God’s Big Ten: Christian Hoarders

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 flea-market-851970_1920more. 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?

  1. Just Do It!
  2. Finger Lickin’ Good
  3. Snap Crackle Pop!
  4. Don’t Leave Home Without It
  5. 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?


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 classic-car-574869_1920precious 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:

  1. Receive what we have as a gift from God
  2. 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?
  3. 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?

God’s Big Ten: Christian Thieves

burglar-308858_1280Now let’s talk about thieves. Not just any thieves, but Christian thieves. It’s the next simple guideline in the Ten Commandments – just another single sentence.

You shall not steal.

You would think this should be simple, like the commandment against adultery. You would THINK that this isn’t something that needs to be stated. It seems like a no-brainer that we should not take thinks that don’t belong to us. Even so, here it is. And it’s not just here. The New Testament is just as plain about stealing.

While some of us may admit to stealing things (perhaps a paperclip here or there?), most would probably not admit to being a thief. Like everything else Jesus tries to tell us, it’s not just about behavior but about our heart and motivation that underlie all wrongful behavior. There are several ways to steal, but we need to come up with a working definition of stealing, something like this:

Intentionally depriving someone else of something of value to which he/she is entitled.

So I’m going to assume that, at some point of your life, everyone reading this has taken something that is not rightfully yours to take. I once read somewhere that there are different types of stealing. Let’s look at some different ways we engage in stealing.

~ Removing something that doesn’t belong to you

This could be something as small as a candy bar to something as large as robbing a bank. In the Old Testament, there’s a story of God leading Israel through fight after fight. When they get to one city, God tells them not to take any plunder from the city – NOTHING. They are to leave it all. Yet there was this one guy – Achan – who saw all this stuff sitting there and figured he would snag some of it for himself. He disobeyed God’s direct command and stole the loot and had to pay a steep price for disobeying God.

Sometimes we remove things that don’t rightfully belong to us.

~ Withholding something that should rightfully go to someone else.

For example, if you lie on your time card at work, you are withholding hours from your employer that you are being paid for. That’s stealing. Or if you withhold your kid’s birthday money from grandma because “he’s not mature enough yet,” it’s STILL stealing.

~ Using your words to manipulate others for your own benefit.

I lump cheating or other manipulation. Have you ever been the victim of a con man? I hands-966492_1920have. They can be pretty slick. Sometimes they talk so fact and move so quickly you have no idea what’s going on until they are LONG gone. Long story short, I ended up on a road side in Italy holding a ratty old jacket that somehow I ended up paying $50 for. He used his words to manipulate me. HE STOLE FROM ME!

Using your words to manipulate someone to get what you want is stealing. We can even include slander and gossip, because that steals credibility and character from the people we attach.

Proverbs 26:20 ~ Without wood, fire goes out; without a gossip, conflict dies down.

And then there’s:

Titus 3 ~ Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people

~ Relying on others generosity rather than working for it.

pygmy-sloth-62869_1280This is to be a sloth, a bum – a mooch! Letting others take care of us without doing anything to earn it (basically your average teenager). The Apostle Paul says:

1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 ~ But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, 11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.

And also:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ~ 10 In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.” 11 For we hear that there are some among you who walk irresponsibly, not working at all, but interfering with the work of others. 12 Now we command and exhort such people by the Lord Jesus Christ that quietly working, they may eat their own food.

Even the Bible says that it’s not cool to live only off of the kindness of others. It’s a form of theft. Finally, we’ve got:

~ Holding back your time, talent, & treasure from God can amount to spiritual stealing.

We ALL have something we can give to God, the church, the community, and the world. The question is, are we utilizing the gifts God has given us or are we hoarding it for ourselves? Peter writes in his first letter:

Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10 ~)

Its all about intentionally depriving someone of something of value to which they are rightfully entitled. So What? It all comes down to this: How we treat others and How we trust God. If we really sought to treat people well, we would never take away from them. If we actually trusted God we would never have to steal.

If we fully trust God to be the King of our lives and to provide for all our needs, we would never take anything. It’s when we take our eyes off of God and focus on ourselves that we decide to take things that don’t belong to us – we try to take care of ourselves by our own means.

We don’t have to lie on our taxes. We don’t have to rob banks. We don’t have to be slothful and rely on others to take care of us.

The Bible says, “Do not steal.” This covers ALL forms of theft.

And this isn’t who God wants us to be.

Questions for Reflection
– What have you taken that doesn’t belong to you?
– How does your thievery relate to your trust in God to provide?

The Big 10: So’s Your Old Man!

For those of you who have been tracking along with our Big 10 series, today we hit the mid-point. We’re now half-way through the ten commandments. The 5th commandment has to do with mothers and fathers.

