“Love and Contentment” – Deuteronomy 5:21-22

June 18th, 2017

Dt 5:21-22

“Love and Contentment”

Aux Text: James 4:1-10

Call to Worship: Psa 145

 

Service Orientation: Coveting is an indicator that we are displeased with God’s provision.  Our discontentedness and lack of appreciation for all God has done for us demonstrates that we are looking to idols for our salvation and contentment.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. —  Galatians 5:16-17

                                                                                                                                           

Background Information:

Nothing is as hard to suppress as the will to be a slave to one’s own pettiness.  Gallantly, ceaselessly, quietly, man must fight for inner liberty.  Inner liberty depends upon being exempt from domination of things as well as from domination of people.  There are many who have acquired a high degree of political and social liberty, but only very few are not enslaved to things.  This is our constant problem–how to live with people and remain free, how to live with things and remain independent.

In a moment of eternity, while the taste of redemption was still fresh to the former slaves, the people of Israel were given the Ten Words, the Ten Commandments.  In its beginning and end, the Decalogue deals with the liberty of man.  The first Word–I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage–reminds him that his outer liberty was given to him by God, and the tenth Word–Thou shalt not covet!–reminds him that he himself must achieve his inner liberty.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath, 89-90)

  • The territory covered by the tenth commandment is sprawling. The cares of the world, the deceptiveness of riches, and the desire for other things can dominate a person (Mk 4:19).  Not possessing, but craving to possess, is forbidden in the Bible–not wealth itself, but wanting to be wealthy is the great danger (1 Tm 6:9).  Beware of all covetousness (Lk 12:15).  Covetousness can so dominate a person that it should really be called a form of idolatry (Col 3:5).  It leads to shamelessness in sexuality (Eph 4:19; 5:3), and just like the love of money, covetousness is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tm 6:10).  Moreover, covetousness lies behind false prophets preaching their heresy (2 Pt 2:3, 14).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 344)
  • We might join the Roman Catholic theologians who distinguish between three kinds of desire: (1) spontaneous desires, (2) nurtured desires, and (3) fulfilled desires. But in contrast to Roman Catholic doctrine, Reformed thinkers add responsibility for spontaneous desires, in line with what Paul says in Romans about man’s total depravity.  Not only our active desires, but also the hearth where these desires ignite into the flame of action, come under divine condemnation.  Evil desires arise from an evil heart.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 351)
  • Jesus sets this commandment at the base of his warning against greed and thus as a pointer to the nature of the Christian life (Lk 12:13-15). “He refuses to identify authentic Christian existence with the possession of material wealth, even inherited–especially when abundant.  It is much more important to be than to have–to be one who listens to God’s word and acts on it than to live in an unnecessary abundance of wealth” (Fitzmyer, 969).  Paul refers to this commandment when he is arguing that the law has showed him his sin; he also brings this commandment into direct connection with the basic or primary commandment of Deuteronomy when he declares that covetousness is a form of idolatry (Eph 5:5; Col 3:5).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 97)
  • If you haven’t yet noticed, the Tenth Word differs from the preceding Commandments because instead of forbidding an action, it forbids a state of mind. The Tenth Commandment goes right to where no other human being can see.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 173)
  • Widespread disobedience to these laws and principles would undermine the whole social fabric of Israel–or indeed, any nation or community. The list is remarkable in that it ends with a purely internal human failing–covetousness–a failing which plainly no courts, in Israel or anywhere else, could punish or correct.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 43)
  • We should remember that the Decalogue is not a code of laws in the legislative sense. It is never called “laws,” but “words.”  It sets out the boundaries of required and prohibited behaviors for the covenant people as matters of fundamental principle.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 85)
  • Deuteronomy is concerned to inculcate a social ethos in which motives and desires, intentions and attitudes, matter greatly. All the rhetoric, the didactic, hortatory style, the urgent appeals, glowing promises, and dire warnings are directed precisely to the heart and mind, the inner world of will and purpose.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 85)
  • This sin can dress itself in the attire of virtue. It is called the “cloak of covetousness.” 1 Thes 2:5.  It is a sin that wears a cloak, it cloaks itself under the name of frugality and good husbandry.  It has many pleas and excuses for itself, more than any other sin: as providing for one’s family.  The more subtle the sin is, the less discernible it is.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 176)
  • “Covetousness hinders the efficacy of the word preached.” In the parable, the thorns, which Christ expounded to be the care of this life, choked the good seed.  Mt 13:22.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 176)
  • Understood and lived out, the Tenth Word will silence Hell’s amusement and invite the laughter of Heaven to grace one’s footsteps. (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 172)
  • So we understand that the Commandment means we are not to lust after what is our neighbor’s. (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 172)
  • Anyone who sets his desire(s) on his neighbor’s house, wife, employees, or animals will not be able to keep his hands off. With premeditation he intends to strike.  That is the primary meaning of the tenth commandment.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 341)
  • That is the nature of covetousness. It always wants something more.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 168)
  • This commandment deals with inner motives. If this last commandment were kept, the first nine would never be broken.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 110)
  • The tenth and final stipulation of the covenant summary prohibited coveting. Students of Deuteronomy have long been aware that this last command differs significantly from the previous nine in that it addresses an inner condition or state of desire rather than the actions taken in pursuit of such desires.

