This is it, we’ve come down to the very end of our study through the 10 commandments. This is sort of the summary commandment that wraps up all of the other commandments.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Covet simply means to yearn to possess; to crave. But not simply to desire something. You can be greedy without necessarily coveting. To be greedy is to want more and more and more. But to covet means to look at what someone else has and to say, “That should be mine! I should have what he has.” It looks a lot like hoarding. No matter what we have it’s never enough.
Coveting means yearning for other people’s stuff. Our society trains us to desire stuff. If someone else has it why don’t we? Yes, we are trained to desire what others have – it’s the beast we call advertising. Many times we don’t even realize how pervasive marketing is in our minds. Here are some famous slogans that have stuck around for quite a time. Can you place them?
- Just Do It!
- Finger Lickin’ Good
- Snap Crackle Pop!
- Don’t Leave Home Without It
- Plop Plop Fizz Fizz Oh What a Relief it is!
We hear these slogans and our brains automatically start thinking about the products. By the time a child reaches adulthood they say the individual has been inundated by over a billion advertisements. One of the best examples I’ve seen to illustrate coveting comes from a group of fruits and veggies. Welcome to the Stuff-Mart:
We are systematically trained to believe that things bring happiness but this is a false belief. Think about when you were a kid – what was that thing you just HAD to have? What was it?
DON’T BE CRAVING THE THINGS YOU SEE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE!
Coveting gets us into trouble. Sometimes it leads to stealing. Someone else has it – we want it – so we take it. Sometimes it leads to debt. We covet what someone else has so we go and get one NOW even if we can’t afford it. It’s been said that delayed gratification is the sign of maturity. The mature person makes a plan and works towards something. Kids want it when? NOW!
Many of today’s purchases are tomorrow’s load to the dump. How can something so precious become so worthless? It really makes us stop and ask, “What is really valuable to me?” Because you put your money where your heart is. If your heart is in stuff, your bank records will bear it out
MATTHEW 6:19-21 ~ “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In the Big 10 we’re not to desire what others have – to keep up with the Joneses. It’s about learning to be content with what we have and where we are. Society says, “If he has it and you don’t, work to get what he’s got.” God says there’s a different way.
So What’s the Antidote? – CONTENTMENT
It’s not the American way. We always want more. We always want better. We always want bigger. Being satisfied where you are with what you have – that’s not the American way! The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
He doesn’t say that he asked God and then contentment came immediately. He says he LEARNED to be content. It makes it seem that it was a process. And many times it can take us a LONG time to learn a lesson. Paul never says how long it took. He never says how many rough and troubled times he had to go through. He simply says it is something he had to learn.
This is a guy who had been beaten, shipwrecked, starved, bitten by snakes…the list goes on and on! Yet he has learned to be content. Why can’t I be content with what I have? Why can’t I be happy for you when you have better? I’m happy with what I’ve got until someone walks in with more/better/etc. How do we learn to be content?
Stop comparing yourself with others. Everyone wants to be happy. We want happiness so much that it’s part of our national history. We’re ENTITLED to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I’m fine with my single serving of ice cream until I see my friend walk in with half a gallon. Why can’t I have what he has? Instead of looking at what God has given me I look at what God has given you and begin to compare. But the Bible tells us that Christ is enough. And if Christ is all we need there is NO need to compare with others.
So here are some practical tips for dealing with how we handle comparison and contentment:
- Receive what we have as a gift from God
- Examine things before you make a purchase
- Do I really need this?
- Will it bring lasting or temporary joy?
- What else could I do with this money?
- Practice de-accumulation – most of us struggle with letting go of things. Try to give away one thing a day.
This is not about being legalistic and living a life without possessions. It’s about saying, “I don’t want to serve STUFF anymore – I want to serve Jesus.”
Can Jesus be enough for you?
Questions for Reflection
- What do I covet?
- Do I accumulate things because I have a problem with greed?
- Am I willing to live a life pursuing simplicity?