When considering the fall of Adam and Eve, our first thought is usually that the sin of Eve was in eating the forbidden fruit. However, Jesus said “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (KJV, Matthew 5:28).
SIN IS CONCEIVED IN THE MIND
In other words, sinful behavior is first preceded by sinful thought, in this case, coveting and lust. Paul said, “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7). Let us consider several definitions:
To covet is 1) to desire wrongfully or without due regard for the rights of others, as to covet another’s property; 2) to eagerly wish for, as in coveting the prize; or 3) to have an inordinate or wrongful desire.
To lust is also to have a yearning or desire, to have a strong or excessive craving for, or after something.
In light of these definitions, let us now consider the fall of Eve. After finding herself alone near the tree with its forbidden fruit, she listened to the deceitful and enticing words of Satan speaking through the serpent, and “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…” (Genesis 3:6).
Notice the succession of fatal errors in Eve's experience:
- She saw the tree was good for food, even though her loving Creator had forbidden them to eat it, and warned that death would follow disobedience. (Genesis 2:17)
- She was attracted to the fruit, and lingered with admiration because it was pleasant to her eyes, and apparently delectable.
- She then “coveted” the forbidden fruit. She coveted that which belonged to God and though she had an unlimited supply of wonderful options that met with God’s blessing and approval, she desired what was off limits.
- The final step in Eve’s fall was overt. “…She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…” (Genesis 3:6).
TO SIN IS TO LOOK, DESIRE AND THEN ACT
Eve looked, lingered, desired, and then acted. And thus we see the danger of coveting. The thoughts and desires of the heart lead to overt behavior -- in Eve’s case, to disobedience of God’s clearly expressed ordained plan. This is one reason Paul counsels us to bring into captivity “every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
SCRIPTURAL EXAMPLES OF COVETING
The Bible is replete with warnings against coveting as well as examples of God’s dealings with this sin. Following are some examples we might not normally associate with coveting:
God warns against robbing His tithe. God says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).
When withholding tithe, one must first covet that which God clearly claims as His own, the ten percent of all increase. This coveting is then followed by the overt behavior of withholding and using the tithe for one’s own desires. God labels such behavior as robbery, a violation of the 8th commandment.
The same is true when one steals from one’s neighbor. The desire to have what rightfully belongs to another gives birth to the overt behavior of taking.
Coveting 24 hours
Another example of coveting is described in Hebrews 4 when we disregard God’s weekly 24-hour period, He calls “My rest”. Breaking the Sabbath is always preceded by the sin of coveting for personal use what belongs to God. In other words, the coveter ignores God’s invitation to spend God’s Sabbath with Him.
Coveting intimacy that is not ours
Let us consider the issue of adultery. “…Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). From this text we learn that the desire to have someone else’s husband or wife is first conceived in the mind. Also included is the desire to own what does not yet belong to us, intimacy declared by God to be off limits, just like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, coveting also leads to the overt behavior of adultery. Though it is true, that God is love, He nevertheless hates this sin and calls it an abomination (Ezekiel 22:11).
On that note, consider also the sin of homosexuality. According to God’s original plan, man was created to be sexually compatible with woman, and woman to be sexually compatible with man for the purpose and pleasure of procreation. God ordained the institution of marriage to accommodate this special relationship. Homosexual behavior is preceded by coveting, or lusting after that which God created for someone else. For a man to desire an intimate, sexual relationship with another man is to covet that which God designed to be exclusively for a woman, and which He explicitly states is off-limits. Likewise, for a woman to desire an intimate, sexual relationship with another woman is to covet that which God has created to be for a man.
Following through with this coveting leads to the overt behavior of homosexuality, which our God of love also hates and calls an abomination (Leviticus 18 & 20 and see also Romans 1:24, 26-28).
ARE ALL SINS OF EQUAL MAGNITUDE?
At this point I would like to pause and consider a word of counsel from inspiration, addressing God’s estimation of coveting.
