As wealth in our society grows so does income inequality, which creates more resentment and frustration as we are increasingly tempted to covet those things we see that belong to our neighbor. Yet covetry goes well beyond money, but instead includes envy, lust, and work place power plays as we jockey for our next promotion. In this sermon, Tim Pebworth examines the 10th Commandment of Exodus 20:17 and how we can combat feelings of envy and covetousness.
[Tim Pebworth] Well, you know, we are living in one of the greatest ages of wealth in the history of humanity. And, yet, at the same time, also one of the greatest eras of wealth inequality in the history of humanity. And in fact, here in Northern California, we are really at one of the great epicenters of this inequality, this wealth inequality that we see. We see here in Orinda these incredible homes all around us, but who can afford them? And if you might have heard, the price of a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco just hit the highest in the nation. I looked it up here. I came up with $3,609 a month, on average, in San Francisco. And the strange thing about that is that you just can't find them because there's so much money floating around for people that they can afford to pay that and yet so many people don't have that kind of money, and they're being forced out where people are driving one, two, three hours to go and work in San Francisco. People like firefighters, and policemen, and so forth.
And when the income divide becomes so great and so much wealth is around so much inequality that way, just when it comes to just even being able to pay for an apartment, or pay for college, or pay for our dental bill, or whatever it might be, then resentment can set in. And with resentment, then comes anger, and then in many cases, history actually shows that you become an unstable society.
Over the past year, we have discussed 9 of the 10 commandments. And today I would like to discuss the 10th commandment, which we can find in Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×. And if you go ahead and turn over there, Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×, and we will read this 10th great commandment in Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×. It says here, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house." Now we've got some nice neighbors in this neighborhood. It's pretty easy to covet that. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. “You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, or his maidservant,” nor his Tesla. Right? You can fill in whatever you want. I mean, yeah, they didn't have that at the time. But, you know, back then it was servants, and it was cattle, and so forth. “Nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s."
Now, the word covet here in Hebrew means to desire earnestly or long after. Coveting then is interesting because coveting is a thought. Coveting is a thought. It's a mindset. It's a line that we cross, where we suddenly go from just being, you know, sort of, "Oh, that's pretty," or, "That's nice," to, "I got to have that." And pretty soon that takes up a lot of emotional and mental energy. And after a while, that thing sort of elevates to form a sort of idol, and we'll see a little bit later that coveting is a form of idolatry. And so, interestingly enough, coveting is not something we hear a lot about in society. It's not something that sort of is… it's not a word, to covet or covetousness, it's not really a word that you hear too much on the news. And, in fact, even within God's Church, a lot of times, we might be not thinking about that as much, or we might not think that that's an issue.
For many of us here in America, we have kind of this optimism about the future. We have kind of this can do spirit. So if we look around, and we see something that's really nice, and we go, "I can't afford that. But maybe in the future, I can afford that. Maybe if I do something or I work hard, or I prioritize or save my pennies," or, you know, whatever it might be. Now, sometime people just say, "Well, if I win the lottery, I can do that." But, you know, again, that's kind of an optimism that we have as Americans. We're like, "That's okay. You know, I might be able to have that as well," kind of fill in the blank, whatever it might be.
And on the other hand, unfortunately, for many Americans who lack economic opportunity, there's a sense of being deprived or being oppressed. And so, if you're not, sort of, in that first category of optimism, you might be in this other category of, "Hey, I've been oppressed, you know. I'm part of this category where, you know, I've sort of had a bunch of hard knocks and really, it's through no fault of my own. It's kind of the way society is stacked against me. And so really, I kind of deserve this thing, you know. I really should have had the opportunity, but I wasn't given it. And so, I kind of deserve this thing." And so there's kind of this sense of entitlement, and it's okay, and then eventually, that leads to crime. It leads to justification for bad behavior. And so, you know, people kind of get in that mentality. And, again, covetousness doesn't kind of come in in that mentality.
