not to do certain things for our well being, both temporal and eternal.
Thou shalt not covet
Of all the Ten Commandments, the tenth is probably the least remembered, understood, or obeyed. To better understand it we must understand the natural flow and progression of the Ten Commandments. The first commandment teaches us that we were created for God alone and that we should look to nothing but Himself for our ultimate fulfillment, delight, and joy. The commandments then show how we are to love God and by extension love those who are made in His image (Matthew 22:36-40.) The tenth commandment brings us full circle back to the first. The command is literally, “You shall not desire anything that someone else has.” We tend to take this to the extreme of killing, stealing, adultery, lust, etc., but God is actually speaking of desiring in the normal sense. He has already condemned the actions; He now condemns the desires. I am to desire nothing but God Himself (Colossians 3:1-2.)
The progression of coveting
All sin begins with wrong desires or, more properly, good desires that are skewed away from God (James 1:14-15.) We were created to be satisfied by God, but we interpret these longings for God as desires for other things. That is why we do not seek God (Romans 3:10-12.) This desire leads me away from satisfaction with God Himself, and leads to an ungrateful life. This ingratitude leads to all manner of sin (Romans 1:21ff.) For example, a man desires companionship (which is ultimately found in his relationship with God and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.) He views this desire as not being met by God but being met by a woman. He now desires a wife like others have (he is coveting.) This leads him to idolatry (a woman will satisfy me), and may lead him to further sins like marrying an unbeliever, fornication, or pornography. What coveting has done is caused the man to lose sight of all that God has done for him. This failure to be thankful for God and all that God has done is the fruit of his desiring (coveting) something other than God. Although this may seem extreme, Jesus did not even desire food after forty days of fasting. Instead He only desired God (Matthew 4:2-4.)
How to overcome coveting
The only way to overcome a strong desire is with an even stronger desire (John Piper.) When I am satisfied in God and grateful for all that He is done I will no longer desire the things of this life. The way to overcome coveting is thankfulness for Who God is and what He has done. Instead of focusing on what we do not have, we must instead focus on all we have in Christ. This life filled with gratitude opens the door for blessings. So often God will not answer our prayers because they are nothing more than selfish desires (James 4:3.) When we are satisfied in God He is able to give us good things without feeding our idolatry. To overcome these sins and live a happy life in Christ, I must become a grateful person who is thankful for Who God is and all that He has done for me in Jesus.
This heart change is impossible for us to perform, but God does this in the heart of all who repent of sin and believe in Jesus. He raises their hearts from the dead and transforms them into the likeness of His Son. Will you turn to Jesus and desire Him alone? Will you live a life of thankfulness for all God is and all He has done?