Well, this marks the end of our series on the Ten Commandments. Today is commandment number ten, and you can see, it's Loving Your Situation, being content with what you have.
Have any of you ever coveted? Nobody here has? I have. I don't know about you, well I think we all have, honestly. You want to be honest here in church, of all places, don't you? As a boy I grew up in the age of the Lone Ranger. Some of you here have never heard of the Lone Ranger. So, this is a long time ago. One day a Christmas catalog came. You know, children love to listen to Christmas music but even more they like to thumb through the Christmas catalog. I began to go through that thing. There were many things to drool over. Finally on one page I came upon a picture of a bow and arrow set. "Wow!" I thought, "I would love to have a bow and arrow. I could just really get into that." And it came complete with a quiver and a target. I thought, "Ah, This would be so neat. I could just get that bow and arrow, Santa Claus could bring that to me and it would be so nice." And so I started dreaming about that, and I went out behind the chicken house and there was a field there and I imagined how I could set my bale of straw there and put the target on there and I could step back twenty five paces and I could just fire at that target and hit the bull's eye every time. I was relishing the fact. And I don't know whatever happened. I never did get it. I don't know if my mother heard about it, or if I didn't have the money, but for some reason I did not get that bow and arrow. But I surely enjoyed coveting that thing.
Exodus 20:17 (KJV) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's. Well, that didn't belong to my neighbors, so it's okay I guess. But, you know that coveting is wrong, isn't it. Or is it? Are you aware that the Bible says that we should covet? 1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV. Here the Bible makes an amazing statement. It says, Covet earnestly the best gifts... We should covet, shouldn't we. We should covet the best gifts, it says. Then it goes on to speak about those.
So there is good coveting and bad coveting. Unlawful covetousness impoverishes somebody else because it removes from them something that they had. It impoverishes both the covetor and the covetee, if you could understand what that means. This type depicted by the Tenth Commandment. It is the desire to have something that can never be legally yours now or in the future. It's not wrong to covet something that you could go buy at the store, so in actuality I was not coveting that bow and arrow. I was desiring it. Do you see the difference between desiring and coveting? If you covet something that belongs to somebody else, you would want to take it from them in order to have it. That would deprive them of the item in question.
An example of bad coveting would be to desire somebody's wife. You could never have her. To desire his house; you could never have that. It belongs to him. Or, his antique automobile or his dog or his job. Two people cannot own the same thing at the same time. It can't happen.
Rob Schenck tells a story of a couple who built a house for $45,000 thirty years previous. People liked the house so much the photographers would come by and take pictures of it and it was actually on the cover of several magazines. Their house. Over the years many folk came by wanting that house. "One day a woman rang the doorbell and said: Name your price, I want your house". "It's not for sale." "Name your price." Just to get rid of the lady she said, "Well, how about a million dollars?' The woman said, 'Sold.' They closed on the property a month later! (Ten Words, page 198.) Was that Covetousness? No. It was all fair and square. "I'll give you a million dollars." "Okay." It was probably coveted in the first place.
Good coveting does not illegally deprive the owner of his possessions. A desire for more or nicer things could drag you into the sin of coveting but the simple desire of itself is not sin; to own something that could legally be yours. We should covet. We should covet love, joy, happiness, grace, knowledge, righteousness, salvation and all other good gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts. It's okay to want more of the right thing. In fact we even sing that old song:
More about Jesus I would know More of His grace to others show; More of His saving fullness see, More of His love who died for me.
It isn't wrong to desire something that you don't have as long as it is okay for you to have it, and as long as it is okay to help you in your spiritual growth and it won't harm somebody else. Every time we look through all the catalogs that come in our mail box we begin to want things that we didn't even know we wanted. Even God has desires. Matt.12:7 "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" So, God has desires, doesn't He. It's okay to want something, it's okay to desire something.
Covetousness is the desire to have something that is unlawful for us to have. This complex commandment is unique from the other nine. Because the other nine say that you shouldn't steal, you shouldn't lies, you shouldn't murder, you shouldn't do all these things, have other gods before you, you should remember the Sabbath and honor your parents. But, this one says, "don't covet." Actually, coveting begins in our mind. It is a sin of the mind. That's what it is. Jesus said in Mark 7:21-22 that the mind is the source of covetousness. Covetousness is basically selfishness. That's what it is. Gross selfishness. You're not satisfied with what you have. If you would trace every transgression back to it's source, that source would be covetousness. That source is covered by the Tenth Commandment.