An obvious implication of this difference is that the final commandment is the only one of the ten that can be broken without the knowledge of any prohibition that can be violated without civil penalty.

The wisdom of God, however, lies embedded in the tenth commandment.  Yahweh insisted that genuine righteousness lies not at the level of visible actions but inside the individual soul.  Jesus later in the Sermon on the Mount took precisely such an interpretive direction, insisting that both murder in the heart as well as the overt act were sinful (see Mt 5:21-22).  God thus declared to his people that they should never be satisfied with challenging evil at the level of the visible and overt; rather, they are to meet it at the outer gate of the spirit.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 73)

  • In the course of attempting to obey the tenth commandment (and the first nine, but less obviously), the individual Israelite would come face-to-face with the divine purpose of the law: to make him conscious that there was a moral chasm between himself and his God. As Paul would later explain (Rom 3:19-20), the central purpose of God’s law was to show the universality of sin and to put humanity in touch with its guilt.  That guilt, in turn, was designed to encourage the guilty person to exercise faith in the God who alone can impute righteousness.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 73)
  • The commandments come full circle. To break the tenth is to break the first.  For covetousness means setting our hearts and affections on things that then take the place of God.  It is not surprising, then, conversely, that a whole culture that systematically denies the transcendent by excluding the reality of the living God from the public domain, as Western societies have been doing for generations, also ends up turning covetous self-interest into a socioeconomic ideology, rationalized, euphemized, and idolized.  Knowing full well that you cannot serve God and mammon, we have deliberately chosen mammon and declared that a person’s life does consist in the abundance of things possessed.  And when a society has so profoundly and deliberately abandoned the first and tenth commandments, the moral vacuum that results from the loss of all those commandments in between soon follows.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 86)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God want us to understand in the tenth commandment?

 

Answer: Desire and passion are from God to endear us to God.  Coveting is wrongful fulfilment of desires.  God desires that we live free from the bondage of sinful desires by being content in Him.

 

We live in a consumer society, and today’s sophisticated marketers spend billions of dollars and work around the clock for one purpose: to make you unhappy and dissatisfied with what you have.  With all of their considerable skill, talent, and training, they seek to convince you and I that if we would just buy this or possess that, we’d find a greater measure of happiness and security in this old world.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 235)

 

Covet = To pursue desires unrighteously.

 

Covet (Webster’s) To wish enviously especially for what belongs to another.

 

Thomas Watson’s indicators of a Covetous heart:

When his thoughts are wholly taken up with the world. . . When he takes more pains for getting earth than for getting heaven. . . . When all his discourse is about the world. . . . When he so sets his heart upon worldly things, that for the love of them, he will part with heavenly; for the “wedge of gold,” he will part with the “pearl of price.” . . . When it comes to the critical point that men must either relinquish their estate or Christ, and they will rather part with Christ and a good conscience than with their estate, it is a clear case that they are possessed with the demon of covetousness. . . When he overloads himself with worldly business.  He has many irons in the fire; he is in this sense a pluralist; he takes so much business upon him, that he cannot find time to serve God; he has scarce time to eat his meat, but no time to pray.  When a man overcharges himself with the world, and as Martha, cumbers himself about many things, that he cannot have time for his soul, he is under the power of covetousness. . . . He is given to covetousness whose heart is so set upon the world, that, to get it, he cares not what unlawful means he uses.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 175-176)

 

Society will ascribe to physically fit and intellectually capable people a very high quality of life, despite the fact that they are sometimes the most miserable.  Yet society will ascribe a very low quality of life to poor, debilitated people, despite the fact that they are sometimes the most content.  (Joni Eareckson Tada, When Is It Right To Die?, p. 62)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Content

 

If advertisers thought that human beings were rational actors, self-consistent and centered, they would attempt to prove the superiority of their product in rational, perhaps functional terms.  Advertisers don’t, and this shows that they believe human beings are clusters of desires, particularly desires for novelty, for membership in a “cool” group, for envious looks from neighbors and friends, for a taste of the American dream.  Advertisers also clearly believe that human beings are susceptible to the influence of images, jingles, and slogans.  Selves are not fixed, and their desires can be manipulated.  Human beings can be brainwashed.  So not only does advertising shape desire, but every time an ad goes out that assumes human beings are decentered, changeable selves, it reinforces the postmodern view of the self.  (Peter J. Leithart, Solomon Among the Postmoderns, p. 145)

 

What does God want us to understand in the tenth commandment?:

I-  Desire and passion are Divine.  Righteous satisfaction of desires should endear us to God.  (Ps 16:5-6; 20:4; 21:2; ch 23; 27:4; 37:4; 40:8; 73:25; 103:3-5; 145:16, 19; Prv 22:1; Lk 22:15; Rom 10:1; 11:11; 1 Cor 7:9; 12:31; 14:1; 2 Cor 8:10; 1 Tm 3:1; 4:1-5; 6:8, 17)

