Pastor Mark Driscoll
November 17, 2013
WHAT WOULD YOU WISH FOR?
Well, today’s a big day. We finish up the Ten Commandments. We’ve been in it for two-and-a-half months. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. And the last commandment is perhaps the most fascinating of all, so here’s what I want you to do: imagine that a genie showed up to you. Yes, this is a true story. Imagine a genie showed up to you and granted you seven wishes. Close your eyes and I’ll ask you the questions, and you can decide what your answer would be. You ready? OK, you’re both ready, good. All right, here we go. Ready, close your eyes. Close your eyes, and whatever comes to mind, whatever you see with your mind’s eye, that’s your answer.
Number one, if you could have the car of anyone, what would you drive?
If you could have the home of anyone, where would you live?
If you could have anyone’s abilities—mental, physical, spiritual, emotional—what would you want?
Number four, if you could have anyone’s physical appearance, who would you look like?
Number five, if you could have anyone’s possessions, what things would you want?
Number six, if you could have anyone’s spouse, who would you be married to?
Number seven, if you could trade lives with anyone, who would you trade with?
You can open your eyes. What we just awakened in you is called coveting. Did you feel it? If you answered any of those questions, you’re a coveter, and if you didn’t, you’re a liar. So either way, God’s got a problem with you. What we awakened in you is coveting. And coveting is when you look at what you don’t have, but what you would like to have, and then it awakens in you a discontent with what you have and a desire for something else.
Paul explains this very phenomena in Romans 7 where he says, “I went back and read the law”—so he’s talking in particular about the Ten Commandments, where we’ll be today—and he says, “I didn’t even know what coveting was until I heard about coveting, and then it awakened in me this desire to start coveting.”
Then Paul asks the question, “Well, does that mean that God’s Word, God’s law, is bad?” And he says, “No, the answer is that I’m bad—God’s law is good, and I’m bad. And so when there are sins that I haven’t even thought of or considered, as soon as I hear about them, I all of a sudden am attracted to them and desirous of them. The law is good, but I am bad, and without a new nature, the law awakens in me old desires.”
You just experienced that, didn’t you? As soon as I started asking you questions about coveting, all of a sudden you have new categories or formalized categories for coveting. That’s our subject today. As we’re in the Ten Commandments, we’re dealing with the tenth and final commandment in Exodus 20:17.
COVETING IS DISCONTENTED DESIRE
Here is the definition of coveting. Let us begin there. Let me define coveting for you. First, there’s a long definition, then I’ll give you a real short, Tweetable one. Coveting is ungodly, discontented desire. How many of you just felt that? Passion, envy, craving, greed, jealousy, obsession, longing, or lust for someone or something that is not supposed to be yours.
Here’s a shorter version: in short, coveting is when you don’t want what God wants for you. The simplest definition I can give you of coveting is, God says, “This is what I want for you,” and you say, “That’s not what I want for me,” and then there’s conflict between what God desires for you and what you desire. That’s where coveting finds its inception. That’s where coveting starts to give birth to death.
Can you consider with me what a massive problem coveting is in the world in which we live? It’s all-pervasive. It’s almost overwhelming, and constant, and continual. Actually, our entire economy is dependent on coveting.
So, in light of that, we’ll hear what God has to say in Exodus 20:17. This is the tenth and final commandment. God says this: “You shall not”—what? What’s the word? “Covet”—that’s what it says—“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 is your neighbor’s.” This is not an exhaustive list because it says, “Anything that is your neighbor’s.” You can’t say, “Well, my neighbor doesn’t have an ox.” Well, if you like their BMW, then that’s your version of the ox. What we’re talking about here is a list of things that are not all-inclusive, but are examples for us to examine our own life.
And when he uses the language here of “house,” what he’s really talking about is their household. So, your household includes all of your possessions. Maybe it includes your business, the home in which you live, your vacation property, your boat. It includes your country club membership, if you have one. If you’re an artist, it includes all of your gear, all of your instruments. If you’re someone who is a parent, it includes your children. If you’re married, it includes your spouse. This includes the car you drive, the clothes you wear, the style you have, all right, the possessions you own, the entertainment and the technology that is at your discretion and disposal. This might include employees who work for you. This might include the company that is under you. Everything that is connected to you is part of your household.
So everything is a possibility for coveting. For coveting. Including your own appearance, the appearance of your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, the behavior and conduct of your own children, can all be something that you are discontented with and you start to covet someone else, that you wish that you had, if not their life, things from their life, people from their life, abilities from their life, and experiences from their life.
4 WAYS THE TENTH COMMANDMENT IS UNIQUE
Now, the tenth commandment is very unique. I’ll give you four ways that it is unique.
- IT’S INTERNAL, NOT EXTERNAL
Number one, it is internal and not external. Up until this point, the Ten Commandments have dealt primarily with the external. There’s one God; he’s out there. Don’t steal things out there. Don’t murder anyone out there. Don’t commit adultery out there. This commandment is entirely in here. It’s not just external; it’s primarily internal. You can be coveting and no one else would know except for you. If you’re murdering, stealing, lying, other people can bear witness to that, but coveting is something that is a private sin, it’s a personal sin, it’s an internal sin. It’s something that only you know. That makes it very, very, very unique. What it reveals to us is that God not only sees our works and hears our words, he knows our hearts. He knows the thoughts of our minds, he knows the desires and longings of our hearts, and God judges all of that.
And so sometimes what you’ll hear people say is, “I’m a pretty good person.” What they’re saying is, “Externally, I haven’t disobeyed a lot of laws,” but the truth is, God knows their heart and he knows internally they’ve broken all of his laws in principle, if not in practice.
