Summary: What we feed our minds and hearts determines whether we live with covetousness or contentment.
Law & Order: SPU – Scratch Where It itches”
Ex. 20:17; Mt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:10-13
A man was talking to his psychiatrist. He said, “I’ve been misbehaving and my conscience is bothering me.” The doctor responded, “And you want something that will strengthen your will power?” The man replied, “Actually I was thinking of something that would weaken my conscience.” What we feed our minds and hearts determines whether we live with covetousness or contentment.
Consider THE SITUATION OF COVETOUSNESS. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." This commandment is different from all the other commandments that concern our relationship with our neighbor. This is the only one that cannot be seen by neighbors; only God knows when it’s broken. That’s because THE SOURCE OF COVETOUSNESS IS DESIRE, which is a state of the heart and mind. At its core, desire is neutral. The Bible reminds us that desire comes from the heart. Jesus said (Mt. 15:15-20), “Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”” Desire is fed from the heart.
Paul wrote about this powerfully in his letter to the Romans (7:22-23 CEV). “With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do.” The struggle for desire resides in the heart. As Paul pointed out, there is both destructive and constructive desire. Let’s look at both for a moment. First, THERE IS DESTRUCTIVE DESIRE. Henry Morris has helped develop the meaning of destructive desire by pointing out three keys words used for desire in the Old Testament. The initial commandment (Exodus 20:17) uses the Hebrew word chamad, which means "to delight in." The repeated commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21) uses the word 'avah, which translates "to wish for." And the applied commandment (Jeremiah 6:13) uses the word batsa', which is "to be greedy." When we put them all together we get the picture – once we being to delight in something, we start to wish for it, and
when we wish for it long enough we become greedy and must have it – often at any cost. We move FROM GREED TO SEEKING DISHONORABLE OR SELF-ABSORBING GAIN. James also wrote of this in his epistle (1:13-15 MSG). “Don't let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, "God is trying to trip me up." God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one's way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” The eye looks a little too long at something, the mind admires it, the will moves over to pursuing it, and the body and acts move to possess it.
This desire is destructive because of what it does to us and to our neighbors. The Psalmist teaches that those who covet are never satisfied (78:23-27) and that God sends leanness to their souls (106:13-15). And how does it harm our neighbors? Again, James addresses it clearly (4:1-2 NLT). “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.”
But there is also CONSTRUCTIVE DESIRE. The Bible does not condemn all desire; it, in fact, encourages right, constructive desire. This, by the way, is in total contrast to Buddhism which tries to do away with all desire. All other commandments deal with actions; this one deals with a state of mind. Instead of scratching where it itches, how do we fill our minds with right desire and in doing so change our itches? In Proverbs 11:23 the preacher, wrote “The desire of the righteous ends only in good…” We are to DESIRE RIGHTEOUSNESS. The Psalmist (37:4 CEV) put it “Do what the LORD wants, and he will give you your heart's desire.” The apostle John understood it as well (1 Jn., 5:14-15 CEV). “We are certain that God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases him. And if we know that God listens when we pray, we are sure that our prayers have already been answered.” Notice – “When we ask for what pleases him.” Righteousness. Jesus, of course, said it best (Mt. 6:33 CEV). “But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.” To be righteous is to PUT GOD’S WORK FIRST AND DO WHAT HE WANTS. When we do that, our itches change.