2015-11-15 - The Tenth Commandment
The Real Issue
Does this really mean I can’t want a Mazda Miata?
There is a danger with this command, that it can be taken to mean it is sin to desire or want anything. The issue isn’t wanting something, but how much it is wanted and to what degree one is willing to go to get it. The operative idea here is related to “an ‘inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire.’” This issue, again, is one of the heart. We all have desires to have things, but where do the desires come from? Are we looking to the Lord for what we not only have, but what we really want? How often do we get things not because we need them, but on impulse? Do we really take our desires to the Lord?
Can you think of some times when you really coveted something? Can you also think of times when you really did want something, but you took that desire to the Lord, and it was clear He also wanted you to have whatever it was?
As I noted earlier, we live in a culture that flourishes on the concept of coveting. Written on a stone arch over Madison Avenue are the words, “Thou Shalt Covet.” It appears the entire function of advertising is to cause us to covet something, anything. We are also to go beyond coveting - into obtaining.
One obvious example I can think of is children’s advertising. Children really coveted “Despicable Me 2 Minion.” If their friends had them, then they had to have them also. I think though we will find that while the effect of advertising is obvious on children, it is just as strong, though possibly more subtle in approach, on adults.
Can you think of some advertising pieces that have had an effect on you? Now the effect may have only been to think, “I’d sure like that,” but it may also have sent you out to obtain the item. By the way, I'm not saying the buying was wrong, I'm just trying to identify the effectiveness of advertising.
I think you can see that I’m saying it may be all right to want a Miata. Bush, in his commentary on Exodus, puts it this way:
“A simple, passing, evanescent, wish to possess any thing valuable or agreeable, which we see to belong to our neighbor, is no doubt, in thousands of cases, the mere prompting of an innate and instinctive desire, which is in itself innocent, and probably the very same feeling which prompted our neighbor himself innocently to procure it.” 1
Coveting is basically keeping up with the Joneses, desiring what they have, because they have it. Coveting involves passion. It is that passion that is encouraged often, as a basis to get us to consume.
By the way, notice the focus here is on the wrong desire. No action need be carried out, to fulfill the desire. The desire itself is the sin. This seems much more in line with Jesus’ teachings on adultery. The desire for the act is the same as the act, from God’s point of view. So let us also not confuse wanting with coveting. But let’s not forget we can sin, just by coveting. Getting isn’t necessary.
To be continued.
All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.