Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
~ Ex 20:17
The 10th Commandment, often abbreviated as “Thou shalt not covet”, is unique among the 10 Commandments. All of the preceding 9 commandments deal with actions. This one deals with controlling one’s desires. It is the only one that directly addresses matters of the heart.
You can put on a good show with the other 9. You can appear to be honest and not steal or lie. You can outwardly honor your father and your mother while holding grievances within your heart. You can outwardly worship God and not have idols – outwardly. However, a covetous mind has already replaced God in his or her heart.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
~ Col 3:5
Thus, with the 10th Commandment, we circle back to the 1st and/or 2nd. If we are covetous, then, we should re-examine our relationship with God and fix it.
Some teach that God gave Israel the law for outward obedience, but that Jesus came and taught something new. They will claim that Jesus wants your heart but not your outward obedience. They miss the fact that the OT does address the heart. This commandment is just one example.
Why did Pharaoh not let Israel go? His heart was hardened (sometimes by himself, sometimes by God and sometimes by his counselors). Why did God send the Flood in the time of Noah? The wickedness of man was great and the thoughts of their hearts were continually bent on evil (Ge 6:5). Esau wanted to kill Jacob in his heart (Ge 27:41). If Israel goes into captivity and turns to God with their hearts, He will respond (Lev 26:41). God tested Israel to know what was in their heart (Dt 8:2).
So, if covetousness equals idolatry, then the way to combat covetousness is to not put anything before God. In other words, make a heart change. Here are some verses to think about:
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
~ Lev 19:17
But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
~ Dt 4:29
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!
~ Dt 5:29
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
~ Dt 6:5-7
Diligently seeking God, loving God, not hating others, keeping His commandments and teaching our children to keep them too are all ways of drawing closer to God and replacing covetousness with true worship.