17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17
21 Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Deuteronomy 5:21
The Cambridge Dictionary online defines covet as “to want to have something very much, especially something that belongs to someone else.” Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 are one of the Ten Commandments. It is actually the last of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. But, if you look at the last five commandments, those sins start with coveting.
James, in his epistle, explicitly says that murder begins with coveting (James 4:2). Adultery starts with wanting someone else’s husband or wife. Theft begins with wanting someone else’s property or ideas. We bear false witness against others to protect the lie we created because we coveted something from others. Jesus said to avoid these types of sin, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; and Luke 10:27). Paul likewise admonished the new Christian church to also love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:19 and Galatians 5:14).
But, these types of coveting are easy to recognize. Another type of coveting occurs when we compare ourselves to others to the point that we want another person’s life. This type of coveting occurs because we live in a society that prizes individualism, but in all honesty, it only accepts a certain form of individualism. The individualism that is really prized, and therefore the individuals that are prized in our world system, are people who have a lot of stuff. We prize people based on their fame and fortune. We look at the rich and renowned people and say that is what I want, or even, that it is the life I should have. We covet the lives that others have so much that we can never be satisfied with the house we have, the children or family we have, the education we have, or even the friends we have. We cannot be satisfied because someone else’s life is always better than ours. This type of coveting keeps us miserable. Because we are so busy chasing another person’s life, we can never be our best self. We then become a marketer’s best dream because they can fool us into wanting more and more, because we think that is the only way we can be happy and satisfied with self.
My niece calls this the “sin of comparison.” This happens because we live in a world that constantly encourages us to look at the success of others and covet it for ourselves. Being our true selves is difficult.
But, how do we avoid this and live our best life? We do this by redefining our idea of success. Success should be defined as living life as ourselves. To me, this would be the way God sees us. For me, I am living my life the way God sees me when I am doing the things that I am truly passionate about. I would do these things even if money or fame did not come out of it. These things or actions also give me a sense of purpose or being. This sense of purpose or being tells me that I am living a life of purpose for God. The Bible asks us this question in another framework, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16). Or another way of stating the same idea more explicitly, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (I Corinthians 6:19). Once we believe this then it is easier to live our lives the way God sees us.
That is why I invite you to continue your daily self-affirmation of how God sees you. The Apostle Paul would state it another way, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2). Remember God sees you as wonderfully unique therefore don’t commit the sin of comparison.