Why Should You Not Have What Your Neighbor Has?
Dr. Joe Temple


Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 20. We want you to see the tenth in relation to the other nine Commandments, so will you notice verse 17:

Exodus 20

17Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Notice particularly the first and the last statements of the verse, because those two clauses state the basic truth: “Thou shalt not covet–anything that is thy neighbors.”

Shall we bow our heads together for prayer:

Father, we do thank Thee that we have this opportunity to look once again into the Word of God. As always we acknowledge our need of Thee, and ask that Thou wilt enlighten our minds that we may be able to grasp the truth of this particular portion. And then, our Father, as we see the truth, we pray that Thou wilt give us the grace to implement these things into our lives. For we pray in Jesus' name, and for His sake. Amen.

Not Repeated In Human Laws

You recognize this to be the last of the Ten Commandments. You will remember that the Second Table of the Decalogue concerns our relationship to one another, or our relationship to men, as the First Table of the Decalogue concerns our relationship to God. But if you will think about this Commandment in line with the other nine, you will realize that this one is radically different from the others; I would like for you to get that settled in your minds. This is the only Commandment that has not been repeated on the statute books of our state, of our country, and of any other land in the world. Do you realize that there is on the statute books of the land no law related to coveting? There are laws related to murder, laws related to stealing, laws related to perjury, etc., but no law related to coveting.

Do you realize the reason for this? It is the only sin forbidden in the Ten Commandments that can be committed without anybody's knowing about it. Eventually men may know about it, but it is quite possible for a law-abiding citizen to have his heart filled with covetousness and hide it. I would not want to say to you that he could do so permanently, because, as I think we will see before we are through with our discussion, covetousness will out. It will become evident, because covetousness bears fruit in the lives of those in whose hearts it is found.

Binding Up of First Nine Commandments

I would like for you to notice something else. I will merely mention it, and then as we go along I will attempt to show you from the Word of God that it is true; it is that every one of the other Commandments is bound up in this one. If you and I could do something right now with our covetous hearts, we would not have any trouble with the other Commandments.

Paul's Testimony

Will you turn with me for a testimony to chapter 3 of the Philippian letter–the words of the Apostle Paul by way of testimony:

Philippians 3

1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

We are going to stop our reading there; we are interested only in the last statement of this 6th verse:

What is this Paul is saying? He is saying, “I have kept the Ten Commandments. I am blameless in regard to the Ten Commandments.” If this were the only testimony that you had of the Apostle Paul, you could be misled by it; but this is not the only testimony. It is a relative statement; you have to have everything he said to get the whole story.

Paul's Weakness

Turn with me, if you will, to chapter 7 of the book of Romans. We are going to hear the Apostle Paul say in this portion of the Word that actually he was not blameless in regard to the law. He was not blameless in regard to the Ten Commandments. Oh, he did far better than many of us do. He was blameless in regard to the Ten Commandments with the exception of one. That is a real testimony.

I had a letter with a contribution from someone in the Radio audience this week, an unsigned letter, expressing the blessing that the program was to him, and wanting to help with the expense to carry on. This individual said something by which I could not help but be impressed, and I wondered how it could be true. This individual said, “I am 88 years of age, and I have kept every one of the Ten Commandments.” Well, I am sure that person thought he had; but if he would give it real serious thought, he, like the Apostle Paul, would add an appendix that would change the situation. In Philippians 3 Paul said, “I am blameless as far as the law is concerned.” But in Romans 7 he said, “I am really not. there is one Commandment that puts me under. There is one Commandment that leaves me without excuse. There is one Commandment that condemns me.” We wonder which it was. We might say, “Oh, well, it must have been murder or adultry or one of those great, big Commandments.” But listen to what he says in verse 7:

Romans 7

7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
8But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence [or all manner of covetousness] For without the law sin was dead.
9For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

Do you get Paul's testimony? He said, “I thought I was doing all right. As a matter of fact, I even testified that in relation to the law, I was blameless. Then I go to reading the Ten Commandments again, and I came to that Tenth Commandment. The Tenth Commandment said, 'Thou shalt not covet', and it knocked me out. It laid me low. I realized that my heart was filled with covetousness.”

