A topic that has been on my heart lately is covetousness, or probably as we would call it today, comparison without contentment. Marcus Aurelius once said, “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” I’ve been thinking a lot about how often I do this, how it affects my attitude and how it ultimately affects my intimacy with God.
The first thing I realized was how easy it is to do! This world is set up in such a way that it constantly pushes us to compare ourselves. You can’t turn on the TV without seeing a car you don’t have, a husband or wife that is in perfect shape, or the newest iPhone that you can’t afford. You’re also reminded, “You’re worth it” and urged to “Obey your thirst” by companies like L’Oreal and Sprite.
At the same time you’re on Facebook and everyone you know seems to have a better life than you, given all the honeymoons, new babies, new homes, job promotions and all. And then there you sit—all empty of blessings, filled with envy, eating potato chips with your credit card in hand ready to go buy something that you “need.” Somehow it’s easy in these moments to feel kind of slighted, like someone (God) left you out. “Why wasn’t I invited to the blessings bandwagon that everyone else seems to be on?”
The more I look into this topic, the more I believe we live in a world designed to make us unhappy with what we have. Wasn’t that one of the things at the core of Lucifer’s decision to rebel against God? Before he turned his back on God, there must have been a seed that started to grow deep inside his heart and soul. That seed included covetousness. He wanted more than the One who had more than he did. “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” he said (Isaiah 14:13). He felt cheated. It ate him up from the inside out.
Scary stuff. We cannot let this happen within us. This is one of those areas we need to acknowledge daily and get rid of it daily! Think, seek and destroy. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, emphasis added). That’s a question I have to ask myself all the time: Are my thoughts in obedience to Christ? Am I demolishing anything that is against the knowledge of God? Are my thoughts destructive towards my relationship with Him or with others? Because we live in a world that is constantly whispering in our ears that we deserve more, that we won’t be happy until and that our worth is tied up in the things we own.
We must take every thought captive. Coveting plants a seed of bitterness, which if left to grow will produce many things that will separate us from God. Coveting leads to jealousy, envy and greed; always wanting and seeking more, and receiving nothing but more and more discontent and frustration.
Let me tell you a secret: it will never be enough. Without God, nothing and no one will be ever enough. Ever. It’s not a secret, really, it’s just something none of us can seem to get through our heads. It has been true for all time and will continue to be true for all eternity. It does not matter what my neighbor or my best friend has. We are fully equipped right where we are for a content, happy, joy-filled life. And we must believe this if we are to avoid spiraling into a discontented and envious state.
In 2 Peter 2:14 it says that there were some in the Church who “have a heart trained in covetous practices.” Could this be said of you? I know at times it could have described me. Coveting is a heart issue. This is not a quick fix. This is an on-your-knees, in your mind, purposeful daily choice. And one you must choose if you want to find true joy.
The word “trained” here implies a mode of behavior; to teach by doing various exercises; a pattern of conduct. Is your heart trained in covetousness? Are you constantly comparing the blessings of your life to those of other people? At the gym or at school or at Church, do you spend too much time comparing your body to someone else’s? It’s like a disease and the more you feed it, the more it grows within you, until you have a heart that is trained in covetousness.
The verse goes on to say they “are accursed children.” Don’t become accursed. Don’t allow this to consume your life and hurt your relationship with God. Let’s get on our knees and thank God for being exactly where we are and for being fully equipped to do everything He call us to do! “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).