What's So Bad about Coveting?

Verlyn Verbrugge

READ : Romans 7:7-13

I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” (v. 7, NIV)

“I plead guilty, your honor. I have desperately wanted my neighbor’s new SUV ever since he got it, and I have been miserable to live with. What’s my sentence?”

It never happens, does it, that a person acknowledges guilt and is punished by the law just because of coveting what someone else has? Only if that person actually steals will he get into legal trouble. Paul as a Pharisee had felt pretty good about his ability to keep the law until he came upon the command, “Do not covet.” That command suddenly brought to the surface a host of attitudes and feelings he had not even realized were sinful.

In a human court sin is limited to what we do or what we say. Sin before God, however, includes what we think and desire. In fact, that is where sin starts—in the human heart. Think of Ahab coveting Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21) or David eying his neighbor’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).

The law itself is “holy, righteous and good,” but its first job is convicting us of wrongdoing. But thanks be to God, he forgives us our sins of thought, as well as word or deed.


Create in me a pure heart, O God, so that I may think your thoughts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.