Covetousness and Gratitude
If gratitude should be our automatic response to grace in the Christian life, then why are we so often ungrateful? What is the root cause of ingratitude? In part, the answer to that question is in the last of the Ten Commandments, where God says, “You shall not covet.” When we first pause to think about this command, we may wonder if it’s too much to say that covetousness is the root of ingratitude. We first may be tempted to think this commandment is one-tenth of the law or that it is the least of the commandments because it comes last. However, we should rather acknowledge that it is the concluding and summative decree of God’s law. When we do, the commandment’s comprehensive character is unveiled.
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.