One of the Most Important Commandments

This Commandment is perhaps more important than any other of the Ten. And yet, have you stopped to consider that we don't think of it that way? We breeze right through this Commandment without seriously considering everything it involves.

I think there is one thing we need to do, and that is to understand the meaning of the word “covet.” Even though this Commandment says, “Thou shalt not covet,” it is not always wrong to covet. It is not always wrong to be covetous. The word “covet” in both the Hebrew and the Greek–there are three Hebrew and two Greek words which are translated “covet”–is a word which in its original meaning simply means to desire. It involves the idea of something that is pleasant. It involves the idea of something that is satisfactory and pleasing.

Coveting Not Always Wrong

If we are to look at this Tenth Commandment just as it is, are we to believe that God does not want us to enjoy anything that is beautiful? Are we to believe that God does not want us to have anything that is pleasant? Are we to believe that God does not want us to have anything that brings satisfaction to our lives? Well, some folk might think so; some folk act as if that is so. They think that their religion and their devotion to the Lord are measured by the ugliness of the surroundings in which they live, or the unattractiveness of the clothes which they wear, and on and on we could go.

But that is a direct contradiction to the Word of God. For God says in His Word that He gives us all things richly to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17). He says that no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11). So, you see it is not wrong to like beautiful things. It is not wrong to want beautiful things. It is not wrong to desire pleasurable things.

Coveting That is Wrong

Where does this Commandment come in, then? It comes in when we consider that covetousness is wrong when it is related to that to which we have no right, or to that which we cannot obtain by “legitimate means.” When I use the phrase “legitimate means,” I am not thinking about our civil law alone. I am thinking about the will of God as well. We have no right to desire something that is outside of God's will for us, no matter how beautiful it is, no matter how satisfactory it is. When we do, we are guilty of covetousness, which is forbidden in the Word of God.

We have no right to desire something that belongs to somebody else. When we do, we are guilty of breaking this Tenth Commandment. But basically it is good to be covetous, for covetousness is related to zeal for something good that God has for you.

Coveting Those Things God Plans for Us

Will you turn, please, to the Philippian letter, chapter 3, and notice what we are talking about when we speak of legitimate covetousness. I think that if we get the picture, some of our questions may be answered. The Apostle is talking about his great ambition, which is to be pleasing to the Lord:

Philippians 3

12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

What he is saying here is, “I want to lay hold of whatever God has laid hold of me for.” You see, you are not just so many people in God's index. God put His hand on you for a purpose, a very definite purpose. What you need to do is to find out why He put His hand on you, and you put your hand on it. That is what Paul desires.

Will you notice the phrase, “reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Those words, “reaching forth unto,” are translated from the same root word from which the word “covetous” is translated. What does it mean to covet legitimately? It means to reach out, to spend every bit of energy you have, to get the thing that God has for you. It is not wrong to be covetous, if it is for the right thing.

Covet Earnestly the Best Gifts

Will you notice I Corinthians 12 with us. If you are familiar with this chapter you will remember that there is a list of gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church–gifts of healing, gifts of knowledge, gifts of discernment, gifts of tongues, gifts of interpretations of tongues, etc.–a great list of them. In verse 31 you will notice:

I Corinthians 12

31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

We are primarily concerned with that first statement: “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” Here is a whole list of gifts. The Holy Spirit says, “Look them over, and then covet the very best one.” What is the best one? Well, the old flesh, you know, steps to the foreground and says, “I think those gifts that can be seen by men–those gifts that bring the most attention to the individual–are the gifts which you should covet,” so folk go around coveting the gift of tongues. They put a great deal of emphasis on it. What does the Spirit of God say? Look at chapter 14 of I Corinthians, verse 39:

I Corinthians 14

39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

Now, if somebody wants to speak in tongues, don't you tell him to stop; that is what Paul is saying. But don't you be wrapped up in the gift of tongues. There is a gift that is a whole lot better than that, and that is the gift of prophecy. Desire that. Covet it. Reach out for it. Here, covetousness is endorsed by the Holy Spirit.

