October 9, 2006

The Jones's Don't Really Have it so Great

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. Exodus 20.17

If there was ever a commandment that was written for modern-day America, this would be the one. Yes, there is quite a lot of stealing and adultery. There is plenty of blasphemy and idolatry. There are more than enough lies to go around, too. But I think we might be worse at coveting than any of the other commandments. Why? Because most people don’t think it wrong to covet. Our culture thinks it perfectly normal to be greedy.

That cannot be said of adultery, stealing, and theft. It cannot even be said of blasphemy and idolatry, I don’t believe. But in America, there is almost no one crying out against the sin of covetousness. Even in the church, it has become accepted practice. In some circles (read: Joel Osteen and the rest of the health, wealth, and prosperity movement), covetousness has even been baptized into orthodoxy. It is not only accepted, but encouraged. And before we go throwing stones over TBN’s gold-plated wall, let’s all just take a look around out our own houses, cars, and bank accounts. How many DVD’s do we really need? How big a TV is really necessary? How many spare rooms is enough?

Do you remember a time when you had no DVD’s? Do you remember when you had a much smaller television? An older, smaller home? Are you happier now than before? Probably not. So what has been the point of accumulating all the bigger, newer, shinier stuff? Why, if you were perfectly happy before, is it now necessary to have the latest, the brightest, the trendiest? I know why. Because everyone else seems to have the latest, brightest, and trendiest. At least that is what advertisers have us convinced. And if everyone else has a new laptop, don’t I deserve one, too. If everyone else has a new car, should I take a back seat? If everyone else, if everyone else, if everyone else…

You and I both know it’s true. We were perfectly content with less…until we saw that someone else had more (or that the stores were now offering more). This is nothing less than covetousness.

In the Third World, covetousness leads to theft. I don’t have it. She does have it. I am going to take it. In the West, however, coveting leads to spending binges. Most of us are affluent enough to get the latest, brightest, trendiest without having to steal for it. Or at least we have a credit card! So we don’t steal, we just buy more and more.

But I have been thinking. Our western covetousness leads to a form of stealing, too. Think of all the junk (especially the shiny, expensive junk) you have laying around your house, shed, office, or garage—junk that you really could live without. Next, tally up how much you have spent on that junk. Probably thousands of dollars. Then imagine if, instead of the big screen TV, you’d given that $999.99 to a missionary family. Imagine, instead of the latest cell-phone, you’d given that money, in Jesus’ name, to the Tsunami or Hurricane sufferers. Imagine how that monthly cable money could’ve helped this church the last 9 months.

Now you get it! Wasteful, covetous, impulsive, greedy spending is stealing. Malachi says it’s stealing from God (Malachi 3.8). Thank God He is not as greedy as us. Thank God that He was generous with His only begotten Son—so that greedy Americans could go to heaven! But let’s not just thank God for His generosity…let’s imitate Him!

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