“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

This is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it. If you follow this instruction, then the promise is this: you’ll have a long life in the Promised Land. There is a connection between how they treated their elders and how God blessed them.

This is somewhat of a foreign concept in western culture. We love people as long as people love us. But God doesn’t put conditions on this command. It’s not always easy. Have you ever had a parent who knows everything and, no matter what you say or do, nothing is ever right or good enough? But we are STILL called to honor the parents that drive us crazy.

When you’re 10 you might have disagreements with your parents that drive you bananas. When you’re 50 years old you might have life-long issues with your parents that have never been resolved. I’m reminded of a joke I once read:

child-355176_1920– When a child is six her words are, Daddy I love you.”
– When she is 16 her words are, “Daddy you have no idea what you’re talking about!”
– When she’s 26 it’s, “Daddy, you’ve got some good ideas.”
– When she’s 36 it’s, “Daddy, I should have listened to you from the very beginning.”

The Bible says to honor our parents but this is not about domination. Parents, we cannot use this commandment to batter our children and demand obedience. God isn’t talking to minors about how to deal with parents while we’re living in their home. The readers here are adults. God is telling those of us who are grown that we still need to honor mother and father.

But it goes far beyond that.

In Hebrew, the words mother and father go beyond the parental units that birthed us. people-852423_1920The words can be used for grandparents and ancestors. It really comes down to the family as a whole. God’s promise to a long life in the Promised Land isn’t about obeying the people who raised us – it’s about creating a culture that honors those who have gone before us. It’s about the entire community sticking together and thriving.

In Deuteronomy 6:1-9 we’re told about what the family is supposed to do.

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

It’s the responsibility of the family to teach about God and his covenant. It’s the responsibility of the children (adult children, mind you) to say, “I will be a covenant keeper.”

What does it mean to honor parents and family? It can be a vague commandment, but it wasn’t difficult in the ancient world: you don’t curse your parents, you don’t strike your parents, you don’t disobey your parents, and you provide your parents with a proper burial.

Our culture has trained us to think of community in a different way. Instead of family units making up the community, we are now communities of strangers. In the ancient near east, the smallest family unit was the nuclear family. They would live with the larger unit: the clan. The clans stuck together to make up the tribe. The tribes then made up the nation.

Without strong families, the nation ultimately fails. When the family falls apart, the community falls apart. It’s not just about honoring parents because this is a nice thing to do. God tells us that a strong community is predicated on how we honor the family.

In the New Testament Jesus radically changes the notion of familybaby-772439_1920 and community. Instead of flesh and blood, Jesus now makes faith the common bond that unites the new community. In the church we used to call each other “Brother So-and-So” and Sister such-and-such.” Flesh and blood doesn’t matter anymore because we have a new bond.

We have the same obligation to honor those who have come before us. We have an obligation to respect and listen to our fathers and mothers. Children, obey your parents. Honor your father and mother. Jesus is pulling directly from the 10 commandments and he reiterates the same principles. But he flips the table on the parents and elders: Don’t exasperate your kids but bring them up in the right way. This is the essence of discipleship! We are all called to help disciple those who come after us.

It’s not enough to go to church and get our spirituality on. We’re called to parent and to raise up the next generation. If the community is going to be strong it starts with the family unit. When we fail to disciple those who come after us, the community will weaken and ultimately fail.

Parent to child, are we doing what we ought to be doing to establish healthy families? Are we raising our children to be covenant keepers? Are we honoring those who have gone before us – not just our biological parents but our spiritual elders? The church is designed to BE the new family unit. It’s a sad state of affairs when people can go to church and feel completely isolated. It’s time to revitalize the community; the family; the community of God.

When we work on developing the Christian family, we’ll see happier and healthier homes. We’ll see stronger churches. We’ll see stronger communities of faith that actively honor the elders while simultaneously raising up the next generation.


Questions for Reflection

  • How can I honor my biological parents? How can I honor my spiritual elders?
  • What can I do to build and foster a healthy family and community?

The Big 10: Chill Out, Man!

Thanks for joining us on our journey through God’s Big 10 – the ten commandments. We’ve got the first three commandments out of the way – let’s press on and tackle number four. This time we’re gonna hear God tell us, “Chill out, man!”cat-98359_1920 Let’s talk about what it means to rest and what it means to cease from activity.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Sabbath is a Hebrew word that simply means, “rest.” We’re told from the beginning that the context for our taking a rest is that it is the model given us when God created the world. He spends six days creating and rests on the seventh. That’s kind of funny – does God need a rest? Sometimes I get this funny picture of God sweaty and out of breath after spending 6 days working. I can imagine God saying,

“Hey, Gabriel, I just need to chillax for a second.”

