Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Covetousness and Desire

"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:17).

Adam coveted God’s garden-house instead of guarding it as God had commanded. He followed the advice of Satan and tried to take it over for himself. Each of us has a garden, a household, and we are not to covet those of other people.

Covetousness is the desire to possess something that properly belongs to others. It is not wrong to seek to purchase your neighbor’s ox, but if he refuses to sell it, it is wrong to continue coveting it. It is always wrong, of course, to desire your neighbor’s spouse.

Covetousness is often singled out as the sinful desire that underlies other sinful actions. Because we covet what another person has, whether possessions or status, we may seek to tear him down or even kill him. Covetousness lies behind adultery, theft, and gossip. As we mentioned, Adam’s desire to make himself god over God’s household can be seen as covetousness.

Buddhism is sometimes praised as the “light of the East” because of its fundamental principle of the renunciation of desire. In fact, however, the Buddhist rejection of desire is the opposite of Christianity. Biblical religion teaches that man is designed to be a creature of aspiration and desire. 

We are to desire dominion. We are to pursue lofty goals. We are to yearn toward the sabbaths of history because they are goals (sabbaths) before us at all times. This is part of the warp and woof of human nature, and it is a good thing. By rejecting all desire, Buddhism strives to destroy human nature. In fact, the goal of Buddhism is the obliteration of the human personality in “nirvana.” (Buddhism is also absurd because Buddhists have to desire to be without desire.)

Because the desire for true self-fulfillment is one of the deepest and most powerful aspects of human nature as the image of God, the perversion of that desire in covetousness is one of the gravest and most powerful evils. It warps and twists everything in human life. The only cure for covetousness is to focus on God and labor to redirect one’s desire toward the things of God.

Think about your friends and acquaintances. Do you covet any of their things or any of their honors? Do you covet the honors accorded to the officers in your church or in your business? Do you ever find yourself slightly cutting down other people because of this? Make it your prayer today that your desires will be reoriented toward the things of God.