You shall not covet – Control Your Desires
“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.”
John Wesley's comments on this command: The foregoing commands implicitly forbid all desire of doing that which will be an injury to our neighbour, this forbids all inordinate desire of having that which will be a gratification to ourselves. O that such a man's house were mine! such a man's wife mine! such a man's estate mine! This is certainly the language of discontent at our own lot, and envy at our neighbour's, and these are the sins principally forbidden here. God give us all to see our face in the glass of this law, and to lay our hearts under the government of it!
We are near the end of our series looking at the commandments of our God.
Jesus, as always, has been and is, our guide. He says “Do not think I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with… not until the end of all things.”
So… the Law stands.
Jesus does say that He has come to fulfill the law and we have looked at what that means – we have seen that of the 638 laws in the Old Testament, they can be identified as ceremonial (cleanliness) laws, ritual laws, and moral laws.
Ceremonial and ritual laws have been fulfilled in Christ – you don’t have to circumcise your boys, women who are menstruating can attend worship, you don’t have to confess your sins to me.
So, many of the laws are fulfilled and we are not bound by them. We can keep them, we can circumcise our sons if we want to, (eat pork) but we don’t have to.
The moral law remains in place in it’s totality. The 10 commandments and many other commandments, for example, “Love your neighbour…” these moral laws stand, even in 2012.
Now, the Law is not there to show us how to be saved, it is there to show us how to live as Gods people in Gods world.
Gods moral laws show us how to live ethically, they reveal moral behavior to us. We’ve looked previously at the loss of moral compass in South Africa.
Gods laws impart morality. So what is the morality that underlies the command: ‘Do not covet’
I suggest it is this: Control Your Desires.
The Hebrew word for covet is “chamad” and it means to “delight in” or “set your heart on”.
This command speaks to the questions: What are you greedy for? What do you desire more of? What is it that you cannot have enough of? What is your heart set on… Money, possessions, status, sex, food, drink, happiness…
In the Parable of the Rich Fool we have Jesus describing the covetous life, the life that wants more, the life which is unsatisfied with what it has, as ‘the foolish life’.
Let's look a little closer at this parable and what caused Jesus to share it:
Vs 13 ‘A man in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide with me the property our father left us.”
A crowd of thousands - so this is a teaching for the multitude, you and me.
Vs 14 ‘Jesus answered him, “My friend, who gave me the right to judge or to divide the property between you two?”
These words may surprise us, but friends there is a real sense in which Jesus didn’t come to earth to solve family disputes. Jesus is saying here ‘I’m not a judge of worldly things…’ and later he will say… ‘His Kingdom is not of this world.’ He is a judge IN the Kingdom of God. Now read from verse 15.
Vs 15 – 17 ‘And he went on to say to them all, “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because a person’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “There was once a rich man who had land which bore good crops. He began to think to himself, ‘I haven’t anywhere to keep all my crops. What can I do?”
Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. The advice he gets is ‘Invest in property’ and develop it properly. Tear down, build up. What can I do? What should I desire? What is the right answer?
Build up treasure in heaven. But he doesn’t and in verse 20 God himself says:
Vs 20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself?”
Why fool: to try and satisfy your soul in earthly goods and to depend on living many years to covet these things is foolish.
Notice (please) the problem is not riches, the problem is not being rich in Gods sight.
Vs 21 ‘And Jesus concluded, ‘This is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in Gods sight.”
Rich in Gods sight = in love, in faith, in good works – ...............are these the things we covet?
So what do you desire? What do you desire to be rich in? What is it that you want more of? … The answer to these questions are the things we are coveting, although we might not use the word covet.
Jesus shows us of course, as He has shown us in all the other commands, how it is possible to live a life that does not covet, that is not greedy, that is satisfied with what it has, even if what that life has is very little in material terms. He said on one occasion, foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.
And he doesn’t say this with bitterness, as with everything else, we see in Jesus, and the disciples after Pentecost, a contentment.
So this command “Do not covet”, which I have suggested can be positively stated as “Control your desires” speaks to that wonderful state of mind which we call – being content, which is similar to, but actually an improvement on “being satisfied”.
Are you content? And I’m not suggesting that if your answer is NO, then STOP COVETING.
No, as we reach the end of this series on the Ten Commandments, I’m suggesting that the way to contentment, which I think is another word for abundant life, life in all its fullness, lies in living out the moral laws of God, of which ten are:
Recognise there is one true God
Worship only that God
Honour His name
Honour His Sabbath
Honour your parents
Honour human life
Respect personal property of other people
Speak the truth
And control your desires
These are the ways and the truths of the abundant life.
Live this way and we play our part in restoring a moral compass for our homes, church, school, business, our political party, our nation. Live this way, and Gods Kingdom comes and His will is done.