 

Covet grace, for it is the best blessing, it is the seed of God. 1 Jn 3:9.  Covet heaven, which is the region of happiness–the most pleasant clime.  If we covet heaven more, we shall covet earth less.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 180)

 

When Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, Satan used as the source of his temptation that he could make Adam and Eve “like God” . . . the very thing that God designed and created them to be and the very thing that God desires to restore in us (Rom 8:29-30; 1 Pt 1:1-4).  (Jean Porter 8-7-12)

 

Our “natural” desires are not sinful.  Jesus Himself knew what it was to be hungry (Mt 4:2), to be thirsty (Jn 19:28-29), and to need sleep (Lk 8:23).  The opening chapters of the Bible and the Song of Songs speak in exalted terms about the sexual love between a husband and a wife (Gn 2:22-23; Song of Songs).  We may long for children (Gn 30:22-23; 1 Sm 1:17; Ps 127:3-5) and to improve our position (Prv 24:27). . . . We may and should desire other things as well.  We may thirst for God, as a deer thirsts for water (Ps 42:1-2).  One can long for God without desiring anything else on earth (Ps 73:25).  Paul desired to depart and be with Christ (Phil 2:23).  We must pursue various virtues.  In his connection, Phil 4:8 has properly been called a song of tribute to good desire.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 349)

 

Let me first say that there is a kind of discontent that is pleasing to God.  This is the discontent of wanting all of God.  The Bible describes this as hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Mt 5:6), as the soul panting, fainting, and thirsting after God (Ps 42:1, 2; 63:1), and as “straining forward to what lies ahead” and “press[ing] on toward the goal” (Phil 3:13, 14).  Then there is the discontent of wanting to do one’s best for God.  Paul tells Timothy to “devote” himself to diligence in the practice of ministry “so that all may see [his] progress” (1 Tm 4:13-16).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 238)

 

The Christian Way — The Christian says, “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.”   A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food.   A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water.   Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex.  If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud.  Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.  If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.  I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others do the same.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch 10, 120)

 

My suspicion is that when sin affected man so deeply, it touched his spiritual dimensions most severely of all, while leaving the original physical appetites and desires virtually undiminished.  Our instinctive preoccupations with food, sexual pleasure, and security are probably close to their original levels.  It may be helpful to speculate that man in his sinless nature once probably had as great, if not greater, desire for communion with the Creator as he has for the satisfaction of the natural and very real appetites and instincts that we live with today. (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 146)

 

I find it terribly difficult to understand a person who is so satisfied with their present accomplishments that they have no desire to risk attempting something new.  There is nothing wrong with spiritual contentment with our possessions and resources, but each of us should carry to our grave a holy dissatisfaction with our achievements.  (John C. Maxwell, The Power of Leadership, 45)

 

Therefore what Paul is teaching us here (1 Tim 4:1-5)  is that the proper use of physical pleasures in sex and food is that they send our hearts Godward with the joy of gratitude that finds its firmest ground in the goodness of God himself, not in his gifts.  This means that if, in the providence of God, these gifts are ever taken away–perhaps by the death of a spouse or the demand for a feeding tube–the deepest joy that we had through them will not be taken away, because God is still good (see Hab 3:17-18).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 187)

 

Sir Francis Bacon once wrote this simple but too-often forgettable truth:

The desire of power in excess

caused angels to fall;

the desire of knowledge in excess

caused man to fall.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 729)

 

“Stoicism” has never been a Christian philosophy.  If truth be told, we serve a passionate God who feels deeply.

Our passions are what make us come alive.  The apathetic person is a pathetic person.  While we often fear our passions because they can carry us into an affair, a fight, or some other destructive behavior, the solution is not living a less passionate life but finding the right things to be passionate about.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 222)

 

It is this spiritual intercourse with God that is the ecstasy that is imagined and hinted at in all earthly intercourse; physical or spiritual.   And I think that is the ultimate reason why sexual passion is so strong and so different from other passion; so heavy with suggestions of profound meanings that always just elude our grasp.  I don’t think any practical need can account for it.  I don’t think any animal drive can explain it.  No animal falls in love or writes profound romantic poetry or sees sex as a symbol of ultimate meaning of life because no animal is made in the image of God.  Not just sexuality, but human sexuality is that image.   And human sexuality is a foretaste of that self-giving, losing and finding the whole self, a foretaste of that oneness and manyness that is the very life of the Trinity and the joy of the Trinity.   And that is why we long for without knowing it.  That is why we tremble to stand outside of ourselves in the other.  That is why we long to give our whole selves, body and soul, because we are images of God the sexual being. We love the other sex because God loves God.  And this early love is so passionate because heaven is full of passion, of energy, and dynamism.  That is one of the  reasons God invented families.  You can’t love or hate anybody as much as your own family.  Families are full of passion.  Heaven is not boring or blasaise.  It is passionate because God is passionate.  Jesus Christ who is our window to God was not a stoic or a Scribe or a Scholar.  He was a lover.  I think we correctly deny that God has passions in a passive sense. He is not moved or driven or conditioned by them as we are.  He cannot fall in love for the same reason the ocean cannot get wet.  He is love.  (Peter Kreeft lecture “Sex in Heaven” )

 

According to Francis de Sales, these “foretastes of heavenly delight” are used by God to withdraw us from “earthly pleasures” and encourage us in the “pursuit of divine love.”

