If you needed any more proof that God is concerned with our heart-attitudes instead of just our outward actions, this verse should provide it. Webster’s Dictionary defines covet as “to have an earnest wish to own or enjoy,” and God apparently considers it important enough to include it in his “Top Ten.”
Again, we need to start by making sure we understand what this commandment is not saying. It’s not necessarily wrong to desire better things or to improve your situation. It’s not necessarily wrong to desire to make more money and have a better standard of living. Any parent should desire to provide well for their families, and anyone who believes that enjoying the finer things in life is wrong is flirting with Asceticism (remember our discussion on it?). God created a good world, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it, as long as we don’t let its pleasures distract us from him.
The key to understanding is the rest of the verse: We're forbidden to covet anything that belongs to our neighbor. This isn't forbidding a simple desire to improve one's life; it’s forbidding envy. This commandment warns against looking at what we have and enviously comparing it with what our neighbor has.
Why is this attitude so wrong? There are at least two reasons I can think of. First, it shows a complete disregard for God’s providence in our lives. He's been so gracious and generous in providing us with not only what we need (air, food, water, shelter), but he showers us with blessing after blessing. Like David in the 23rd Psalm, we ought to recognize that our “cup overflows." Unfortunately, all too often we're not like David; we're more like spoiled children who whine and complain and bang our spoons on our high chair that somehow our neighbor has it better: "It's not FAIR!!!"
The second reason is because when we disobey this command, we’re betraying the fact that we’ve lost the eternal perspective. Someone once told me, “When times are really tough, remember that this is as close to hell as you’re ever going to get. When you see a lost man, remember that this is the only heaven he'll ever see.” How can I even try to imagine the glory to come, what my Savior has in store for me, and still whine and cry over things which will one day be dust and ashes? I am a co-heir with Christ. I think that bears repeating in big capital letters: I AM A CO-HEIR WITH CHRIST. I think I need to start living like one.
Father, I can’t believe that you would not only forgive my sin, but make me a co-heir with your Son. When my mouth is about to utter any complaints about how you're treating me, please turn it into praise and gratitude.