The thought is the parent of the deed. The deed is the source of the habit. The habit is the sculpture of the character and the Character is the evidence pointing which direction we are headed: to heaven or to the hot place. It all starts in the thoughts. No wonder Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ...we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This process is well described in Micah 2:1 Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellow man of his inheritance. You see, there s fraud involved. There bad stuff involved. They have to seize it because they covet it. So, it leads us to other sins. And that s certainly well described there in the book of Micah. And we appreciate the Bible describing what is wrong with coveting.
When you set your covetous eyes upon your neighbors wife you take the first steps down the path that leads to adultery. When you set your covetous eyes on your neighbor s house you are possibly taking the first steps that could lead down the path to murder or stealing. So we don't want to do that. Now wonder it is so bad. Covetousness is the spring from which flows the poisonous deeds breaking the other nine commandments. David describes this. David says in Psalm 10:3, The Lord abhors the covetous person.
And David ought to know about coveting. Because one evening David couldn't sleep. And if you can sleep, don't do what David did. He got up and walked around on the top of the house, on the roof. Can you imagine people walking o the roof of your house? Well, these were flat roofs and they had little walls supposed to keep you from falling off. And he was up there waking around in the cool of the evening. And he happened to see his neighbor s wife and her name was Bathsheba and she was taking a bath. I wonder if they named her after this? And it wasn't good. Lust inflamed covetousness into a burning fire. And David could not contain himself and he sent for her and eventually he became an adulterer and a murderer when he arraigned for the death of Uriah s, her husband. Later David was sorry and he repented of this, but I want to tell you that David paid the of his sin the rest of his life. You can get out of those.
What we don't have, can poison what do we have. He didn't need Bathsheba. Our urge to acquire things is probably due less to the passion to possess them, than to the vanity of feeling superior to those who envy our possession of them. Our own envy transmutes other people's base metals into precious gold that we desire. Someday it will be discovered that the bars that shut many people out of the kingdom of heaven were forged of coveted silver and gold.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15 KJV, ..."Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." It's not an abundance of things.
One day Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street with two small boys who were both crying loudly. A neighbor passing by inquired, "What's the matter, Abe? Why all the fuss?" Lincoln responded, "The trouble with these lads is what's wrong with the world; one has a nut and the other wants it!" That's the trouble with the whole world. The Tenth Commandment.
A coveter is a person who is never satisfied with what he has. Unfortunately, he lives next door to the Joneses. He should never live next door to the Joneses. That's a dangerous place to live. Don't ever do it. You will soon covet the new car the Joneses bought at Zero percent down, and they had no payment for the first three months and they got $4000 cash back and zero interest. You will soon dream about their new car and soon you will be down there buying one for yourself, slightly better than the Jones s. I've noticed myself that it's difficult to save money when your neighbors keep buying things you can't afford. It s hard to live next door to the Joneses. And this commandment has to do with where you ought to live. Never near the Joneses. Fortunately we have only two families in our church by the name of Jones. And I think they are both pretty good.
Hebrews 13:5 KJV Be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. If God is on your side, and God is never going to leave you, then just be content with what you have. He'll take care of you. Isn't that the point.
One day young Charles Darwin was walking along one day in the woods and he found this rare beetle. He grabbed it and put it in his hand. After a while and he found another beetle. "Oh, I've got to have that one, too." And he picked it up in his other hand. When he was almost out of the woods, he discovered a third beetle. And he just had to have that one, too. What to do? In a flash he put one of the beetles in his mouth for safekeeping and grabbed the third beetle with his empty hand. Now he had all three of them. And he had to hurry back to the house. But the imprisoned beetle imprisoned in his mouth squirted a strong acid down his throat! And Charles Darwin started into a coughing spell and hacking and coughing so bad he expelled that and lost the other two beetles. He lost them all because he coveted too many. We are never satisfied with the two that we have. We always want more. If you seek more than you need it will hinder you from enjoying what you have.
Mahatma Gandhi said: "The earth provides enough for every man's need but not for every man's greed." And how true that is! The covetous person is always wanting more. Do you know what the antidote for covetousness is? There's an antidote. It's Giving! That's the antidote. "Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed." - Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex and Power.