As unregenerate people, we operate out of the sensual, so God uses the senses to draw us to Him.  In time, however, He will withdraw the sensual support and the weaning process will begin.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 185)

 

“Spiritual caressing,” if left unabated, would eventually cause us to lose focus.  Thus we could begin to enjoy the fruits of worshiping God (our feelings) more than we enjoyed the God we worship.  Augustine wrote, “Whosoever seeketh of God anything besides God, doth not love God purely.  If a wife loved her husband, because he is rich, she is not pure, for she loveth not her husband, but the gold of her husband.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 185)

 

Jesus never told us to erase our ambition.  Jesus never said to shun all thought of rewards.  He told us to turn from earthly ambition and to shun earthly rewards.  He said in effect, “Put yourself last here on earth, and in heaven you’ll be first.”  That’s a trade, not a complete denial!  That thirst for glory you feel in your heart is part of what makes you human–Jesus just wants us to focus it on heaven, looking for our rewards there.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 151)

 

Possessions have value by virtue of enhancing our ability to enjoy the gift of life and bring goodness to the world.  As goals or ends in themselves, they become idol worship.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 309)

 

It is lawful to use the world, yea, and to desire so much of it as may keep us from the temptation of poverty: “Give me not poverty, lest I steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prv 30:8, 9); and as may enable us to honor God with works of mercy.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 174)

 

We must covet, not for others’ gifts, but to grow in the gifts that God has given us, and to long for even greater gifts.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 182)

 

Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure.  — Thomas Edison

 

What if being human means to keep vigil, to long to be free, to battle with pain, to be discontented with the fallen world in which we live to weep, to hunger, thirst, to mourn to wait.  What if to become inhumane is to accept this fallen world as the norm?  (Paraphrase of Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, 24)

 

The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.   The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God:  a few moments of happy love, and landscape, a symphony, have no such tendency.   Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, ch. 7)

 

St. Bernard (of Clairvaux) rightly says: “As soon as you do not desire to become better, then you have ceased to be good.”  (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, 168)

 

“…God is the God who desires passion from His people.  He wants us to know Him through love rather than through reason, and He laughs at our arrogant attempts to try to grasp Him in intellectual terms.” (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem—Seize the Day, 23)

 

We have already shown how happiness is always directed away from the self to the source of joy: the beautiful view, the beautiful beloved, the beautiful symphony, or the beautiful picture.  That is the nature of joy.  And worship is joy turned backwards towards God—the source of all joy.  For whatever it is that gives one happiness, God is its ultimate source.  It is quite right to express gratitude to the orchestral players and the conductor after a moving performance of a symphony.  A little reflection reminds us that we must feel gratitude to Beethoven too.  And a little further reflection reminds us that we must show gratitude to the God who gave us Beethoven and who made the human brains and skills that conceived and manufactured violins and trumpets. (Harry Blamires, On Christian Truth, 123)

 

The Bible does not propagate any form of Buddhism, whose supreme objective is freedom from everything earthly and the complete suppression of all desires.  This is how man supposedly enters nirvana, a state of complete oblivion to external stimuli and internal passions.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 348)

 

The human heart produces desires as fire produces heat.  As surely as the sparks fly upward, the heart pumps out desire after desire for a happier future.  The condition of the heart is appraised by the kinds of desires that hold sway.  Or, to put it another way, the state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires.  If it is satisfied with mean and ugly things, it is a mean and ugly heart.  If it is satisfied with God, it is a godly heart.  As Henry Skougal put it, “The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its desire.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 277-8)

 

II-  To covet is to mentally pursue sinful desires.  (Ps 106:16; 140:8; Prov 3:31; 12:12; 13:4, 25; Micah 2:1-2; Mt 23:5-7; Jn 8:44; Eph 5:3; 1 Thess 4:5; 1 Tm 6:9, 17; 2 Tm 2:16; 4:3; Jam 4:1-3; 2 Pt 2:3, 14; 3:3; 1 Jn 2:15-17; Jude 1:16-18)

 

He who has an earthly itch, a greedy desire of getting the world, has in him the root of all sin.  Covetousness is a mother sin.  I shall make it appear that covetousness is a breach of all the ten commandments.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 177)

 

To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people.  By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God,  9)

 

The devil is the great deceiver, and the aim of all his deception, as with temptation, is that we desire anything–even good, safe, wholesome things–above God.  He offers a thousand substitutes and threatens us with a thousand miseries in this world.  When we pray for deliverance from him, we mean: Never let us be attracted by the substitutes, and never let us infer from our miseries that God is not our all-satisfying Friend.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 147-8)

