I'm pretty sure one of the reasons why I never preached a series on the 10 Commandments before is because #10 kicks me in the pants. I'll let you in on a little pastor secret: We don't like preaching messages that confront our own sin. So we do one of three things with scriptures that do: 1) we avoid it, 2) we come up with a skewed interpretation, or 3) we confess it.
God gets inside my head with "You shall not covet..." No one knows I want what other people have, but I do. God has a way of uncovering the heart in all these commandments (just look at the way Jesus did that in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew).
It would be helpful to take a moment to try to explain that word "covet". It's not really a term we use much anymore. We try to substitute it for words like 'jealousy", but that's not a good fit really. Jealousy is defined as being "very watchful or careful in guarding or keeping what is yours", whereas covetousness is a "great desire to possess something that belongs to someone else". There's a big difference. Covetousness (and its derivatives) get a lot of attention in the scriptures [check out Mark 7:22, Ephesians 5:3-5, James 4:2, and Proverbs 15:27], even though we don't talk about it much.
So why is it so problematic?
1] When we compare ourselves to others, we lose. These are always unfair comparisons -- their perceived blessings vs my perceived lack or their perceived security vs my perceived weakness. When we focus on what we don't have, we lose sight of all God has given! It kills gratitude -- and we lose.
2] When we want what others have, it puts us in competition with them to get it. Cain wanted what Abel had, and when he couldn't get it, he killed him. Competition can cause us to use people as a means to get what we want. We begin to see others as an opponent to defeat and an adversary to conquer. It puts strife in relationship when we use others to get what we want from them.
3] Discontentment robs us of peace with God. It's a soul-killer. We have bought into the lie that true contentment is not from God but from the pursuit of stuff and status and success and security.
Let's take a trip back to the Garden...a place designed with everything Adam and Eve needed. And God was walking among them. It was perfect. Then the serpent slithered over with an attractive smile and began whispering discontentment into the ears of Eve.
"This isn't enough. You can have more. God is holding back from you. You can be like God."
And with those seeds of discontentment sewn, all chaos that has ever gripped the story of humanity ensued.
"God is holding back from you. You can have more, more, MORE! You're being robbed. You deserve more. What you have isn't enough. They have it better. You'd be happier if..."
Eve wanted what God had, and it put her in competition with God, and God's nature in her was fractured as a result of her sin. When we pour our lives into pursuit of what we don't have, we miss out on what we do have. And when we do gain, the temporary satisfaction leaves us more empty in the end. The fulfillment fritters away fairly fast.
We were made for God -- and only He satisfies. Central to the Gospel message is this idea of the sufficiency of Christ. God has given us what we cannot obtain ourselves. Jesus is the Bread of Life -- so we will not 'hunger' again. Jesus is the Living Water -- so we will not 'thirst' again. This God who has designed this world, given us life, formed our bodies, and breathed His Spirit into us -- the One who formed our tangible and intangible parts, the One from Whom all life comes -- He is our only sufficiency!
We've been convinced we need more than God, but more than God means less of life designed by God. It's a trap that can cut us off and leave us feeling empty and used. We all know too well the wasted time and effort that has gone into feeding our vacuous appetites.
What does the 10th Commandment tell us about God's nature? He is sufficient.
And He is good.