- IT’S UNPRECEDENTED IN OTHER MORAL CODES
Number two, this is also unique because it’s unprecedented in other moral codes. Some people will sometimes say that Christianity has the Ten Commandments, and this is the basis for morality and law, and that other cultures basically have the same moral framework and structure. This is untrue because this is a particular exception. You won’t find other moral codes that are trying to govern the inward desires of people. In fact, laws are, by definition, trying to oversee, to regulate, to limit their external conduct, not their internal desires and motivations. So, it’s almost unprecedented to find a law like this.
- IT SHOWS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SIN AND CRIME
Number three, it shows us that there is a difference between sin and crime. Murder is a crime and a sin, all right? You can get arrested for it and go to hell. Coveting is a sin, but it’s not a crime. No government could pass a law that they would start enforcing anti-coveting laws, right? You couldn’t enforce that. You couldn’t say, “Well, you’re guilty of coveting. Thirty days in jail.” Coveting is something that is solely judged by God, and God invites us to judge ourselves.
Sometimes people will say things like, “You can’t judge me,” and here, the point would be, then judge yourself. You know your heart, you know your desires, you know your longings, you know your passions, you know your pleasures, you know your motives. God the Holy Spirit will help you to judge yourself. It’s true, a government can’t come along and judge your heart for coveting. In fact, a fellow believer cannot come along and necessarily judge your heart for coveting. That’s something that you know and the Holy Spirit reveals to you.
- IT’S THE ROOT OF OTHER SINS
Number four, coveting is the root of other sins. God here is not just concerned about behavior but also desire, because they go together. Jesus says it this way: “A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit.” And the point is that good desires lead to good actions, and bad desires lead to bad actions, and if all you’re ever dealing with are the actions, you’re not really helping people and you’re not seeing them change. What you’re dealing with then is behavior modification instead of salvation. You’re trying to get people to be moral instead of born-again.
What happens is that our sins begin in our heart. That’s where Proverbs says, “Guard your heart, it’s the wellspring of your life.” Just as water flows out of a spring, so life flows out of our heart. Jesus says that out of our heart come the desires we have, the words we speak, that it all comes out of our heart.
Some of you have really been trying to get certain behaviors under control, certain addictions, certain compulsions, certain longings, certain failures. You’ll try and manage them, and it really is that God needs to do some work at the seat, sum, center of who you are. When the Bible talks about the heart, it’s not talking about the physical organ, but about the center of the person. We use this language when we say something like, “It’s time to get to the heart of the matter,” talking about getting to the essence, getting to the source. The Bible uses the word “heart” some nine hundred times in the Old and New Testaments. And here, this issue of coveting is really a heart desire. It’s an internal issue that leads to external action.
Here’s the big idea: If you deal with the heart problems, you deal with the behavior problems. If you deal with a coveting problem, you end up resolving lots of other problems.
It All Starts with Coveting
Let’s do a short recap of the series. The first commandment is there’s only one God, OK? So, God is in authority, but if you covet God’s authority, then you will sin by seeking to be sovereign, the Lord, the highest authority in your own life. People who have fights with God over his will, his Word, and his way are really coveting his position, and that leads to violating the first commandment.
Second commandment is that we only should worship that God. What that means is that all the glory is supposed to go to God. Now, what happens is we can also reach a point where in our hearts, we covet glory. We want our name to be great. We want people to know who we are. We want people to be thankful for what we do. We want people to fear us, honor us, repay us, thank us, rejoice in us, welcome us, or at least respect us. And when we do, we’re guilty of violating the second commandment, because all of a sudden we’re saying, “My primary goal is not to glorify God and make his name great. My primary goal is that my name would be glorified and that I would be made great.” And that begins with coveting the glory that is solely due to the Lord.
I’ll give you another example from another one of the commandments. So, the seventh commandment is, “Do not commit adultery.” Before adultery exists out there, it exists in here. So, if you don’t covet someone you’re not supposed to sleep with, you won’t commit adultery with that person. Do you see the correlation? The way you end up committing adultery is first by coveting. See, you covet in your heart, and then you adulterate with your hands. And if you deal with the coveting problem in your heart, then that will resolve the adulterating problem with your hands.
Many of our sins start with our coveting. I’ll give you another example. So, in the eighth commandment, it says, “You shouldn’t steal.” Well, where does stealing begin? Stealing begins with coveting. You say, “I really want that so I’m going to go take it.” It begins with coveting, longing for, desiring, someone or something that you’re not supposed to have, but you become obsessed about it to the point where you’ll do almost anything to obtain it. So, it’s cause and effect.
Some would ask, “Why would God put the coveting commandment as the last commandment?” Because ultimately, it truly gets to the heart of the matter. And if we are aware of our proclivity toward coveting, what it does is it reorganizes our heart, which then reorients our life, and it allows us to avoid the violation of the first nine commandments through obedience to the tenth commandment. Do you see that? I want you to see that.
Practically, what this means is when you’re parenting a kid, you’re not just looking for moral behavior but new desires through Jesus. If you’re dealing with someone who’s got life issues, you don’t just try and encourage them to get better habits for new behaviors. What they first need are new desires. Only Jesus gives new desires. That’s coveting in a nutshell.
HEED YOUR FATHER’S INSTRUCTION
Now, let me say this to you. When God tells us to not covet, I want you to understand who God is. I’ve stressed this throughout the course of the Ten Commandments, but I want to revisit it. God is a loving, perfect, gracious, concerned Father. And if all you receive are the laws and you don’t know the lawgiver, then the laws make no sense whatsoever.
This will be controversial, but I’m not sure that presenting the Ten Commandments to all the non-Christians is all that helpful unless we also tell them about Jesus, because there’s no way that the Ten Commandments make any sense unless you know who God is and what he does. It just ends up in morality, and there are moral people that are going to hell because we’re not saved by our good works but by Jesus’ good works. We’re not saved by keeping the law; we’re saved by Jesus keeping the law.
