RPM, Volume 15, Number 1, December 30 to January 5, 2013

Just a Little Bit More

The 10th Commandment
Exodus 20:17

By Mike Osborne

Today we come to the end of our series on the Ten Commandments. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as we’ve enjoyed preaching it.

I had three goals for this series:

  • First, I wanted us to develop a new love for the law of God. David in Psa 119 says, “O how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” God gave the moral law for our good. It’s there to protect us and help us grow. It’s there to equip us to be disciples of Jesus and to make disciples for Jesus.

  • o So I really hope you will keep studying the Ten Commandments. Teach them to your children. Make everybody in your home memorize them. Know them by heart. Thank God for them.

  • Second, I wanted our study of the law to spur us to action. The Ten Commandments reveal God’s character to us. They tell us what God loves and what God hates, and they call us to a holy life.

    o Sometimes I hear people say, “I wish I knew the will of God.” Wish no more! The Ten Commandments ARE the will of God. God expects you to obey them. He is your King, and these are the terms of his covenant.

    o John Calvin: “The law is to the flesh like a whip to a sleepy donkey, to arouse it to work.”

    o It’s meant to guide us into the way of obedience.

  • And third… I’ll tell you at the end of the sermon. OK…let’s dive into the 10th commandment.
  • Ex 20:17 — “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or husband, or girlfriend, or boyfriend), his manservant or maidservant, his new Nissan Altima, his Lexus, his hair, her clothes, her body, their children, their church, his 401K, her job, their granite countertops, his athletic ability… or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Two things: 1. The sin of covetousness — what it is 2. The solution to covetousness — how to deal with it

I. The sin of covetousness

What does it mean to covet? To covet means to have an inordinate desire for that which God has not chosen to give you. It’s an insatiable craving for more — for something newer, bigger, faster, better, cheaper, smarter, prettier, nicer than what you currently have... something that you think will complete you, fill your cup, give you a sense of having arrived.

  • Illus.: John D. Rockefeller was once asked, "How much money is enough money?" He replied, "Just a little bit more."
  • That’s how covetousness works. Once you get one thing that you think will satisfy you, you need another, and another, and another.

It’s a very subtle sin. It’s subtle because it’s very easy to hide. Some of the nicest people on the outside are consumed with covetousness on the inside.

I think God waited until the end of the Ten Commandments to pull out the biggest gun in his arsenal.

  • You know, it’s possible, I guess — if you’re looking at the Ten Commandments strictly from a behavioral standpoint — it’s possible to go down through the list and say, “Well, I don’t do that. I’ve never done that. I’m pretty good at that.”
  • But not #10. The 10th commandment lodges silently in your heart. God is saying, “I don’t care how you dress it up, I don’t care how you clean the outside of the cup. You shall not desire things that others have. You shall not grumble in your heart when others get ahead. You shall not wince in your heart over the blessings of other people. You shall not crave things I have chosen to withhold from you.”

Covetousness is rampant in our society. It fuels the consumerist culture that runs our economy. It’s glamorized in TV commercials. It’s at the heart of our addiction to work and pornography and money and other things.

And it’s toxic to the soul. In the Bible you see many examples of what it does to people…

  • Achan coveted the treasures of Jericho and lost his life and family.
  • Saul coveted the possessions of the Amalekites and was rejected as King of Israel.
  • David coveted Bathsheba and things were never the same in Israel again.
  • Judas coveted 30 pieces of silver and handed Jesus over to the Romans. And there are other examples as well.

Coveting is worse than jealousy. Jealousy says, “I want what you have.” Coveting means harm to your neighbor. It says, “I want what you have, and I don’t want you to have it. In fact I resent you because you have it and I don’t.”

  • Notice the word “neighbor” in the 10th commandment — it’s in there three times: “your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s wife, anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
  • Coveting is extra sinful because it contains the seed of hatred toward your neighbor. At the core of covetousness is a bitter spirit toward other people.

That’s why the opposite of coveting is not just contentment. That’s part of it, to be sure. But the opposite of coveting is love. You see this in Matt 19:16-19 (the rich young ruler)…

  • Do not murder — 6th
  • Do not commit adultery — 7th
  • Do not steal — 8th
  • Do not give false testimony — 9th
  • Honor your father and mother — 5th
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) — 10th

The Westminster Larger Catechism picks up on this (Q 147):

  • “What are the duties required in the 10th commandment?”
  • “The duties required in the 10th commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto and further all that good which is his.”

In other words, the opposite of coveting what your neighbor has is celebrating what your neighbor has.

Now let me correct a possible misunderstanding.

Desires are not necessarily sinful. Desire, in itself, is not bad. There are many good things in the world that we should desire. It’s good to desire that the people suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy get relief. It’s good to desire that your candidate win the election on Tuesday. It’s fine to desire good clothes and good food. “God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17). Husbands and wives should desire a good marriage. The desire for sex within marriage, the desire for a nice home, the desire for the advance of the gospel — these and many others are good and right to desire. We are not Buddhists, we are Christians. Buddhism teaches that you should get rid of desires. Christianity teaches otherwise. We are human beings with bodies and souls, and human beings were made to desire. That’s one way we are like God.