Old Testament Illustration

There is an Old Testament illustration of this legitimate covetousness that I think will be helpful to us, so will you turn, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 12. Here is an illustration of legitimate covetousness related to a very practical, everyday thing that we have to live with, namely our appetites. God is giving instruction concerning wilderness experiences and experiences when the folk shall get into the Land of Promise. He says in so many words, “There are some things that you can do in the wilderness that you can't do in the Promised Land.” We are looking at one of those in verse 20:

Deuteronomy 12

20When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after.

The word “lust” here is our word “covet.” What is He saying? He is saying, “When you get into the Promised Land and you get hungry for a good steak, go ahead and eat it. It is all right. Whatever your soul lusts after, whatever you soul desires in regard to meat, go ahead and eat that meat. It is perfectly all right to eat meat. There is nothing wrong with it.”

A Time When Eating Flesh Was Wrong

But do you know, there was a time in the life of the nation of Israel when it was wrong, and when God killed them because they wanted to eat meat and because they did. I would like for you to notice that by way of contrast, so will you turn, please, to the book of Numbers, chapter 11, verse 1:

Numbers 11

1And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.

What did they complain about? They had no meat. That is what they complained about:

Numbers 11

1….. and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
3And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
4And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: [that word ”lusting” is the word ”covet” that we are thinking about, the same word that is used in Exodus 20:17] and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
5We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
9And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.

Not According to God's Will

When they got into the Promised Land, God said, “Eat all the meat you want to eat. Every time you want to eat it, when you get to longing for it, when you get to coveting it, satisfy your desire.” Why didn't He want them to do that in the wilderness? Listen carefully: They could not do it legitimately. Whenever you desire anything that you cannot provide legitimately, it is covetousness; it is condemned by the Tenth Commandment; it is wrong. The reason these Israelites could not get flesh legitimately was that God had ordained that their diet for the wilderness would be Heaven-sent manna. If God says it is manna for you, and you covet flesh, you are breaking the Tenth Commandment. You see that? You see how I am using the term “legitimately”? Not related solely to the civil laws of our land, but related to the will of God for our lives.

Result of Violating the Tenth Commandment

Now I would like for us, having discussed what we mean by “covetousness,” to notice the result of violating this Tenth Commandment. I believe it was purposely put last, because the violation of all the other Commandments is wrapped up in the violation of this one. If you violate this Commandment, you can violate all of the others.

Covetousness is Idolatry

Will you turn, please, to the Colossian letter, chapter 3, as I remind you of the first two Commandments. You remember what they were: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” and “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” What has that to do with covetousness? Notice verse 5:

Colossians 3

5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Did you get that? “Covetousness, which is idolatry.” What is the verse saying? It is saying that when you break the Tenth Commandment, you have broken the first two, because the very moment you want something that is out of God's sphere of operation for you, you have got an idol before God. And listen carefully: That idol does not have to be made of wood and stone. When you pit your will against the will of God, your will becomes an idol. When you want your way instead of God's way, you are guilty of covetousness, and you have broken the first two Commandments.

Brings Failure to Honor Father and Mother

Will you turn with us to chapter 7 of the Gospel of Mark. You will recognize this passage of Scripture because we have looked at it before in connection with the Fifth Commandment, when we were told that we should honor our fathers and our mothers, that our days may be long upon the land which the Lord our God has given to us. The Lord Jesus Christ was talking about a way in which the Pharisees, by their tradition, violated the Word of God. The Word of God was that they should honor their father and their mother:

Mark 7

10For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11But ye say, [the Pharisee] If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.

You remember that when we looked at this passage of Scripture, we discovered that it meant this: Here were an old mother and father. They had no visible means of support. Here was a son who had a lot of money. But he did not want to use it to support his mother or father, so he said to them, “Mother and Dad, I have dedicated everything I have to the Temple, so I can't use it to help you.” There was not a thing that could be done about it. Now, dedicating it to the Temple was not the law of God; it was a tradition of the Pharisees, and the Lord Jesus Christ said that by the tradition of the Pharisees they were violating the Word of God, because the Word of God said, “Honour thy father and thy mother.”