 

The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.  (John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, 14)

 

Augustine defines covetousness Plus velle quam sat est; “to desire more than enough.”  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 174)

 

Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in him.  (Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine)

 

A king abhors to see his statue abused; so God abhors to see man, made in his image, having the heart of a beast.  Who would live in such a sin as makes him abhorred of God?  Whom God abhors he curses, and his curse blasts wherever it comes.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 178)

 

“We are discontent with our lot, whatever it is, just because it is ours.” (Chaucer’s character as quoted by Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read, 157)

 

Covetousness is self-serving and self-loving.  Covetousness promotes breaking the second table, commandment by commandment.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 173)

 

A covetous individual tends to see the world only in terms of how it benefits his own immediate needs.  Short-term satisfaction elbows out long-term goals and deeply held values.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 228)

 

“The three great lies of our culture are that self-gratification is life’s true goal—that is it very bad for you to thwart your own strong desires—and that any behavior you feel comfortable with is all right.” (J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, 254)

 

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.  (Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, xvii)

 

Mankind, by the perverse depravity of their nature, esteem that which they have most desired as of no value the moment it is possessed, and torment themselves with fruitless wishes for that which is beyond their reach.  —Fenelon

 

What does the tenth commandment require of us?

That even the smallest inclination or thought, contrary to any of God’s commandments, never rise in our hearts; but that at all times we hate all sin with our whole heart, and delight in all righteousness. (Heidelberg Catechism, 44. Lord’s Day)

 

Where consumption is the law and the prophets, self-discipline is heresy.  More is always better. Since maturity places limits on the desire for more, maturity is out.  Adolescence comes into its own.  The best consumers are perpetual teenagers, people for whom personal desires are fresh and irresistible, and who therefore find it hard to accept having any limits placed upon them.  They are always wanting and needing what the market has to offer. (Alan Keyes; Our Character, Our Future, 25)

 

It is obvious that proper thoughts more likely lead to proper behaviors, and improper thoughts to improper behaviors.  Thoughts can take on a life of their own.  Thoughts of doing wrong things are a blemish on the divine spark within us all.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 301)

 

We feel that the goal of this commandment is to stop us from thinking excessively about things that do not belong to us, as well as from loving earthly things in lieu of godliness.  When we become obsessed with possessing things, and specifically, others’ things, it influences our ability to create a balanced life of meaning and may lead to evil in order to obtain our desire.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 301-2)

 

You could describe the history of the human race, of entire nations and families, under the theme: “You have coveted what belonged to another.”  In this connection, we cannot help but think of envy.  Our first parents desired to be like God, and their sin plunged the whole human race and the creation into misery.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 344)

 

A Greek fable captured the essence of this when it told of a covetous man to whom the gods granted any wish he liked–on the condition that his neighbor would get twice as much of it.  Unable to bear the thought of his neighbor coming out better than he, he wished to lose one eye!  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 179)

 

Water is useful for the sailing of the ship; all the danger is when the water gets into the ship; so the fear is, when the world gets into the heart.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 174)

 

III-  To master natural desire and passion with contentment is freedom.  To yield to the temptation of unrighteous desire and passion is bondage and ruin.  (Gn 4:7; Dt 7:25; Josh 7:21; 1 Kgs ch 21; Ps 19:12; 51:10; 90:8; Prv 11:6; 14:30; 21:26; 30:15; Eccl 5:10-11; Mt 6:24-33; Mk 4:19; Lk 12:15-21; Rom 1:18-32; 6:5-23; 7:5, 18; Eph 2:3; 4:19, 22; Phil 4:11-13; 1 Tm 6:17-19; 2 Tm 3:6; Heb 13:5; Jam 1:14-15; 3:16; 1 Pt 1:14; 2:11; 2 Pt 2:18)

 

Rule your desires, lest your desires rule you. — Publius Syrus

 

An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit. — Pliny the Younger

 

Contentment is not freedom from desire, but freedom of desire.  (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 182)

 

The problem with sensuality is that it fails to notice anything but the object of its lust.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 53)

 

Lust is slavery.

If I want something to the point that I can’t conceive of being content without it, then it owns me.

One writer in the Scriptures puts it like this: “‘I have the right to do anything’–but I will not be mastered by anything.”  (Rob Bell, Sex God, 75)

 

Lust does not operate on a flat line, as if we can give in and stay at the same level of consumption indefinitely. People who are not aware of what they’re dealing with will keep insisting that they’re fine and that they can stop at any time. But they’re “darkened in their understanding.” They’re operating under the assumption that lust can plateau at a certain level and simply stay there. But lust always wants more.

