AGCC Sun. a.m. 6/6/99
TEXTS: Ex. 20:17; Rom. 7:7-8; I Kings 21:1-16; Philip. 4:4-19
INTRO: The last commandment is the lynch pin of the 10, the previous 9 commandments all have a strong overt element to them, they are actions observed, but, this final commandment strikes at the heart and mind!
In a sense this last commandment is the basis of all the other 9! Even if all your overt actions showed faithfulness to the commandments this last one would condemn you for it reaches down inside the person's heart and desires and motives.
In fact, it was Paul in Romans 7:7-8 that stated that this was the one commandment of the 10 that made him realize his sinfulness and brought him to realize his need of Christ. (read passage: "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet." But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.") Until he hit the 10th commandment he could judge himself "good" by overt actions, but with the 10th his mind and motives were revealed to him and it opened to him the understanding of how much he was a sinner!
ILLUS: In Hank Ketcham's comic strip "Dennis the Menace," Dennis is looking through a catalog saying, "This catalog's got a lot of toys I didn't even know I wanted." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
It is therefore this commandment that destroys the idea that good works can save a man or woman, for it condemns the heart which is so wicked and reveals the extent of our motives in any action we take.
ILLUS: In Parker and Hart's "The Wizard of Id" comic strip, one monk is putting up a sign on the bulletin board in front of the church while another monk watches. The sign reads "Thou Shalt Not Covet" and the visiting monk says, "Boy, I wish we had a signboard like that at our church." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are to live a life that is content and trusts God for all our needs, to covet what others have is the root of all sin and takes our trust away from God and puts us in charge of getting what we think we need.
I. THE COVETING HEART I Kings 21:1-16
A. Corrupt 21:1-14
1. The literal meaning of the word "coveting" is "to pant after" - like my dog used to do when I ate ice cream and potato chips or buttered popcorn!
a. It indicates an intense desire that will not leave.
b. Usually becomes consuming to the point that it will demand fulfillment.
2. Coveting is not just something that happens to the poor, coveting is a problem for all humans.
a. Take King Ahab for example, though much richer than his neighbor Naboth, he covets Naboth's vineyard, he had to have it.
b. His coveting was so powerful that he couldn't feel happy unless he got what he wanted, it didn't matter that he already had enough or more than Naboth.
c. This is the nature of coveting, it is never satisfied … and it is the basis for breaking the other commandments - King Ahab's wife proceeds to kill Naboth, steal his field, bear false witness against Naboth, dishonor God's name, it become the foundation of breaking many of the other commandments.
3. The fuel of coveting is DISCONTENT.
a. When we allow discontent to enter our spirit it is only a short time before we find ourselves coveting what others have, and coveting leads to all kinds of sins and broken commandments.
b. In the end coveting not only destroys others, but it destroys our own happiness as well since we keep looking for happines to come by getting something we feel we should have but don't.
ILLUS: Covetous men must be the sport of Satan, for their grasping avarice neither lets them enjoy life nor escape from the second death. They are held by their own greed as surely as beasts with cords, or fish with nets, or men with chains. They may be likened to those foolish apes which in some countries are caught by narrow-necked vessels. Into these corn is placed, the creatures thrust in their hands, and when they have filled them they cannot draw out their fists unless they let go the grain. Sooner than let go they submit to be captured. Are covetous men then so like to animals? Let them ponder and be ashamed. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
4. Coveting ALWAYS corrupts the human soul, it never satisfies it!
B. Callous! 21:15-16
1. Coveter's are by nature callous people, all they care about is getting what they want.
a. They can be quite indifferent to other people's feelings or needs.
b. They are so focused on getting what they want that they can ignore normal moral imperatives.
2. Even though Ahab got what he wanted his life was still not happy or satisfied, people who covet never find an end to their desire.
3. If only we could see how blessed we already are and so not covet what we don't have, coveters always fail to see how blessed they already are.
ILLUS: The Hope Health Letter (10/95) included this story:
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down. In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. "Do you have a rooster?" asked the wise man. "Yes," he replied. "Keep the rooster in the hut with your family, and come see me again next week." The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess of the hut. "Do you have a cow?" asked the wise elder. The man nodded fearfully. "Take your cow into the hut as well, and come see me in a week." Over the next several weeks, the man--on the advice of the wise elder--made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother's children. Finally, he could take no more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all the animals and guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents. The home suddenly became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.
4. Ahab got the vineyard he wanted, but he did not get the satisfaction from it he had hoped.
a. God also told him that there would be consequences for his choice to feed his coveting, it would cost him his own life!
b. In the end Ahab will lose far more than he ever gained through coveting, this is always the case with coveting!
5. Ahab's callousness is evident in that he not only takes Naboth's vineyard once his wife Jezebel has Naboth killed, but has Naboth's children killed (see II Kings 9:26) so there are no descendants left to claim the land at any point.
a. Note too that Ahab and Jezebel are later both killed, and all their descendants are also killed much like what Ahab does to Naboth's family.
b. Coveters tend to get back the same pain they give others.
6. This is the tragic truth about coveting, it is the foundation for so many other sins as well. So how do we fight coveting from taking over our lives?