If you will look farther down in the chapter, at verse 22, you will find out why they did this. They were not interested in the Temple; they were not interested in the things of God; they were covetous. They were covetous of material things to which they had no right, and because they were covetous of material things, they were violating the Fifth Commandment. Do you see how easy it is to violate every other one of the ten by violating this one?

Example of Covetousness Bringing Defeat

Will you turn, please, to the book of Joshua, chapter 7. We won't take the time to notice illustrations of how all the Commandments can be violated, but some of these at which we are looking emphasize other truths related to this matter of covetousness. In this chapter you will find the familiar story of the Babylonish garment. You remember that the children of Israel were defeated at Ai when they thought surely they should have great victory. Joshua was praying about it, and down in verse 10 the Lord said, “Get up off your knees. Don't waste my time and your time; there is no point in your praying about this thing. Israel hath sinned. No use to ask me to bless you as long as there is sin in the camp. You are wasting your time. Get rid of the sin.” So the story is told of how they tried to find out who was guilty, and finally Achan was brought to their attention:

Joshua 7

19And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
20And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:
21When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, [notice now] then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

Achan was guilty of violating the Tenth Commandment, and in so doing he violated two more. He violated the Commandment concerning bearing false witness, because he lied about being guilty to begin with, and he violated the Commandment related to stealing, because he stole the Babylonish garment.

So, you see this Commandment concerning covetousness is very important, for it may result in a great many sad situations in a Christian's experience.

Covetousness Led to Rebellion

Will you turn with me, please, to Psalm 106, as we notice David's commentary on the problem of the Israelites and their dissatisfaction with the manna and their desire for meat. We looked at the actual occurence a short time ago, but now we would like for you to notice the commentary of the Holy Spirit on that incident as it is recorded in Psalm 106:

Psalms 106

13They [that is, the Israelites, when they were in the wilderness as described in Numbers, chapter 11] soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:
14But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
15And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

They lusted in the wilderness; they coveted; they were guilty of breaking the Tenth Commandment. Why? Because they wanted meat instead of that sorry old manna that God had provided for them. Manna was desert food, and it was the best food. God in His goodness provided it. But they did not want God's best. They insisted on having something different, and their covetousness led them to rebellion. What was the sad result? Look at he last part of verse 15: God sent leanness into their soul. To me that is one of the saddest statements in all the word of God. He sent leanness into their soul.

Leanness of Soul

This leanness of soul is like the sin of covetousness. It is not always apparent to those who are on the outside; it is not always apparent to the human eye; but it is there. There are multitudes of people today who pit their will against God's will and insist that they have their way. They don't like what God has provided for them. They don't like what God directed. They bow their necks, and they keep on and on about it, and finally God says, “All right. All right. If you don't want My provision, you don't have to have it. I am not going to beat you over the head and make you have it. You don't have to have it. Have your way.” And they go along saying, “Good. I got my way.” They may even be deluded into thinking it is God's way, because they have a certain sense of peace right afterward.

They wake up after a while; I won't say how long it takes, because I don't know. But they wake up after a while; they have no power in prayer, they have no depth of spirit, they have no joy of their salvation; all they have is leanness of soul. They don't always know exactly why. They may relate it to some particular thing that has happened in the last ten or fifteen minutes; but that is not it. It happened back yonder when they violated the Tenth Commandment and insisted on having meat instead of manna. You see the result of it? God lets them have their way, but He sends leanness into their soul.

Lack of Spiritual Perception

Will you turn with me, please, to chapter 12 of the Gospel according to Luke. The Lord Jesus Christ in His ministry came personally face to face with the problem of covetousness. Not in His own life–He was not covetous–but in the lives of those with whom He had to deal:

Luke 12

13And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

Here we have two boys, and their daddy had died and left them a little property. They were fighting about it. Sounds like the twentieth century, doesn't it? Now that in itself is bad enough, but the astounding thing to me is that this should come up in the conversation exactly where it comes up. Why, the Lord had been saying that we are of more value than many sparrows. He has been talking about the fact that some day we may stand before some real persecutors, and we won't know what to say, but we don't need to worry; the Holy Spirit will tell us what to say. Right in the midst of all these wonderful promises, when these people ought to be thanking God for God's provision, this boy comes up with his argument about his inheritance. You see, there is no spiritual perception at all.