And then for those people who are very fortunate, who can really, you know, sort of have the money for these kinds of things, you know, they might think, "Well, I'm enjoying the fruit of my labor. You know, I worked hard, you know, I paid my dues, and so now I'm enjoying the fruit of my labor." And so those people in that kind of group, they don't think they're covetous either. So you kind of never sort of intersect covetousness because there's always a reason why, you know, you're justified in your thinking about this.
But, you know, if you think about covetousness, you can think about greed. You know, greed kind of comes into covetousness. But coveting really goes beyond money because even as we see here in this command, you know, it says you're not supposed to covet your neighbor's wife. So, you can't just kind of think about income or finances. Covetousness really goes beyond those types of things. In this case, in the command, you know, coveting your neighbor's wife, well, you know, maybe, you know, maybe a man would want a trophy wife, there's that kind of term, maybe the man is sexually attracted to this woman, and of course, you know, this woman is married, and that would be adultery and so forth. And so, you know, covetousness goes beyond that.
We'll turn there a little bit later. But in 1 Kings 21, it talks about king Ahab wanting this vineyard that was his neighbor's vineyard. And when we read that story, you'll find that he just wanted the vineyard because it was convenient. It was kind of next door. He didn't want to walk farther to go to his garden. He wanted it next door, and he was going to pay for it. So, you know, he coveted that. It wasn't about money, it was about convenience.
Now, when we desire a promotion, or we desire to be in charge of something, that's not about money, but that we can covet a position, we can covet a promotion. Sometimes we might want something to fill a hole in our heart because we think if we get that then we'll be happy. That's covetousness as well. Whether it's about a fancy car, an awesome truck, or a promotion, or a position, the man we wish would notice us or the woman who rejected us, it all goes back to this concept of covetousness. And when we begin to covet, it leads us down a path of anger for some, depression, anxiety for others. And, eventually, what we'll see is it cuts us off from the opportunity for eternal life.
And so today, I'd like to talk about covetousness and this 10th commandment. I'd like to define what this means, and how our modern economic trends are very similar to the trends that were going on in the Roman society of the 1st century when we're going to read those passages. And then we're going to talk about the consequences of covetousness and specifically why covetousness will kill us, covetousness will kill us. And, finally, ways that we can combat covetousness because as we'll see, it's all around us in our society.
So let's start with how the Bible defines covetousness. Let's go over to Colossians 3:1 Colossians 3:1 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
American King James Version×. We've read Exodus 20, and we've seen that this command is against coveting. So let's kind of get into some details here on what that really means. Colossians 3:1 Colossians 3:1 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
American King James Version×, we'll read through verse 5. It says here, “If you then were raised with Christ," that's us, we heard about that in the song, we have this hope, "seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things on the earth." And that's really… That's what we're talking about. We're not talking about looking around at all the nice things we see around us and saying, "Oh, I wish I could have that," or, "I wish I had that opportunity," or what it might be, but really putting our minds on things above, the things of the future. We talk about Beyond Today for that reason. Verse 3, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." This is our hope. This is what we heard sung about. Now, notice verse 5, by contrast, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." And so Paul here speaking to the Colossians actually takes an extra step to define what he means by covetousness. He says, "Covetousness is idolatry." Covetous is idolatry.
And I think it's interesting. An insight that was made by John Piper, who's a very famous American theologian, about the 10 commandments is that the 10th commandment actually is very similar to the 1st commandment, in that the 1st commandment says, "We are not to have any other gods before for us," and the 10th commandment also says, in a way, we are not to have any other gods before us because to covet is to put something before God, ahead of God.
Now, the word for covetous here, or covetousness, in Greek means… and it's translated often “greed, aggression, or desire for advantage. Greed, aggression, or desire for advantage.” And so when we earnestly desire money, we long for money, we call that greed. When we earnestly desire sex, we call that lust. When we earnestly desire advantage on our jobs or in politics, we call that a power play. You know, we take them out. When we earnestly desire something that someone else has, like their life circumstance, like their health, their wife, whatever it might be, their husband, and we look through their eyes, and we are not content with our life, we call that envy. And when we… whatever we call it, coveting comes down to a misplaced priority. It comes down to a misplaced priority. It's about putting ourselves first, which is the antithesis of loving God and loving our neighbor.
