2016-7-03 Learning to Become Content

EXODUS 20:17-20                                                                                    JULY 3, 2016


The first nine commandments are actions that are prohibited. The tenth commandment states in Exodus 20:17 (NIV) “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 neighbor.” This commandment is different in that God is prohibiting a desire and/or an attitude. I have heard it said by many Christians that this commandment is most probably the most broken and yet it is also the one sin that people do not admit to breaking. As a young lad I was not sure what it meant to covet. Coveting is defined: to desire that which belongs to another. It also means to wish for excessively and to crave.

I believe we all know individuals who are obsessed with keeping up with the neighbors or with their friends and colleagues. We take the Wall Street Journal to keep up with the news. Each weekend edition there is a section on the latest fashions, cuisine (aren’t you impressed that I know such a fancy word for the food we eat), travel destinations, and articles on luxury cars. There is also a whole section devoted to mansions and weekend second homes (beach, mountain, or a downtown villa apartment.  I am often amazed and amused by the outlandish styles and exorbitant prices. Yet I am aware that for many people they yearn to keep up with these current fashions. One could also change the perspective if I talked about the latest Cabella or Bass Pro catalogs and stores. Since I spend time with Law Enforcement officers I have learned to place a high value on guns and ammunition and other hunting accessories. (I know I have gone to meddling!) Once one thinks about it, coveting just might be a problem for all of us!

Why is God so concerned with what we desire? Let’s examine a couple of biblical stories to see the effect of coveting on one’s behavior. King David even though he was considered a great king gave in to the sin of coveting. 2 Samuel 11:2-5 (NIV) 2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” King David’s desire for Bathsheba led him to take (steal) someone else’s wife. In so doing he broke the seventh and eighth commandments (stealing and adultery). In seeking to cover up his sin he eventually had Joab, the commander of Israel’s army; place Uriah in a battle where he was killed. (Sixth commandment) These sins began with coveting.

1 Kings 21:1-4 (NIV) 1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” 3 But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” It is evident that King Ahab indulged in the sin of coveting. (He acted like a spoiled child!) King Ahab’s wife Jezebel encouraged him to steal the land by having two men give false testimony (ninth commandment) which led to his contrived death (sixth commandment) whereupon the king took the property for himself (eighth commandment). These sins also began with coveting.

The sin of coveting is often the gateway to committing other sins. What was the purpose of God giving the Ten Commandments? Let’s return to Exodus. Exodus 20:20 (NIV) 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”  What does God desire of us? He desires to keep us from sinning!

What is the opposite of coveting? Scripture suggest that we should be content with what we have. What does it mean to be content? The dictionary defines content as not desiring more than what one has. It also states that it means to be satisfied. Jesus gave us the answer in Matthew 6.Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:33 (NIV) 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We are called to work hard and to trust God to take care of what we need.

It is a matter of priorities! When we learn to put God first in our life we will discover the peace of God which leads to contentment. When we honor Christ by living out our faith in accordance to the scriptural demands God then provides what we need. Paul wrote Timothy of how to live for Christ. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NIV) 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Paul talked of having the right attitude. He told the church in Philippi in Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV) 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

There was a man who had become envious of his friends because they had larger and more luxurious homes. So he listed his home with a real estate agent with the intention of selling it and then buying a more impressive home. Shortly afterward, as he was reading the classified ads he saw an ad for a house that seemed just right. He promptly called his realtor and said “I saw an ad in today’s paper describing a house that is exactly what I’m looking for. I would like to go see it right away.” The agent asked him several questions about the home and then replied. “But sir, that’s YOUR house that you’re describing. It’s the one I’m trying to sell for you!”

Listen to the advice of the writer of Hebrews 13:5 (NIV) 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” The Lord our God will provide what we need. May we learn to be content with what the Lord has given us!

Let us pray.