When we worship other gods, fail to rest and worship on the Christian Sabbath, do not honor those in authority, or struggle with any form of adultery, it is because we are coveting. When we worship the ways of the world, long for a self-serving Sabbath, claim our own authority, or desire our neighbor’s spouse, we are coveting. The comprehensive character of sin unveils how coveting is at the root of all ingratitude toward God.
The Comprehensive Character of Covetousness
The comprehensive character of this commandment shows the way covetousness is often involved when any one of the Ten Commandments is broken. This is clearly seen in several key passages of Scripture. When Paul reflects on the whole law, he uses covetousness to sum it all up (Rom. 7:7). When he warns the Galatians to guard themselves from sin, he speaks of sin as the flesh’s coveting against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). And when James is giving warnings against the sins of murder, fighting, and quarreling, he shows how coveting is truly at the root of them all (James 4:2).
The Heidelberg Catechism also spells out the comprehensive character of covetousness (Q&A 113). We are told “that not even the slightest desire or thought contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in our hearts.” This answer clearly is pointing to the fact that when we show ungrateful defiance of any one of the Ten Commandments, the root is covetousness, our desire to place the self above God.