I made reference to this in the introduction, but let's go over to 1 Kings 21. And let's just see the emotion here of covetousness coming out, 1 Kings 21:1 1 Kings 21:1And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
American King James Version×talks about the story of Naboth and his vineyard. And, unfortunately, Naboth had the poor opportunity to have his land right next to the king's. It says in 1 Kings 21:1 1 Kings 21:1And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
American King James Version×, it says, "It came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, 'Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it I will give you a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you it's worth in money.'" This is fair, right? You know, he was going to pay him. He was going to give him something better. He wanted it. It was convenient. We see this all the time, right? This happens all the time in this area. You know, some wealthy person wants to buy the house next to him or her because it's just kind of handy right there.
But verse 3, "Naboth said to Ahab, 'The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!’" So, Naboth is saying, "Well, you know, thank you. And I mean, it'd be great to like make a profit on my vineyard. But really, it's the inheritance of my fathers, and it will be the inheritance of my children. And so it is in our family." And many pastors, and elders, and scholars have pointed out that even though this person was a Jezreelite, this Naboth was very likely following the same command that God had given to the nation of Israel, that this land was to be in the family forever, and the jubilee year and all these types of things would have applied. And so, as much as he wanted to sell it, he really felt that it was not his right to sell it. So it wasn't about trying to hold out for a better price, or pride, or whatever, he really did not feel he had the right to sell this property to the king.
And so verse 4, "Ahab went to his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him." That sullen, you see that, that it's interesting. You know, we use the word like, you know, depressed. He was depressed. He was sad. He was sullen because of this, because he said, “'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed, and turned away his face and would not eat.” I mean, this man was upset. He was depressed. And this is a symptom of covetousness. We become obsessed with something. It fills our thinking. We can't work, we can't concentrate. This man couldn't even eat. He would go in his room, and shut the door, and wouldn't come out. This is a form of what covetousness leads to.
Now, this obsession, this earnest desire, it consumed his thinking, and the outcome was that his wife saw him and said, "Hey, I'll take care of this." And she plotted his death. She plotted Naboth's death. And in verse 16, we see the end result. "So it was, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” He was like, "You know, I didn't have to do the dirty work. Thank you, Jezebel, appreciate that, good partnership here." And, you know, he goes and takes it. And that's what covetousness leads to. It leads to sort of this justification, and “I'm okay with that, and I feel better now.”
Look over in 2 Samuel 1 , we'll see another example of covetousness. This was a form here of convenience, desire for some sort of property. We might call it greed, although I don't know if it was greed, as much as just a convenience. This is a form of covetousness, which is in the form of lust, 2 Samuel 13:1 2 Samuel 13:1And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
American King James Version×. "Now, after this, it was that Absalom," this is 2 Samuel 13:1 2 Samuel 13:1And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
American King James Version×, "That the son of David had a lovely sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so distressed," distressed, what is that? So distressed, that might be anger, that might be depression, that might be anxiety, could be all sorts of thing, "distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.”
So, again, this is… he really, really, really wanted this woman. And he wanted her so bad that he became sick and he was distressed. And, you know, sometimes it happens that people become so... this happens in relationships, right? You know, this man is so, sort of, just obsessed with this woman he can't think, that's what we see here. Sometimes women become so obsessed with a man they can't think, they can't concentrate on their jobs. This happens. And so, he was sick, he was distressed, and it was unlawful. And those thoughts, just like in the case with Ahab, they lead to someone's death. Eventually, his friend, Jonadab, came up with this plan to, you know, sort of deceive Tamar to come in and help Amnon and then eventually he raped her. And then that led eventually to Amnon being killed himself. So this is kind of what covetousness looks like.
Now, let's go back over to Ephesians 5:1 Ephesians 5:1Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children;
American King James Version×. And let's read something very, very similar to what we saw in Colossians just so we realized that this issue of coveting was quite pervasive that it would come up even twice in Paul's letters, almost really in identical fashion. So, Ephesians 5:1 Ephesians 5:1Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children;
American King James Version×, let's see here what Paul says to the church in Ephesus. He says, "Therefore be followers of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." This is kind of a similar setup we read in Colossians earlier. Focus on the things that really matter. Focus on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the fact that you are part of the ecclesia, that you are called out, that Christ has died for you. And then by opposition, verse 3, "But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for the saints."
