Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Covetousness and its Opposite

"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" Exodus 20:17
Okay, I don't think any of us has been coveting their neighbor's donkey or ox lately, although some of my friends around Gatesville might be involved in some goat coveting :-)
This post is the outflow of a battle I'm having in my own mind with covetousness a.k.a lust, desires, passions etc., so I thought I'd share some of the Truth that I have found regarding this for your encouragement. (Just a note here-we often associate lust with sexual temptation, and it very often is, but sinful lust and desires can be for anything, good or bad, that we desire above Christ. It can be as simple as the desire for peace and quiet when your children are clamoring for your attention, and becoming sinfully angry when there is no peace and quiet to be found :-)

1. Coveting doubts the goodness and provision of God. It is an indictment on His character. The first example that came to mind was Eve in the garden. God had abundantly provided for Adam and Eve a multitude of different kinds of fruits and vegetables to enjoy. He had been good to them beyond measure. He had limited them in only one thing, they could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That one thing that was withheld from them was the very thing that the Serpent used to tempt Eve. He essentially told her that God was keeping something back from them that would make them REALLY happy. It was a lie, and plunged all of us into the devastation of a sinful world. So when your mind starts to wander to that place where you think, "I would be so happy if...." recognize it as the lie that it is and resist its allure.

2. Coveting is essentially desire for pleasure, and more than that a desire for the fulfillment of our pleasure at the expense of fellowship with God. In the case of unbelievers, it is at the expense of their eternal souls. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the DESIRES OF THE FLESH, the DESIRES OF THE EYES, and the PRIDE OF POSSESSIONS is not from the Father, but is from the world, and the world is passing away WITH ITS DESIRES, BUT WHOEVER DOES THE WILL OF GOD ABIDES FOREVER." I John 2:15
Our pastor in San Antonio once compared this verse to the temptation of Eve. Genesis 3:6 says," So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food ("desires of the flesh") that it was a delight to the eyes ("the desires of the eyes") and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise ("the pride of possessions" or "the boastful pride of life" in another translation), she took of its fruit and ate." She was tempted by the three desires listed in I John 2:15. All temptation to sin, as far as I can tell, falls into one of these three categories of DESIRE. Adam and Eve forfeited their fellowship with God, and their very lives to "satisfy" these DESIRES.

3. Coveting breeds other sin. If our coveting doesn't lead to sinfully taking what God has not provided, it usually morphs into other sin.
Complaining "And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it His anger was kindled...Now the rabble that was among them had a STRONG CRAVING. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, 'Oh that we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this MANNA to look at" Numbers 11:1, 4-6 I seriously doubt that Egypt was as good as they remembered. Seems like there was the small matter of them being SLAVES, which makes me think that their diet wasn't as rich as they described. Sin has a way of distorting our vision like that. But more than their desire for what they couldn't have, was their rejection of the miraculous manna that God had provided for them. Which brings us right back to coveting being a doubting of the goodness and provision of God, and complaining is one way that that doubt manifests itself when covetous desires are not fulfilled.
Arguing "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You DESIRE and DO NOT HAVE, so you murder. YOU COVET AND CANNOT OBTAIN SO YOU FIGHT AND QUARREL" James 4:1-2 Not having our covetous desires satisfied leads to strife. We are all pulling for our own way, and that brings us into conflict with each other. Even the heinous sin of murder is mentioned here. I know that most of us have never killed anyone out of covetous anger, but who hasn't had murderous thoughts when someone got in the way of our lust?