Did you know that the more you have to live for, the less you need to live on? Think about that. People that don't have much to live for have to have a garage full of five cars. But if you've got a lot to live for, it doesn't take much to live. Those who make acquisition their goal never have enough. I've noticed that over the years, covetousness is getting worse. Have you noticed that? Here is proof that this commandment is very much in need. Right here in Collegedale we've got the proof. Back in the old days, I never noticed all these storage buildings. You know, these storage buildings that have spaces about twelve feet wide and there's a garage door and another and another. There's that whole row and then another and another... Did you notice those when you were growing up? They didn't used to be. As a kid I never remember all those self storage units for rent. They seem to be everywhere. There must be more of those things in America than there are grocery stores. Why? It s because we have all this stuff. We keep desiring more stuff! Covetousness, I think, is getting worse. That's the proof of it.
Then we decide that we need to get rid of some of this stuff. So we take it over here to the flea market and we sell it and we come home with a whole load of everybody else's stuff. We're just trading stuff. We've got to get rid of this stuff.
Covetousness or selfishness or greed or whatever you want to call it, that is not dealt with will eventually possess us and we will lose our all of our precious possessions and lose our soul. The stuff will get you. You'll be possessed by it and you will lose all of the most precious possessions that you have.
You remember the great explorer Cortez. Cortez came to Mexico and he was going to conquer Mexico. He met Montezuma, the great king of Mexico. Here is what Cortez said to Montezuma, "Send us gold, for we Spaniards have a disease which can only be cured by gold!" And he was right. They wanted gold. That's why they came here. They hauled it home by the shiploads. For you to appease a covetous person s desire for gold or money or land would be like trying to satisfy a fire's demand for more fuel. You can do it.
Coveting is the root of most sin. Quarrels, fights and even War stem from the inner "great controversy" as our good and evil desires battle it out. See James 4:1.
The Chinese symbol for covetousness is three characters representing a woman standing between two trees. Who is that woman? It's Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve desired the only fruit which was not legal for her to have. She threw her eyes on it, it threw a craving on her, she coveted it, she coveted the knowledge of good and evil, which she never should have had. And Eve coveted the Wisdom of God and lost paradise. It all started in her mind. Eve coveted something that could never be hers, the Knowledge of God Himself.
Lot coveted the fertile plains of Sodom and lost everything. Achan coveted the gold and silver and buried them under his tent. They took him out and stoned him. His bones were buried under a big pile of rocks. The rich young ruler clung to his stuff when he should have clung to his Savior. He came that close to being one of the disciples. The Prodigal son loved his father's money more than he loved his father. Ananias and Sapphira coveted a portion of their pledge and lost their life. Judas coveted the thirty pieces of silver more than he coveted a relationship with Jesus, and he lost eternal life. From Eden to today, we can trace the slimy trail of the serpent of covetousness. It may even be seen in your yard, in your house.
There is no end to a greedy person's wants. If you ask a millionaire, "How much more do you want?" "Well, just a little bit more." There is no end to it.
Come to Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. That's in the Bible. We never get enough because of the Tenth Commandment. The coveter is a slave to the tyranny of things. We want more and more things. We go down here to Best Buy, we go down here to Walmart, we come back with a big load of things that we really could have gotten along without maybe sometime.
The poet said,
Oh, what is earth, that we should build our houses here, and seek concealed Poor treasure, and add field to field, and heap to heap and store to store Still grasping more, and seeking more, While, step by step, Death nears the door!
By the poet - Rossetti
What we need to be coveting is a relationship with Jesus Christ. That's the most important thing we could ever have. Our Scripture reading, 1 Timothy 6:6-10, in verse 6 says, But godliness with contentment is great gain. When you are content with the stuff that you have, and you also have Godliness, you've got it. You don't need to be working out there for twelve hours a day. You need to slow down. You need to preserve your life. We need to take time for our families. We need to take time for God.
A covetous person will always be in want because he always wants more. Only a fully surrendered Christian will be satisfied. If you have food, water, shelter and a saving relationship with Jesus you have enough. II Corinthians 4:18. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." That's where our eyes ought to be; on heaven.
Paul said in Philippians, 4:11 ...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.
Success is not measured by what we possess, but by Who possesses us. And if Jesus Christ possesses you, you are successful. When we learn to love the situation God has allowed us to be in, then we will truly be content.
I think the Ten Commandments are just guiding stars to our life. I'm so glad that Jesus Christ wrote those Ten Commandments with His own finger and gave them to us with His own love and His own power that we can keep these Commandments the best as possible to honor Him, not to be saved, but because we are saved.
I've enjoyed this series. Now that this series is over, we have several more series that we have planned for next year. Some exciting series that I hope you will really enjoy. I know that God has a blessing when we study His Word.
Hymn of Praise: #21, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:7,8 Hymn of Response: #469, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms 02116#528
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last updated 11/17/2002 by Bob Beckett.