10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 15
Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be rich, but he would be twice as wealthy. do you wish for a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?” The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, “Here’s my request: strike me blind in one eye!”
What is it about human nature that we are never satisfied with what we have? Our neighbors by a new car and we find ourselves thinking, “I need a new car too.” Or you’re on your way to work and you see a beautiful motor home leisurely coasting down the road, and you think to yourself, “Why can’t that be me?” Even friendships are affected by it. A lady said, “I’m allergic to fur. Whenever I see my best friend in one, I get sick!” What causes us to feel that way? It’s the word coveting. It steals our satisfaction and leaves us with a hollow feeling of dissatisfaction. The advertising world has mastered the art of crafting the desire for more. We’re led to believe we need more; we deserve more. If we have more, it will make us happy. But in reality, the desire for more and more only makes us more unhappy. Don Robinson writes, One of the weaknesses of our age is (the) inability to distinguish needs from greeds.
Today, we’re going to finish our series on the Ten Commandments. The tenth commandment says, You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20:17, NAS). What is coveting? To covet means having a wrong desire for that which is not rightfully yours. The desire to want things is not bad in itself. The Bible says it is the Lord who gives the ability gain wealth (Deut. 8:18). James reminds us Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). God made the world we live in with all kinds of good, desirable, and wonderful things. He’s given us the desire to want them. The problem is when we want things that are not ours to have. God says, there are some things that are off limits. They are not yours to want. In fact, if you do go after them, they will harm you.
Why do we need this last commandment? Because all other commandments are outward; they deal with our actions. This one is inward; it deals with our attitude. It deals with our heart, the place where we really live; the place where real love, understanding and obedience toward God must come from. The heart is the one place where obedience cannot be feigned. This commandment also reminds us that the Lord searches all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts(1 Chron. 28:9). man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). This commandment sums up all the others; God is looking for people who will love and serve Him from their hearts.
Let me give you one final reason this commandment is needed. Before God gave the Ten Commandments, He reminded Israel of Who He is. He is the One who rescued Israel from slavery that made their lives miserable; a slavery that made that misery even worse knowing they were unable to escape. But God did the impossible – He rescued them. He is also the One who provided their every need in the barren lifeless desert; a place that was incapable of sustaining them. There was no water, but God miraculously produced fresh, clear, cool water for them once from, of all things, a rock! There was no food, but God miraculously delivered Heavenly bread to their doorstep every day without fail for forty years. There was no city or walled refuge to protect. They were sitting ducks for their enemies. But God raised a wall of fear between and their foes. There were no clothing stores or shopping malls to replenish their clothes (no J.C. Penney’s, Duluth’s, T.J. Max, Del Sol’s, not even any Thrift Stores). Yet God miraculously preserved their clothes for forty years (Deut. 8:4). I still have some T-shirts that are twenty years old, and they look like it! So, when God gave His Ten Commandments, He was saying, “I don’t want you to forget how I’ve provided and protected you all these years. Now, I’m giving you My Ten Commandments to protect and provide for your souls. In all this, I want you to remember I Am the One who is The Answer to your quest for contentment.” The heart of the tenth commandment is that God is enough.
So, this morning we’re going to do two things: 1) look at what always wanting more does to you and 2) how you can learn to be satisfied.
First, what always wanting more does to you. Unmasking The Perils of Coveting. There are any number of stories in the Bible that expose the perils of coveting, but there is one that almost immediately came to mind as I thought through the tenth commandment. It is the original Grapes of Wrath story before John Steinbeck. It is a classic story about coveting: two men and one piece of choice property. Turn with me to 1 Kings 21. (Read 1 Kings 21:1-27). Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house (1 Kings 21:2). There are three perils or unavoidable hazards of what coveting does to us that I want us to see in this passage. 1) It deceives us, 2) It defiles us, and 3) It destroys us.
- It deceives. Covetousness is an all-too-common condition. Many of us suffer from it and don’t but don’t
want to admit it. We tend to treat covetousness as a minor sin, but it is the major reason many are unhappy. This was especially true of the gloomy king Ahab.
Ahab’s miserable reign lasts for twenty-two years. He is the eighth king of Northern Israel in an unbroken succession of 19 wicked kings. Ahab along with Omri his father, were the most wicked kings of them all. What made Ahab perhaps a notch worse than his father was his equally wicked wife, Jezebel. There was no one like him who sold himself to do evilin the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him (1 Kings 21:5).
