We can view God’s Law like a pyramid:
The primary overarching law of God is to love Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind (the Great Commandment), and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (what James calls the Royal Law). From this, the 10 Commandments are a subdivision of the first two laws. After that, the Mosaic Law (which includes part of the 10 Commandments) direct the Israelites on how to live morally, socially, and religiously within the framework of those 10 Commandments.
And, while the 10 Commandments are not direct laws for the church (the Great Commandment & Royal Law are, however, because if you love God and your neighbor, you will not steal, murder, commit adultery, etc.), they are very useful in teaching us the foundational basis for what God expects of His children. Today we’ll discuss how “You shall not covet” causes us many evils in our American/Western society (and really, throughout the world).
- Exodus 20:17 “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 belongs to your neighbor.”
Growing up in the 70’s, I was exposed to one of the most wonderful inventions ever: Saturday Morning Cartoons! This was the era of Hanna-Barbera (Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show, Josie & the Pussycats, Captain Caveman, Speed Buggy, Hong Kong Phooey, Jabberjaw, etc.) Krofft Superstars, The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour, and a host of reruns from the 30’s-60’s such as Rocky & Bullwinkle and Popeye. Coupled with this great and wonderous world of imagination was the host of commercials interspersed throughout the show every few minutes. Commercials for Stretch Armstrong, Tootsie Roll Pops, Big Wheels, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, Smash Up Derby, G.I. Joe, Evel Knievel figurine with his motorcycle, Star Wars figurines, Life Savers, R.C. Cola, Atari games, Sit-N-Spin, Little Professor Calculator, View Finder, Lite-Brite, Simon, and the list goes on. And every little kid watching Saturday morning cartoons ended the morning craving a smorgasbord of toys, games, candy, and fast food. Every kid begged their parents for more toys than one could ever really play with, and even after they got them, they wanted more!
American marketing found the secret to reaching people, and it all stems from our natural, sinful drive to covet. Sex sells, so offer the best beer with the best looking girls (with hopes that no matter what you look like, you drink the right beer and you’ll get a great looking girl too). Never let them see you sweat because they may actually think you’re human. You need the whitest teeth in the world because that proves you’re competent for the job and worthy of a promotion. Smoke these cigarettes and everyone will think you’re the coolest dude around (until you die of lung cancer).
Now, we as Christians are not immune to this. I still see someone in a ’66 convertible 427 Stingray and think, “That should be mine.” I go to a restaurant and see a family of like 15 kids and they’re all sweet, polite, quiet, and tame, and I think, “Why are my kids animals when they show up at Burger King?” And, I have a loving, sweet, intelligent, pretty, great cook of a wife yet like any other guy, I see a Miss America candidate out there and wonder…
Coveting is a sin, and the net result of it is dark and dangerous. Eve coveted the fruit she was forbidden to have. In I. Kings 21, King Ahab (you know, head honcho of Israel with a ton of wealth and luxuries) coveted his neighbor’s vineyard (WOW! I like grapes, but coveting a vineyard?? I’ve got better things to do if you ask me). He offered Naboth (his neighbor) money or a better vineyard if he would give the vineyard to him. Naboth said, “Nope” (that’s the exact translation of the Hebrew). So Ahab went back home whining and crying like a kid having a temper tantrum because he didn’t get his way. But, his wise, ungodly wife, Jezebel said, “You’re the king! I’ll go get it for you!” and went out and had Naboth falsely accused of blasphemy against God and then murdered. Then Jezebel went back to Ahab and said, “Problem solved. Congratulations! You’re the owner of a new vineyard.”
- I. Timothy 6:6-106But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- Reading the passage in Timothy, notice that wealth is not a sin, but covetousness is, hence loving money and seeking first the kingdom of the almighty dollar. But, what two things are considered great gain? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Think of a couple synonyms for “contentment”: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
- BTW- If you are content, then you will naturally be thankful (our theme this week!).
- Since we’re on a pyramid kick today, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid says that Physiological needs are foundational, and then each level above builds off the previous level (e.g. when one has Love & Belonging, he can then experience Esteem, but not before because it isn’t a need until his Love and Belonging needs are met). The pyramid looks like such:
Saul McLeod, https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html 2018.
- Reading what Paul wrote to Timothy in verse 8, where does his advice fit in on this pyramid? ___________________________________
- When does Paul discuss the other 4 levels of the pyramid? __________________________________________________
- Since God’s Word is authoritative and true, it would be safe to say that the rest of Maslow’s “Needs” are not really important. The only thing that’s important is to live, and to do so with a content, thankful, godly life. When we do that we can then say, “It doesn’t matter what the world dishes out to me, I have Jesus. Even if I have nothing in this world, I have more than anything this world can give since I have my Lord.”
- Do you believe this? ____________________________
- If you have a hard time accepting this concept, remember that the Christian’s life is not about you or me, but about Jesus. His example was one of contentment in poverty. Paul’s example was contentment in continual poverty, homelessness, beatings, and the like (II. Corinthians 11:23-30), and proclaimed when he is weak, Jesus is strong!
- Read Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand and his painful, freezing, starving abuse while in a Soviet prison, and yet, as Peter and the Apostles proclaimed in Acts 5:41, he rejoiced that he was found worthy to suffer for the name of Christ. Not all are called to suffer like this, but look deep into your heart and ask yourself if hard times come for living and standing for the name of Christ, would you thank God and forge ahead, or would you be like Demas and leave the faith he truly loved the world rather than Christ (II. Timothy 4:10)?
- Note, I wrestle with this sometimes as I am human, and don’t like pain or suffering. But, Christianity is not about floating down a river drinking a Coke for Jesus—It’s about following Him even to a life of severe poverty and suffering if He should call us to do so. This is what I keep reminding myself.
- What are some ways you have felt the tug of the world’s tantalization of your nature and to fulfil your covetous desires (it could be from advertising, peer pressure, Facebook suggestions, you name it)? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- What verses come to mind that help remind you to be content and thankful? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- Lastly, whether we live in beautiful Hawaii, or in the wastelands of Death Valley, or on some isolated community up near the Arctic Circle, or in a decimated war zone, we need to continually remind ourselves to be content. God has promised us a home in glory where the greatest thing is not the street of gold, not the Tree of Life that bears 12 different fruits each month for eternity, nor the supersized gates made of individual pearls. The greatest thing He has promised is that we’ll be in His presence forever, and He will never leave us nor forsake us! Let us rejoice and be thankful every day for such wondrous blessings from our loving Heavenly Father!