“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servants, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17
I guess it is safe to assume that all – yes, all – of us struggle with this commandment. There is not one who can say that he is above this or has dealt with covetousness so thoroughly that it is no longer an issue. The sad truth is, even if I am not coveting at a particular moment, I am still covetous! Deep within me, covetousness is hidden or nicely tucked away, waiting to be revealed at the next available opportunity. How do I know this so well? I know this from first-hand, personal experience. Mind you, I don’t declare this with pride but with disappointment.
I have a favourite saying of my own: “By myself, I am the perfect Christian. But put me in the presence of others, and the real me surfaces.” This I have found to be true of the covetousness in me too. On my own, I am happy (or so I think) with what I have. Then I see what others have and I begin to think about how nice it would be to have the same thing too. I rationalise that it would enhance my work and make me more effective for ministry. Or I could be really happy with my little car … nothing fancy and it gets me from Point A to Point B. Then, I sit in someone else’s car, sinking into the plush leather seats. I look at the new hi-tech gadgets that come as a standard. Even the beep of the reverse sensor sounds sweeter and more in-tune.
When I travel from home to work, and from work to home, I am thankful for the roof over my head. Then, I visit a few homes and I notice the huge living rooms, the swimming pools, the gyms, the quiet surrounding of private properties. I begin to fantasise that perhaps God would understand (and provide, even) if I got myself into some debt that I might enjoy the same comforts. After all, if anyone needed a bigger house with more facilities, that would be me. But wouldn’t a bigger house require more work and effort to keep it neat, tidy and spotless? And so, my covetous heart proceeds to contemplate the luxuries of having a few maids to help my dear wife manage the household chores and cooking.
Yes, I have covetousness hidden in my heart. And it will always be there unless I learn what it truly means to have Christ and His words hidden in me instead. Without Jesus, I am prone to find my security and sufficiency in the things and comforts of this world. I will never be satisfied with what I have if I am not first satisfied with who Christ is to me. If I am not careful, these I crave for can become hidden idols that I secretly worship in my heart. When outwardly I profess Jesus, inwardly I am adulterous and unfaithful to Him. Instead of seeking Him for who He is, I seek Him to provide that which rivals Him.
Dear Lord, search my heart and enable me to deal with the hidden covetousness that is there. Open my eyes to see the beauty of Jesus and His glory that fully and truly satisfies. Teach me to rejoice with others when I see how they are blessed. Remind me to always be thankful for what I have and in all situations. May I learn as Paul learnt – to be content in whatever state he found himself, relying solely and wholly in the Person of Jesus who alone strengthens him. Amen!