That being said, I’ll give you an example. I’ve got five kids as you know: three boys, two girls. Let’s say that I had some things that I wanted the kids to do, so I put a little, let’s say, a chore list together, and I stuck it on the refrigerator. If I said, “Kids, this is from Dad. Here’s what I need you to do,” my kids would read it like this: “My dad loves me. I know he cares for me. He’s got a relationship with me. And when my dad asks me to do something, it’s something that’s important for me, for the family. It’s important to my dad, therefore I should do it.”
That’s very different than if an anonymous letter showed up in the mail from somebody they’d never met with a list of the same chores. You know what my kids would do? Anything but the list. That’s what my kids would do. They’d say, “There’s no relationship here. There’s no parental authority. There’s no affection. Why in the world would I obey a list of rules from somebody I don’t even know?”
But it’s different when it’s your father, and it’s different when that father really loves you, and when he’s already invested in you, and he’s demonstrated his affection toward you. When your father gives you a list of, “Do this, don’t do that,” you receive it as loving, wise instruction. At least, you should if you’re a child that is walking in wisdom.
So, when it comes to the Ten Commandments, when he says that these are laws and that’s the category that it’s in, it’s the same language in Proverbs where the Father says to his children, “Heed your father’s instruction. Listen to your father’s warning. Embrace your father’s wisdom.” It’s like that. It’s like that.
Some of you will bristle because you don’t like laws. It’s easier to understand the real grace that laws are when you understand the heart of the Father who gives them. And so when the Father gives us laws, they are for our good and they are for our flourishing, and if we believe that, then our lives will be better because of it.
Another way to say it is, when the Father says, “Do this and don’t do that,” what he’s saying is, “Don’t hurt yourself.” Don’t hurt yourself. I’ve got five kids, and I’ll give them—I don’t have a lot of rules, but my rules are primarily around, “Don’t hurt yourself, and don’t hurt others.” This is about life flourishing. This is about your life being better and the lives of those who are close to you being better.
So, what the Bible does, then, is it picks up this concept of God as Father and him giving laws and rules that are for all of his children and love, and then it talks about the commandments, and it concludes with the tenth commandment of not coveting. And then from that point forward, the Bible revisits this idea of coveting and it teaches us the ways in which we hurt ourselves and we hurt others when we violate this commandment. So, I want to walk through some of those with you.
BREAKING THE FATHER’S HEART
The first is that coveting hurts God. See, when we break laws, we’re not just breaking the Father’s laws, we’re breaking the Father’s heart. Let’s say I tell my kids, “Don’t do that. You’re going to hurt yourself, or you’re going to hurt someone else,” and then they do it. They’ve just not violated a law, but they’ve grieved me, their dad. And so the laws are an extension of the Father. They’re an expression of the Father, so to violate the laws is also to grieve the Father.
How many of you parents, you know exactly what I’m talking about? You give your kids a rule, a law for their good, to protect them, they violate it, and it hurts you emotionally because it’s a personal issue because of your affection for them and the violation of the law is actually a disrespect toward you.
First Timothy 6:17, Paul says this: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.”
I can’t get into all of this. Some are rich; some are poor. The Bible never commends one over the other necessarily. It says that those who are rich and love the Lord should be generous toward those who are poor, particularly the poor who love the Lord. The Bible does not in any way indicate that riches are a sign of blessing or that poverty is a sign of blessing. There are rich people who love the Lord in the Bible; there are poor people who love the Lord in the Bible.
But the warning here to those who are rich is, don’t be arrogant and proud, and don’t set your hopes on your wealth and the comforts they provide—you could lose them all tomorrow, and if nothing else, on the day you die, you will not take them with you. Ultimately, the things that matter most are not things but people. That’s why he says, “God richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” I want you to get that.
Many of you don’t have that fatherly view of God. How many of you are parents, and when you give a gift to your child, you find great joy in them enjoying what you gave them, right? Don’t you love it when it’s their birthday or it’s Christmas and you planned a great gift? And you’re excited to give it to them, and then you want to see them open it, and you want to see their face, and you want to see them enjoy it, and it brings joy to your heart because you’re helping them to have joy by giving them something to enjoy.
God’s a Father like that. God’s a Father who’s generous. God’s a Father who likes to give good gifts. God’s a Father who gives good gifts, not just for our survival but for our enjoyment, which means sometimes God will spoil his kids. I tell my kids all the time, “I’m going to spoil you, just don’t act spoiled.” You know the difference? Sometimes parents will tell—you know, “I’m not going to spoil my kids.” Why not, right? I’m worshiping a God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. It seems like God’s a Father who occasionally spoils his kids. The key is that the kids shouldn’t act spoiled.
Here, if they’re haughty, bratty, snotty kids—and these can be fifty-year-old men, OK—and setting their hopes on it, like, “Well, this is going to make my life better,” and, “This is—you know, this is the center of my life now,” or, “This can replace my Father.” No, there’s no gift like that. God’s a Father who likes to spoil his kids. He just doesn’t want his kids to act spoiled, and he wants them to enjoy what he richly provides.
How many of you who are parents, or maybe you did this when you were a kid—somebody loved you. Let’s say it was your father or your mother. For your birthday, for Christmas, for a holiday, whatever the case was, they got you something, and it was something that was an expression of their love for you, their devotion to you, their affection for you. They gave it to you, you opened it and had that look on your face. “Yeah, that’s not really what I wanted.” Have you ever been to that birthday party with that kid? Have you ever seen that kid? They’re like, “Yeah,” and they grab another present. They’re hoping that that one will be better.