And so we have two letters to two different churches about the same subject. And we'll continue to see other references about how serious of an issue covetousness was in the early church and in that area. And this really brings me to my second point, which is really to show how the economic trends of that time were probably not different than the economic trends that we live in today. And the fact is that we can be very affected by this in a financial way. So why don't we go see if we...do I have that up there? Great. Thank you for firing that up. So let's see if I can get this to work. Okay. Here's a map of the Roman Empire in AD 14. And let's see, it might be a little bit hard to see, but… and this is color-coded based upon people's incomes. Okay. This is average incomes throughout the Roman Empire in 14 AD. So this would have been about 40 years or so before what we read in Colossians and Ephesians.
And if you look at this map, what you'll see is that Italy is kind of a standout. And Italy, and particularly in Rome… I only have about five slides, so it's okay. You know, hopefully, we'll be okay. This is probably the hardest one to see. Italy's income was twice that of other regions in the Roman Empire. That's the yellow area. So Germania, for example, even some portions of what is now France had half of the average income that the Italians had. Judea… you'll see here that after Italy, Egypt was the next richest province and then after that Judea, where, you know, where later, where, you know, Jesus was living at the time. And then it kind of went down from there. So you could see that their income inequality was something that existed at that time.
In smithsonian.com, there's an interview with someone named Mike Duncan. He's the author of a book called The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic. And in this interview, which is dated November 16th, 2017, he describes the fact that income inequality was one of the great contributing factors to the destruction of the Roman Republic. And the Roman Republic was ended in 44 BC. And it was about the halfway point of the Roman Empire, but it was really after that Rome became very, very unstable. And what he describes in there is that income inequality really began to rise sort of in that time leading up to the birth of Christ as so much money came into Rome. Rome became very, very wealthy, and it became wealthy really only at the senatorial class because all of that wealth flowed into the great families.
And then what would happen is, to keep that wealth flowing, they would send the legionnaires out, and they would send the sort of other people out to the frontiers, and they would send them out for three and five years at a time, and then their farms and houses would become abandoned. And then guess what, the rich people would buy up those farms and take them from the people. And so, people became resentful, and this became a constant issue within the Roman Republic. And so according to many scholars, including Mike Duncan, income inequality was a big contributing factor to the societal instability of Rome. And he actually goes through and compares that then to the United States today.
And this is a map of the United States based upon income inequality. The deep red are the most unequal states in terms of income, I believe something like… and don't quote me because I can't see the numbers here, but something like New York is one, and Connecticut, and then Florida, Louisiana, California. I may not have that in the right order. But, basically, those are the five states where you have the most income inequality. And then within that, we are actually here kind of at the epicenter of that. So the most unequal place to live in the United States is Bridgeport, Connecticut, and then right after that, I think, is it San Francisco?
Together: New York.
[Tim Pebworth]: New York, San Francisco is where? Three. Okay. There you go. Los Angeles, San Jose. So, San Francisco and San Jose, where we live, are two of the top six most unequal cities in the nation, which is why I think this is really important for us. And you can see the differences up there. So this actually becomes an issue because we live in an area where we see a lot of wealth. And if we can't participate in that wealth, then that can kind of rub off because we think, "Well, why can't I participate in that? Why can't I have some of those things?"
This is a graphic from a movie called… it's from Robert Reich. And I thought I wrote it down here, but I didn't. It's a Netflix documentary. I'm sorry, I'll get it in the other Bible study to appropriately attribute it. It's a movie on income inequality by Richard Reich. And what he shows here is what the average worker in 1978 made compared to the top 1%. And it's something like $48,000 versus $349, can you see that up there? $393. Now that's pretty significant, right? I mean, you know, $393,000 versus $48,000. That was in 1978. In 2010, the average worker in the United States, adjusted for inflation, actually makes less than they did in 1978. And I'm going to turn around so I can see it, $33,751, where the top 1%, the average top 1% worker makes $1.1 million. Now, that's pretty dramatic, right? As we see.
