Exodus 20:17 Psalm 19 Colossians 3:5-17 Matthew 19:16-30
One of the best quotes I have heard about coveting is this: “Don’t pursue your next pastor, pray for the one you’ve got.” My response to that comment was: “Don’t pursue your next church, pray for the one you’ve got.”
These comments give us a great definition of what coveting is. As the pastor of this church, I am praying for you as individuals and as a church. I want to see you grow in the faith that you have placed in Jesus Christ. If you are hoping to have a new pastor soon, then you might be missing out on what God is doing amongst us right now! It just might be good for you to pray for me and the church!
How else are we to think about coveting? It is one of those sins that is invisible. Or at least we think it is invisible. Looking back on the Israelites as they head out of Egypt will let us know whether coveting is invisible or not.
As the Israelite were camped near the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his army were advancing upon them. What did the Israelites do? They complained that it would have been better for them to have stayed in Egypt than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:10-12)
After they had crossed the Red Sea, the Israelites faced the problem of having no water. What did the Israelites do? They complained. They asked what they were going to drink. (Exodus 15:22-25)
Two months into their wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites had no more food. What did the Israelites do? They complained and said that it would have been better to die by the hand of the Lord when they had all the food they wanted instead of dying of hunger in the wilderness. (Exodus 16:1-3)
Again, after being in the wilderness for some more time, the Israelites found no water. So you guessed it, they complained against God.
In these situations, the Israelites were coveting what they once had. As slaves in Egypt they had water, food, and protection from attack. Now as they were learning to be God’s people, they had none of these assured items.
The icing on the cake for Israel’s complaining was when Moses sent 12 spies to search out Canaan. One young man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel was chosen. They were to go throughout the land of Canaan and bring a report back to Moses & the Israelites. They brought back with them a single cluster of grapes that they carried it on a pole between two of them, plus pomegranates and figs. Ten spies said that the people in the land were great, even giants. They said, “To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
The Israelites rebelled at this talk. They wanted to go back to Egypt! Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb implored the people to obey God. The Lord was going to destroy the people all at once. Moses interceded for Israel, and the Lord forgave them. However, all of those who had tested God would not live to see the Promised Land. Yet Caleb & Joshua lived to take up residence in the Promised Land.
What does this have to do with coveting what belongs to your neighbor? As we understand coveting to be an emotional fear of not having all that we need, we realize that trust is important. Yes, we can covet what we thought was good for us in the past. We can also desire what we think we need in the future.
My wife enjoys seeing cool sports cars. And I have teased her since we were dating about coveting. Well, I think I got her to keep quiet about the cars she would like to have. A few years ago the Ford Mustang was remodeled. When the new Mustangs were coming out, she said she would like to have a green one. My question to her was this: “Why do you want a mustang, when you already have a stallion?” Now I am only hearing about the sporty Chevy Camaros and the Dodge Chargers. Hmm.
None of the gospel writers have Jesus mentioning coveting specifically. When someone came to Jesus and asked about how to have eternal life, Jesus gave a most interesting answer. The young man had been following the commands that Jesus had listed. Yet the young man wanted to know what he lacked doing. Jesus’ response was, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Instead of being concerned about obtaining many possessions, Jesus was telling the young man, and us as well, that we don’t need things. What we need is to give away what we have and follow him. How is that for loving your neighbor as yourself? Still further, Paul has instructions for the Colossians and us.
Paul compares greed with idolatry. That is, as we want more things, we no longer have time for God. When we don’t have time for God, then we are being disobedient. Following the 10 Commandments is not about hearing how bad we are. Following the 10 Commandments is about knowing the ways in which we can love God and our neighbor.
To counter coveting, Paul encourages us to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” In other words, when we are at rest with Christ, then we can be at rest in our inner lives, where nobody knows what we are doing. As we have peace in our hearts, then we are able to be thankful.
I can thank God that I get to be your pastor. You could thank God that you have a hillbilly of a pastor! That is, when you have Christ’s peace ruling in your hearts, you can be thankful for your pastor and your church. And you can be thankful for what and whom you have in your life. Who knows, instead of coveting you maybe able to follow Jesus.
If you need to sell some of your possessions so they don’t get in the way of following Jesus, then sell your possessions. If you have been complaining about the church or the pastor, be content with what God has given you. Otherwise, it would not be good for us to end up like that generation of Israelites who were not able to enter the Promised Land because they continually complained against God.