Thursday, 13 February 2014

Get, get, get!

You shall not covet...  Exodus 20:17

Do you ever covet things?

I reckon that in the materialistic world we live in you’d be very unusual indeed if you didn't. To covet is to wish for things which we have no right to, especially things belonging to other people. It means refusing to be content with what we have.

You may covet somebody's money, or their health, or their looks, or their marriage, or their talents, or their possessions, or their success ... I could go on for ever. I sometimes think that the whole advertising industry is designed to stir up covetousness within us. That sleek new car... that exotic holiday... that latest gadget... "You deserve it..." the adverts coo at us, “Because you’re worth it”. And, fools that we are, we believe them.

But why exactly is it wrong to covet?

First, it’s essentially selfish - it elevates what I want  to the top of the list of priorities. It puts me and my needs before God-like qualities such as generosity, kindness and compassion. It's all about getting rather than giving - and didn't Jesus say that there is more joy in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35)?

Second, it suggests a failure to trust in God for his provision. God promises to look after those who entrust themselves to him, so if we covet it means, in effect, that we are saying to God, "Your provision isn't good enough for me - I'm not really sure you will look after me".

Third, it destroys peace of mind. The more focussed you are on other people and what they’ve got, the more chewed up inside you will be because you don't have them. Covetous people are rarely happy people. They’re angry inside.

Fourth, it can lead to disastrous consequences. Some of the Old Testament's most powerful stories are about covetousness - and in each case havoc results. Eve coveted the fruit God said she and Adam shouldn't touch (Genesis 3). Achan coveted the treasures of the Canaanites (Joshua 7). King David coveted another man's wife (2 Samuel 11). King Ahab coveted Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21). Why not read these dramatic stories again - and see the carnage and misery that resulted in each case?

Covetousness is, in the end, a form of idolatry - putting something or someone in the place that only God should occupy. By the same token, the person who has learned not to covet (and the learning process can be painful - let's be honest about that) experiences real liberation. 

If we have reached a point where we can say, with Paul, that we will be content  with the basic necessities of life, whatever God may see fit to give us (1 Timothy 6:8), then we can cheerfully shrug our shoulders at the world around us and just get on with the business of trying to live a Christlike life. We're free! And if somebody else has something that we would like - well, good for them! I'm pleased for them! And may God bless them!

“I have learned the secret of being content,” says Paul (Philippians 4:12). Content... isn’t it a great word? It doesn't mean we can't be ambitious in a good sense. But it does mean that we're happy to leave our lot in this life in the hands of a God who is our heavenly Father, and who loves us more than we can know.

And never forget, there are “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20) for those who truly love God. The child of God is actually a billionaire!

Dear Father, I am sorry that I allow the poison of discontent to corrode my soul. I promise now that, with your help, I will entrust myself wholeheartedly to you and let you lead me wherever you want me to go, and give me whatever you want me to have. Amen.

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