Which is why lust, over time, will always lead to despair. Which will always lead to anger.  Lust always leads to anger.   (Rob Bell, Sex God, 77-8)

 

Advertisements reflect what lives within man.  The beautiful and the ugly come to expression.  The questionable side of advertising would not exist if we were different people, not driven to live as materialistically as we do today.  Modern advertising is aimed squarely at that feature of the modern human personality.  The remedy for that malady is not to get rid of advertising (which we could limit at best only on radio and television), but rather a Christian lifestyle that takes the tenth commandment seriously: You shall not covet–you must realize that life is more than consumering; you must become the master of the hidden persuaders in your life.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 347)

 

Every day you are being bombarded by billions of dollars worth of advertising designed to encourage you to covet.  But if you give in, you will never be satisfied.  You are always going to want just a little bit more.

Contentment with godliness is great gain.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 170)

 

When we covet someone else’s win, we diminish the meaning of the opportunity and experience to participate and appreciate the value inherent in life.  Too many people are impressed with what has become the sports mantra, Vince Lombardi’s quote, “Winning isn’t everything; it is the only thing.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 305)

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the observation that when lust takes control, “At this moment God…loses all reality…Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, 25)

 

Dissatisfaction with what he was and had lay behind man’s fall in Paradise.  The fruit of the tree was desirable, and by eating it man would become “like God” (Gn 3:5-6).  Ever since then, a voice has been whispering in every person’s ear that he should have been more than he was and should have had more than he had.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 345)

 

You may as well bid an elephant fly in the air, as a covetous man live by faith.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 176)

 

One very intensive form of talking us into getting “more” is the advertisement.  The word comes from an old French verb that meant “to warn, to give notice to,” and naturally this warning was made audibly, often raucously.  Advertising is a form of mass communication whose purpose is to influence the behavior of buyers in regard to consumer goods and services.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 346)

 

Cain’s envy led to the murder of his brother Abel, after God had warned Cain that sin was lying at the door, and its desire was for him.  God exhorted Cain to master that desire (Gn 4:7).  But history testifies to a different reality: ever since Cain, desire masters us.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 344)

 

Some transgressions are unobserved, but nevertheless sins for which we must pray, “Cleanse me from secret faults” (Ps 19:12).  Our secret sins stand in the light of God’s countenance (Ps 90:8).  We ourselves often do not realize what kind of wrongdoing dwells in our hearts: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24).  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).  Before and after the Flood, all the imaginations of man’s heart were evil from his youth on (Gn 6:5; 8:21).  Evil courses through our veins!  We do not merely do sinful things; we are sinful people.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 351)

 

. . . Paul formulates the tenth commandment very generally: “You shall not covet,” without quoting the additional specifications found in Ex 20 and Dt 5, but rather with the observation that sin arouses all kinds of desires within us (Rom 7:8).  It is even the case that we live under the power of sin so much that this principle applies: “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good” (Rom 7:21).  No good desire exists without evil desire lurking nearby.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 351)

 

We cannot be satisfied with the excuse that we just happen to be this way–hassled all our days by sinful desires that happen to pop into our minds.  Because our love toward God and our neighbor must be radical love (with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, Mt 22:37-40), all those storm troopers who threaten at every moment to climb from our subconscious and take control of our lives must be enlisted into the service of Christ.  The issue is not simply putting our evil desires to death, but replacing those evil desires with good desires.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 351)

 

Already in the commandment against coveting the clear connection between internal feelings and external acts, between private attitudes and public deeds, is explicitly recognized.  The point is clear.  The inner attitudes and feelings have to do potentially with the well-being and security of one’s neighbor, and they are subject to a degree of control for the good of the community.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 96)

 

Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude, and self-discipline usually its friend and generator.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin.  The early desert fathers believed that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for righteousness.  They spoil the appetite for God.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., The Reformed Journal, November 1988)

 

Jesus is not against investment.  He is against bad investment—namely, setting your heart on the comforts and securities that money can afford in this world.  Money is to be invested for eternal yields in heaven—“Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven!”  (John Piper, Desiring God, 165)

 

IV-  Faith in God eliminates coveting in our hearts through discontented contentment.  (Ps 19:12; 51:10; 90:8; 119:33-40; Prv 14:30; 19:22-23; 23:17; Eccl 5:18-19; Mt 15:19; Mk 4:19; 7:20-23; Lk 3:14; 11:39; 12:15-21; 18:9-14;  Rom 8:1-17; 13:9, 14; 1 Cor 7:9; 13:4; Gal 5:16-17, 24; Phil 4:10-13, 19; Col 3:5-6; 1 Tm 6:6, 11-17; Heb 13:5; Jam 4:6-8)

 

 

The opposite of covetousness is contentment.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 238)

 

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. — Socrates

 

We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.  — Immanuel Kant

 

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. — Epictetus

 

Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  — Tim Keller

 

“If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast.” (Isaac Bickerstaffe as quoted by Dr. Chris Thurman, The Lies We Believe, 63)

 

“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” —  Benjamin Franklin.

 

Our dilemma is this: we can’t seem to live with desire, and we can’t live without it.  In the face of this quandary most people decide to bury the whole question and put as much distance as they can between themselves and their desires.  It is a logical and tragic act.  The tragedy is increased tenfold when this suicide of soul is committed under the conviction that this is precisely what Christianity recommends.  We have never been more mistaken.  (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 30)

 

The closer you are to God, the less important are worldly pleasures and treasures. — Whitson Seaman

 

He who is content with little has everything.

