“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:17)
Domino Day was an annual event to see how many dominoes could be toppled over by touching just one small domino first. Teams spent days lining up thousands of the tiny bricks, building in rises in the lines, and other special effects. The groans of disappointment were loud when the line failed to fall down before the finish – or when someone knocked over a line by accident and the builders had to start again! The record stands at a line of 4.491.863 domino stones! Amazing that one small fall can trigger a huge chain reaction.
This is called, scientifically, the ‘domino effect,’ which states that when you make a change to one behaviour it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.
The last Word in our series, if violated, will have a ‘domino effect’ on the previous nine. It is pivotal to the rest. Interestingly, most commandments concern our actions, but this one concerns, first of all, our heart’s attitude. The proverb (4:23) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Coveting is a really strong desire for something which is not ours and bubbles up from the depths of our heart as jealousy, greed, envy with what other people have and we don’t.
When dealing with coveting, we need to re-direct the priorities of our heart, as Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” This means that the desires of your heart will follow what you treasure most; that which is most important to you.
Coveting and desiring
Coveting is not the same as desiring. We are made to desire all which God has created for us to enjoy. Our Creator designed us to have needs and wants so that we could enter into a relationship with Him and delight in Him as our Provider and Sustainer. We have a desire to succeed and do well, to provide what we need for our responsibilities and activities, to produce and make life better, to enjoy life’s good things.
One of my favourite writers, C.S. Lewis stated: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Coveting means to desire excessively, disregarding the limits of ‘enough,’ and to desire illegitimately, disregarding what belongs to another.
In fact, coveting was the original sin, as Adam end Eve desired what exclusively belonged to God, and took what they shouldn’t have taken.
In the Bible the Hrbew word for desire ‘chamad’ is used many times together with the word ‘lakach’ which means to take. Deuteronomy 7:25, for example, states “Do not covet (chamad) the silver….and take (lakach) it.” So, what you allow to nestle and grow in your heart becomes an action of taking what is not yours.
There is a lot of talk about ‘mindfulness’ as a discipline to improve our being, but in making the right choices, one of the finest ‘states of being’ I know, is the state of ‘contentedness.’ The writer to the Hebrews (13:5) gave us the antidote to the sin of coveting. “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.’” This gives us three ways to implement Word # 10.
First of all, we should not focus on money as the most important resource to solve all our problems and meet all our needs and desires. Only God can do that!
Secondly, we should learn to be content with what we have, in whatever situation and economic level we find ourselves in. Doing this is an act of thankfulness to God and an acceptance of hid leadership in our lives.
Thirdly, we need to trust that God knows what we need and will provide. Remember, God always pays for what He orders!
Is contentment really possible in today’s society? We seem to be constantly bombarded with limitless options in a society where we are constantly told we will never be happy unless we have the latest innovation, the newest technology, the biggest-screen TV. I want to get off this merry-go-round and find true contentment; to be satisfied with my circumstances, not complaining, not craving something else, and having a mind at peace.
I have known want as a boy after my father lost his job and was unable to maintain our standard of living. He went into debt and then bankruptcy. I have known plenty as a CEO of a spaceflight service business. How can we achieve this state of contentment which is independent of circumstances? The answer was given by Paul in our Bible passage for today in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." I like what Major Ian Thomas, founder and director of the Torchbearers ministry, says: “All you need is what you have; what you have is what He is; you cannot have more; and you do not need to have less.”
Making the right choices?
Contentment comes from having an eternal perspective, making decisions based on Biblical wisdom and counsel. Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. The way to contentment is to express thankfulness for what you already have. Contentment has everything to do with your relationship with God and nothing to do with your money. Once you are free from the love of money and the pursuit of it, you can have a lot or a little and be content all the same. At that point you have learned the secret to contentment.
The psalmist (37:4) says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the (right) desires of your heart.”