So when does desire become covetousness?

  • Example: Suppose you invite my wife and me over for dinner, and in your house is a home entertainment system to die for. I mean, 70” LED flat screen TV, 3D, Blu-Ray, surround sound, state of the art everything. It’s like a Regal IMAX Cineplex in there.
  • OK, so when I first walk into this theatre of yours, I desire it in the sense that I appreciate it. It’s beautiful. I think to myself, “Nice! This is really cool! This would be really fun!”
  • But then, something begins to happen. Suddenly I feel inferior, incomplete. My mouth starts to water. My heart starts to move toward your home entertainment system. I say to myself, “I could get one of those, and one of those, and one of those. I could open an account at Best Buy. We could tear down that wall next to the kitchen. This would be more fun than those counter-tops Suzy’s been talking about.”
  • See what I’m doing? I’m nursing my desire. My desire is turning into a plan.
  • And then another thought rises up in my heart. It’s more sinister. I think to my self-righteous self, “Besides, why does he have all this stuff? I bet he went into debt to get this. Doesn’t he know people are starving in other parts of the world? He doesn’t even appreciate good music like I do.”
  • See? Desire has become a plan, and the plan has become resentment and hate.

At the beginning of that process, simple desire was OK. But as soon as I start to nurse that desire and as soon as I think that what I desire will give me life, and as soon as I resent my neighbor for what he or she has, it’s covetousness.

  • And according to Col 3:5, covetousness is idolatry. Which means I’ve come full circle and I’m right back to breaking the first commandment — “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Desire is good. Desire for the wrong things and with the wrong intent is a violation of the 10th commandment.

II. So what’s the solution? How do you fight coveting?

Turn to Psalm 34:4-9.

  • Imagine being completely content with who you are and what you have.
  • Imagine never being jealous or envious of somebody else, and actually rejoicing with them in their prosperity or their honor or whatever it is.
  • Is that possible? Yes, it is.

Can it be that Jesus Christ is so good, so wonderful, so satisfying, that all your desires find their fulfillment in him? Is it possible that Jesus and his love are far more glorious than you have yet discovered? And were you to discover more of the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ, is it possible that you would stop craving that home entertainment system, or that skinnier body, or that job, or that car, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor?

YES! “Those who look to HIM are radiant. Those who fear HIM lack no good thing.”

See, friends, your problem is not that your desires are too strong. They are actually too weak. To borrow from C. S. Lewis, you’re content making mud pies in a slum when God is offering you a holiday at the sea. You’re looking for life, and love, and beauty, and pleasure in material things, and things that are going to pass away, and things that God in his wisdom has not given you. And all the while Jesus is standing right there, saying, “Come to me, the fountain of living water, the bread of life, the light of the world, and I will give you rest.”

Illus.: A covetous person is like someone trying to live on candy corn. Last Tuesday was National Candy Corn Day. I love candy corn. Candy corn is good. But it’s not that good. I’d rather have a meal at Four Rivers BBQ, wouldn’t you?

In the same way, Jesus is infinitely better than everything this world has to offer.

  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
  • “His love is better than life” (Psa 63). “My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.”

Remember at the beginning I said that there were three reasons I wanted to preach through the Ten Commandments? First reason — to help you develop a love for God’s law. Second reason — to stir you to action and obedience. Third reason — to drive you to Jesus.

The law of God reveals your sin so you’ll take it to the cross and leave it there. And that’s particularly true of the 10th commandment, because like I said, this commandment more than all the others exposes the heart.

  • Paul in Rom 7 — Paul thought he was a pretty good guy until he read the 10th commandment. “The 10th commandment put me to death! I would have not known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ This commandment showed me my sin like none of the others.”
  • So what did Paul do? He ran to Jesus. He said, “Help me, Lord!” He took his sin to the cross and believed that Jesus died for it. He says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Next time you covet something, do what Paul did. Cry out to Jesus. Thank Jesus that you lack no good thing. Sing that song, “Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.” Thank him for his love, which is better than life. Thank him for obeying the law for you, and dying on the cross for your disobedience. Ask him for help. Say to him, “Wretched man that I am! Wretched woman that I am! Who will rescue me from coveting after things that don’t matter? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord.”

And if you struggle with covetousness (and all of us do), come to the table. Come to Jesus and rest. Believe that “his grace is enough.” Believe that the only Person whose opinion really matters has said that you are complete in Christ, that your sins are paid for, that you’ve been adopted, that you are his and he is yours, and you are rich beyond measure in him.

Preach the gospel to yourself when you are tempted to covet position or possessions or power or prosperity. Those things do not satisfy. Jesus satisfies.

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