And so what ends up happening then is you get sort of these issues among workers. We see there. So, yeah. So what that's led then is that 400 people in the United States have the same net worth of the bottom 150 million people in the United States. So you can imagine, 400 people actually are worth more than 150 million people in the United States. In fact, I remember in 2010, 2011, we had a budget crisis, you might remember that, and it was saved by literally a handful of taxpayers. Okay. So that's great. We're glad they paid taxes. And, in fact, that goes back to where we tend to be resentful without realizing that, you know, sometimes people actually do earn their money. Sometimes people actually do pay taxes.
But what makes this even worse is that our disposable income is going down. So on the one side, you'll see the disposable income. And I think again, is it 1978 up there? Did I put that...1970s. And that big red bar on the bottom shows how much disposable income people had at that time compared to 2010. And the disposable income has gone way down because we pay a lot more for health care, we pay a lot more for housing, we pay more for college if we're sending kids to college. So we have less money to work with.
All right, I think that's all I'm going to show on. You can take that off. Let's turn over here to Matthew 22 because I think sometimes we can feel a little disconnected from the people in the 1st century and think, well, their lives were so different and so forth. By the way, I don't know if you noticed something, but the highest income in the AD 14 was I think like $850 a year. So even people like in places where I visit in West Africa, they can have a higher income than the Romans. So I just want to show you that actually, we're doing very well compared to even the time of Rome. So if we think about our 1st century spiritual ancestors, we live like kings. We live literally better than the Romans lived by a long shot. But look over Matthew 22 because this issue of money was a big issue in Judea at the time.
Matthew 22:17 Matthew 22:17Tell us therefore, What think you? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
American King James Version×. "Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" So He's there in the temple, they want to try and trap Him. Paying taxes is a big deal. First of all, we know that you know, Matthew was a publican, people were taxed. What did it go for? You know, why did the Judeans pay tax? So that the Romans could be even richer than they were. So that felt very unfair that they had to pay taxes so that Romans could be richer than they already were. "But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, 'Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show me the tax money.' So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?' And they said to him, ‘Caesar’s.' And He said to them, 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And when they heard these words, they marveled, and left him and went their way."
See, Jesus didn't have any issue with that. You see, He wasn't going down that same path of “Why are they taking all my money? Why do I have to do this?” This was a non-issue. He said, "Focus on..." what did he say, "Render to God the things that are God's." So He realized that the bigger issue and fundamentally what we're talking about was that we need to focus on things that are above. That's what Paul said to the Colossians, that's what he said to the Ephesians, "Focus on things above, focus on things that matter. Don't get wrapped up in all these questions about how the money is spent, who gets what and why the Romans have to tax us, even though they're so rich, and how our money is going to support rich people in Judea, and all the corruption that's around us. Don't worry about that. Focus on the things that matter."
So let's follow that same thread to point number three, which is what are the consequences of covetousness? What are the consequences of covetousness? Let's go over to Luke 12, and we can pick up a similar thread of thought, although a different story in verse 13, Luke 12:13 Luke 12:13And one of the company said to him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
American King James Version×. In my Bible, this is called the parable of the rich fool. Luke 12:13 Luke 12:13And one of the company said to him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
American King James Version×, "Then one from the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But He said to the man, 'Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?' And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.'" So Jesus perceived really the true underlying intent of the question. The question may have been a legitimate question in the sense that perhaps his brother was not being fair in the handling of the inheritance. That is definitely a possibility. But Jesus went beyond sort of the immediate issue of whether or not there was fairness and how it would be worked out, and so forth, and perhaps even assumed that eventually it would get worked out, and this man would get the inheritance that was rightfully coming to him. But then He went the step further in the longer run and said, "Well, let's talk about the real issue here, which is where should our focus in life be?"
