One big reason people don’t give like they once did is because they’re spending their money on other things. Indebtedness is also at an all-time high, and a lot of it is considered “consumer debt,” much of which is often rooted in materialism and covetousness.
While some Christians complain about the removal of the 10 Commandments from public buildings, most Americans (including professing Christians) don’t even know what they are. Even those who can name a few of those written-in-stone mandates probably forget about the last one on the list: “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17).
Call It What It Is
Okay, so if “Thou shalt not covet” really was written in stone, then what are you doing when you desire something that you don’t have? You’re transgressing the law: The Bible calls that “sin.” While it might sound harsh, we need to call it what it is before we see the need to even find a cure.
The timeless principles of God’s Word are relevant even when society generally accepts sinful living as normative. Perhaps covetousness is one sinful lifestyle pattern that even the church has failed to address. Even still, if we’re craving possessions, relationships, positions, or any other blessings God hasn’t chosen to give us, we’re sinning against Him. Like all sin, we need to respond to it in humble confession and repentance (1 John 1:9).
Stop Excusing & Courting It
In our world, materialism and covetousness are seen as normal and excusable, but that doesn’t change how God sees it. Even one sin deserves death (Romans 6:23), which means God takes it pretty seriously. So should we.
Like any sin, we need to flee from covetousness (1 Thessalonians5:22). Taking any kind of sin seriously means we’ll avoid situations that make it especially tempting to fall back into the trap. I’ve heard Christians jokingly refer to going the mall as “going coveting.” If that’s seriously what “window shopping” encourages your heart to do, then it’s wisest not to do it.
According to a reputable survey, Facebook and other social networking sites seem to breed the kind joy-stealing comparison that often leads to coveting. If that’s you, then maybe you need to take a break from such sites.
Replace It with Contentment
Repentance, followed by avoiding opportunities for fleshly choices, is just a start. As described in Colossians 3, in addition to “putting off” fleshly habits, we need to “put on” godly ones.
The antidote to covetousness is contentment. Contentment has nothing to do with what we have or do not have; it’s a mindset, a way of thinking, a spiritual discipline (Hebrews 13:5). Paul was able to be content while he was in all kinds of circumstances — including jail and stoning (Philippians 4:11). He told Timothy, the young preacher, that it’s right up there with godliness, and we should be satisfied with the basic necessities of life (1 Tim. 6:6-8).
When you’re content with what you have, you can enjoy renewed freedom from covetousness. And that translates into freedom to give.
Continue reading with Part 2.