It breaks the Father’s heart when he gives us something to enjoy, and we’re like the bratty kid who says, “Well, that’s not what I wanted,” and that’s exactly what coveting causes. Coveting causes us to desire something other than what the Father has chosen to be our gift. That’s all that it is. That’s the heart of coveting. That’s where it comes from.
THE RED TRUCK
Let me say this as well, back to this example of children, because this really begins when we’re little. How many of you have seen kids playing together, let’s say in a playroom at somebody’s house, two little kids. One kid has got a red truck, and the room is filled with a thousand other toys. What does the other kid want? The red truck, OK? The red truck.
So now, the parent’s got a really important decision to make. Am I going to nurture their coveting? And parents will nurture the coveting by saying things like, “Well, wait your turn, and then you’ll get the red truck,” which is, “Coveting is fine, but you just need to add patience to coveting,” which isn’t really a virtue, right? Sometimes it is, “I’ll go get you a red truck. I’ll feed your coveting.”
“I’ll get you a blue truck. The blue truck’s even better,” which is, “You should covet bigger.” It’s nurturing a greater coveting. “Oh, you think the red truck—I’ve got a bigger truck. “The red truck’s little; the blue truck’s big. You know, here, take the blue truck. It’s better.” You haven’t even dealt with the coveting problem. You’ve fed it, you’ve nurtured it, you’ve increased it.
What if you say, “Well, I’ll look around here. I’ll bet you there’s a red truck.” These are ways that we just train children to covet, which is a hard cycle to break when they grow up and get their own debit card. They’ve been nurtured, right? “Train a child in the way they should go and when they grow old, they will not depart from it.” The same is true for bad parenting. You’re setting them on a trajectory, on a life course, on a direction, of what they think is normative.
How many of you have tried this? How many of you have actually gone over and taken the red truck and given it to your kid? What do they do with the red truck? They don’t want to play with it anymore. Why? Because the issue wasn’t the truck. The issue was the desires in their heart.
Good parenting looks at the child and says, “Why can’t you be glad that they are enjoying? Why is it not enough for you to be satisfied with what you have?” See, that’s biblical parenting.
For some of us, this continues for the rest of our life. All of sudden, it’s not the red truck, it’s the red car, or it’s the woman driving the red car, or it’s the man driving the red car, or it’s the house with the red furniture, and it just becomes more expensive and more complicated for the rest of our life. And we really just act like spoiled little kids.
DON’T PLAY FAVORITES
Another practical thing I’d like to say to the parents is, don’t play favorites. Bad things happen when we play favorites. Genesis, the previous book of the Bible, has examples of when bad things happen when parents play favorites.
So, as a general rule, if you’re going to go out and get ice cream for one kid—I’ve got five kids—it’d be really bad if I brought home one ice cream cone, amen? You’re like, “Yeah, that’s not very good.” Like, “Hey, I got ice cream! For one of you. And the other four can watch.” Right, like, I am setting up a coveting situation, right? So, as a general rule as parents, we should be generous toward all our children.
But there are times when you get a gift for one child and not every child, and those are opportunities for the other children to deal with their coveting.
I’ll give you an example. I was in Nashville teaching not too long ago. I’m leaving after teaching an event, going through the airport, and I notice there’s this store I’ve never seen in the airport, and it has, like, military gear for little kids. I’ve got a son who’s seven and he’s kind of obsessed with military gear right now. Ever since he—I shouldn’t say this, but he learned how to shoot a .22. He’s actually a really good shot, and now he’s collecting military gear. He’s got little military hats and packs, and he’s kind of fired up about the military.
So I’m walking along, and I see these military jackets for little kids made by the exact same company that is actually contracted to make the military their real jackets. And it has the real patches, so like, the Black Hawk, and the SEALs, and the real patches that go on the real jackets. And I thought, “Well, of course.” It’s actually got dog tags on it, OK?
So, I prayed about it and felt like the Holy Spirit said, “You definitely need to get one of those for your kid.” So I walked in to buy one, but then it dawned on me, “Well, I don’t have a present for all five of my kids.” And I’m looking around the mall and thinking, “There’s not even anything else here that’s really that cool. It would just be a waste of money and nothing would really equal this amazing, green, winter warrior coat that my son will probably sleep with.”
So, I decided, “You know what? I’m just going to take the coat home, and I don’t have gifts for the other five kids.” And it was really interesting because I thought, “This will be a little case study to see what happens.”
So, I walk in the door and I said, “Gideon!” All the kids run up, give me a hug. Grace always gets the first kiss. And Gideon is there. I said, “Gideon, Daddy found something for you at the airport.” He’s like, “Really?” And I showed him the coat, and let’s just say he approved. We’ll just say he approved, OK?
I looked at the faces of the other kids. I literally took a step back, and they were all smiling, and they said, “Gideon, that’s an awesome coat!” And not one child asked, “What did you get me?”
Now, this is the one occasion that they didn’t sin, so I’m using it as an illustration, OK? But they were able, in that moment, to see that this was something that Gideon really was going to enjoy, and their joy was in his joy.
Coveting doesn’t allow that, and it breaks the Father’s heart. The Father says, “Man, can’t I give a gift to one of my kids without my other kids being angry? Can’t my other kids share in my joy?” That’s the Father heart of God, and when we covet, we not only break his laws, we hurt his heart.
NOT TO PUNISH BUT TO PROTECT
I’ll say this as well: when God doesn’t give you something, it’s not to punish you but to protect you. “God, I want that!” He says, “I know, that’s why I can’t give it to you. You’re not ready for it. It’s not that I’m unwilling, it’s that you’re not ready.”
My sixteen-year-old daughter is driving. So, then we start looking for cars for her. My seven-year-old son, who also likes cars, as does my eleven-year-old son and my fourteen-year-old son—I’ve learned a lot about Bugatti Veyrons. My sons watch Top Gear all the time. “It’s the fastest car ever made!” “Well, you’ll need to get a job.” You know, so we have those conversations.