And so he decides, in verse 16, to use this as an opportunity to tell a parable. And it says, "Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.’” All right, we might say, you know, "And then the man receive stock options, and then it went IPO, and then he made a lot of money," or, "Then he got a really big bonus, and he decided to buy this house. And it went up in value greatly. And he was so thankful for the equity in his home." I mean, we could think about whatever this might make sense for us today. “And then he thought with himself saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no room to store my crops? This is great, what am I going to do with all this money that I have?’ And so he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and all my goods.’” This is a good thing. “I'm going to keep going on this. I'm going to build bigger barns, and I'm going to get more crops, and then I'm going to get richer, and then I'm going to build bigger barns after that, and then I'm going to be richer, and this is going to be great. And that's going to be what my focus is going to be. That's how I'm going to respond to this."
In Verse 19, I always find this funny, "I will say to my soul, ‘Soul,'" and actually, sometimes that happens when people get rich. You know, they start speaking in the third person, you notice that? Like, "Oh, yeah, this is what he..." So, anyway, he's starting to speak in the third person now. 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will these things be which you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.’" And I find this parable interesting because the rich man doesn't actually say anything about greed, he doesn't say anything about covet, he just says, "Hey, I got this idea. And I'm just going to keep this thing going."
And really, this whole story is about misplaced priorities. This man misplaced his priorities. The focus of that man's life was on gathering more, and more, and more, and he missed the boat. He missed the real meaning, the greater priority. And he put his trust in money thinking, "I've got all this money, and now I can take my ease," when instead it really should have been about making himself rich towards God, rendering to God the things which are God's. And the consequence of his decision is that his life basically had been wasted. His life had been wasted. And the life he expected to have of ease was taken from him, and it was just a wasted time.
Let's go over to James 4:1 James 4:1From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
American King James Version×, and let's see this consequence sort of expanded on in really what is I think much more serious ways and something that I think has affected all of us, both within the church and within our communities. James 4:1 James 4:1From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
American King James Version×, I read this on the last day of unleavened bread, "Where do wars and fights come from among you?" He's asking that. And now he's going to answer, "Do they not come from your desires," this is lust, envy, greed, "for pleasure that war in your members? You lust.” Okay, that's it's kind of a type of covetousness, "And you do not have. You murder and covet," again, the word is mentioned, "and cannot obtain. You fight and you war." And really, I think this passage in James is really the definitive passage, which broadens the definition of covetousness to something well beyond just money. This is about desire for pleasure. It's about a desire for something, whatever that thing might be that's important to us. It's about men who want to be in charge. It's about men who want to have position. Often it's men, sometimes it's women.
And it's this type of thinking that I think has led to division in our church, it's led to division in our communities, and it's leading to division in our country because it's like, "Well, how can he get away with that? And how can he, you know, have those things? That's not right." And in fact, we've even seen this, haven't we? We even here this week with Uber's IPO. There were a lot of billionaires made on Thursday, and yet at the same time, you had people striking all over the country and even outside of this country, saying, "Hey, wait a minute, how come all those people are getting so rich, and, you know, this little app tells me I'm getting less and less?" And people are saying, "Please help." How do we make sense of this?
Let's turn over to Mark 7:20 Mark 7:20And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
American King James Version×and again, we'll see we're on the consequences here. The consequences are division, anger, wars, fights, wasted lives. These are, you know... that's the list so far. Let's see what Mark records Jesus' instruction in Mark 7 regarding this, Mark 7:20 Mark 7:20And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
American King James Version×, and we're breaking into the middle of a thought. This is a very famous chapter if you have studied ever clean and unclean meats. We're going to start right after that. “He said to them, ‘What comes out of a man,’” Mark 7:20 Mark 7:20And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man.
American King James Version×, "is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts," and now he’s was going to list them, "adulteries," that's one of the commandments, "fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness," there it is, "wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." Okay, so the consequence of covetousness is defilement. That's what Jesus defines the consequence of covetousness. It is defilement. And that is a word that's rarely used today. Rarely do we hear the word defilement.
