Summary: Tenth Commandment - Coveting
I’m sure many of you were saddened by the recent death of Bob Hope. And if you’re old enough to remember Bob Hope, then you no doubt remember another legendary comic, Jack Benny.
Although in real life, Benny was known as a very generous man, his comic shtick was an extreme cheapskate.
In one of his skits, he is confronted by a robber who pulls a gun and yells, "Your money or your life!"
He pulls one of his characteristic long pauses, until the robber asks impatiently, "Well?"
Benny says, "Don’t rush me, I’m thinking about it."
Obviously, if you have to think about whether you’d choose to give up your money or your life, you probably have some practical experience with the subject of today’s sermon.
This morning we are covering the LAST of the 10 Commandments: “Thou shalt not COVET.”
The word “covet” just means to want or desire something – which is how our Good News Bible translates it. We don’t often use the word “Covet” in everyday conversation.
It is associated so strongly with this commandment that we just assume if someone DOES say they “covet” something, we assume it’s something bad.
My World Book defines “covet” like this: Covet, 1. to desire eagerly (something that belongs to another) 2. to wish for, especially eagerly; long for.
In the Hebrew, the word implies that the person not only wants or desires a thing, but that they will take some action to get it.
It’s the word that’s used when Eve sees that the forbidden fruit is “pleasing to the eyes and desirable to eat.” So, since she desired it, she took it.
If you’re around little kids much, you know that wanting something leads pretty quickly to finding a way to get it. As soon as you hear, “I want that!” you know somebody’s going to be making a grab for something. As we mature, we hopefully get a little better at not having to immediately grab every single thing we think we want.
But it is still true that desiring something is usually the first step in acquiring it – and the greater the desire, the harder we’ll try to get the thing that we want.
As one commentator said, “desire” is in itself a neutral word. It is only when misdirected to that which belongs to another that such “desire” becomes wrong.
This commandment confronts us with our own priorities. What are you living for? To keep up with the neighbors? I love that it’s your neightbors’ stuff (and spouse) we’re warned about, because that really is where our resentments often come in. I don’t get jealous of Bill Gates, because his level of wealth is beyond what I can even imagine. It’s when I see a nice, new SUV around town, I think, “Boy THAT would be nice to have!” Sometimes I even start trying to figure out how I could acquire one of my own. But of course, it doesn’t take much figuring before I decide that my car is JUST FINE!
The problem with coveting is that we set our hearts on the wrong things.
C. S. LEWIS - Weight of Glory: If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, 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 the slum because he can not imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
It isn’t that God wants us to squash all of our desires for good things. It’s that He wants us to desire things that will last, not things that are fading away.
Eugene Peterson translates 1 John 2:15-17 this way:
Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. [The Message]
As we’ve studied the 10 Commandments, we’ve tried to “turn the negatives around to positives,” so that we can see not just what sins we should avoid, but what positive qualities God wants us to develop.
Instead of false testimony, we should seek and speak the truth.
Instead of stealing, we should work and give.
Instead of adultery, we should cultivate faithfulness