When last have you moved house? When you did, how much of your possessions did you move with you and how much did you discard? We are trying to “thin” out our possessions with the intent of relocating sometime in the future. It’s quite a task as one does not really realise how much you accumulate over the years … and the longer you have been married the more you tend to have. Decluttering is always emotional and challenging because of the many memories associated with each item you possess. Now we need to understand that there is nothing wrong with having “things” and having “nice” things at that. The problem is having things you don’t need. Often the problem is greed. As someone said years back “too many suffer with the “giveme” disease. Giveme this and Giveme that!” It’s the gimme, gimme, gimme syndrome. The toddler would say … “I need it” and teens says … “I want it”. Before I get into what the problem is and its root cause, let me tell you want my son-in-law says … “If you don’t use it, lose it.” The last Commandment says:
Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This Commandment covers greed, lust and sinful desires being expressed in excess, jealousy, envy and even hatred. Join me as we attempt to understand this Commandment.
1) God gives the ability of appreciation. He has given us ears to hear, eyes to see, tongues to taste and feelings to experience what we touch. All these gather information and transmit them to our brains which processes the data causing us to think about the experience. As an example, think of sitting on the beach watching the waves rolls in. You see the waves, you hear the noise, you smell the sea air and you feel the sea breeze on your body. The brain takes this information, processes it and you think “how lovely it is to be at the beach.” Yet that same function that causes appreciation might lead to coveting. The friend bring his new top of the range BMW around to show you. You see it, you sit inside it (feel), you smell it … and get a taste for it. Your brain works, the mind thinks and the lust (covetousness) flows to the point where you want it.
2) The Hebrew for the word we have translated as “covet” is desire. Such a strong desire that you want to have what you desire. You want the BMW. You must have it. Irrespective what the target is, the effects are the same … you desire … so much that you covet. The appreciation has turn from appealing to sinful lust … and nothing will stop you from satisfying that desire! But what is really behind all this?
3) You are dissatisfied with what God has allowed you to have or accumulate. Your Ford or Chev seems so inferior to your friends BMW. Why can’t I have what he has? It is here that it’s easy to forget that God is the giver of everything we have. There is a huge difference between covetousness and contentment. It’s the latter that we Christians must aim for. When I am dissatisfied with what God has given me … it could …
4) Lead to envy because I want what the other person has! Let’s move away from the BMW to what the text says … “your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor”. His wife is his life companion. To desire her is adultery and too make your intentions known is an attempt to break what God has join together as one. His man and maidservants were actually his slaves, purchased with his money. Today they would be employees. How often does head hunting happen? Offering better salaries and perks to lure someone away from their employer. His ox and donkey were the commodity used to buy with. This was equivalent to his money … his earning and spending power. But God does not just speak of the wife, the employees and the money … He includes all possessions … “or anything that belongs to your neighbor”. Whatever belongs to your neighbor is his and you are not to lust after it. That is a sin and if this sin is not stopped it could lead to theft, murder, adultery or rape.
5) God requires we be satisfied with what He has given us … with what He has allowed us to have. I have written about it before … Not everyone can handle wealth. Some people work their way up from nothing and change into opinionated, class conscious, ugly people … yet some (a few) also work their way up from nothing into wealth and remain the same as they were. But then not everyone can handle poverty. Because of the many attractions all around, covetousness kicks in resulting in sinful and criminal acts. Jesus said we will also have the poor with us. How we as followers of Jesus respond to that statement, caring for the needy or perhaps not, demonstrates where our hearts are and whom we trust. Consider:
Lk 12:48 “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
I have been convicted that I can do with a smaller house, smaller garden and less possessions than I have. One of the greatest problems we have today that promotes covetousness is the fact that we live in a consumer society that is materialistic at the core. Need has changed to greed and want by advertising pressure and easy credit that becomes difficult to repay. Maybe you have spotted it and maybe not …
(a) Being covetous shows a lack of faith in how God expresses His love for you. If you are a Christian, God has promised to care for you as you seek first His Kingdom (salvation) and His righteousness (holiness in practice) … therefore coveting what God has not given you is you saying you are not satisfied with the way God loves and cares for you! You are actually breaking the first four Commandments.
(b) Being covetous expresses a lack of love and care for other people. When that desire results in theft, sexual advances, adultery, envy, hatred and worse things, you demonstrate you think only of self and not the other person or persons. This is breaking the fifth to tenth Commandment. Remember the Ten Commandments don’t save us but they do assist us to live in harmony with God and our fellow being so that God is pleasured and glorified because of our desire to be Christlike! Dear God, thank You for providing us with all the necessary provisions to know and understand how You want us to live and behave towards You and all people on this planet.
Help me Lord to constantly evaluate where I am in spiritual obedience. Amen.