The word in Greek is a word that we should recognize because it's the same word that's used for unclean, like an unclean animal. We don't eat shrimp, we don't eat pork because it is unclean, and that word unclean in Greek is the same word for defiled. It is impure. It is not something we can approach. We don't approach it. I don't know if you've tried to do this, but you get a dish and it had some shrimp in it, you go, like I'm going to take this out, and then you kind of eat, it's like, whoa, because that thing kind of defile the things around it, the taste and everything. We try to pick the pork off the pizza sometimes, like, "Okay, I'll eat the cheese." I mean, we do our best, but the point is we're not even supposed to come near it. And so these things defile us. And when we're unclean, God cannot be next to something that's unclean because we're defiled. And so, ultimately, this leads to the loss of our opportunity for the Kingdom. This leads to the loss of life, spiritual life. That's why it is one of the great 10 commandments. It makes us dirty, somebody that cannot come into the presence of God.
And that's why I say covetousness kills, covetousness kills. You know, outside the United States, if you see a pack of cigarettes, you will generally see this big label in big fat print, it says "Smoking kills.” And so when you see these things that you want, and that want crosses a line into covetousness, you can just put a big fat, you know, label on it and says, "Covetousness kills. I'm on a bad path. I got to get off this path." But it's a mind path, as opposed to, you know, lying, which is an action, "I lied," covetousness is a mental action, it's a mental state of mind that leads to something else. And an inordinate desire for something will take us in the opposite direction of the Kingdom of God.
So let's go to our last point here, point four, how can we combat covetousness? How do we combat this covetousness, this thing that's all around us in society? Let's go over to 1 Timothy 6:6 1 Timothy 6:6But godliness with contentment is great gain.
American King James Version×, and we'll read through verse 12 on this, 1 Timothy 6:6 1 Timothy 6:6But godliness with contentment is great gain.
American King James Version×. Paul makes a very profound statement in verse 6, almost like a memory verse for us all, and a great verse to right next to Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×, if you want to write a scripture and chain reference, "Godliness with contentment is great gain… godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing with these we shall be content."
What I have found is that we can desire good things. We can desire better things than we have in our life. That's okay, but only when we start asking God for those better things. We say to God, "God, give me the right job, at the right time, in the right place, for the right pay. God bring me the right mate, at the right time, in the right place when I'm ready. God, give me that raise when I'm ready for it. God, give me that opportunity," whatever it might be. We ask God to guide us. That's perfectly fine. But when we start going down our own path and saying, "Well, I think this really makes sense. I think I should pursue this. And God, what do you think? Oh, good. I'm glad you agree, you know." We kind of do that in our prayers sometimes like, "Oh, good, God, I got… check." So that's fine, but we need to ask for that with God's will in mind, not with our own will.
Verse 9, "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition." Okay, if you want to write the word “lottery” in your Bible, this will be a good place to write it, “lottery.” You want to be led to destruction? Yeah, start playing the lottery. Let's just watch all that money just go out. All right, gambling, okay, all sorts of get rich quick strategies, which is often because people are desiring some kind of financial gain that they don't work for, leads to destruction and perdition. Perdition is hell. It leads to death.
Now, notice verse 10, "For the love of money is a root..." I hope you've got that, I've got the New King James, it's correctly translated as, "A root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." So we get a little bit of, okay, you know, what's the consequence of covetousness here? So, this is where it leads. But if we are content with what we have, if we are content, then we can combat this. Now, look in verse 11, this is the anecdote to all this, "But you, O man, flee these things,” don't be like that. Don't get sucked into being focused on all those things. Don't get sucked into looking around and saying, "Wow, yeah, it'd be nice… yeah, nice shoes, you know, nice suit, nice ring, nice jewelry, nice… Oh, I wish I could afford that hairdresser. Oh, you know..." I mean, all those types of things that we tend to kind of go through, "Oh, it'd be great if I could do that, oh, oh, you know, so far, I want to give my kids opportunities and so forth." Don't get sucked into all that.
He says, "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience," patience, and that's a really big thing when you're asking for that guidance of where you're supposed to go, “gentleness.” And then he summarizes it, "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” This is what he said to the Colossians, this is what he said to the Ephesians, this is what Christ talked about in the parable. This is fighting the good fight. It's exactly the opposite. So when we find ourselves straying across that line, we have to get back and say, "Okay, am I being patient? Am I being kind? Am I being gentle? Am I putting my pride ahead of all other things? Am I so fixated on this thing that I'm blinded to where I'm going with this?
