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10th Commandment: You Shall Not Covet

This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, The Secret of Satisfaction.

Exodus 20:17

Our culture has created all of these perceived “needs”—we are told, “we deserve it.” But how many truly contented homes do we have?

What Is the Tenth Commandment?

Exodus 20:17
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

What Does “Covet” Mean?

Greed in the Bible

To covet is to have an unlawful desire for something that is not rightfully yours.

Covetousness is not limited to money—You might covet your neighbor’s salary, education, fame, advantages, good looks, car, or dishwasher.

Greed vs. Godly Ambition

It is not wrong to have godly ambition, or to desire things. Your desires for love, friendship, a home, happiness, victory, and peace are God-given.

“You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18a).

These are not the unlawful desires the tenth commandment is talking about.

Covetousness = Heart Attitude

The first nine of the Ten Commandments deal with action, but the tenth commandment deals with attitude. It sums up the others. Until we have dealt with our hearts, we will find it onerous to obey the rest of the Ten Commandments.

Recognizing Covetous Desires

Few people realize they deal with covetousness. We all think the other person has it.

Take a survey: go through the Ten Commandments. You may think you’re doing fine…until you get to the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet.”

While you might say you have never done the other nine things, you cannot say you never wanted to. “For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7b). Maybe you don’t take God’s name in vain. Maybe you didn’t commit adultery. Maybe you didn’t steal. But did you want to? Did you ever have covetous desires for something that was not lawful?

Covetousness in Our Sin-Nature

Nothing shows our depravity more than covetousness. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). A man is not a thief because he steals; he steals because he is a thief. He lies because he is a liar. These things come out of the heart.

You were born with a sin-nature. Jesus said to the unsaved, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8:44). Satan was covetous—he coveted the throne of God. That is how he became the devil: by wanting what was not his. (Read Isaiah 14:12-21.)

If you wish to be miserable, think about yourself—what you want, what respect people ought to pay you. You will spoil everything you touch. You will make misery out of everything good. That is the way we are by nature, and that self-centeredness is called covetousness.

The Root of All Evil

1 Timothy 6:7-10
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, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

If you have something to wear and something to eat, that is all you need. You ask, “What about a house?” Jesus slept outdoors sometimes. (See Luke 9:58.)

Never tell your child, “Make all the money you can, so long as you make it honestly.” If you are making all the money you can, you are making money when you ought to be sleeping, spending time with your wife and children, fishing, praying, attending church, etc.

“No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24a). But Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

All of the Ten Commandments are broken when we have that spirit of covetousness. Covetousness is not a small sin—it is the mother of all the rest of them.

Godliness with Contentment

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5; emphasis added). You will always be covetous until you learn contentment because covetousness is trying to find satisfaction in the wrong place.

If you are a child of God, you have…

God Himself

You have Him, and He has you. “Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25).


“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22). If you have children, count your blessings. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3). There are people today who don’t want to have children, because they want things. They have it backwards. You can’t take riches to Heaven, but you can take your children.


“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:13-14).

Now: do you have satisfaction? Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”? (Philippians 4:11b)

“‘There is no peace,’ says the LORD, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 48:22). Things cannot fill the longing of your heart. You need Jesus. Not only is Jesus necessary; He is enough.

Teaching Contentment in Your Home

Here is how to teach your children to keep the tenth commandment:

1. Give Your Heart to God

Let Him meet the deepest needs of your heart. God engineered you in such a way that this world will not satisfy you. You were made for God. (See Acts 17:28a).

2. Be Grateful

Develop thankfulness in your children, and demonstrate it by your own life. Think, and talk often of your blessings.

3. Learn to Love

When you covet what others have, that means you don’t really love them.

Make this a practice: when you see people who have nice things, bow your head and thank God for His blessings on those people. Celebrate God’s grace and goodness to others.

4. Know Who You Are in Jesus

Teach you children to get their identity from the Word of God: believers are saints, the righteousness of God in Christ. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21.)

5. Give

Nothing will kill covetous deader and quicker than giving.

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

List of Scriptures Referenced in this Article

Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 7:7; Mark 7:21-22; John 8:44; Isaiah 14:12-21, 48:22; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; Luke 9:58; Matthew 6:24,33; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 73:25, 127:3; Proverbs 3:13-14, 18:22; Philippians 4:11; Acts 17:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Chronicles 29:14

More Bible Verses About the Tenth Commandment

2 Chronicles 1:11-12
Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”
Psalm 21:25-26
The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare.
Habakkuk 2:9
Woe to him who covets evil gain for his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of disaster!