God does not regard all sins as of equal magnitude; there are degrees of guilt in His estimation, as well as in that of man… Man’s judgment is partial, imperfect, but God estimates all things as they really are. The drunkard is despised and is told that his sin will exclude him from heaven; while pride, selfishness, and covetousness too often go unrebuked. But these are sins that are especially offensive to God…. (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, 30)
Actually, these sins of the mind, not easily discerned in others, were those first indulged by Lucifer. Covetousness eventually made a devil out of a covering cherub. No wonder that covetousness is especially offensive to God!
Coveting a forbidden role
Now let’s take this issue, this sin of coveting, a step further. Let’s go to a very delicate and controversial place. What about the sin of Miriam? Why did God strike her with leprosy? “And they [Miriam and Aaron] said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?” (Numbers 12:2a). Even though Aaron, the high priest, was complicit with Miriam in her sin, “the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed…and, behold, Miriam became leprous white as snow” (Numbers 12:10).
It mattered not that the High Priest himself encouraged Miriam in her covetous rebellion, nor that Miriam was a prophetess. God was highly offended and therefore strongly rebuked her covetous desire for a role for which she was neither called nor allowed to be ordained. Neither was she ever called to be a priestess, to serve with her brother the high priest and her nephews, the priests. Though there are several instances in the Bible where God has ordained women as prophets and other important roles within His church, we do not find any example in the Bible where He ever ordained a woman to be a patriarch, a priest, a king, an apostle, an elder or a bishop. In fact, we find God lamenting that “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isaiah 3:12).
IS THERE A WARNING FOR US TODAY?
In conclusion, we must recognize that the issue of coveting ordained roles within the church is by no means gender exclusive as seen clearly in the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
They “gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3).
It appears here that the argument of “the priesthood of all believers” was being put into play even in the early days of Israel as a church/nation. Interestingly, it was argued that any member of the church (of Israel), male or female, “every one of them,” was entitled to the roles of leadership ordained by God Himself for Moses and the sons of Aaron.
However, Moses “spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy: and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him (Numbers 16:5).
The members of the tribe of Levi were appointed by God to work in a similar manner to our denominational workers today. The other tribes of Israel financially supported them. However, they were not ordained to the same work of Moses or Aaron and his sons. Just as Eve had coveted the forbidden fruit, Korah, Dathan and Abiram coveted a forbidden sacred role, that of priest. God was so displeased with the resulting defiance and rebellion that He not only destroyed these three men, but everyone who shared with them in their rebellion, including 250 unordained men who took up censors as priests.
After reading these stories, should we not approach the subject of ordination with extreme caution and reverence recognizing how the sin of coveting a role to which we are not called, is so offensive to God?
Herein lies my great fear in light of our denomination’s aggressive push to ordain women into a role for which there is no Biblical precedent. As Aaron was complicit with Miriam in her covetous rebellion, today’s church leaders strongly push their agenda. When I hear a denominational leader say, “One way or another we will get women’s ordination approved,” I am alarmed. I believe such statements are flavored with the spirit of defiance and rebellion, as was the sin of Korah. Such a leader lacks humble submission to a consensus by the godly leadership at the head of the church ( i.e. the General Conference).
WHAT ABOUT SAN ANTONIO?
When I read in our publications, “What about San Antonio?” and then the reply, “Regardless of the outcome, the Adventist Church in North America will continue to see a growing number of women who are deeply convicted of receiving a call from God to be in gospel ministry and to be a blessing for many,” again I am alarmed at what seems to be a defiant, rebellious spirit.
When I hear an SDA woman theologian calling for repentance for the “deadly sins” of patriarchy and heterosexism within the Adventist church, I fear that she is challenging what God ordained in Eden. What must God think...?! Is this promotional linking of women's ordination with the gay agenda not coveting forbidden fruit?
May God help us to humbly study and learn from the experiences of Eve, Miriam and Korah, and to understand the dangers of coveting what God has forbidden.