1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God commands us to not want what we don’t have, “You shall not covet.” Such a small command. Not only is it small by the number of words, but it seems such a small, harmless thing to do. So what, if you covet your neighbor’s things? It’s not like you’re actually stealing. So what if you covet your neighbor’s wife or husband? It’s not like you’re actually committing adultery.
But that is exactly what the devil wants us to think. Satan wants us to minimize the sin of covetousness so that we fall into all sorts of other sins that harm ourselves and our neighbor.
Coveting is where sin starts. Remember King David? He was out enjoying his balcony one evening, and he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing. David sinned by coveting his neighbor’s wife, but the sin didn’t stop there.
David had an affair with her – breaking 6th Commandment. To cover up his sin, David had Uriah killed – breaking the 5th Commandment. David took Bathsheba as his wife – breaking the 7th Commandment. In his actions, David lied – breaking the 8th Commandment. He dishonored his parents by not doing what they had taught him – breaking the 4th Commandment. By breaking all those other Commandments, David was not honoring God’s name and God’s Word – 2nd and 3rd Commandments. In all of this, David broke the 1st Commandment, serving his desires rather than the true God.
What started with breaking the 10th Commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” turned into a Commandment-smashing spree.
Coveting is a lot more dangerous than we think it is. In Colossians 3:5, Paul says that coveting is idolatry. How can he say that? Well, think about it. At its core, coveting is you believing that God got it wrong when you don’t have what you want. You put yourself in the place of God and, in effect, say, “That thing should be mine.”
That is why God gave the Commandments about coveting. Like Paul did, we don’t give coveting a second thought, but it is deadly dangerous.
Think of your conscience like a radar that picks up the threats of sin. Your conscience radar can pick up the threat of murder, stealing, lying, etc. But coveting is like a stealth bomber. Your conscience doesn’t even notice it.
That’s why Paul says here, “I would not have known what it is to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the Law, sin lies dead.”
Sin is like a sleeping dog, and the Law comes along and kicks it awake. God doesn’t let sleeping dogs lie – not when it comes to sin. God doesn’t want you to be ignorant of your sin and your deadness. So He gave the Commandments.
The Law cannot make you a better person, and the Law certainly cannot make you righteous. That is not why God gave the Law. God gave the holy, righteous, and good Commandments to show you just how dead you are in sin.
The Law always accuses and comes to kill you, sinner, by showing you that you do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The Law shows us all that we are covetous idolaters in our hearts and married to sin.
Repent. You were married to sin, but Jesus has come. God made Jesus, who knew no sin to be sin and to die to sin – for you. You were married to sin. But in Baptism, God joined you to Jesus so that you would die to sin and be married to another – to Jesus who has been raised from the dead. And now you are reborn in Jesus, and there is no condemnation for you who are in Christ Jesus.
Now, God looks at you and sees Jesus, His beloved child. The life you now live, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave His life for you (Gal. 2:20).
Believer, your Husband, your Savior Jesus, calls you to His table to receive His holy body and His precious blood to assure you once again that your sins are forgiven. He gives you His risen body and blood so that you may serve Him. Because of what Jesus has done, you belong to Him, now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.