And my seven-year-old son says, “Can I get a car?” The answer is, “Not right now, and it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s actually because I do. You’re not ready. Maybe one day, when you are ready, we’ll talk about getting that for you.”
We don’t think of ourselves as children, but God does. We think of ourselves as grown adults. I mean, I’ve got a great beard. I’m a grown man. God says, “Actually, I’m eternal. You’re just a pup. You know, and you think you’re ready for certain things, and I know you’re not, and because I say no, it’s not to punish you but to protect you.”
How many of you, if you look in hindsight in your life, there were things that you coveted, you really, really wanted—people, experiences, possessions, opportunities—which never came, and now in hindsight you’re like, “It’s actually a good thing I didn’t get that. I wasn’t ready for that. That would have destroyed me”? The Father knows what’s best. And sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is later, and he’s waiting for you to reach a point in maturity where he can give that particular gift, whatever it may be, to you. So, coveting hurts God.
COVETING HURTS YOU
Number two, coveting hurts you. Luke 12:15, “Jesus said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all’”—what’s the word? “Covetousness.” He’s going back to the tenth commandment. He says, “You know what? You’ve got to keep an eye on this.” You know what it means to be on guard? Whenever there’s security detail, it’s around the clock, right? There’s no such thing as nine-to-five security, because criminals come at 5:05. If you really want to guard something that’s valuable, you’re going to need continual security to guard it.
That’s what Jesus is saying. Your desires, your longings, your heart, your coveting—you’re going to need to be on guard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his”—what? “Possessions.” We don’t even believe that. We believe Jesus here is just talking Zen, weird, fortune cookie peculiarity, right? “One’s life does not consist of one’s possessions.” “Oh grasshopper, very insightful.” You know, I mean, “Can I eat the cookie now? You know, it’s an interesting little statement they put in it”—we tend to see it that way, like that’s crazy talk.
No, Jesus knows exactly what he’s talking about and what he connects is the desires of the heart with the possessions of the life. It’s not only out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, it’s also out of the overflow of the heart the wallet spends. He says, “Your whole life is not about what you own. One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his or her possessions.”
CONSUMERISM AND CONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION
Well, Jesus here was anticipating something that the sociologists today will call “consumerism.” Consumerism is its own religion. Consumerism is that your identity is based upon your possessions. You are what you drive. You are what you wear. You are what you eat. You are what you drink. You are where you live. You are who you date. You are who you marry. Those things are to glorify you. It’s a worship issue. They’re supposed to show how great you are, and all the things that you’ve accomplished, and the innate value that you possess.
Sociologists will also talk about something called “conspicuous consumption.” This is where we spend money not for anything that we need but simply to make a statement about who we are. That’s why sometimes people will spend large amounts of money on things they don’t even need, don’t even use. You say, “What a waste of money. Why do they do that?” To tell you how rich they are—they can waste money on things that they don’t even need or use. That’s how successful they are.
This leads to what? Advertising and marketing. And this is—my degree in college was communication. I don’t think that all advertising and marketing is bad, but our hearts are bad. But what advertising and marketing exists to do is to create coveting. It exists to create a desire in us that did not previously exist.
True or false: if you watch a pizza or burger commercial, immediately the only thing you are thinking about until you eat a pizza or a burger is a pizza or a burger? True or false? You’re like, “I did not think about a burger all day. Now I cannot think about anything but a burger. I have to go get a burger. If I don’t get a burger, I’m going to keep thinking about the burger.” All of a sudden, it becomes an insatiable desire. This is why burger joints are open how many hours a day? Twenty-four hours a day, which is kind of crazy if you think about it. It’s like, 3:17, burger time! A.m., really?
See, the world in which we live, people are coveting all the time, so now we need to be available to meet that demand instantaneously all the time. That’s the economy we live in.
EVERYTHING ON DISPLAY
Here’s a crazy illustration: you’ve probably never been to Woolworth’s, but it was one of the first department stores. Prior to that—any of you grow up watching Little House on the Prairie? OK, all right, OK. The Holy Spirit said not to say that, but it was going to be hilarious.
So, anyway, do you remember the store in town? Who was the evil, blonde girl? Nellie, yeah, evil, blonde girl. So, “Nellie” is the Greek word for demon. So, remember Nellie’s family had a store? Her mom was horrible too, and her dad was a codependent enabler. He needed my sermons on headship. Anyways, remember that family that owned the store in town? OK, if—let’s say the Ingalls would go in to buy something, and Nellie’s dad was working the counter, if they wanted something, they would tell him, and then where would he get it? He’d go back in the storeroom, right? Because most of the products were not displayed out on the floor, they were in the storeroom. So, you needed to know what you wanted. You went to the store to get that, and you’d tell the clerk, and then the clerk would go in the storeroom.
Well, here’s what happened with Woolworth’s: they put everything out on display. Glass cases, lighting. All of a sudden, you get to see what you could buy. Well, what this awakens in you is coveting. All of a sudden you’re like, “I never even saw one—what is that? I have to have one of those.” “Oh, I never thought—boy, that’s a—I should definitely get one of those.”
How many of you, to kill time, go to the mall? You walk around window coveting all day. You’re like, “Wow, look at that. I didn’t even know they made that. Now I can’t live without it. I need to get two in case the first one breaks.” For how many of you really, it becomes hard to go to even one of the big box mega stores? All right, they give you a cart that’s about the size of a truck in most countries. You’re pushing it around, right? You’re like, “Huh, it’ll fit, it’ll fit, it’ll fit. Oh, look at that. I never thought of that. I never even considered that. I never even knew they had that. Oh, that is good. I’ve got one of those, but that one’s better. Mine still works, but I’ll throw mine away and get that one.”
