Midweek 5 – 2020 LSB #730
Text – Exodus 20:17
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 is your neighbor’s.
Of people who’ve raised children, & survived, all are familiar with the Toddler Property Laws. They go like this: “If I like it, it’s mine. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine. If I can take it from you, it’s mine. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine. It must never appear to be yours in any way, because it is always & forevermore mine!” Even if I haven’t played with it for days.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all been there, just like Daffy Duck: “It’s mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!” Deep down within there exists an insatiable desire to look at someone’s snow blower or lawnmower, bike or boat, patio or porch – indeed, just about anything & everything that belongs to someone else – & long for it all to be mine!
In this series on the Book of Exodus, tonight we come to the most famous section – the Ten Commandments. Two of them address the sin of coveting. Not one, two! What gives? God repeats what is most important. The 9th & 10th commandments are the most important of the Ten. Why? Because every sin – which means all sadness – begins with coveting.
Coveting is not about wanting things. That’s natural. There is nothing wrong with wanting things. Nothing wrong at all. Coveting, on the other hand, says, “I’ll do whatever it takes to get that. I’ll break any commandment, any statute, any rule, just to make it mine.” Woody Allen famously put it this way: “The heart wants what it wants.”
Translated, that says, “I want it all to be mine!” Coveting is why we worship other gods like our job, our paycheck, & our social status. Coveting is why we fail to honor our parents. It’s why we kill people with our words, & look with lust, lie, cheat & steal. I want it all to be mine! How are we to deal with our titanic desire to acquire? How can we become more obedient to God’s Word & will? How can we break the stranglehold of looking at things & people, always thinking, “Mine”?
The fact is, coveting is natural. Coveting is how we are wired. Coveting comes with being sinners. Being content, though, does not come naturally. Being content is something that is learned. As St. Paul wrote: “I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Being content conquers coveting. Being content conquers coveting – every single time. How does that work? It begins when we:
Realize the Sequence. Usually we rationalize the sequence. “Coveting? No big deal!” This is how to realize the sequence: “Then the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food & pleasing to the eye, she coveted it for gaining wisdom, then she took & ate” (Genesis 3:6). See. Covet. Take.
In Joshua 7:21 we hear, “I saw among the spoils a beautiful mantle from Shinar, & 200 shekels of silver, & a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them, & then I took them.” See. Covet. Take. This sequence appears five more times in the OT. See. Covet. Take.
How often do we rationalize our coveting? We say, “I’m just lookin’!” Lookin’ leads to coveting. Coveting leads to taking. What does taking lead to? James 1:15 tells us, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, & sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.” Realize – don’t rationalize – the sequence! See. Covet. Take. Death!
When we covet our neighbor’s spouse it brings death to marital joy. When we covet each other’s skills, intellect, popularity, family connections – you name it – it brings death to inner peace. When we covet our neighbor’s BMW, Rolex watch, looks, pick your poison – it brings death to our relationship with Jesus. When the author was in the 4th grade, his parents gave him a bike Christmas. It was a stingray bike, flared handlebars, chrome on the side & get this – it had a banana seat. Remember that song by Steppenwolf? “Get your motor runnin’ Head out on the highway Looking for adventure In whatever comes our way! …Born to be wild.”
The author was born to be wild – until he went to Greg Heistand’s house. For Christmas, Greg’s parents gave him a red Schwinn ten-speed bike! When he saw Greg’s red Schwinn ten-speed bike, his motor died!
Left unchecked, coveting drives a stake into our heart & kills us. Just ask Eve. Just ask Achan. Just ask James: “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, & sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.” Being content conquers coveting. So here’s the first step to being content. Realize – don’t rationalize – realize the sequence. See. Covet. Take. Death!
To Personalize Your Salvation is the next step. Usually we generalize our salvation. We say, “Salvation? No big deal.” Wrong! Personalize your salvation. Exodus 20:2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
Not her God; not his God; not their God; not some God; not any God. Yahweh, the LORD, is your God! Exodus 20:5, “I, the LORD your God, am a zealous God.” Your zealous God will do whatever it takes to save you! Your zealous God will do whatever it takes to save you! He did it for you, but not with fleas, flies & frogs. There was a Passover lamb.
Christ’s blood wasn’t splattered on the wood of a house, but on the wood of a Roman cross of death, mingled with sweat, soldier’s spit, & cheap wine. He ended up “crucified, died & buried.” Watch as Joseph of Arimathea places Christ into the garden tomb. Smell the stench of death. See the confines, the darkness, the sealed stone. Feel the utter hopelessness.
Then, witness the charred marks of a divine explosion to life! There is nothing dead
about our Jesus! He lives so He can speak these words straight from His heart to yours – “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of sin & death, out of the house of slavery. I, the LORD your God, am a zealous God. I will do whatever it takes to save you!”
Being content conquers coveting. The 1st step to being content is this. Don’t rationalize the sequence. Realize where it all leads – death! The second step? Don’t generalize your salvation. Personalize it. Jesus is the Passover Lamb who saved me! Repeat that with me.
The last step is to internalize Segulah. Exodus 19:5 says, “Out of all nations you will be my treasured possession [segulah].” God’s desire to acquire us is infinitely greater than ours! From the depths of His loving heart the LORD says, “You are always & forevermore my segulah!” God wants us – warts & all!
This isn’t always the case. Two years ago, just a few minutes before the author officiated at a wedding, the groom leaned over to him & said softly, “You weren’t my 1st choice.” “I wasn’t?” “No, the pastor I wanted couldn’t make it.” “Oh.” “But thanks for filling in.” “Sure. Anytime.” His marriage license was signed, “Your Replacement Reverend!”
God always says, “You are my first choice!” When you were baptized God made you His 1st choice. His choice was not obligatory, required, compulsory, forced, or compelled. God chose you because God loves you. Yahweh looks at you in great love & says, “You are my prized, priceless possession! Segulah!” Imagine that!
The temptation, though, is to trivialize segulah. “What’s the big deal?” Don’t trivialize – internalize – segulah. Let it go deep down into your bones, into every fiber of your being! You are God’s prized, priceless possession! What else tops that?
We’ve considered the heart of the Ten Commandments. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” How does that work? Realize the sequence – see, covet, take, death. Then, personalize your salvation. Internalize segulah. Where’s the power to do this? The strength? The “want to”? It’s in this, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are always & forevermore lovingly, passionately, eternally mine!” Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet