(watch here: https://youtu.be/grtVtEnCyuc)
17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
In keeping with the pattern of this sermon series on the Ten Commandments, I thought I’d first lift up another set of funny rules. The rules for dogs, dieting, and managers were funny enough but not quite as funny as this list of 10 rules left by a mom for her babysitter:
1. I encourage the kids to watch as much tv as possible, so they will leave me the heck alone. Feel free to do the same.
2. Don’t waste your valuable time cooking or providing healthy snacks. Just give them the pizza and snacks I leave.
3. They do still breastfeed on demand. Just download a video on YouTube. It’s not hard or I would not do it.
4. Do not take any kittens/candy/puppies from David. Or take a ride in his van.
5. If any of my neighbors come to the door, treat them like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Don’t lend them any eggs/milk/cigarettes. They know where the store is. And -no-, you don’t want to babysit for them.
6. Let the kids have as much sugar as they want, as long as they will go away. They take pills to sleep anyway.
7. If you have any boys over just make sure they have an uncle/dad/brother/friend that I can call later.
8. Don’t answer the house phone unless you feel like paying bills.
9. If you look through my drawers, please throw away any overdue bills and gum wrappers.
10. Do not believe ANYTHING the kids tell you.
Hmmm…not your typical list of rules left for the babysitter. I can only imagine the sitter’s reaction to such an absurd list. Not quite the gravity of God’s list of rules. No, God’s list is of utmost importance if we are to live in harmony with God and our neighbor. A sitter isn’t expected to live in harmony with the children. A sitter is expected to maintain order while the parents are away. WE are expected to live in harmony though.
And there is no surer way to live in disharmony than to covet our neighbor’s house and belongings. Dishonoring, killing, philandering, stealing, and lying are sure ways to break down relationships with others, especially people who trust and love us. But coveting is a far more insidious way to destroy relationships. Yes, it’ll destroy relationships but not quite as suddenly as the other ways. Coveting is a methodical destroyer. It’s a “drip, drip, drip” kind of destroyer. When we covet our neighbor’s belongings, it is more than simply desiring them. It is being consumed with the belongings and figuring out ways to take the belongings away. It is being consumed with justifying taking away the belongings. Either God wasn’t fair in allotting his blessings or the neighbor doesn’t deserve his blessings, so a covetous person believes. And since the neighbor didn’t earn the belongings, it is only right that it should be taken away. A covetous mind is a devilish mind indeed! Eventually it’ll lead to stealing or philandering or lying, maybe even killing, to get what it wants and the relationship will be destroyed.
Beneath covetousness lies a far more contemptible sin. At its root, covetousness reveals a lack of contentment and faith in God’s goodness. God blesses each of us uniquely. Each of us has a unique set of needs and wants as determined by how God created us. None of us is created identically, nor do we have identical life situations. We all are different and need and want different things. Lucky for us, we all have a God who has the ability to provide for each our unique needs and wants. Our God is an awesome God! Our God’s goodness is more than any of us could possibly imagine! Our God is not only able to provide but eagerly wants to provide! Now then, if we believe these things to be true about our God, how is it that we can believe that He is unfair in allotting his blessings? How is it that we can believe that God’s blessings aren’t enough? We can’t believe either! There is a fairness to God’s blessings and He is more than generous in his blessings.
Our God is a good and gracious God. He always wants to be in relationship with us. And He wants us to be in relationship with each other. Yes, the first and foremost commandment commands us to stay in relationship with him but most of the remaining commandments encourage us to stay in relationship with each other. We need each other whether we like to believe it or not. And we need to be content with what God blesses each of us. Recall what Jesus taught us concerning worrying: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt. 6:31-33) God knows both our needs and our wants and God knows how to provide for them. We must keep faith in his providence…his good and just providence.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul conveyed what he gained through contentment: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12-13) You see, we are strengthened in contentment. It is in our discontentment, in our covetousness, that we become weak. Timothy wrote, “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” (1 Tim. 6:6-7) There is a fairness to God’s blessings and He is more than generous in his blessings.
God’s commandments teach us how to stay in relationship with him and with our neighbors. It is important to stay in relationship. God thinks so…why else would He give us these 10 commandments?! Let us heed his commands and seek to stay in relationship. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.