An Attitude of Contentment by Ligonier Bible Study for Servants of Grace
Romans 7:7-8, “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.”
Scripture addresses the problem of covetousness in many places, including today’s passage. Paul addresses the question as to whether there is a problem with the Mosaic law itself since it arouses sinful passions (Rom. 7:5–6). The essence of Paul’s answer in Romans 7:7–8 is, “No, the problem is not in the law, the problem is in us.” God’s law is holy (v. 12), but our sinful hearts twist it and turn what could restrain us into an avenue by which our desire for sin is strengthened.
Paul emphasizes the law’s role in encouraging him to covet. His point is not that he had no intellectual awareness of the sin of covetousness before he read the tenth commandment; rather, he speaks of experiential knowledge. The Apostle knew it was wrong to covet before He studied the Law, but reading the Law exposed how covetous he truly was (v. 7). He began to feel His wickedness in a new way once he read the tenth commandment, seeing how much he coveted things that were not his and how he actually relished covetousness instead of hating it (v. 8).
All sinners can testify to this reality. There is just something about the wicked human heart that loves sin in itself and not simply the fleeting pleasures it provides. We sin simply because we can and because we enjoy it. Augustine captured this well in book two of his Confessions when he spoke of stealing pears as a youth. His “pleasure was not in those pears, it was in the offense itself.”