 

Contentment:  Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness.

 

After all, when I am perfectly satisfied, then what can tempt me?  When I am perfectly loved, then what else do I desire?  When I am eternally secure, then what can threaten me?  (Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace, 109)

 

What you have is sufficient.  The gifts you have are the gifts you are supposed to have.  If they aren’t sufficient for the tasks you are you have not been called to complete that task. The money you have is the money you were supposed to have.  If it isn’t sufficient for what you need money for and God doesn’t provide more you weren’t supposed to have what you thought you needed.  The brains you have are adequate.  The gifts you have are adequate.  The money you have is adequate.  The time you have is adequate.  That is what God’s grace is all about.  (Steve Brown, Frustrating Impossibility)

 

Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33).  His explicit meaning is that He will provide everything necessary for a rich, full life to His children who seek His sovereign reign.  Therefore, if we are Kingdom seekers and as such have everything, we will have no need to covet anything. . . . Jesus also said to his own, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35).  To be full of Jesus is to be in the state where covetousness is out of mind.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 181)

 

Your own house is the best one for you, your own spouse is the most pretty or handsome for you, in your own job lies the most fruitful development of your abilities, even though your house may be smaller than your neighbor’s, though your wife may be less attractive than other women, though your job may rank lower on the scale of values than those of your friends and acquaintances, and so on.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 345)

 

The fact is, God knows exactly what you and I need.  He knows when we need what we need.  He knows how much we need of what we need.  And He has a way of seeing to it that I receive what I need at just the right time. . . not my time, perhaps, but the right time.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 229-30)

 

If we are content with our own, we shall not covet that which is another’s.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 182)

 

In desiring someone else’s possessions, you are questioning God’s apportionment: “Why do they have this and not me?”  This shows a lack of faith and trust in the Lord.  The Tenth Commandment is the final exclamation point on the first commandment–to believe in and trust God.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 315-6)

 

Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God.  No one sins out of duty.  We sin because it holds out some promise of happiness.  That promise enslaves us until we believe that God is more to be desired than life itself (Psalm 63:3).  Which means that the power of sin’s promise is broken by the power of God’s.  All that God promises to be for us in Jesus stands over against what sin promises to be for us without him.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 9-10)

 

Itching for glory from other people makes faith impossible.  Why?  Because faith is being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus; and if you are bent on getting the satisfaction of your itch from the scratch of others’ acclaim, you will turn away from Jesus.  But if you would turn from self as the source of satisfaction (=repentance), and come to Jesus for the enjoyment of all that God is for us in him (=faith), then the itch would be replaced by a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:14).  (John Piper, Future Grace, 94)

 

There is a very real sense in which you will never be fully content in this world because this world is fallen and you are fallen.  Our present reality keeps intruding and interrupting our eternal, authentic reality.  So we need to learn to be content in our present discontentment knowing we’ll enjoy future contentment. This I call discontented contentment!  — Pastor Keith

 

Contentment is a gift from God to be gratefully received, not a triumph of self-discipline or acquisition to be attained.  — Pastor Keith

 

Contentment isn’t getting what we want but being satisfied with what we have.

 

Be content with what you have but never with what you are.  Sign on Rollin Friends Church 9-2-11

 

To Have More – Want Less.

 

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.  If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.  — Oprah Winfrey

 

Discontented:  Being uneasy or disturbed because one knows things should be better than they are.  — Pastor Keith

 

Those who have tasted transcendental reality can never again be convinced that this world and the society that regulates them can satisfy their needs.  Those who have tasted of the heavenly gift will always hunger because they know there is more to life, and that something more is not controlled by the system but lies beyond anything that the rulers of the system can provide.  Out of such holy discontentment new movements are born.  The sense of what is absent makes us discontented with what is present.  (Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day, 144-5)

 

Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment?  I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering.  The issue, I learned, is that our circumstances don’t determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do. (Patrick Morley, The Man In The Mirror, 101-2)

 

You can’t give a dog an ulcer.   He is content just being a dog.  He doesn’t try to be anything but a dog.  —Steve Brown

 

Our conformity to the will of God should extend to our natural defects, mental ones, included.  We should not, for example, complain or feel grieved at not being so clever or so witty or not having such a good memory as other people.  Why should we complain of the little that has fallen to our lot when we have deserved nothing of what God has given us?  Is not all a free gift of His generosity for which we are greatly indebted to him?  What services has He received from us that He should have made us a human being rather than some lower animal?  Have we done anything to oblige him to give us existence itself?