II. THE CONTROLLED HEART Philip. 4:4-19
A. Context 4:4-9
1. What is the best weapon spiritually against covetousness?
a. Rejoicing in what you already have.
b. Avoiding anxiety over what you don't have.
c. Ask for things WITH thanksgiving to mitigate covetousness from developing in your heart over those things you do ask for.
2. Instead of seeing what is lacking, look at what is good and lovely, what things are of a good report and dwell on this, not your lack.
a. These are very practical guidelines that can stop a heart from developing a covetous attitude.
b. This is the context of a controlled heart.
3. In our culture we are inundated with messages that says we MUST have more, or newer, or something we don't already have … and it is the foundation for the vast amount of dissatisfaction our people have though we live in a land of great plenty!
a. Americans, though rich, can be some of the most dissatisfied people on earth!
b. Our whole prosperity is built on encouraging greed and need - to get something we don't have, and probably don't need, but we must have.
c. Advertisers are always sending messages of "You won't be happy until you get our product", etc.
4. As Christians we really need to evaluate our sense of happiness, what it is based on.
ILLUS: Who could speak more realistically about the illusion of a yuppie value system than Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who suffered deprivation of all that money can buy? In "The Prison Chronicle" he says, as few of us can, "Don't be afraid of misfortune and do not yearn after happiness. It is, after all, all the same. The bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold, and if hunger and thirst don't claw at your sides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms work, if both eyes can see, and if both ears can hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart and prize above all else in the world those who love you and wish you well." -- As reported in Christianity Today, submitted by Rich Hardison, Tabernacle Church of Norfolk, Virginia.
5. Notice that Paul associates "PEACE" with those who have learned the proper context to life. (4:9)
a. Those who covet never find peace, for they are always longing for something they don't have.
b. Those who are at peace focus more on what they do have so they can find peace in life.
B. Contentment 4:10-19
1. Paul describes his life and joy as being centered on what he has, not what he doesn't have.
a. He has been content with little.
b. He has been content with much.
2. His strength and joy comes in Christ, he says he "can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (4:13) since he already possesses the most important thing in life, Christ Himself.
a. If we possess Christ, there is nothing we really lack!
b. This should destroy in us a covetous attitude.
3. What are the signs of a coveter's heart?
a. Depression can be a sign - notice King Ahab's depression when Naboth refused to sell him the vineyard.
b. Withdrawal can be a sign - notice too that King Ahab threw himself upon his bed and refused to eat and go out.
c. Pouting can be a sign - King Ahab acted like it was so unfair that he couldn't have what he wanted, often those with coveting problems view others as being unfair to them, they walk around with a chip on their shoulder, they never get what others get in life.
d. Pessimistic attitude is often a sign - those who covet tend to be negative about most things, for they are focused on what they don't have rather than on what they do have. They see the glass as always half empty instead of half full. Though Ahab was far richer than Naboth, he was pessimistic about his lack of this vineyard as he whined that Naboth wouldn't sell it to him and as a King he couldn't make him give it to him because the law of the land prevented property from passing away from a family lineage even by sale … hence Jezebel's plan to kill Naboth since there was no legal way to get it even as king.
e. Fault finding can be a sign - the need to invent reasons for their lack and others gain in order to placate the emptiness of their own heart and life. Ahab often blamed the true prophets for his misery or others like Naboth because they wouldn't give him what he wanted.
f. Misery can be a sign - people who will tell you how miserable their lives are tend to be full of coveting, they always want what others seem to have, they look for happiness in procuring the "next" thing they think will finally satisfy them.
g. Unthankfulness can be a sign - Even when they do get some things, it is never good enough or enough, there is a general unthankfulness about life and their status and possessions or even their friendships. King Ahab's coveting didn't stop with Naboth's vineyard, once he had that he still wasn't thankful, he had all of Naboth's kids killed in order to keep others them taking it back. (II Kings 9:26)
4. Paul's prescription given here to the Philippian Church would not only destroy coveting, it would also promote godliness and peace in the individual believer.
a. Paul's promise to those who heed his advice in this passage, their "needs will all be met by Christ's glorious riches." (see 4:19)
b. Contentment kills coveting in the same way coveting kills contentment! - Dennis Marquardt
5. Coveting will always leave a bad taste in your mouth and in others too, and in the end you will actually have much less than before you coveted!
ILLUS: Too busy? Distracted? When we attempt to do too many things at once we often get rattled and accomplish even less. The story is told of young Charles Darwin that one day he was eagerly holding one rare beetle in his right fist, another in his left and then suddenly he caught sight of a third beetle that he simply knew he must have for his collection. What to do? In a flash he put one of the beetles in his mouth for safekeeping and reached for the third beetle with his now free hand. But the mouth-imprisoned beetle squirted acid down Darwin's throat--so that in a fit of coughing he lost all three beetles. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 26.
6. If you covet you can expect to break lots of God's commandments - if you develop a contented heart however you can expect to experience "SATISFACTION GUARANTEED"!!
CONCLUSION: Discontented people by nature are covetous by the very fact of being dissatisfied. Coveters are always in need because they always desire something they don't have but want. Ironically, it is the last commandment that is often at the heart of all the other 9! God calls us to be content so we are controlled and not coveting. Following God's commands brings SATISFACTION GUARANTEED!