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 is your neighbor's.
Exodus 20:17 (ESV)
What does it mean to Covet? Does this make all desire to have the same things your neighbors have a sin or is it just to want it at his expense? One has to ask if this is a ban on the ugly emotions of envy and jealousy or does this also prohibit sentiments like “Hey, that’s a really cool smart phone. Where can I get one?” The answer, I think, is that it is a law against former, but that the latter is a slippery slope. We are apt to compare where we are with where others are, and doing that will invariably lead to either pride or jealousy.
There is another distinction here that matters, and that is between such comparisons for a measure of our lives and looking to others for inspiration. I don’t think there is harm in saying “Wow, they are killing it. That’s what I want to do, and look it is possible. I can do it, and s/he’s proof.” Again take caution not to think things like “they don’t deserve that as much as I do,” “Why can’t I do that? I’m better/smarter/more faithful than they are,” or “it’s not fair.” We can all find people who we think “aren’t as successful” and others who are “more successful” than we are using man’s skewed judgement. God, however, has standards for all of us, and we all fall short. Yet, He loves us so much that He went to the cross for us, while we were yet sinners. We are not called to measure our lives by anything other than how close we are to what God has called us to be.
So, don’t be concerned about your neighbors new Jaguar, watch, purse, big screen TV, pool, trophy wife, etc., but instead pay attention to what God is calling you to do.
This idea comes in light of my recent political tension, my recent post "The Poor Get Poorer?" and the Milwaukee Journal’s recent article about the pay of CEOs. I think there is a growing feeling of envy and covetousness right now, and I think it plays in political unrest, protests and petty bickering we are seeing from both sides of the political parties.