There is an event recorded in the Bible 3 times, from the perspectives of Matthew, Mark, and Luke that records Jesus’ encounter with a very good rich man. The rich young man came to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to get eternal life. He wanted to go to heaven. I’m sure we can all relate to that. Jesus refers him to the rules set out in the book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments. These are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship. He starts out with: Don’t love someone else’s wife. Don’t kill anyone. Don’t steal, don’t cheat anyone, and obey your father and mother. This is where Jesus pauses. The rich young guy eagerly says, “I’ve done all that since I was a little boy.” I’m thinking, well he is a really remarkable human being if he has always done those things. Then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. He tells the young man that he needs to do one more thing—sell all his things and give the money to the poor. Well, this made the young man very sad and he left Jesus, disappointed.
The first nine of the Ten Commandments speak to external acts that we can easily see in someone’s life. The 10th commandment, “You shall not covet,” is inward. In this commandment God looks at the heart condition. We must remember that the thoughts and desires of our hearts are important to him. The rich young man that Jesus encountered desired or coveted riches more than his relationship with God. Jesus knew this was the young man’s issue, that is why he told the man he would need to rid himself of his material possessions.
To covet is to desire or long for something that others have. Desire “in itself” is not wrong. God has filled our world with good things for us to seek out. It all goes bad, however, when those desires overcome the righteous desires that should drive Christians: the desire for God’s glory, the desire for heaven, the desire for Christ, the desire for other’s success.
Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that no one can get into heaven on their own. But, with God’s help, anyone can go to heaven. With God, all things are possible.
God used the 10 Commandments, and Jesus used them, to identify sin and our need for God-because no one is good enough. On our own we will not get to heaven. We all have a decision to make, just like the young rich man Jesus spoke to. Are we willing to surrender all we have, those things most important to us, to follow Jesus? It’s not an easy decision. But God is good and we can trust him. Once this surrender takes place, we ask God in prayer to forgive our sin and transform us into his likeness. It’s a choice to put God first. Once this has been done, God’s spirit begins to live in us and help us know what pleases God. God is a gentleman and will never take our free will. The choice is ours.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 19: 16-30; Mark 10:17-34; Luke 18:18-34; Exodus
20:2-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21
Further Internet reading on coveting: “Do Not Covet” by Trevin Wax, Oct. 16, 2007; “Thou Shalt Not Covet” by Don Wilton, Dec. 1, 2015.