Summary: This sermon give 4 reasons why God forbids coveting and then gives examples of people who allowed coveting to control and destroy them.
Sept 24, 2000 Exodus 20:17
“Going for the Gold!”
This week, I’ve had a little bit of time to watch some of the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The series of events that I got to watch the most was the swimmers and their races. In each of the water events, there were preliminary races to eliminate those racers who were not the best with the result that only the greatest swimmers in the world were in the final race for the medals. I saw the highlights of one such preliminary race in which only one swimmer was swimming. Apparently, the two other persons who were supposed to be swimming against him had already fouled out, so he swam alone. You might think that a pretty boring thing to watch, but the crowd cheered almost as loudly as they did in the race that determined the medal winners. They cheered so loudly for this lone swimmer that when he got done, he thought he had won a medal. The reason that they cheered was because this particular man had just learned to swim only a week previous to the Olympics! He finished a whole minute behind the worst time of any of the other contestants, but he finished. For that, the crowd was proud of him, and for that, his nation could be proud of him.
In another race, there were 8 preliminary heats that qualified swimmers for the semifinals which then qualified them for the medal race. In each of these heats, there were 8 swimmers. 8 races with 8 swimmers makes for 64 contestants. They were all shooting for the same goal – to win the race and have that gold medal placed around their neck. But when the contestants got out of the water and stood on that 3-tiered platform, there could be only one standing on the top and only one wearing gold. I wonder what was going through the minds of the other olympians who had worked so hard for so long to stand on that platform. I wonder if there was any coveting going on.
Some people and some nations will do anything to win gold. When the team competition in the men’s gymnastics was going on, the commentators began talking about the gymnastics program in China. Little five-year-old children are tested to see if they have the skills which coaches believe will make them great gymnasts eventually. If they find potential in one of these children, they separate them from their parents and train them with one goal in mind – winning a gold medal for China. And then there are Olympic stories from the past. Do you remember Mary Decker and Zola Budd in the ’84 Olympics? They were in a foot race to the finish line. Mary Decker was in the lead, and Zola Budd cut in on her which caused Decker to trip and pull a muscle in her leg. And then there was the incident with Nancy Kerrigan, the ice-skater, who was attacked because one of her lesser opponents wanted the glory and the gold for herself.
This morning, we come to the last of the 10 commandments – “Thou shalt not covet.” Being that we don’t use the word “covet” very much in our every day language, we need to figure out exactly what it means to covet something. Some words that are very close in meaning and some attitudes that may come along with coveting are jealousy and envy. Jealousy is that feeling that I feel when something that belongs to me or at least I think it belongs to me is in the control of someone else. Probably many of us have experienced jealousy when we see the guy or girl that we were dating on a date with someone else. We thought that they belonged to us, so we get jealous of the person that they are now with. Envy and coveting are different from jealousy in that they focus on things that I know do not belong to me, but I would really like them to belong to me. Envy is the feeling that I feel toward you when you possess something that I would really like to have. And coveting is the feeling that I feel toward the item that I really, really want – that thing that I feel that would really make my life worth living, that thing that I think would finally satisfy me, that think that I just can’t live without. On a real hot summer day, I might covet my neighbor’s in-ground, 8 ft. deep pool since all that I have is a kiddie pool that is 20 inches deep. And as I look over the fence into my neighbor’s yard and see him floating on top of that 8 ft. of water sipping his lemonade and deepening his tan, I start to feel this strange sensation within me that breeds thoughts that go something like this – “What makes him so good that he gets to enjoy a real pool when all I can do is cool off my feet?” Envy focuses on the person that owns what you want; covetousness focuses on the thing that you want.