Jul 5, 2012

Is it really wrong to want what others have?

J. John summarised it like this; Whether it is desserts, clothes, houses, salaries, talents, lifestyles or cars, we want what other people have.

How true he is; my wife always picks the better dessert, I always regret buying my latest phone becuase a new one is just ready to be launched. For some wanting what others have should be regarded as a really great thing. Advertising guru Charles Saatchi in a recent book Be the worst you can be wrote;

Coveting is all everyone does, all the time, every day…it’s what drives the world economy, pushes people to make a go of their lives, so that they can afford the executive model of their Ford Mondeo to park next to their neighbour’s standard model.  And who would want to married to someone who nobody coveted?

So is coveting a good thing? What is it that others have that you most want? Why do you think we focus more energy on what we haven’t got rather than what we have got? Where do we think contentment is to be found and why?

The 10th commandment – Do not covet

In Exodus 20:17 we read “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 neighbour.”

The word covet is a word for desire – it means to want or crave something.  What the command forbids is not desiring something in itself (a more reliable car, a slightly bigger kitchen, getting married one day) but rather desiring what belongs to someone else. It’s striking how much detail there is in the command too.  The commandment goes to great length to warn us that we should not covet anything that belongs to our neighbour; house, wife, possessions, anything at all.

Why is coveting wrong? As we will see coveting is really the gateway sin through which all other sins flow.

In essence coveting is a failure to love God because it is the way we doubt his care and express our discontent with his provision and it’s a failure to love our neighbour because it begins it is destructive of our relationship with others. From coveting comes envy and from envy a heap of other sins. Coveting is stealing in the heart. As hate is to murder and lust to adultery so coveting is to stealing.

Why do we have the 10th commandment?

We covet because we doubt God’s sovereign provision for our lives

In Genesis 3:6 we find the same word translated ‘covet’ in the commandment used to describe Eve’s motivation in eating the fruit.  Before Eve took the fruit, because she found it ‘desirable’ (NIV), it’s exactly the same Hebrew word (hmd) as in our commandment. It could just as easily read ‘she coveted it’.  She coveted because she wanted something that did not belong to her. What was that? It wasn’t a piece of fruit she desired  but the very thing that Satan tempted her to want ‘to be like God.’ The first sin was to covet what belongs to God and we have been sinning this way ever since.

At it’s heart then coveting a sign of discontent with God. Like Eve we demonstrate our lack of contentment in God when we covet. DeYoung comments: Contentment and covetousness are opposites. If you aren’t content , you’re almost certain(ly) coveting.

And that means when we covet we show how we all do break both of the two great commandments to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Tomorrow – how we break the command (even at church!) and how we can keep the command.


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