One day Ahab looks out his palace window and notices Naboth’s vineyard next door. Israel had only recently come through a server three-year drought due to Ahab’s disdain for God. Ahab sees that Naboth’s vineyard is doing amazingly well, the vines were bursting with ripe grapes. A consuming thought forms in his mind that he’d like to have this vineyard for himself. He tells himself he’s just got to have that vineyard. So, he arranges a meeting with Naboth. He tells Naboth he wants to get out of the grape business altogether Ahab was prepared to purchase it for a fair price or give him an even better vineyard in trade. Naboth tells the king there is no way he can sale his vineyard, even to the king. The land was given to his family by God as their inheritance. Naboth knew his Bible. The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine(Lev. 25:23). He knew the land belonged to God. Naboth shines as a man who has not turned his back on God like so many others in his day. He was not about to violate God’s law even for the king. Maybe Ahab admired and respected Naboth’s piety. I don’t know. But for some reason, Ahab doesn’t push the issue.
Naboth’s refusal to give up his vineyard sends Ahab into an emotional tailspin. One of the ways we know we’re smitten with covetousness is how we react when we don’t get what we want. Ahab does the first thing any spoiled tyrant does when he doesn’t get his own way, he pouts. It’s a wonder he didn’t trip over his lower lip as he made his way to back to the palace! Going to his room, throws himself onto his bed and stares at the wall, brooding. He’s so mad he refuses to eat. He is tortured. He wants what he knows is not rightfully his and he is consumed with an unholy desire.
When dinner time roles around, Jezebel see’s that Ahab’s place at the table is empty. It seems Ahab wasn’t the type to miss a meal. She finds him pouting in his room. Being the good wife that she is, she asks him what’s eating him. He tells her Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to him, and it has crushed him emotionally. He can’t take it. Jezebel tells him not to worry. The vineyard is as good as his already. Just trust her. Never trust a Jezebel’s plan to help you!
Part of her plan was to proclaim a fast. A fast was proclaimed when some calamity struck the land. As a show of humility, people would fast. In this case, they not only fasted, but sought out a scapegoat as well. Someone had to pay for the calamity, and that someone was unfortunate Naboth. Two worthless fellows, it says, announce Naboth has cursed God and the king. Naboth is drug out and stoned. 2 Kings 9:26 implies that not only was Naboth murdered, but so were his sons. With no heirs, Ahab was insuring the property would always be his.
The vineyard is finally in Ahab’s hands. But the moment he goes to enjoy the spoils of his ill-gotten gain Elijah the prophet confronts him. Elijah gives Ahab a frightening prediction – because Ahab had sold himself to do this evil, God is going take the life of Ahab, his wonderful wife, and his sons. Where the dogs licked up Naboth’s innocent blood, they will lick up Ahab’s blood.
Ahab’s disastrous life wasn’t a complete waste. He is a lesson of how covetousness deceives. There are several aspects of his deception we can glean from his life.
A. What we covet will never be enough. Ahab had a kingdom, but that wasn’t enough. He felt poor until
he had Naboth’s vineyard. English writer Samuel Johnson writes: Our desires always increase with our possessions. The knowledge that something remains yet unenjoyed impairs our enjoyment of the good before us. Johnson’s words describe Ahab to a “T”. Those who love money will never have enough (Ecclesiastes 5:11a, NLT).
B. What we covet will never last. By murdering Naboth’s sons, Ahab hoped to gain permanent
ownership of the vineyard. Naboth reminded Ahab the land was not his to give. It belonged to God (Lev. 25:23). The reality is, we own nothing in this life. The Bible says we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it (1 Tim. 6:7).In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle (Proverbs 23:5).
C. What we covet will never satisfy. Covetousness will lead us to believe once we obtain
whatever it is we’re after we’ll be satisfied. If you had the world, you still wouldn’t be satisfied for the simple reason you were made for more than this world. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! (Ecclesiastes 5:11b). Covetousness not only deceives us, it defies us as well.
- It defiles. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts,
murders,adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23, NAS). Jesus’ words are God’s X-ray of the human heart. Twice Jesus points out that the things which defile us comes from within, from our hearts. The late pastor Adrian Rogers points out: A man is not an adulterer because he commits adultery. He commits adultery because he’s an adulterer. A man is not a thief because he steals. He steals because he’s a thief. A man is not a liar because he tells lies. He lies because he is a liar. These things came out of him.
