Top Ten Words: Gimme: Exodus 20:17

Top Ten Words: Gimme: Exodus 20:17

Nov 24, 2015

Top Ten Words: Gimme: Exodus 20:17

Sermon Series by Pastor Dusty Mackintosh, Next Step Christian Church, Thornton, CO


Two representative stone tablets with the ten commandments inscribed on them on an isolated dark ethereal background


Covet the Gifter, not the Gift

Surefire Way to Ruin Christmas

Imagine it is Christmas morning. You have your coffee in hand. You are surrounded by family. The presents are all under the tree. Maybe you take out the gifts one a time. Everyone takes turns, maybe…all at once, it’s a frenzy of wrapping paper.

This Christmas I want you to do a little experiment.

While everyone is opening gifts, take out your smartphone. For every gift that is opened, I want you to do a price lookup. You can scan the barcode or search on Amazon. Loudly announce the price, and then keep a running tally for each person for the value of his gifts. Rank everyone in order of how much he ended up with. Then each person on the list gets to make aggressively bitter comments about the person immediately above him. The person at the top just gets to feel super guilty. For bonus points, they can envy the “guilt-free” Christmas of the person at the bottom of the list.

Congratulations, you have absolutely ruined Christmas!

We intuitively know that this is a horrible idea. We know it. And yet…there is within all of us, and maybe just a whisper, and maybe only rears its ugly head at certain moments…but we are playing the comparison game.

The Comparison Game

This comes up especially when you see someone else with something you really want. Your neighbor just had his house painted. It looks really good. You might see the car they are driving: mini-van envy. You see the best face they put to the outside world, but probably not the internal conflicts, the arguments, the disappointments and mistakes. So for starters, you are comparing the sum of all your failures and successes against just their successes. Even if you had the whole story, there are people you would still envy, coveting their circumstances, their gifts, and their possessions. Here is the truth:

Life is radically unfair.

As far as I can tell it is not a zero sum game where everyone has more of this and less of this and it all balances out. In our creative and diverse world, there are people who struggle to make it to first base, and there are people who are born on third base. Life is radically unfair. People get different amounts of everything, bad and good. So, we play the comparison game. We see what others have and we want it. What’s the problem?

God says “no.”

Exodus 20:17

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

What is Coveting?

What is coveting? This is alternately translated as “selfishly want” or “lust.” I like this one: it is to set one’s heart upon a thing. It is to look across the room at someone opening his Christmas gift and say “I want that.” “I wish that one were mine.” His ox looks stronger, her house looks better, his wife seems nicer…all of those.

Not Just Coveting

Now, this command does not say, generically, “do not covet.” This is another example of where our mental shorthand for these commands causes problems. There are lots of things you could “covet.” We even say things like, “I covet your prayers.” “I earnestly desire good things.” “I set my heart upon the things and the person of God.” I covet them.

It creates, via examples, a category of things that are off limits.

But you shall not covet…things that are his or hers: things that already belong to another. This includes simple ownership: their house, their wealth or livestock; and more interpersonal “belonging” like one’s spouse or servants. No setting your heart upon someone else’s stuff.

I Want That — Logical and Practical

In most views of reality, this “coveting” makes total sense! It is logical; it is practical. It is entirely natural and inevitable, maybe, to look at those who have more and say “I want that.”

I want that!

If life is a ladder, it is only natural to look for the next rung. If life is a race, you are looking at and chasing whoever is in front of you. If life is monopoly, everyone knows who has the most money and covets as much of his money and property as he can! This all makes sense! Super logical. And God simply says “No.”?

This command is completely unenforceable. No penalty listed. No penalties to come in later laws as there were for the earlier commandments. No human being can really know if you are coveting your neighbor’s stuff. You can so easily hide this. This

is inside your head and heart. Maybe even just a small voice you try to silence…and no one knows the envy within you! Especially when it is really something you desperately want..or something you have prayed for…asked for…waited for.

Root of Sin

We see easily how coveting can be a root of sin. We could work our way through the rest of the Nine:

1. Desiring an easier life and more blessings: we can chase

after other gods,

2. …or seek to manipulate God via idols.

3. Wanting to trade on the reputation of God for material

gain: we use the name of God for our own purposes.

4. Wanting to trade more time for more stuff: we hijack

God’s day for work.

5. Resenting our parents for not meeting all our wants: we

dishonor them.

6. Our want translates to hate and murder.

7. Our want translates to lust and adultery.

8. Our want leads us to steal.

9. And our coveting that of our neighbor leads us to lie and

deceive to tear that neighbor down to size!

This really rears its head when we think of the purpose of the law, the summary of righteousness — to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. What a symptom of a lack of love: instead of feeling happy for someone, I just crave what he has. What a barrier to love is envy. What a poison in a relationship.

Envy is a seed that takes root — it is the beginning, the birth of something.

James hits this on the head. Coveting is a seed that grows:

James 1:14-15

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Desire (same word in the Greek as is used when translating the ten commandments into Greek). Coveting desire, want!

This is a root of all kinds of evil!

