Written by Matthew Laney
"Do not covet your neighbor's house or spouse, car, career, kids or anything else that isn't yours." - Exodus 20:17 (translation mine).
Sarah Jessica Parker, famous for starring in HBO's Sex in the City, launched a perfume a few years ago called COVET. In the commercial, a desperate Sarah is shown breaking a store window to get the perfume-- then handcuffed, then in a police car, then behind bars, always cooing, "I have to have it!"
"Do not covet your neighbor's stuff" is the last of the Ten Commandments. I would have put it first because, by my lights, all sin starts with greed. Telling ourselves "I have to have it!" puts us on the road to being jailed by falsehood, adultery, neglecting the Sabbath, theft, even murder.
Does that mean all desires are suspect? Different faiths come to different conclusions on this question.
Buddhism, for example, teaches that desire is the root of suffering. The Bible doesn't. In the Bible, coveting is used both positively and negatively. Greedy grasping is not advisable. Yet Jesus told parables about people who sell everything to get the kingdom, thinking "I have to have it!" Jesus strongly desired to eat the Passover with His disciples. Paul longed to know Christ more intimately and encouraged the Corinthians to eagerly covet the greatest gifts. Like Sarah in the commercial, Jesus and Paul were jailed for coveting but for entirely different reasons. The one thing they could not live without, or stop talking about, was the love and grace of God.
For Christ-followers, desire isn't the problem, disordered desire is. What do you covet? What is the deepest desire of your heart?
Lord, just for today, may I crave and covet nothing more than a closer walk with Thee.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.