One of the most heart-rending things to me personally is to be in a group of people talking about spiritual things, about the goodness and wonderfulness of the Lord–maybe it is because I enjoy that particular thing so much myself that I think everybody else does–and then suddenly out of the blue sky, somebody says, “Think it is going to rain tomorrow? Who is going to win the next election?” You realize he hasn't been paying a bit of attention to what you were saying. He hasn't grasped at all what you were talking about–this that is a great joy to your own heart; he has just been waiting until you got through so he could come up with some silly remark like that. That is heart-rending, and that must have been how the Lord Jesus Christ felt in this instance, because you will notice in verse 14:

Luke 12

14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?

“I have got more important things to do than to settle the matter of inheritances.” Now notice:

He spake a parable unto them. We will not take the time to read it; you read it when you have time. It is the parable of the rich man who had so much that he didn't know what to do with it. Was he happy? He was the most dissatisfied individual around. He had no peace and he had no contentment. So we would remind you that the violation of this Tenth commandment concerning covetousness can rob you of peace and satisfaction and make you thoroughly miserable.

Qualifications for Church Leadership

Will you turn with me, please, to I Timothy 3 as I suggest a portion of the Word that takes us out on rather thin ice:

I Timothy 3

1This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

You see our word “desire.” This is a legitimate desire: “If a man desires the office of an elder,” because the words “bishop” and “elder” are used interchangeably in the Word. The reason I make mention of it is that this is not talking about a man who is way up yonder in some ecclesiastical system. This is talking about an ordinary brother whom the Holy Spirit designates as having these particular gifts. Will you notice that I said the Holy Spirit designates him as having them? Look at these gifts:

I Timothy 3

2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
7Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

These are the qualifications for leadership in the house of God. May I say in passing that in most groups they are ignored. Leadership in most groups is not based upon these requirements. May I say also that most groups would find it difficult to have anybody in leadership if they adhered to all the things that are here. I could preach a sermon on this; I just don't have time. But I want you to notice one word in this list: covetous. Did you see it there? That leads me to say to you, Beloved, that covetousness in the opinion of the Holy Spirit makes you unfit for Christian service. It makes you unfit for a place of leadership.

Love of Money

Will you turn, pease, to chapter 6 of I Timothy, and notice verse 10:

I Timothy 6

10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Notice what the Scripture says, It does not say that money is the root of all evil. It does not say that. It says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Now, wait. Notice carefully what it says. It does not say that if you want to be rich, you are going to get into trouble, necessarily. It does not say that. It does not say that if you would like to be in possession of wealth you are going to get into trouble. It says that if you covet that money, that is where trouble begins. Coveting, in the sense that we are thinking about, is desiring money that you have no legitimate way of obtaining. Once again, we are talking to Christians. I am not talking about our civil laws. I am talking about God's will.

Money Not Wrong In Itself

If, in the providence of God, He places you in a place where you have access to great wealth, there is nothing wrong with it. But if He places you in a place directly opposite from that, and you chafe in it, and you rebel against it, and you covet the money that God does not see fit to let you have, then you are in a sad state.

Look at verse 10 and notice what happens to you:

I Timothy 6

10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

I could give you any number of illustrations I have seen with my own eyes of people who have coveted money; they have erred from the faith, and they have been pierced through with many sorrows. They may not know the reason for these sorrows; they may not know the reason they have erred from the faith; but it is because they have violated the Tenth Commandment: “Thou shalt not covet….anything that is thy neighbour's.”

On Guard Against Covetousness

Now, just a word as to how we can cure covetousness, or how we can guard against covetousness. You remember that in chapter 12 of the Gospel of Luke the Lord Jesus Christ said to those who heard the boys arguing about their inheritance, “Beware of covetousness. Be on your guard against covetousness.” That is what He said. He was talking to Christians. Don't you sit back in ease and say, “I will never be guilty of this.” You may be. You had better be on your guard.

One of the ways in which you can be on your guard is to realize that life does not consist of the abundance of the things we possess (Luke 12:15). A lot of us have the idea that it does. A lot of us have the idea that life consists of the things which we possess, and if we can't possess a lot, we are not happy. If we can't possess a lot, we are miserable. But life does not consist of the abundance of the things which we possess. To realize that is one way to be on guard against covetousness. Don't think that life is involved primarily with things. It isn't.

