Okay, let’s take a quick poll: Hands up how many of you have ever wished you had something that someone else had?
I put up two hands…. and a foot, and then my other foot. Shame.
But we’ve all done it. We’ve all been discontent with something in our lives and wished we had what belonged to someone else.
If we look at covetousness (the desire to have or acquire that which is not ours) in the bible, we will see that it was placed in The Ten Commandments, in the same sin mix as idolatry, adultery, stealing and murder. Perhaps that’s because it’s affect on our mind and heart attitude is incredibly destructive.
And yes, I know, we are under a new covenant and in fact held to a much higher standard under God’s covenant of Grace. But it is because of this high standard that I propose covetous thinking is far more dangerous than we oft acknowledge.
When we bring covetousness into a spiritual context we begin to realise how rampant this thinking really is.
I cannot count how many times I have heard people express a desire to have the Spiritual Gifts that others have, i.e. Words of knowledge or to prophesy. These are good desires, in fact the bible encourages them:
Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (I Corinthians 14:1 NKJV)
The problem is, most times the desire is expressed not as something to be done for God’s glory, but in order to be like someone else: “Oh, I wish I could give prophetic words like him, or had a singing voice like her, or the ability to preach like them.”
Honestly, there are times when God must feel like He is stuck in a perpetual cycle of toddler rearing. “But God, Johnny has that bright shiny toy and now I want it!”.
Despite the fact that until we saw ‘Johnny’ using the toy/gift and seeing how glamorous it looked in his possession, we had no interest in it.
Covetousness sets up a pattern of destructive thinking.
It leaves us with a feeling of discontent, self-pity and entitlement. It breeds contempt and jealously, neither of which are thought patterns that are conducive to unity. And really, I think disunity is one of the greatest risks to our effectiveness in the modern church.
Unity does not necessarily mean an agreement on all ideas and methods, but it is embracing a Kingdom focus, an understanding that we may be different, but we love the same God, and because of that, because we want to see His Kingdom established, to see more people step into the freedom He offers, we must embrace each other’s differences.
We must embrace our own differences.
We must bring ourselves to a place where we are coming to Father God directly, and asking: “For what purpose did you create me? What treasures and gifts have you hidden inside me so I may adequately fulfil my designed purpose? Father, show me when to be satisfied with what I have, and when to come to you to ask for more, in your time, with your leading.”
When we take others out of the equation and seek to bring joy firstly to our Creator, we will stop trying to be like others, and will discover our true identity. What a perfect grace-filled expression of freedom and maturity, one that will see us step out of toddler tantrums and stop covetous thinking in its tracks.
Now if you’ve still got your hands up, you may put them down, you look very silly. Also, you must be cramping. Ouch! Shake it out!