Now for covetousness' opposite:
My battle this morning was, "I know that these covetous desires are wrong, but how do I get them out of my mind?!" I remembered the principle of putting off and putting on, the idea of not only throwing off sin like an old piece of dirty clothes, but also putting on sin's righteous and God-honoring opposite. (see earlier post "Lessons from an Old Carpet) So what is the opposite of covetousness? The answer was almost immediate. If coveting doubts God's goodness and provision, then what is it that trusts in His goodness?...CONTENTMENT! While covetousness is restless and always wants more, contentment RESTS in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Psalm 84:11 says, "For the Lord is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor, NO GOOD THING DOES HE WITHHOLD FROM THOSE WHO WALK UPRIGHTLY." The contented heart believes that God is not keeping any good thing back from them, no matter how bad their circumstances are, He has already given us His favor (grace). Covetousness, as I mentioned before, doubts that God is good and grasps for what He has not provided. Contentment is happy with God alone, so it doesn't require anything else. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Ps. 23:1 Here are a couple of passages that illustrate contentment:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things (be content in all circumstances) through HIM who STRENGTHENS me." Phil. 4:11-13 Paul wrote this while he was chained to a Roman guard, so they are by no means empty words. A parallel passage to this is one I found in Habakkuk 3:17-19
"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls,
I really thought the similarities in these passages were amazing. They are both saying that even if they have nothing but the Lord alone, they can be content, happy. They also both mentioned that God was their strength to endure any circumstance. Habakkuk brings out the connection between contentment and joy when he says, "yet I will rejoice".
Contentment, joy, and thankfulness are all very closely linked to one another. They all express a settled trust in the goodness and love of God and a satisfaction in Him alone. Cultivating an attitude of joy and thankfulness encourages contentment and squelches covetousness. Recently I heard John Macarthur preaching on joy. He said that here is never a time in the Christians life when we do not have reason to rejoice! Habakkuk illustrates this point perfectly.
We are commanded to rejoice, "REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!" did you get that? Just in case you didn't, "again I will say, REJOICE." Phil. 4:4
We are also commanded to give thanks. A precious friend of mind mentioned I Thessalonians 5:18 to me. It says, "give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is the WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS FOR YOU." She said that she was learning to have a thankful heart by filling in the blank of the "all circumstances" in this verse. "give thanks in __________________ (pain, loss, injury, difficulty, when things aren't going my way, when I'm having a bad day etc.) for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I love that idea. According to that verse ALL circumstances are a reason to give thanks to God. So, rejoicing and giving thanks should be constant in our thoughts and on our lips. This will teach us contentment in our Lord alone and keep our hearts from reaching for the things that would compete with Him.

So in my battle for contentment I am going to remember:

1.Thinking that something God has not provided for me will make me happy is a LIE! (remember Eve)

2.Covetous desires lead to other sin and snowball into a chaotic sinful mess.

3.Contentment is the opposite of covetousness and rests in the Truth of Ps. 84:11 God is not withholding any good thing from me and, in Him alone I find the height of goodness and pleasure.

4.Rejoice always!

5.Give thanks in every circumstance!

I am so thankful for the precious Word of God that teaches us how to follow Him! Now that I know these things the hard part begins- putting them into practice! This will come as a result of my working hard to practice the truth, and more than that as a result of His grace working in me.

"Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress...my strength fails because of my iniquity."
Ps. 31:9,10
"God, the Lord is my strength!" Habakkuk 3:19

"Take all my hunger for all that's forbidden, every desire and sin I keep hidden.
Search me and know me, I want to bring to You, a life that is holy and sanctified through You"
from "Surrender All" Sovereign Grace Music (listen to the whole song in my playlist on the sidebar)

"Jesus I am resting, resting
In the Joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power
Thou hast made me whole.

Jesus, I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

O how great Thy loving kindness.
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O how marvellous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings;
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me,
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth's dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father's glory,
Sunshine of my Father's face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting;
Fill me with Thy grace."
Jean Sophia Pigott 1876


  1. Hey there!!!
    There is so much here for me to chew on, praise God.
    You ended with a poem. Written by you?
    Thank you for your earnest delve into scriptures concerning contentment and its opposite. I love how you developed covetousness in light of Godly contentment (and command).
    Can be studied and examined daily.........good job, Jewels!!!

  2. Thank you Martina, and thank you for your sweet heart that thinks I'm capable of writing such beautiful poetry! ;-) I'll go back an edit to give credit to the real writer of that hymn. I love the idea it conveys of resting in the love of the Savior, and of course Biblical resting has no idleness in it, resting in the Lord involves a lot of effort, doesn't it? Love you Martina!