Summary: We need to be content exactly where we’re at; with who we have and what we have and who we are.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
I read an interesting article the other day by Paul Harvey, a former radio announcer who has gone to be with the Lord. The story is about a man who was driving to work when a woman in a brand new car hit him. The young woman jumped out of her car, tears rolling down her eyes. “I know; I know; it’s my fault. My husband just gave me this brand new car two days ago. What am I going to do? What am I going to say to my husband?” The man listening was sympathetic, but he had to leave. They exchanged their driver’s licenses, and when she opened the glove compartment to get her registration, inside the envelope was a letter from her husband which read, “In case of an accident, remember Honey, it’s you I love, and not the car.” Now that’s an understanding husband! His priorities were right. He understood that people were more important than material things.
The things that we have are not important. It is the people in our lives that make a difference. Now for some, God has blessed with many things. These people need to be good stewards of those things, and they are important because God gave it to them. But there‘s a danger when things become possessive—when we will do anything to keep going after things, no matter how old we are. I realize that material things sometimes are not the answer. And oftentimes, the more we get, the more we can destroy our relationships.
There was an 81 year old woman who passed away in 1930 and had been married to a man who had died earlier, leaving her the responsibilities of keeping the finances going. Her finances were estimated at seventeen million dollars back then. Many of her friends questioned if she could maintain it by herself, but she did great. In fact, she made even more money. When she died, she left no written will at all, so what happened after her death absolutely changed the history of lawsuits. More than twenty-six-thousand people from forty-seven states and twenty nine foreign countries represented by more than three thousand lawyers got involved to try and prove their relationship to her and to claim part of her estate. In their efforts to obtain her inheritance, they committed perjury, faked family records, and were even willing to doctor up the doctor’s family Bible by changing the date. Twelve were confined; ten received jail sentences; two committed suicide; three were murdered; and many have been found missing. It’s amazing what length people will go to in order to try and get something.
It’s not wrong to desire or to have something. God put that desire in our hearts. The Bible says that we are to covet the most earnest gift, but we are not to lust or to hurt or to destroy people in getting it. And when there comes a moment in our lives when we have taken care of ourselves and our families, and yet for some reason, God continues to bless us, then it’s time for us to stop and look around and see where else we can be a blessing. In other words, God has given us a gift. And we do not have to be rich to covet. One of the worst things that can happen is that some of us who have nothing are always wishing that we had more for the wrong reason. We covet and want what other people have. It is one of the worst sins of all.
Notice in Exodus 20:17, the tenth commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” Now in Deuteronomy 5:21, there’s a little bit of a twist to it. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife… (Notice it puts the wife before the house.) …and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” In other words, you shall not covet. What is being said here in a very profound way is that we are not to covet his house, not to look at his real estate, and not to wish that we could have what he has. So when we go for a walk, or a drive, and we see something that we desire, and wish that we could have that—be careful. If we are desiring something that we cannot have, then we shouldn’t. A wife who desires this would be putting her husband through something that he may not be able to give. Sometimes we’re probably not even taking care of what we do have. The grass always seems greener on the other side. We feel; we expect; we deserve—it’s our right. We have a desire—we want it. We can justify just about anything we want. So we shouldn’t look at what our neighbor has. So what if he has three houses and we have one. We begin to think that we need to get our act together in order to have the same, so we put the pressure on ourselves. Soon we have a second job and then as a result, we get a divorce. Or we have a second job and we drag our spouse through it all, never seeing them and then losing the kids. What does it really cost us when we desire what we really shouldn’t have or we go above what God wants us to do? What does it cost when we look at the sacrifices that we will have to make to leave God out of our lives—possibly leaving our church, quit mid-week studies, or quit Sunday night studies, just to, once again, make the millions. And by the way, for those who do have a lot, it takes a heart and a life of stewardship to keep what they do have. It takes incredible insight and brilliance to hold on to what they have, because it is not easy holding on to it, otherwise they can lose it overnight. They are always worried about it; they can’t stop thinking about it; they have to make more. There are all kinds of traps along the way. There’s no doubt, it’s nice having money—to lay money down without any thought, to be able to go and do this or that, to go on a trip, or to go into the store and purchase whatever is desired.