Anyone over 40 years of age probably remembers a favorite five year old, “Dennis the Menace.” You can learn a lot about yourself from watching kids, and Dennis is no exception. On one particular day Dennis is found looking at the new department store catalog that had just arrived at the Mitchell house. Dennis looks up from the catalog at his mom and dad and says, “Wow! This catalog has lots of toys and things I never even knew I wanted!”
Welcome to the act of coveting. We see, we desire, we obsess and then we act. Dennis was at the second stage, he saw so he wanted. Anyone who knows Dennis can tell you that often His desires became his obsession, and this would frequently get him in lots of hot water.
We read the comic strip and we laugh. It seems that Dennis can’t get out of his own way and we are amused at the situations he gets himself into. But for most, coveting is no laughing matter. Coveting has destroyed marriages, wrecked relationships, shattered dreams, ended businesses and taken lives all in the name of desire.
God makes it clear in Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
God made this a part of His law because He, above all others, understands the problems of the heart. When we covet, he wants it to be for things that will sustain our relationship with Him and not for things that separate us from Him.
Coveting can lead to chasing other gods or it can help us to strengthen our relationship with the one true God. If we covet knowing God more, learning more, following more and glorifying Him more, our relationship with Him will find its reward. But if we covet the things of the world, that relationship stands the risk of ruin.
If we are honest with ourselves, we would come to understand that God has already given us much more than we need. In this he wishes us to find our contentment. Yet, our old Adam longs for more, just as Adam himself longed for more then God has already given him. This first desire led to sin for all mankind, so also our longing for more often brings sin into our lives.
The final two commandments weren’t given to use as a finger wag of condemnation but as a guide. Romans 7:7 shows us this saying, “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.”
Because sin was introduced into the world, we have become a covetous people. This has made our whole world one that is not satisfied. We steal from the poor, destroy the needy, and fill our coffers at the expense of others all because of a desire for more. Our god becomes our possessions and our faith is put into things we don’t ultimately need and that could never save us from the wrath to come.
Saint Paul warned his student Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
This doesn’t have to be money of course. Any coveting that detaches us from God can be included. Coveting another person, a bigger high, a nicer home, a faster car….these can all bring us to ruin and none of them could ever replace the emptiness within us that only the Spirit of God can fill.
So, find contentment in what God has already given you. Rejoice when others are given blessings but do not count on possessing more to bring about your own happiness. Live for the world to come and not for the broken one we now live in. Take your advice from Jesus Christ in Luke 12:15, “And (Jesus) said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Find your contentment in the one who died to give you all good things. Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, thank you for all that you have given us to sustain our lives and bodies. Forgive us when we have wanted even more out of selfishness and sinful desire and help us to find our contentment only in You. Amen.