Plymouth Congregational Church

God for All


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Coveting the ickies

So we missed church for the first time in a long time last Sunday. I was sorry about that too. Consequently that means I am unable to paint my verbal portrait of Pastor Bill this week. In truth, my post is so long overdue because the ickies have attached themselves to me like a babysitter to a precocious 2 year old. Multiply that by the three children and you have one household that is on quarantine. Alas, things are looking up as I am off the couch and trying to be productive this week. Too much play time on the computer is my weakness, thus creating a distraction. Would that be considered coveting?

Well, in truth, yes it would. I play for fun, these silly little one minute games, but also to compete (friendly but still with the desire to hold first place) against friends. So I covet despite what is written in Exodus 20:17 (“You shall not covet.”).

Before I continue on with the idea of coveting let me give you my reference point. I started reading a fascinating book (and yes, Bill, expect it as a gift on Sunday!) “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. This man decided he needed to understand religion, especially since he was agnostic, so he recounts his year of trying to follow the bible literally. On page 25 he begins to look at the idea of coveting, and that sparked my own insight.

A.J. covets all kinds of wonderful things, other’s salaries, front yards, screenplays. I covet friendships, popularity, financial freedom, those perfect 10 bodies on beach blonde babes, I am being honest here. What do you covet? Is it small things? Big things? Does it really make a difference?

Back to Exodus 20:17. The full passage reads, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” I suppose that when this was written into the bible there was a lot of promiscuous coveting happening since so much revolves around relations with another person. The ox and ass raise an eyebrow to how that came to pass. Maybe the lacking of fences had something to do with this portion. All in all, it is summed up with the one words “anything”.

A.J. gave a brief lesson on the word “covet”. It is a translation of the Hebrew root “hamad”, which roughly means to “desire” or “want”.  With this understanding he went on to explain that there are two groups of opinions on how this applies to our present day society. One group is of the opinion that to desire things is fine as long as they are not your neighbor’s. A more literal approach that grants permission to your desire to want that mansion on the hill regardless of your ability to actually have that item of desire; with the understanding that if your neighbor already has a mansion on the hill you are forbidden from wanting it.

The other group, which is more a bit more cut and dry, states that you cannot desire anything regardless if your neighbor has it or not. A moderate interest in a particular item is acceptable but you cannot exert ample amounts of energy seeking the said item. Your time should not be spent in ample quantity focused on the item. For example, my nearly 12 year old, is obsessed with owning a Lamborghini. He even knows the model and color. You say car and he says Lamborghini. He would be considered in violation of the Bible’s law/rule about coveting.

What is the problem with coveting? Coveting creates a lack of respect and appreciation for what God has given you, the life you have, tossing it to the side to find something better. Why would that be a problem? Aren’t we suppose to strive to be better? Of course we are all asked to be better and carry God’s words with us. This is not about spiritual growth or coveting but materialistic. It is in our societies competitive nature against each other to have something bigger, better, newer that we find ourselves in heaps of debt as well as disappointed with that new DSi SXL that is only 2 months old because there is a new 3DSi available. So regardless of functionality, and the fact that the other “toy” is nearly new, the focus to have the newest is where we forget to appreciate what we already have, and that is where you will have problems biblically.

Coveting can also create jealousy. Growing up my Mom used to tell me that jealousy would get you nowhere. It is an evil little monster that sits on my shoulder and creates dissension. This from my good Catholic mother. As I matured I finally understood what she was trying to say. If I was coveting my friend’s boyfriend, body, clothes I acted like a silly jealous girl, and through this walls were built and friendships lost. I didn’t appreciate what I had, so I lost on many levels. Once I understood that it was me who was the problem based on my jealousy I decided to change.

I like the way A.J. talks about jealousy in his book, “Jealousy is useless, time-wasting emotion that’s eating me alive. I should focus on my family and, nowadays, God.” Jealousy and coveting are both useless. Appreciating what we have, and keeping what we have in perspective is a way to honor the bible and our relationship with God. I think if society had kept this humbleness in mind we may have been able to avoid some of the economic nightmares we are facing, and this would include my own family (I shamefully admit).

So can my family change? I intend to make it a fruitful effort. But I think we will have to take a pass on the Genesis 14:20, at least for several more years.


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