As I was leaving the worship service at my church last week, I told someone, “Man, my toes hurt! It’s hard to preach the Ten Commandments!” Every week during this series at my church, I’ve felt like I’m stepping on my own toes. These commandments are challenging. They tell us how to live a godly life together, but they also step on our toes as they draw our attention to the many ways we fall short. They point out how desperately we need God’s grace and forgiveness. So even as we recognize our sin, we enjoy God’s unconditional love more fully when we humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness.
We have one more commandment to study. But before we dive into this last one, let’s look at all ten together. By now, I hope you’ve completed the challenge to memorize them. If not, then keep working on it. The Commandments are found in Exodus 20:1-17.
The Ten Commandments:
1. Do not worship any God except the Lord.
2. Do not make idols of any kind.
3. Do not misuse the name of the Lord.
4. Remember to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Do not murder.
7. Do not commit adultery
8. Do not steal.
9. Do not testify falsely against your neighbor.
10. Do not covet.
Today we will look at the Tenth Commandment as found in 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.”
Farm TruckFor years, Kelly and I have talked about one day getting an old truck. (Everyone needs a truck now and then, right?) We have especially needed one since we moved here to Dalton. We don't have garbage service where I live. Who wants to load up garbage cans into the back of a minivan to haul to the recycle center? But that’s what I used to have to do—along with lumber for projects back at the house and even goats for Mullis Farm! What we needed was an old truck.
Well, we got that farm truck in an unexpected way about 2 years ago. My girls and I were in an accident on the interstate coming home from a movie. Thank the Lord, no one was hurt—that was a miracle considering our minivan was completely totaled. We were blessed to have good car insurance and ended up coming out of the whole thing pretty well. Thanks to folks down at North Georgia Toyota, we were able to buy a slightly newer, nicer Toyota Sienna than we had before—one that hadn’t been used to haul goats and garbage. And, we had enough money left over—along with some tax return money—to buy an old farm truck so we wouldn’t have to put goats and garbage in the new van.
Our farm truck is a 1992 Chevy Silverado and it fits the bill for what we need. It’s nothing fancy and the AC doesn’t work anymore, but it’s reliable and works great for hauling trash, lumber, goats, pigs, hay, and whatever else needs hauling. Plus, it has enough seating inside that we can fit the whole family in it (even if they fuss a little about it). It’s old enough that I don’t care if it gets scratched or dented or dirty. But there’s one thing the truck doesn’t have that I wish it did—four-wheel-drive. It get's stuck in the mud and snow real easy. And even though the Lord blessed me with this truck, the Devil sometimes uses it as a tool to make me sin.
It started that first winter after we bought the truck. We had several snow storms and Kelly is a nurse. She doesn’t get the day off when it snows. She has to go in. They even require nurses to sleep at the hospital when they get off shift if there’s any question of being able to get back for their next shift. Now, we have plenty of friends who have 4-wheel-drives who have offered to pick Kelly up and take her to work when the snow is on the ground. But, I still found myself wishing I had bought a truck with 4-wheel-drive.
So now, I find myself struggling with this Tenth Commandment. One minute I will be driving down the road in "old blue," feeling thankful that the Lord: 1) protected me and my girls during that accident, 2) gave me a great truck that despite being so old, runs great. Then, the next minute, the Devil draws my attention to another old truck driving on the road or parked on a curb for sale. I start looking. “Is it four-wheel-drive? Man, I wish this truck was four-wheel-drive like that one.”
To covet: to yearn to possess or have (something). The sin of coveting is a particular struggle in America, because it is so engrained in our culture. To a large degree, our economy relies on people who covet. Right? We are motivated to get ahead because we see things we want and we work hard to earn the money to get them. In Dalton, we live in the "carpet capital of the world" because people all over the world covet nice houses with elegant flooring. Their desires require someone to make elegant flooring. So factories in our community manufacture elegant flooring—which provides jobs for thousands of people who also covet things like houses, cars, clothes, entertainment, etc. And the cycle continues.
However, coveting is a symptom of deeper spiritual problems. First off, it is evidence that we are not thankful for what we have. Most of us are already blessed with so much. Almost half the world lives on less than $730/year while here in America we earn about $50,000/year. And yet, how much time do we spend truly being thankful for what we already have? Not nearly as much time as we spend longing for even more.
Coveting may be a sign of an idolatrous heart. Idolatry is when we look for fulfillment from created things in ways that only God can fulfill us. We think “If I could just have that new house, that new job, that new relationship, that new body, that new phone, that four-wheel-drive truck…” But these things are never enough. We always want more. That greed, that selfishness, that covetousness, is not good. It turns us away from God. It breaks our relationship with the source of True Fulfillment and seeks to replace Him with things that cannot satisfy.
The Devil loves it when we covet, because he can use it against us. He takes the desire in us and tricks us into thinking it must be satisfied. And often, we are willing to commit other sins to achieve our desires. Coveting gives birth to lies, stealing, cheating, extramarital affairs, murder, corruption, pain and hurt. Ultimately, it is a sin that turns our hearts away from God.
Colossians 3:5 says, “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”
Brothers and sisters, pray to the Lord to help you put to death a covetous heart. Stop dreaming about the things you don't have. Be thankful for what the Lord has graciously given you already. Be filled with His goodness. Be lost in His love. Be overwhelmed by your blessings.
InvitationWe all fall short. We covet. We steal. We lie. We break the 10 Commandments and they point out that we are sinners. But the Good News is, through Christ, we can be forgiven and make a fresh start. Jesus did not come to condemn you, but to save you. Wouldn’t you like to be saved? Wouldn’t you like to be forgiven and make a fresh start today? Then humble yourself. Bow your head and pray to the one who can save you from your sin and set you on the right path.