Summary: Don't want what your neighbor has. Instead, want your own mate and a real relationship with the Living God.
When Kevin Miller’s brother, Dean, was six years old, one of his teeth fell out. He took that precious little treasure and put it under his pillow, expecting something in return. When he woke up the next morning, the Tooth Fairy had brought him a quarter.
A few weeks later, another tooth fell out, and the same thing happened.
When a third tooth dropped out, Dean had had enough. He wrote a little note and put it under his pillow. It read:
Dear Tooth Fairy:
I have been a good boy. I wonder if you could give me $1 for my tooth, because I could use more money. (Kevin Miller, www.PreachingToday.com)
Who of us couldn’t use more money?
The fact is no matter how much people make, recent studies show that they need about 10% more to feel comfortable. Whether they earn $30,000 a year or $60,000 or $250,000 or a cool million, just 10% more is what they want.
Then when people do get that 10%, which typically happens over the course of a few years, Loyola Marymount University Professor Christopher Kaczor reports “they want just another 10%, and so on, ad infinitum.” (Ted Scofield, "Everybody Else's Biggest Problem, Pt. 5: You're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat," Mockingbird blog, 9-8-15; www.PreachingToday.com)
It seems that contentment is an elusive goal for many. How about you? Can you say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11), or do you always need about 10% more?
If you’re like me, you could always use about 10% more, so what is the solution to feeling like you have enough? What is the key to real satisfaction? What is the secret to lasting contentment? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 20, Exodus 20, where God shares that secret.
Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male serant, or his female servant, or his ox. Or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. (ESV)
The secret to contentment and lasting satisfaction is not in getting more; It is wanting less. It is not having what you want, but wanting what you have! The word, “covet,” literally means to desire or to want. And God says…
DON’T WANT WHAT YOUR NEIGHBOR HAS.
Don’t desire your neighbor’s stuff. Don’t lust after his wife or his possessions. Don’t long for things that don’t belong to you.
If your neighbor gets a new car, if your neighbor builds a new addition to his house, if your neighbor buys some fancy clothes, if your neighbor gets a lucrative business contract, if your neighbor gets an “A” on a test, if your neighbor gets a bigger paycheck than you, don’t envy that neighbor. Don’t be jealous of his or her success.
Instead, “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” Romans 12:15 says. Be glad about their success, and don’t think, “I’ve got to have what they have.”
You see, a lot of our financial troubles come when we think we’re entitled to more, just because somebody else has more. We don’t appreciate what we already have, so we pursue more stuff and end up losing everything.
Wanting more actually gives you less in the long run.
One day, a young Charles Darwin was eagerly holding a rare beetle in his right fist and another in his left when suddenly he caught sight of a third beetle that he simply knew he must have for his collection. What to do? In a flash, he put one of the beetles in his mouth for safekeeping and reached for the third beetle with his now free hand. But the beetle in Darwin’s mouth squirted acid down his throat – so that in a fit of coughing he lost all three beetles. (James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988, p. 26)
That’s really a good picture of what happens when you’re not content with what you have. When you covet something that’s out there, you end up losing even what you do have. Coveting is personally ruinous, and that’s bad enough.
But coveting also destroys relationships. Jealousy ruins friendships. Envy tears people apart.
In her new book, Linda Ronstadt: Simple Dreams, the 11-time Grammy Award singer recalls the first time she heard Emmylou Harris sing. She wrote:
My first reaction to it was slightly conflicted. First, I loved her singing wildly. Second, in my opinion, she was doing what I was trying to do, only a whole lot better. Then came a split-second decision that I made that affected the way I listened to and enjoyed music for the rest of my life. I thought that if I allowed myself to become envious of Emmy, it would be painful to listen to her, and I would deny myself the pleasure of it. If I simply surrendered to loving what she did, I could take my rightful place among the other drooling Emmylou fans, and then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to sing with her.” Linda said, “I surrendered.”