This was the great discovery the Apostle Paul. One day, as a proud Pharisee, Paul began taking a religious inventory of his life. Taking out his list of Ten Commandments he carried in his back pocket, he began checking the boxes. Hmmm… ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.’ Check. Kept that one. ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol.’ Check. No problem there. As he continued down the list, he confidently checked each of the boxes. With every box he checked his heart swelled more and more with religious pride. He wasn’t a murder, or an adulterer, or a thief. He always told the truth. Then he came to the tenth commandment – You shall not covet. Just as he was about to cross the finish line of perfection, the bottom came out from under his feet. Listen to what he says in Romans 7: What shall we say then?Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7). It was this commandment that knocked Paul’s self-righteous feet out from under him. Francis Schaffer wrote, ‘Thou shall not covet’ is the internal commandment which shows the man who thinks himself to be moral that he really needs a Savior. The average such ‘moral’ man, who has lived comparing himself to other men and comparing himself to a rather easy list of rules can feel, like Paul, that he is getting along alright. But suddenly, when he is confronted with the inward command not to covet, he is brought to his knees(Ryken, p.207). No matter how good you think you are on the outside, God knows your heart. Someone might say they’ve broken the other commandments, but they can’t say they’ve truly kept them in their heart. Covetousness deceives us and defiles us.
- It destroys. What we covet will ultimately bring regret. I don’t think Ahab ever enjoyed Naboth’s
vineyard. I believe every time he looked out of his palace window there was no enjoyment, only pain. The very thing he thought would bring him joy and contentment, left him feeling all the more empty. The truth is, there is a little Ahab in all of our hearts. We may not have committed murder, but we have all struggled with covetousness. One of the most common ways is getting rich. Paul warns,But those who want to get rich fall intotemptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs(1 Timothy 6:9-10). The bottom line is the tenth commandment show us we need a Savior. We need something more than this world can offer to heal our sin-broken lives and satisfy our hearts. Jesus’ warning could not have been more sobering than when He cautioned, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions (Luke 12:15).
Former president of Wheaton Bible College Philip Ryken notes, As long as we base our sense of contentment on anything in the world, we will always find some excuse to make us miserable. Our problem is not on the outside – it’s on the inside, and therefore it will never be solved by getting more of what we think we want. If we do not learn to be satisfied in our present situation – whatever it is – we will never be satisfied at all. Charles Swindoll once quoted a poem: It was Spring, but it was Summer I wanted: The warm days and the great outdoors. It was Summer, but it was Fall that I wanted: The colorful leaves and the cool dry air. It was Fall, but it was Winter I wanted: The beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was Winter, but it was Spring I wanted: The warmth and the blessing of nature. I was a child, and it was adulthood I wanted: The freedom and the respect. I was 20 but was 30 I wanted: To be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged, but it was 20 that I wanted: The youth and the free spirit. I was retired, but it was middle-aged I wanted: The presence of mind without limitations. My live was over, and I never got what I wanted.
How do find contentment? Finding Contentment Two important choices.
- Determine to be content with what God has given you. Make sure that your character is free
from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Solomon said it this way, Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 6:9, NLT). Learning to enjoy and appreciate what you do have is that antidote discontentment. At its core, covetousness is trying to find contentment in the wrong things. The right things are enjoying what God has given you.
Years ago I flew to Seattle to be with a young family whom the mother was in the hospital struggling to live. She had a rare form of cancer that left her isolated for weeks in a hospital bed separated from her family. Seeing the added pain of being separated from her family caused me to realize there are so many simple things in life that bring us more joy and satisfaction than we’re aware. To have an ordinary night at home with her family would have meant the world to her. She eventually came home and was able to be with her family. Not many years later, God called her Home. She reminded me contentment is enjoying what you have realizing it is more than you’re think.
- Delight in knowing that God Himself is the source of our contentment. Augustine wrote,
As there is nothing greater or better than God Himself, God has promised us Himself. God shall be the end of all our desires, who will be seen without end, loved without cloy (distasteful excess), and praised without weariness. Solomon asks in Ecclesiastes For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from Him? (Eccl. 2:25). In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11). God is the source of our true contentment, our satisfaction in life. Without Him, life would be empty. Randy Alcorn writes: Flowers are beautiful because God is beautiful. Rainbows are stunning because God is stunning. Puppies are delightful because God is delightful. God is the Creator and lavish Giver of contentment. He who did not spareHis own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32). Alcorn reminds us, The God who gave us His Son delights to graciously ‘give us all things.’ These ‘things’ are in addition to Christ, but they are never instead of Him – they come along ‘with Him.’ If we didn’t have Christ, we would have nothing. But because we have Christ, we have everything (Alcorn, 50 Days of Heaven, p.19).
God does not offer us Jesus as an alternate means of satisfying us. No, God gives us Jesus because He knows Jesus is more than we will ever realize we need. It is in Jesus we find forgiveness; the ability to be free from guilt, shame, and sin. It is in Jesus we find what our souls deeply long for – eternal peace, joy, acceptance, security, belonging, purpose. It is in Jesus we learn that God will never turn His back on us or abandon us. It is in Jesus we learn God is constantly with us, watching over us, caring for us, guiding as our Good Shepherd. God promises, Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed(Romans 10:11). For this is contained in Scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed (1 Peter 2:6). Simple faith in Christ is the answer to our discontentment.