Monday, 25 August 2008

Coveting What is Not Ours

Ive been thinking about the implications of the tenth commandment -- You shall not covet. I have touched on this subject in reference to Doug Wilson's blogs, referring to certain segments of our society, and, frankly, all of us probably at one time or another, to envy the more rich and successful members of our society and thinking it somehow fitting to take their money, by whatever means (usually some form of government intervention or taxation), and give it to the 'less fortunate'. I suppose that if this is done purely out of a genuine concern for the poor, it is one thing, and perhaps even admirable if done fairly, but I sense that the motivation is sometimes more sinister. I'm afraid it is often done purely out of a kind of jeaousy of those who have more than we do. Some people have bigger houses, or cars, or TV,s and we reresent it -- let them bear the brunt of caring for the poor. Well, that's covetousness, even if we call it a desire for fairness. The Bible doesn't tell us to get those with more than we have to look after the poor, it tells us to do it.

In fact, if we resent anyone for having more, of anything, than we do, it's covetousness. Some might put it down to what they might call, 'reverse snobbery,' but what it really is, is covetousness.

One area of my life where I've been particularly convicted of this, is talent, or ability. I have mentioned that I once performed standup comedy (in a former life, of course). Well my talent in that area certainly had a ceiling, and I was envious of others with whom I shared the open-mic stage whose acts were funnier than mine. That was before I was a Christian, but there is still a residual amount of that particular sin in my life.

I play guitar, over the years rising to a level approaching mediocrity. I would love to be able to play it better, and when I see someone who can play a lead guitar, or who can barre chord easily, I often joke that I am jealous. But in fact, there is some covetousness there, even if I claim it to be rather innocent.

I am envious of anyone who can preach a good half-hour sermon. I am envious of someone to whom communicating the gospel to others seems to come easily. In other words, I am envious of other people's gifts, even spiritual ones. I believe the tendency of myself (and perhaps others, although I speak only of myself) to envy the gifts, or success, or prosperity God has given others is indeed, a definite form of covetousness, and it's wrong.

And I know it's wrong, but I seem to do it anyway.

Take Care


Warren said...

It seems there may be a fine line between inspiration and envy.

Warren said...

An interesting view from my favourite blog (Boarshead Tavern):

When I said “greed”, I meant greed of the kind that makes someone want to amass wealth more than they could possible spend in a hundred lifetimes. When I said “lust” I meant lust, as in sex, which is the hidden motivator in probably 50% of all retail purchases. When I said “covetousness” I meant the feeling I get when I see my neighbor playing with his new iPhone. Take away these forces and the economy as we know it collapses.

John K said...

Indeed. Sometimes we may try to convince its one when it is the other. The other concept here might be called, 'aspiration,' in that we might aspire to reach a level of excellence we see in others.