Solution — Living by the Request

So, we all are covetous, envious people…and it is a root of all kinds of sin…

It also seems so natural and easy. So much of our world and culture is aimed at feeding into this enviousness and covetousness. Commercials where everyone is laughing, having fun and everything looks beautiful are all carefully orchestrated to leave you saying, “I want that!”

We live in a culture and economy of envy.

How do I actually stop coveting? How do I “police” my heart? How do I silence that little voice within that whispers, “I want what he has”? When I see my neighbor driving a car I want, do I just slap myself in the face? Squeeze really hard? Distract myself? Go buy my own car so I don’t have to covet his?

There’s a solution! Since God says “do not covet your neighbor’s stuff…” there has to be a way. This command doesn’t mark a dead-end past where you just live in guilt, it marks out a path of righteousness, it shows us a boundary.

James 4:1-3

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Don’t chase after the gifts…ask the Giver!

Your focus is entirely on the wrong thing. If you know someone who is amazing at giving out the best Christmas gifts on earth… don’t chase after every gift He has given someone else! Make friends with that guy…then ask Him over for Christmas!


Jesus, brother of James (love that guy), said it this way:

Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, then all these things will be added to you!

This is going to be the pattern of the nation of Israel and God: a people who keep chasing after what everyone else has, turning away from God. Chasing the gifts… turning away from the Giver.Don’t lust after the land of the people of Canaan…I have already promised to give it to you! Don’t covet the lifestyle of the pagans…what I am giving you is so much better. True life! Don’t set your heart after the gods of others, thinking they can get you more of what you want! Don’t chase after things and women, lusts of the flesh and pleasures of the body. I want to give you so much, if only you would ask. If only you would seek.

I am giving you the Kingdom. I have laid out the path of Righteousness. I want to give you all the blessings of the Cosmos…but you are scrabbling over the baubles; you are wrestling over wrapping paper; you are killing one another, coveting and envying over wealth and relationships. You do not have because you do not ask God. And when you ask, you ask like He is a vending machine instead of a wise Father who knows best.

Father Christmas

Christmas is coming up, and Anna and I are deciding what the “good” things we want to give our kids are. They have written out a list, all the things that they want. And we want that look of joy on their face…we don’t want to disappoint our children because we love them.

But we also know there are a whole host of other factors we are considering. What is going to be good for them? There are things on their list that will be actively harmful to them. There are things not on their list that will bring them more joy. And best, there are things, not on their list, that are going to bring us closer together — things we get to do together and enjoy

together. But in that process, think of all the limitations we have. We do not know everything that they will need or even like. We make partial guesses as to what will be best for them. And most of all, we have limited resources with which to give to them.

God has no limitations as Giver. He, as the Father, carefully considers what gifts to give His beloved children. There is no

financial cap. There is no external limit. Just dwell on that for a moment. We couple infinite potential with infinite love. That is our Giver. That is our Father.

If we don’t have something, it is because we haven’t asked, or the time is not right, or it wouldn’t be good for us. So we wait. Sometimes we realize why it wasn’t good for us. Sometimes we just trust in our perfect, loving, heavenly Father who desires to give good things to His children.

Christmas Envy

How silly of us to look at the possessions and life and gifts and talents of one another, and say “I want that.” How silly of us. It is like Logan looking over at Arabelle’s doll house in envy…because it is bigger than the gift he hasn’t unwrapped yet.The gifts God is giving you are absolutely perfect for you. For your pleasure, for the shaping of your soul, perfect for your relationship with God. Perfect.

We covet because we think small.

Love of God, Love of Neighbor

This command is so focused at our heart…and it is so powerful in its application.

The Ten Commandments lay out the Course of Righteousness… and they are summed up by this: Love God, Love your Neighbor. What is missing in our relationship with God that we long to possess what someone else possesses? That we envy, that we covet?

We don’t trust the Giver. Trust the Giver.

If we understand that an infinite wise intelligence, possessed of infinite creative resources, who knows the desires of our hearts and hears our requests, loves us and desires only good things for us — if we embraced that…envy disappears, covetousness disappears, all of that simply evaporates.

Oh, I don’t have that. I might wonder why; I might be curious; but I can absolutely know that the only reason I don’t have his ox, his donkey, his car, his house and his wife…is that they wouldn’t be good for me. And what a symptom of love for one another: when we can be truly happy for another’s blessing without desiring that for ourselves.

I don’t envy my kids. I’ll occasionally snake a bite of their dessert…but only for the laughs. I want them to have good things, to enjoy dessert, to get presents at Christmas, to be ridiculously successful in all avenues of life. I want that for them — and I’ll do anything I can to help them get there. And obviously I don’t complain, I don’t envy when I get good gifts. I am glad for me. Good for me, I say, to myself. I am glad I got that blessing or gift, well done!

Love your neighbor as yourself, with that same simple joy. How do we get there? Get to know the Giver. Test Him out. Ask Him, and see if He gives good gifts.

Not the gifts but the Giver. Then also the gifts of the Giver.

Don’t look over at your neighbor and say “I want that.”

But you can look at what God has given you and say “I want this, thank you.” You discover the good things God wants to give you and say, “I want that” — and our loving heavenly Father may just be waiting for you to ask! Crazy but true.

And best of all, you can look to the person behind all the gifts, the Giver, and say “I want You.”

Philippians 3:8

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

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