Thou Shalt Not Covet

The first nine commandments are all about our behavior, but the tenth commandment is about our desires.

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.

Exodus 20:17, Mosiah 13:24

The word “covet” can mean simply to desire something. The apostle Paul, for example, urged us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31). There is nothing wrong with wanting something you don’t have. But when that desire overshadows your respect for others, it becomes problematic.

I like this definition:

To desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others

covet,” Collins English Dictionary

I like it because it focuses on subordinating our own desires to an awareness of the needs of the people around us.

When Elder Robert D. Hales wanted to buy his wife an expensive coat for their anniversary, she asked him a penetrating question: “Are you buying this for you or for me?” In his own mind, he recognized what her question meant: “Is the purpose of this gift to show your love for me or to show me that you are a good provider or to prove something to the world?” (“Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually,” General Conference, May 2009).

King Benjamin told the less affluent among his people that, even if they couldn’t afford to give to the needy, they ought to wish they could. Otherwise, he said, “ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received” (Mosiah 4:25).

And it’s even possible to covet something you already have. The Lord commanded Martin Harris in 1829, “Thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:26).

Today, I will keep my desires in check, and ensure that I am showing appropriate respect for other people.

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