THE ABUNDANCE OF POSSESSIONS
The next thing you know, you push your cart out and you’re stuck. What have you done? You’ve coveted all day and they gave you a cart big enough, but it’s OK because “you get a discount.” And see, that’s always the lie: it’s on sale. It’s on sale.
So, we don’t think about it, but this is the whole world that we live in. We think, “Actually, no Jesus, you’re wrong. Life does consist in the abundance of possessions.” Is it a sin to have a storage locker? No, but do most people need one? No. But house is full, garage is full—talking about my house—closets are full, and then all of a sudden you’re like, “We need to get a storage locker”—why? Because you think life consists in the abundance of our possessions. Jesus says, “Guard your heart 24/7.” You’ve got to get this soldier on duty, otherwise you’re going to destroy yourself. It leads to hoarding, it leads to stealing, it leads to bad stewardship, it leads to—true or false—debt? Debt.
Some of you say, “I have a debt problem.” No, you actually have a coveting problem in your heart that leads to a debt problem with your account. It’s a coveting problem that’s getting you into that position. Because if the Father has given you resources and you’re spending beyond them, that means you’re wanting for yourself things that the Father doesn’t want for you. That’s coveting.
Then, we elect officials who just increase our debt limit while we increase our debt limit, and everyone just sort of pushes the inevitable off to someday. And Jesus says, “Man, if you guys would guard your heart, if you would believe that your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions, you would stop hurting yourself.” You’d stop hurting yourself.
I’ll show you a few quick ads. Just look at them.
[Ad no. 1] “The key to an extraordinary life is quite literally a key.” All of a sudden, you’re thinking, “Man, I’ve got a car, but look at that car. I’ll bet you the heaters in the seats are so hot, I could toast a muffin.” How many just look at that and you realize, “Yeah, maybe I need a new car.”
[Ad no. 2] “Before you say, ‘I do,’ show everyone he did,” right, ladies? Get a ring to show everyone that they should covet what you have and the man that you have. See, that’s conspicuous consumption.
[Ad no. 3] How about this one? “Bold knows no one dreams of having a mediocre kitchen.” Right, so all of a sudden, you’re like, “Do I have a mediocre kitchen?” All you single guys, the answer is yes, you do, OK? So, you’re like, “What is a mediocre kitchen? Well, how big is my range, and what are my countertops?” And is it a sin to have nice things? No, it’s not, but it is a sin to covet. You’re like, “Yeah, I never had a—is that a sink? Is that a robot? Is that an alien? What is—that’s amazing.” OK, let me just show you this. You know what this sink does? Do you know what it does? It pours water. You know what a cheaper sink does? I’ll give you a couple guesses. It also pours water. So, this faucet technically doesn’t do anything different. It just does it cooler, so when your friends come over, you’re like, “Do you want water?” “I do.” “Wow, that’s amazing. That’s different than my water. My water goes like this, but your water goes like this [twirling arm]. That’s amazing. I’ve got to get a sink like that. I now know what a mediocre kitchen is.”
[Ad no. 4] OK? How about this one: “Your turn.” Nice, big boat. It’s a nice boat, right? But, how many of you never thought about having a boat until you see that boat? And all of a sudden, you’re like, “A boat, I’ve got to start thinking about a boat.”
There’s nothing wrong with having nice possessions, but like Jesus says, it’s when your hope rests in them, or when Jesus says that your identity rests in them. And all of a sudden, you’re like, “I don’t have the money for that, but I’m going to find a way to get it, and get myself into debt, and maybe reorganize my life, and not be generous, and not tithe toward God, and not have a heart for the poor”—so that what? “So that I can get what I covet.”
But true or false? As soon as you get, pretty soon you’re bored with it. You’re just like the kid with the red truck. You’re like, “I wanted it until I got it.”
COVETING HURTS THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
Coveting hurts the people you love. You ready? Deep breath. Jesus’ brother James. James 4:1–2, “What causes quarrels and fights among you?” You ever had a strained relationship, a quarrel, a conflict with somebody? You say, “What causes it?” Usually our answer is, “Obviously, they did. Yeah, I have a problem, and they are the source.”
James says something very interesting. “What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” It’s the heart. “You desire and do not have.” You want it, but God said no. “So you murder.” You kill somebody, you get violent, you get angry. “You”—what’s the word? “Covet.” We’re back to the tenth commandment. “And you cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Coveting hurts the people you love. Oftentimes, we covet the people we know. Now, we do live in a day when you get to see the lives of celebrities, celebrity gossip, and tabloids. The whole point is to get us to covet. “Oh, they lost weight.” “Oh, they look beautiful after they had the baby.” “Oh, they moved into a new house.” “Oh, they got these clothes.” “Oh, that’s the car they drive.” “Oh, that’s the house they live in.” “Oh, that’s the place they vacation at.” So, they show us the lives of celebrities to illicit coveting in us.
Oftentimes, the coveting is not far away with people we don’t know, but it’s close by with people we do know. “Did you hear that they got a raise?” “What?” “They got a promotion.” “Really?” “They got married.” “To who? To them? They’re way too good for that person, who’s my friend.” “What do you mean they bought a house?” “What do you mean they send their kids to private school?”
All of a sudden, someone we know—we get a peek into their life and we become very jealous of it, right? And then we want what they want. We want what they have. We don’t get it, so then we fight with them. We’re angry at them. We make it personal against them.
Here’s my question: Who are you jealous of? Be honest. Not just, what do you covet, but who are you jealous of? Who are you jealous of? Number two, how’s your relationship with them going? Can you have a good, loving friendship with someone that you are jealous of? Yes or no? No, because if something goes good for them, you’re upset.
