Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Much Do You Need? The Danger of Coveting, Part 26 of 60

TEXT: "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s" (Exodus 20:17).

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s" (Deuteronomy 5:21).

IDEA: Perceptive thinkers have understood the dangers of covetousness, but they have not agreed on how to avoid the danger.

PURPOSE: To help listeners recognize that Christianity was not different from other philosophies in recognizing the danger of covetousness, but it does differ from other religions in the cure for that sickness.

It’s important to recognize that Christianity doesn’t necessarily differ from other religions in pointing out spiritual sickness. It differs in the cure for that sickness.

I. Many different writers have recognized the importance of the Tenth Commandment.

They have recognized that people often accumulate money to make other people envious.

We often enjoy possessing things that others do not have. It makes us seem special. So we boast about our possessions.

The Greeks tell the story of rich King Croesus who wallowed in his gold. But he became beside himself with mortification because he could not make the Athenian philosopher Solon envy him.

There is a Yiddish tale about a poor man who was given three wishes. But there was a condition: whatever he wished for would be granted to him, but the same would be given double to his neighbor.

First, he wished for a beautiful wife and got her, but his neighbor received two beautiful wives.

Second, he wished for a palace and got it, but his neighbor got two palaces.

Third, so filled with jealousy, he used his third wish to be blind in one eye and it was so, and his neighbor became blind in both eyes.

They recognize that people who have accumulated money are not necessarily happy.

A reporter asked Nelson Rockefeller, “How much money does it take to be happy?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”

Accumulating money has been compared to drinking salt water. The thirst remains but the possessions do not quench it.

II. Different philosophers have struggled with the solution to the problem of covetousness.

Greek and Roman Stoics understood that coveting wealth made a person miserable and getting did not make a person happy. Their solution was abandonment: it left a tremendous void in life with its non-attachment.

Others solved the problem by snobbery, looking down on the wealthy, and that made them feel better about themselves.

III. Christians have said that the problem isn’t a love for money; it really is a lack of love for God.

If you put God and his kingdom at the center of your life, then all the things you possess will take their proper place. In other words, guard your center.