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Posts Tagged ‘covetousness’

Doubting God’s Generosity

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Exodus 20:17

The dictionary on my phone defines covet as “to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others.” Clearly, the last of the Ten Commandments addresses the importance of controlling our desires. There is an important distinction to make, however, between controlling and eliminating desire. Desire is a good and Godly force that animates our lives, and the commandment does not call for the elimination of our reasonable longings. Desire for a legacy drives us to excel in our profession, or to marry and have children. Aspiring to a better life provides the motivation to do whatever is required to get from where we are to where we want to be. Our desire for an improved future is a good thing, unless that desire leads us to try to improve our future at someone else’s expense. Our longing crosses the line into covetousness when we want a specific something that belongs to our neighbor. Similar to the commandments against stealing and committing adultery, the prohibition against coveting has to do with respecting that which belongs to another.

There is another aspect to covetousness, however, which is an issue of faith. When we covet something belonging to another, we indirectly express our dissatisfaction with what we have. In the context of the gifts, talents, and relationships given by God, when we covet the gifts, talents, and relationships of others, we cast doubt on God’s generosity. Coveting and contentment do not co-exist. To covet is to be selfish to an extreme that is not likely to end well.

The Ten Commandments have set a foundation for our worship life, as well as our life in community with others, for thousands of years. The first four commandments guide our relationship with God by warning not to have other gods before our God, not to worship idols, not to misuse the name of God, and to keep the Sabbath day holy. The remaining commandments guide our relationships with others: we are to honor our parents, not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not lie, and not covet. Taken together, the Ten Commandments form a timeless set of rules for living, as relevant today as when first written.

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Life Notes—July 25, 2013 

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”  Exodus 20:17

In my younger days I had a hero.  Actually, it was more of a man-crush. He was tall and handsome, cool under pressure.  He had an answer for every situation.  He was the smartest and cleverest person in whatever room he was in.  He was strong enough to fight his way out of physical danger, yet sensitive enough to treat women as they (apparently) wanted to be treated.  His cars were fast and beautiful. Attractive women adored him, captivated by his irresistible charisma.  His name was James…James Bond.  Yes, when I was young I was incredibly envious of James Bond.  He was heroic.  He was iconic.  He was a man’s man.  And I wanted what he had.  Most of the people we admire as heroes are only too human, and sooner or later their human weakness shows through and tarnishes their “shine.”  But James Bond was not human, and so he could be perfect—at least by a young boy’s definition of perfect.  In reality, no one person could be that strong and clever and smart and good-looking and resourceful and smooth.  And we would never have access to the amazing gadgets that “Q” made for him, few of which would actually work in the real world, anyway.

The sixth of the Seven Deadly Sins is Envy.  Envy grows out of jealousy, but takes jealousy to the level of covetousness.  Coveting what belongs to our neighbors is addressed in the Ten Commandments, as in the scripture above.  Although envy grows out of jealousy, its impact goes well beyond normal jealousy and desire.  It is not just a desire to have something, it is a desire to have something that belongs to someone else.  We do not envy things that can be bought in a store.  We envy something in someone else’s possession.  And sometimes envy can take the form of coveting something not so much because we want the object of our envy, but in order to hurt the other person by taking something of value to them.

So envy is sinful because it leads us to covet that which belongs to someone else.  But it is also sinful in that it is a manifestation of our dissatisfaction with the blessings we have been given.  It is not just admiring the green grass on the other side of the fence, but envy leads us to consider digging up the neighbor’s sod and transplanting it in our yard.  That’s not only sinful, it’s also back-breaking work!  Similar to lust and greed, envy takes what may be a normal desire and twists it into something abnormal.  It leads to separation from others and damages relationships, including our relationship with God.

Tom will be preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch is preaching at the west campus where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  It is okay to be envious of another’s relationship with God.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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