Sometimes we do this publicly. We just tell them what we think. Sometimes we do this privately. It includes criticism, gossip, lying, judging. Sometimes it’s even judging motive. “Well, I know they got a new house, but you know why they got a new house? They got a new house because—” Then we start to impugn motive and character.
The Bible says, “We’re to rejoice with those who”—what? “Rejoice,” and “Weep with those who weep.” Coveting does not allow us to rejoice with those who rejoice. “We’re pregnant!” “Really? We’re still infertile. Yeah, nice for you to tell me that. Don’t you know how that hurts me?” “Wow, OK, you can’t be happy for me.” “We’re engaged!” “Really? Well, I’m still single, so I’m glad that’s working out for you, but some of us have it really hard.” “My husband got a raise!” “My wife got a promotion!” “Really? We just got laid off.”
How many of you can’t even share good news with certain friends because good news goes bad. You can’t tell them. The last thing you want to tell them is, “Praise God, we got an inheritance,” or, “You know what? God provided a new car.” The last thing you want is them to know. You’re driving up in the car, and you’re like, “I just hope they don’t say anything.” “Oh, where did that come from?” “How much did that cost?” “How did you do that?” Wow, rejoice with those who rejoice. It’s a big problem, right? It hurts the people we love. It hurts the people we love.
THE PROBLEM IS BETWEEN YOU AND GOD
Here’s the point: if you’re jealous of someone else, the problem is not between you and them, the problem is between you and God. That’s what he says. “You do not have, because you do not ask.” It’s like the dad gives something to one kid, and the other kid hates that kid because they want something too. And the dad says, “Don’t walk over and hit your sister; ask your father, because the father’s the one who’s doling out the gifts.” And maybe the reason the father hasn’t given you that gift is because of your attitude.
I don’t know about you, but I am not inclined as a father to lavishly bless spoiled, ungrateful children. I tend not to reward that behavior. Now, this is not prosperity theology. This is generosity theology that says God is a good Father who lives to give good gifts to his children. That’s exactly what Jesus says. But if you’re saying, “Man, how come I don’t get what they have?” Well, maybe because your attitude. Maybe your attitude, and maybe you’re not asking. “Father, I rejoice in the gift that you’ve given them, and I’m asking for this gift for me. And if you don’t give it to me, I know you’re a good Father, maybe I’m not ready for it, or it’s not a good thing for me, or maybe it’s in the future, or maybe it’s never. But Dad, I trust you, but I am going to tell you what I would like, and of course, you’re free to decide what the answer is.” This is all very parental. Coveting hurts people you could love.
IT’S MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
Acts 20:35, “In all things, I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more’”—what? “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” The problem with coveting is it thinks that the blessing is in the receiving, not the giving. This is where I really do oppose prosperity theology. “Blessing equals getting!” No, actually Jesus says, “Blessing equals giving.” So, it’s not just what we amass, but what we share. Do you get that?
True or false: the happiest moments in your life came not in getting but in giving? In giving. This is why people who won’t receive a gift are robbing us of a blessing. Coveting says, “I need this or that person, or thing, or experience, or ability, and if I get it, then I’ll be blessed,” and Jesus says, “No, no, no, no. The blessing is in the giving.” So, “God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son.” God loves a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver. Giving is an opportunity to love people. Generosity is an opportunity to bless people, and in so doing, we are the ones who are blessed.
How many of you have generously given someone something, you really loved them, and it was a big, generous gift, and they said, “Thank you,” and you said something like this: “Actually, it was a gift to me too, because I was sharing the Father heart of God.”
I saw this the other day. I was out with my son Calvin. We were running errands, and I wanted to go get a big stack of balloons for Alexi’s birthday. She’s turning ten, and we were there, and Calvin was looking around. He said, “I want to buy this for Gideon,” and it was like a ninja warrior dress-up suit, OK? Gideon’s seven. I said, “OK.”
I said, “Calvin, do you want anything?” Calvin said, “I want to really get that for Gideon.” He didn’t want to get anything, he wanted to get something that he could bring home to his brother. We walked in the door, and the first thing he yells, “Gideon!” Gideon comes running, “Yeah, what?” He’s like, “I found something for you,” and pulls it out. Gideon’s jumping up and down. Now he can wear the ninja outfit and the warrior coat. I mean, he could kill any kind of soldier from any nation. He’s fully outfitted for all kinds of combat. I looked at Calvin, and Calvin said, “That was really fun.” Sometimes, better than getting a gift is giving a gift, amen, and coveting doesn’t allow that.
CRUSHING COVETING WITH CONTENTMENT
So, how many of you are now convinced that coveting is bad? OK, my big idea at this point is coveting is bad. So, what do you do with it? Well, here’s what Paul says: it’s crushing coveting with contentment. Philippians 4:11–13, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.” So, the answer, the anecdote for coveting is contentment. Do you see that? You say, “Well, I don’t want to be coveting.” OK, then ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in contentment. The Bible says elsewhere, “Godliness with contentment is of great gain.” “I know how to be brought low.” He says, “I know how to be flat broke, and I know how to abound. I know how to have extra. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret.” Here’s the secret. Most people don’t know the secret. The secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need—“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Let me say a few things about contentment, OK? Coveting is the problem, contentment is the solution.
- CONTENTMENT IS WANTING WHAT THE FATHER WANTS
Number one, contentment is not wanting what we want, but wanting what the Father wants for us. See, coveting is when we want what we want. Contentment is I want what he wants. Do you see the difference? You say, “My Dad must know some stuff I don’t, so if he tells me no, that must be best, because I know my Dad loves me.” That’s contentment.
