Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I Covet

It rained for a short bit yesterday. During this drought in the southeast United States, we sure have been coveting rain. That’s a big covet, but it’s only for a season. Speaking of seasons, my oldest son’s soccer team is going on to the championship games. They’ve played very well and I’m certainly pleased with this accomplishment. However, this isn’t a matter of covetousness for me – I’m not a big sports fan.

I touched on the definition of covet in my last post. For those who detest labels arguing they have no substance, I offer the following (if you already understand the first few lines of this then just scroll down to the meat of my article):

cov·et·ed , cov·et·ing , cov·ets

  1. To feel blameworthy desire for (that which is another's).
  2. To wish for longingly.


To feel immoderate desire for that which is another's.

Middle English coveiten, from Old French coveitier, from covitie, desire, from Latin cupidits, from cupidus, desirous, from cupere, to desire

Source: Houton Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

As you can see, the English “covet” is the etymological synonym for “desire” and is related to the name of the god of love in Roman mythology, Cupid. The counterpart in Greek mythology is Eros, which is also the Greek word for sexual desire and the root of the modern English word, erotic.

The scripture is found at the end of the Judeo-Christian Decalogue (all scripture quotations from the NASB):

Exodus 20:17
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Exodus 20:16-18 (in Context) Exodus 20 (Whole Chapter)

Deuteronomy 5:21
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field or his male servant or his female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Deuteronomy 5:20-22 (in Context) Deuteronomy 5 (Whole Chapter)

The Hebrew word translated “covet” here is transliterated “Chamad”.

Strong's Number: 02530 Browse Lexicon

Original Word

Word Origin


a primitive root

Transliterated Word

TDNT Entry


TWOT - 673

Phonetic Spelling

Parts of Speech


Definition v

  1. to desire, covet, take pleasure in, delight in
    1. (Qal) to desire
    2. (Niphal) to be desirable
    3. (Piel) to delight greatly, desire greatly n f
  2. desirableness, preciousness

“Covet” is also translated into Greek by Paul in his letter to the Romans:

Romans 7:8
But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.
Romans 7:7-9 (in Context) Romans 7 (Whole Chapter)

The Greek word Paul uses is transliterated “Epithumeo”.

Strong's Number: 1937 Browse Lexicon

Original Word

Word Origin


from (1909) and (2372)

Transliterated Word

TDNT Entry



Phonetic Spelling

Parts of Speech




  1. to turn upon a thing
  2. to have a desire for, long for, to desire
  3. to lust after, covet
    1. of those who seek things forbidden

That’s the basic substance behind the label lest any disagree. Since many people often treat me as though I’m an idiot, I would normally assume the average person already knows the difference between fixed etymological foundations and the fluidity of current usage and would analyze the context of any comment I make with respect to intended meaning assuming that I likewise understand these things.

That said, what I covet is intensely and necessarily personal.

There are many things that I once enjoyed such as certain television programs, movies, games and a plethora of intellectual pursuits. What I have noticed is that people who enjoy certain of these enjoy sharing them with others of similar pursuits. Such creates community where people can interact on a deeper personal level.

My capacity for pursuing things tends to exceed that of others. For example, if I involve myself with physicists discussing new trends, discoveries or cosmologies, these same may not likely share my understanding of music. If I involve myself with musicians discussing performance experiences, composition techniques, harmonic differences between styles, the use of certain instruments, etc. the same may not likely share my understanding of theological nuances. If I hang out with seminarians discussing finer soteriological differences between Luther and Calvin, the merits of complimentarianism versus egalitarianism, etc., the same are likely not to share my understanding of industrial cost analyses. I may hang out with the corporate leadership of my company and discuss the application of lean manufacturing in a job shop, cost accounting justifications of process methodologies and the implication of international market forces on raw materials prices, but it’s not likely that they will have a working knowledge of the anthropological foundations that drive those international market forces. I can get together with missionaries who are well conversant on things of ethnical and anthropological importance with respects to particular people groups, but they probably won’t have any information beyond elementary physics on the properties that God has created to hold this universe together.

I would that I could share all of these with someone. But this does not seem possible. I possess a uniquely integrated philosophy that is incomprehensible to nearly everyone else. It is also contingent on the possession of myself by my Creator who gives me life and to whom I offer all I am. Nearly all of the others who might possess the capacity for developing an understanding of these are not yet so quickened.

I worship my Lord almost constantly. I mentioned the Regulative Principle recently. The Regulative Principle refers exclusively to corporate worship because all of our individual thoughts and activities should be offered as worship – except – that all of our corporate activities should be offered as worship in the larger sense that worship is obedience. All of our utterances should be psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. All of our daily activities should be in service to one another. All of our special activities should be in communion with the Body of Christ. This is likewise corporate worship.

When I come to church on Sunday morning, I bring with me the worship that I have offered all week and display it before and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When I rehearse music to offer to the congregation either with the choir or alone, I worship to the music. When it is time to offer it in worship before the congregation, I merely worship as I have been. I need to exhibit no pretensions. I am as I am when no one sees me. If anything, I exhibit my worship less in a church service so as not to cause any to stumble.

When asked by my sister in Christ what I might buy a lot of for my own satisfaction, this is what went through my head in a single moment. What I covet beyond all things I could not adequately express with a few words. For what I covet is ever increasing depth in my relationships with others in the name of my Lord – this includes especially the fulfillment of the Great Comission. All else, while temporally useful or even permissibly given by God for our enjoyment, will pass away.

Romans 13:9
For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Romans 13:8-10 (in Context) Romans 13 (Whole Chapter)

The uber-positive of the command not to covet is the command to love. Now go back and look at the etymological relationship of covet with the Greek “eros” that I told you scroll past. The Greek word translated “love” in Rom 13:9 is decidedly not “eros” – it is “agapao”. Paul’s usage of agapao means “to love sacrificially”, i.e. after the pattern of Christ. This is the context of the teaching of the law.

I sat down with my wife last night and watched “Spanglish”. My eyes moistened as I allowed myself to be moved by a conviction illustrated by the characters that there was something called “right” and “wrong” as they pursued the “right” thing. As such, the ending was both sad and something to be lauded as that which brings joy over and against happiness. In a world of the illicit relationships normally promoted by Hollywood, this was an excellent movie.

Therefore, not all relationships can have the same intimacy. Nevertheless, when my wife and I pass from this world and see each other in the next, we will not be married as we are now. Instead, we will have a greater intimacy that we will share with all throughout eternity.

I delight in nurturing and watching my children grow. It is my intent to instill in them this same understanding of sacrifice in relationships. It is my goal to give them this same desire for relationship that will drive them to offer the light of truth to the intellectually blind and lift others up in sacrifice in the name of Christ so that they may know our Lord. Herein is the depth we should have in our relationships, that our Creator is honored and glorified in all that we do.

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