This is what he's saying, "All these things of righteousness, and godliness, and faith, that it is going to be okay, that God is going to take care of us." Now, pursuing these things because you see it says “pursue.” Now, pursue, am I in hot pursuit right now? I'm standing still. I'm not in hot pursuit. Now, if I started running, I would be in hot pursuit. So pursuing means that you are taking action, you are moving presumably towards some goal. So pursuing these things is not standing still. It's not being lazy. It's not waiting for a sign from heaven. That's not pursuing. Pursuing means what Jesus talked about in Matthew where He said, "Ask, and seek, and knock." That's what he said. He said, "Ask, seek, and knock.
Now, sometime… a lot of times we ask according to God's will, and we submit ourselves to that will as we ask, and we seek, and we knock, and that's how we should do it. That's why we’re... that's why I said, you know, “God, Your will be done,” and so forth. Some people never ask. They never knock. All they do is seek, and then they blame God for it not working out for them. "I'm seeking, I'm seeking, I'm seeking, ah, this is never working, God, you know, what's going on?" Well, you never asked, you never knocked. You know, you just kind of went around looking. And that's victimization, that's hopelessness. And that is very, very common, constantly seeking. But you're never really asking, you're never really knocking. Well, did you send the resume in? Did you go down? Did you ask for an interview? Did you call the person on the phone? “No, you know, I'm not ready, I'm still working…” You're seeking, but you're not actually knocking. You're not actually doing anything. Others don't ask and they don't knock, they just seek. And like I said, they run over God. They just run right over Him, and their neighbor too. They just run right over. Others don't ask or seek, but they knock, and they knock at the door in front of them and when it's closed, they give up. Well, that door is closed. Well, that's just the door in front of you. Did you look for another door? No, because it's like that's all I can see is just in front of me. We have to ask, seek and knock, and understand God's intention and direction for what He wants for us because fundamentally what we're talking about sometimes are just things that we want for someone else.
I'm sure Jezebel thought, "Well, I'm just loving my husband. My husband wants his vineyard, so I'm going to help him out." Sometimes we are doing this for somebody else. But really, we're not doing the right thing. Let's see this in action in Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×. It says here in Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×, "Let your conduct be without covetousness.” We should not be covetous, that's what Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×says, "And be content with such things as you have." So we're supposed to be content with the things that we have, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear, what can man do to me?’" So we seek, we knock, we ask, and so forth knowing that God is going to take care of us, that our patience will be rewarded, that our diligence will be rewarded in time, and that may take time. And there may be things that we don't expect in that process. And maybe we don't receive what we asked, but we receive something different, something better. And over time, we realize that was much, much better for us.
Let's conclude by going to Proverbs 21:25 Proverbs 21:25The desire of the slothful kills him; for his hands refuse to labor.
American King James Version×. Proverbs 21:25-26 Proverbs 21:25-26  The desire of the slothful kills him; for his hands refuse to labor.  He covets greedily all the day long: but the righteous gives and spares not.
American King James Version×, it says here, "The desire of the slothful kills him." That's interesting. So the desire so this lazy person has a desire and it “kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.” That person is not going to ask, not going to seek, not going to knock, he's going to wait there, standing still, waiting for something to happen, really wants it but doesn't know what to do. He covets greedily all day long eaten up with this covetousness, but by contrast, “the righteous gives and does not spare." So, the righteous doesn't covet, righteous gives, gives up what? Gives up everything that that person has. God's way is about giving, man's way is about getting, and coveting is about getting.
And so as we conclude our discussion of the 10 commandments, we begin and we end in the same place, putting God first. As we used to say the give way of life. Love God, love your neighbor, and everything flows from that. And when we put covetousness forward, we become idolators and we no longer love God or love our neighbor, we love ourselves, and that's the way to destruction. But God's way leads to life. Let's remember the 10th commandment, and remember and guard our thoughts.