“THOU SHALT NOT COVET” By Pastor YAU
Text: James 4:1-6.
1) Words of a writer: Julie Link, one of the writers of OUR DAILY BREAD, wrote: “Sometimes I wonder why God didn’t list the Ten Commandments in reverse order, since the 10th command-ment correlates to the first sin—(covetous desire.) Eve’s sin wasn’t simply her desire for a piece of fruit; it was the desire of knowledge that Satan said would make her like God. (Gen. 3:5) Eve’s covetous desire caused her to violate both the first and the last commandments that later God gave to Moses.”
2) Words of an apostle: Seeing the chaotic situation in the life of the early Christians and churches, Apostle James wrote to show them the root of their problems: “What causes fight and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your (covetous) desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot v what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3)
1) Definition of covetousness: According to Great Encyclopedic Dictionary by the Reader’s Digest, “Covetousness” is an eager desire on things belong to others. In his infinite wisdom, God didn’t give all things to one person under any circumstances. God gives certain things to certain people and something else to others. Some may blame God of being stingy; others may say that is very fair. In reality, we all know that no man in human history has all the things in the world. Some may have more than others, but no one has it all. So, there is always room to be covetous for those they want it all.
2) The root of covetousness: Greed is the root of covetousness. It is not about what or how much one already has; it is about he wants what the other guy has: whatever it may be. Prophet Nathan told King David on the serious wrong of covetousness in a parable in 2 Samuel 12:1-6 to point out his sin in taking the wife of one of his faithful soldiers while he already had 4 wives. In the last commandment, the objects of covetousness include other people’s wives, servants, life stocks and other material possessions.
3) The victims of covetousness: Whenever someone covets things that belong to others, and takes action to take what belong to others, there is always a victim or victims who suffer the loss. In the case of King David, Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, was murdered. Uriah lost more than just his wife; he lost his life to the scheme of murder. When the sin of covetousness in the heart is acted out, someone will certainly be victimized.
4) The harm to the one covets: In the case of King David, he suffered huge harm for his covetous acts. The punishment of his sin of covetousness was far more serious and painful than his taking someone else’ wife. David ached in his heart when his son from Bathsheba died. Murder, rape, conflicts, tensions, chaos and revolt attacked his family in his old age. Almost in all cases of covetous acts, the price one pays is usually far higher than what he has taken from others.
BIBLICAL TRUTH ON COVETOUSNESS: (James 4:1-6)
1) It all starts from desires: “What causes fighting and quarreling among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (4:1)All acts of covetousness come from the inside and later acted out on the outside. If we want to control the acts of covetousness, we have to control the internal desire first. The desire of coveting things of others is part of our carnal nature. We need to rely on God’s Spirit to combat and subdue that desire of the fresh.
2) It leads to greater sins: “You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” (4:2)Many Christians don’t see or feel the seriousness of being covetous. But many of the more serious sin and crimes are results of covetousness. King David didn’t have the idea of scheming to murder Uriah when he first coveted his wife. But one thing led to another and before he knew it, he schemed to have Uriah killed. If we allow a small crack in a dam continue to leak, soon that small crack will become a fall-out and the whole dam may collapse.
3) It caters to wrong motives: “When you ask, you don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives that you may spend what you get in pleasure.” (4:3)All covetous desires come from wrong motives for carnal pleasure. They come from insatiable nature of the fresh and ungrateful attitude to God. That is why in all cases, God did not grant prayers of covetous desires.
4) It separates us from God: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (4:4) Almost all people believe that a little covetousness is not a big deal in their life. But God sees our friendship with the world, adopting the philosophy and life style of the world, a very serious matter. He sees acts of covetousness as His enemy. James warns us that we have to choose which side will we stand: The world or God. We cannot be God’s true people but live a covetous life.
STRATEGY TO COMBAT COVETOUSNESS:
1) Keeping greed under control: “So are the ways of everyone that is greedy of gain, which takes away the life of the owners.” (Proverbs 1:19, KJV)There are over 60 listings in the Bible that gives warning on the sin and consequence of greed. Greed is part of human nature, all the way from Eve and Adam---never feel satisfied with what we have. Therefore coveting what others have is in our corrupt human nature. We need to ask God to give us strength and exercise our strongest control of the evil nature not to allow it any opportunity to hurt ourselves. Greed is a never-ending desire. We need to keep it under control.
2) Keeping faith in God strong: “Though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7:11)In this story, Jesus explained to his followers not to worry about their daily needs, because God knows what we need and will give them good gifts to meet their needs. We need to recognize that all the things God has given us are “good gifts”, good to make our life sufficient and happy. Faith in God is an effective weapon to subdue the evil desire of covetousness.
3) Respecting the right of others: “Not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God, and in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins.” (1 Thess. 4:5-6)Here Paul was encouraging the early Christians to respect each other, keeping themselves from taking advantage of others or coveting what belong to others. Paul also warned that the Lord would punish all who violate this law.
4) Saving yourself from trouble: “For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some covet after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:10) Covetousness is never a way to a happy life, but a sure way to get oneself into lots of trouble, be it with money, power, fame or illicit relationships. We have witnessed, seen, read and known many heart-breaking stories on the pain and suffering because of covetous acts. Nail that evil desire to the cross with Christ and save yourself from many sorrows.
1) Let’s face it squarely: Don’t bury your head in the sand and claim that you never have covetous thoughts or desires. We all do. Our evil nature is working hard to stir up that desire of something from others, whatever it may be. We love to have what they have and wish we could just take it over to ourselves. We need to pay attention to this evil desire and do our utmost to control its desire. We need to walk very closely with God and draw strength from Him to help us conquer that corrupted nature.
2) You can’t do it yourself: Controlling the desire of covetousness is beyond human ability because it is part of being human. But God has a plan to help us conquer this. “If anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old (nature) has gone and the new (nature) has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) You have to have Christ in your life to have the power to counter the evil nature in you. Call on Jesus to give you a new life today, and He will help you to live a happy life without coveting anything from anyone else.