Then will you turn, please, to the Colossian letter and notice in chapter 3 another suggestion about the cure for covetousness–something that will help us to be on our guard, something that will help us to keep from falling into the snare of the Devil:

Colossians 3

1If ye then be risen with Christ, [and you are if you are born again; you are risen with Christ] , seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

Notice this verse particularly:

Do you know what is wrong with most of us? We are too much in love with the things down here. There are some of us so much in love with the things on this earth that we would appreciate it if the Lord wouldn't call us home to Heaven. We would just rather enjoy what is here than what is up there. Stop and think about that. That is true.

A Complete Cure for Covetousness

Will you turn to the book of Hebrews, chapter 13, for the last thought I would leave with you. This is the final and the complete cure for covetousness:

Hebrews 13

5Let your conversation [you understand that the word ”conversation” means ”manner of life”–the way you live, the pattern of your life] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Be content with such things as ye have. You say, “I don't like that. That takes away all ambition. That takes away all desire to better oneself.” Not if you keep in mind that the things you have, if you are in the center of God's will, you have by His appointment. The philosophy of life that you need to have is that philosophy of life expressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, when he said in verse 10 of chapter 4:

Philippians 4

10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

An Example of Contentment

You see what he is talking about? These Christians at Philippi had sent him an offering. Yes, money. Dirty old nasty money, the love of which is the root of all evil. They had sent him an offering. Now, he was not so “other-worldly” that he sent it back to them and said, “You don't need to waste your time sending me money. I don't want it.” He said, “You know when you sent me that offering, I rejoiced. I was happy.” Somebody said, “Well, I guess you were miserable and sad all the time before it came.” “Oh, no,” he said; look at verse 11:

If your Bible is the King James version, you see a word that ought not to be there. It is not in the original text, and it is misleading. It is the word “therewith”: “I have learned therewith to be content.” Paul did not say any such thing. He did not say, “I have learned to be content with.” He said, “I have learned to be content in,” and there is a vast difference. You are not obligated to be content with anything or anybody, but you are obligated, if you are God's child, to be content in the place where God has permitted you to be. Then if God sees fit to change your situation, you can rejoice.

Content In Unpleasant Conditions

Notice that the state in which Paul had learned to be content was not always very pleasant. In verse 12 he says:

Philippians 4

12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound……

Well, it is real nice when we can abound, isn't it; and it is real hard when we have to be abased. But if you don't learn how to be abased, as well as to abound, before you know it you are going to be guilty of the sin of covetousness–of breaking this Tenth Commandment. You will notice also that he said:

Philippians 4

12…. every where and in all things I am instructed [That doesn't mean somebody gave him a lesson in it; he had learned it] both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

“I have learned how to be content on a full stomach;” that is not hard, unless it is too full. Some of us get carried away and our stomachs get too full and it is hard to be content. “But,” he said, “I have learned also how to be content on an empty stomach.” You see what he is talking about. He is talking about the cure for covetouosness. The cure for covetousness is to recognize that you are where you are in the providence of God, by the grace of God.

Our Need for a Savior

Now, you may read any other one of the Ten Comandments and pat yourself on the back but you cannot read this one and realize anything other than that you need a Savior; for the Word of God says that if we break one of these Commandments, we are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). And if we break a Commandment, we are under sentence of death.

I am glad that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, did for me when He died on the Cross (Romans 8:3).

Shall we bow our heads together for prayer:

Father, we are grateful that we have had this time in the Word. Our hearts are convicted as we minister the Word to realize that we have been guilty of the sin of covetousness. We acknowledge it before Thee, and thank Thee for the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that cleanses us from all sin.* We thank Thee, our Father, that if we confess our sins, Thou art faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.** We do pray that we may set our affection on things above.*** We pray, our Father, that we may beware of covetousness. We pray that we may be content with such things as we have, that our life may be without covetousness. For we pray in Jesus' name, and for His sake. Amen.

* I John 1:7

** I John 1:9

*** Colossians 3:2

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