I was trained from childhood to want what other people have. If my brother had the exact Matchbox car I wanted there was going to be a fight. Of course the “exact” car I wanted was the one he had! Forget that there were 25 other cars lying on the floor, I had to have the one he had. There’s going to be a battle in our house tonight!
Greed and coveting are in the heart from birth. One of the marks of being human is to be discontent and wanting what other people have. Almost 40 years later I am still trying to trust God with my greedy heart.
One of my top 5 cartoons growing up starred Daffy Duck and illustrates coveting in action. It has that famous line, “Mine, mine mine, down, down down.”
Here’s a summary in 2 forms. You can read the really long and boring paragraph below or you can watch the cartoon! I vote for the cartoon!!!
After taking that infamous "wrong toin" at Albuqerque, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck wind up in Bagdad instead of Pismo Beach. There they come upon a treasure cave guarded by a scimitar-wielding giant ("Hassan chop!"), but this doesn't stop Daffy from trying to plunder the cave's limitless supply of gold and jewels. Bugs is forced to save Daffy's life by posing as the Genie of the Lamp, but Daffy ("I'm rich! I'm wealthy! I'm comfortably well off!") ultimately allows his greed to become his undoing when the real Genie shows up.
Looney Tunes had such a gift of capturing real issues and making them funny!
Read: Deuteronomy 5:6, 16-21; James 4:1-4
6 “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.
16 “Honor your father and mother, as the LORD your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
17 “You must not murder.
18 “You must not commit adultery.
19 “You must not steal.
20 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
21 “You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
New Living Translation
We must not covet. That is pretty clear. I am not to want other people’s stuff. I am not to be jealous of what others have. God would not have made this a commandment if our hearts were not prone to it!
It might be easier if we lived on a secluded island. Our marketing culture sells greed to us every day. One can hardly read the Sunday paper or watch TV without being bombarded with ads for things that I must have! A new car, new house, new body, more money, better clothes, nicer kids, a better vacation spot …. the list is endless. We are trained in greed. We compare our vacation with our friends to make sure we are winning. If not, we brood and mope. We spend money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like!
Pay close attention to verse 21 above. This is not a random list. There is an order to the list. As if it was not enough for God to command his people to not covet, he goes to great lengths to define what he is talking about.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s:
This list moves from center to edge. It moves from the bedroom to the furthest reaches of this neighbor’s property. From the most important relationship (his wife) to the least important (animals). We see what God holds dear, namely marriage, and what we are to therefore protect most. I am not to want ANYTHING that my neighbor has, starting with his wife. That is God’s command.
James tells us how to spot coveting and greed in our lives. If you see quarrelling and fighting among children, church members, husband and wife, friends and neighbors there is probably some link to greed and coveting. When we see quarrelling we are invited to pay attention. There might be some greed and jealousy involved. Your “Mine, mine, mine” might be coming into conflict with my “Mine, mine, mine”.
Being content can be difficult. How is your content meter today? Are you at peace with who you are and what you have? Are you content in your marriage? Are you content with your job, car, church, friends, income level, vacation plans, etc.? Do you KNOW that God controls those things in your life? Do you know that you are where you are and have what you have by the hand of God? God will never leave you nor forsake you so be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5). If you have Him you have all you need?
“Father, help me to trust you with what I have. Help me to see You today and be satisfied with You alone. Help me to focus on Jesus. Help me to focus on the glory I will have in heaven (Col. 3:4). God I am very rich. Help me to be content with what I have and live in today not in the future. I choose to trust you. Be glorified.
In Jesus name, amen.”
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