- CONTENTMENT IS NOT NURTURED BY POVERTY OR PROSPERITY
Number two, contentment is not nurtured by poverty or prosperity. Paul says, “I was content when I had nothing. I was content when I had everything.” People don’t believe this. People who are poor think, “I’ll be content when I’m rich.” Rich people think, “I need to get rid of all my stuff and be poor so that I can be content.” Contentment has nothing to do with what’s in your hands. It has everything to do with what’s in your heart.
Some people think, “If I get more stuff in my hands, I’ll have more contentment in my heart.” No, you won’t. “Well, if I get less stuff out of my hands, then I’ll have more contentment in my heart.” No, you won’t. Maybe God wants you to have more, maybe God wants you to have less, but until you deal with the contentment issue, you’ve not really dealt with the issue.
Jesus was rich in heaven, he was poor on earth, and he was content under both circumstances. He’s back in heaven today and he’s rich. He’s not poor. He was content when he was poor; he’s content when he’s rich. Paul was content when he was poor; he was content when he was rich.
And we live in a world that has made it about the poor and the rich, and the Bible says it’s actually about the covetous and the content. It’s not an economic issue; it’s a heart issue with economic implications.
- CONTENTMENT IS NOT CRUSHED BY CEASING DESIRE
Number three, contentment is not crushed by seeking to cease your desires. Let me say it another way: contentment is not crushed by ceasing desire.
Some of you will hear this and you’ll say, “Covetousness is strong desire. I need to get rid of desire.” That’s Buddhism. That’s not Christianity. Christianity is actually about passion, longings, appetites, and desires for God and for good.
It can become very motivating. You’re like, “I want to know the Bible.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to learn about Jesus.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to serve other people.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to be a good steward of my resources so I can be generous as God is generous toward me in Christ.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to know my spouse and love them very well.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to invest in my kids and raise them to love and serve the Lord.” Good desire, nurture it. “I want to make a difference with my life and do ministry that counts.” Good desire, nurture it.
The problem is not desire—it’s unholy desire. That’s the problem, and so the answer is not no desire but God’s desires. I’ve got a lot more in my notes; I’ll leave it there.
We’re at the end of the Ten Commandments. Every sermon that I’ve driven home from this series with my kids in the car, the Driscoll kids, the Fab Five will tell you, here’s my question. We’re driving away, “So, what’s your takeaway? What did you learn today? What’s the big idea that the Holy Spirit highlighted for you?” I ask something like that. Anybody on my team knows that. I ask this all the time. If you’re traveling with me, this is it. I mean, I treat everybody like one of my kids in the Suburban. “What’d you learn today?” Right, so. And then I don’t ask them to rehash the whole sermon, but I ask them to take the big idea that the Holy Spirit has given them, and to share it with us, and then we pray for them.
TEN COMMANDMENT TAKEAWAYS
Here are my three takeaways at the end of the series, and I want you to think about yours as well.
- GOD IS A LOVING FATHER
God is an amazing Father. That God is an amazing Father. I mean, the commands that he gives us, thousands of years later still could not be improved upon. They deal with every area of life, not just the external behavior, but the internal motivation. We have a great Father. And that he’s willing to speak to us about the very practical matters of life and the heart, that just reveals to us what a wise, loving, great Dad we have, amen?
- JESUS FORGIVES US OF SIN
Number two, Jesus is incredible—God came down into human history and that he would not break any of the laws, externally or internally. Not only did Jesus never commit adultery, he never lusted after a woman. Not only did Jesus never steal anything, but he gave his life as a gift. Not only did Jesus not have a lot of possessions, he also never coveted anyone else’s possessions. Not only did Jesus never marry, he also never lusted after another man’s wife.
I mean, when we put Jesus in a category of, “He’s a good man,” that’s an inadequate category. Jesus is God. Jesus is perfect. Jesus is amazing. Jesus didn’t even just avoid the outward sins, but the inward inclinations of the heart. I mean, he is pure of heart. And as we examine God’s law and we examine our life, I hope you realize with me how unlike Jesus we are and how much we need him to forgive us of sin, to cleanse us from unrighteousness.
- THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US NEW DESIRES
And then number three, to send us the Holy Spirit. My takeaway is that it’s amazing that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of Scripture and who also convicts us of sin through the law, would bring to us the righteousness, the sinlessness, the standing of Jesus Christ; that he would cause us, through faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, to have a new heart, a new nature, that has new what? Desires. If you go up to a non-Christian and you read them the Ten Commandments, they’re like, “I don’t even want to do that.” If you have the Holy Spirit in you, you’re like, “That’s what I want to do, because God is changing my desires.”
That the Holy Spirit would work at the level of desire is amazing to me, because that means that God loves us so much that he wants us not to just obey his laws, but he wants us to have his heart, that we would desire what he desires for us. And as we yield to those desires, we become more like Jesus and we have greater joy, amen?
Father God, thanks for an opportunity to study the Ten Commandments together. And Lord, thank you that the tenth commandment is about the internal. It’s about the heart’s inclinations and motivations, about its appetites, longings, and desires.
Lord Jesus, we confess that unless you give us a new heart, we cannot have new desires. But because you give us a new heart, the Holy Spirit can help us to nurture those desires.
God, I pray for us as a people, that we would see that coveting is the beginning of much sinning, and that we can’t just work on our outward actions, but we have to guard our heart continually. That soldier needs to be standing watch all the time. I pray that our hearts wouldn’t drift toward setting our identity, our hope, our joy, our comfort, and our future on someone or something other than Jesus, in whose name we pray, amen.
If you could have anyone’s car, home, abilities, physical appearance, spouse, or life, whose would you have? If you answered, what was just awakened in you is coveting—an ungodly, discontented desire for what’s not ours. If you answered, you’re a coveter; if you didn’t, you’re a liar. How do we come to want what God wants for us?