We treat Sabbath like a mini-vacay. I’m not going to do anything! God told me to take a break! But that’s not what we’re talking about. God is not so weak that he needs to catch his breath. God is not so puny that he can’t go more than 6 days without a breather.

commandments-159649_1280Sabbath means ceasing from activity. It’s not about God being tired. It’s not about God needing a break. It’s about God having brought to completion all he set out to do, so he simply stops his activity. That is what Sabbath is – to pause, cease, and terminate your activity.

There are no other parallels with any other ancient culture. The idea of Sabbath rest is unique to God’s people. He tells us that it’s one of the ways that his people are set apart from everyone else. It’s not about kicking back and putting your feet up – it’s about stopping our work to focus on Him. It’s holy time.

Everything and everyone is supposed to stop. In the same way that God said, “I’ve done what I set out to do – this is good,” we’re supposed to step back from our activity and say, “God is good.” It’s not to catch up on sleep but to focus on God.

It’s easy to feel overloaded. Our schedules burden us. We are like a crazy little surge protector that is loaded to the max with plugs and wires. It’s a mess, about to start a fire. That’s what our lives are like without Sabbath. We become so overloaded. God asks, “Where do you make time for me? Where do I fit into your life? Let’s create a special place – a sacred space for you and me.”

You get all these days to do your work, but every seventh day humanity is supposed to unplug. We create special space to be with God. There are no other distractions. No one else gets that space. It’s his.

In the New Testament we get a little different picture of Sabbath. All God said in the Old Testament was to set apart the Sabbath – create the space. But there isn’t a whole lot of detail as to what it looks like. So God-fearing religious people set up rules and regulations about what it looks like. What can we do? Is it okay to save somebody’s life? Sure, we can do that. What about if my donkey falls into a hole? Well, if it’s within a certain radius of your home, sure, but if it’s outside the radius, no. What about lighting a fire in my home? No, that’s creative work – no making fires.

More and more I’ve seen that God has given us simple religion yet humanity comes along and mucks it up. Where God says something small, we turn it into a massive thing. Rigid observers of Sabbath law won’t even flip on a light switch on Sabbath. They bring in a gentile to do the work for them.

There’s a story in the New Testament where Jesus breaks Sabbath law by plucking grain to eat.

 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. spike-143373_192024 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

It’s about the heart, not the letter of the law. Are we creating sacred space for God? Are we making room in our busy and hectic world to stop and focus on God? If you unplug everything this world is going to keep driving on. It doesn’t need me to keep turning. What are we REALLY losing if we unplug and say, “God, I’m giving this time to you”?

The New Testament does not give us Sabbath as a command to obey. Paul says, “Some people consider one day special…” but the principle of Sabbath still applies. Are we making sacred space for God? The principle of ceasing is still good. More rest means more productivity later on. More rest now means less stress-related problems later on.

There are physical benefits to Sabbath rest. God’s not trying to demand time because he doesn’t want us to do nothing else. He cares about us! More rest means a better, healthier us. Jesus was in the habit of unplugging and resting. Jesus took time by himself or with his disciples to get away to go rest. But it wasn’t about watching the game and having a cold one. Anyone can have a secular day off. Sabbath is about unplugging from the world so that you have that God-space.

But how do you build Sabbath time into your life? It starts with a conscious decision. We have to decide make that space. In our world we have a disease called “When I have time.” I’ll do that “when I have time.” I’d love to learn another language. I’d love to clean out the garage, sweetheart. I’d love to…

Pretty soon our lives are so cluttered that there is no time for anything! Is it any wonder that God tells us to take Sabbath rest? I’ll focus on God when I have time. God’s reply is, “Hey, dummy, I’ve built that time into the week for you.” So we cease all regular activity so we can unplug and focus on God. Spend the time in prayer. Put on a Christian cd and meditate. Go to worship services. Don’t worry about the world – it will keep spinning. If we let it, the world will keep driving us.

Get centered mentally and spiritually. It’s not about legalistically saying, “I can’t do XY&Z on Sunday.” It’s about finding sacred space. It’s about finding time to unplug from the world and plugging into God.

We will be happier. We will be healthier. We will see better homes, better families, and a better us. This week examine your schedule. Where can you find time to unplug from the regular world and make Sabbath space? It doesn’t matter what day or hour – we’re not going to be legalistic about it. But we need to learn to unplug from regular activity and make sacred space.

Questions for Reflection

  • What controls and drives my days and weeks?
  • When was the last time I tried to unplug in order to create sacred space?
  • Am I willing to drop everything on a regular basis to cease from activity and focus on God?
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