But it is not enough just not to complain.  We ought to be content with what we have been given and desire nothing more.  What we have is sufficient because God has judged it so.  Just as a workman uses the shape and size of tool best suited to the job in hand, so God gives us those qualities which are in accordance with the designs He has for us.  The important thing is to use well what He has given us.  It may be added that it is very fortunate for some people to have only mediocre qualities or limited talents.  The measure of them that God has given will save them, while they might be ruined if they had more.  Superiority of talent very often only serves to engender pride and vanity and so become a means of perdition.  (Jean Baptiste, Trustful Surrender To Divine Providence, 65-6)

 

We can become so shallow and “content” with the addiction to things that we cease to look for anything deeper and more satisfying (Deuteronomy).   We no longer groan (Romans 8) looking forward to a heavenly kingdom and a heavenly world (Hebrews and 1 or 2 Peter).  In fact, we can become so content with this world that we are dull and anaesthetized to all that God has for us.  We fail to be repentant because we are confident we have all that life can offer. — Pastor Keith

 

“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Ps 16:5, 6.  Faith, by a divine chemistry, extracts comfort out of God.  A little with God is sweet.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 179)

 

God knows there are certain things you need, and He will provide them: food, clothing, shelter, water, people who care about you.  These are just a few of the basic needs common to all people.

But some people become so covetous and so greedy for the things of this life that they make themselves miserable.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 168)

 

He who has enough, will not covet that which is another’s.  Be content: and the best way to be contented, is, (1) Believe that condition to be best which God by his providence carves out to you.  If he had seen fit for us to have more, we should have had it. . . . (2) The way to be content with such things as we have, and not to covet another’s, is to consider the less we have, the less account we shall have to give at the last day.  Every person is a steward, and must be accountable to God.  They who have great estates have the greater reckoning.  God will say, What good have you done with your estates?  Have you honored me with your substance?  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 182-3)

 

God knows very well what happens to people when they are caught up in unbridled envy.  What God really intends for us is that we would be contented. . . contented with who we are. . . contented with what we have. . . contented with Him.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 228)

 

Wrong desire is in league with sin; good desire, with love.  Good desire lies embedded in living with Christ and is satisfied with what He gives.  Throughout the centuries, this has been termed autarchy.  This term is derived from the Greek word autarkeia, meaning “sufficiency.”  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 349)

 

Even in an unhappy marriage God can do something beautiful that serves a greater purpose than the suffering people can ever imagine.  Hosea must never have thought that God was going to use his terrible experience with an unfaithful wife to help millions of people after him to understand the immensity of God’s love.  Unhappily married Christians will steadfastly cling to the fact that God will look after them and help turn their misery into something good.  This in turn helps them overcome the temptation to look lustfully at another person.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 236)

 

Content souls do not covet.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 181)

 

It is when sin is still in the “thought stage” that you must rebuke Satan and ask Christ to come and deliver you–before that sin takes root and produces its deadly fruit.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 170)

 

There is an obvious problem when our focus is more on what we do not have than on what we have.  Contentment with our blessings is not laziness.  Contentment does not imply a lack of effort of ambition.  Instead, contentment means that at every stage of your life your measure is appreciation and gratitude and not an inventory of what is missing or yet to get.  This latter concern leads to unhappiness, discontent, feelings of entitlement, frustration, anger, and probably ugly words and deeds because thoughts are the parents of acts.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 307)

 

Wouldst thou have thy heart rest nowhere but in the bosom of God?  What better method could Providence take to accomplish thy desire than pulling from under thy head that soft pillow of creature-delights on which you rested before?  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 45)

 

To Keep – To Toss

God wants to keep

Some parts of me and to toss

Out the other parts.

 

Why would He do this?

Because it’s necessary,

If I am to grow.

 

Like pruning a plant,

So it can produce fine fruit,

The plant’s less burdened.

 

A sharp knife cuts through

To remove the un-needed

Dead wood, that sucks strength.

 

Likewise, we’re refined

Of the un-necessary,

So we may produce.

 

Sometimes, refining

Is most uncomfortable,

Can hurt, in and out…

 

All kinds of stuff

Whether things, emotional,

Or habits, are weights.

 

They keep us tied down

From truly serving our God.

LIVE! Just toss “stuff” out.  (Molly A. Marsh)

 

O let your thoughts and delights be always taken up with the city of pearls, the paradise of God!  It is reported of Lazarus that, after he was raised from the grave, he was never seen to smile or take delight in the world.  Were our hearts raised by the power of the Holy Ghost up to heaven we should not be much taken with earthly things.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 180)

 

Worship Point: Worship God Who alone can save you.  Do not worship anything else as they (it) cannot save.  (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12)

 

Bumper sticker in Chicago – Too Blessed to Complain

 

The burden of a discontented, ungrateful child would be a heavy weight for any parent to bear.  How, then, does our discontentment affect the heart of our heavenly Father?  I wonder how much it must pain Him when He sees us eaten up with envy, as if to say, “What I have isn’t good enough.  What You have provided is something less than what I deserve.”  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 230)

 

Esteeming God less than anything is the essence of evil.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 34)

 

If we set our desires on anything other than the true God, we will become like that thing.  Desire that is focused on the right object–the one true God–enables and grows a human being.  Desire set on the wrong thing corrupts and debases us.

If we worship money, in other words, we’ll become a greedy person.

If we worship sex, we’ll become a lustful person.

If we worship power, we’ll become a corrupt person.

If we worship accomplishment, we’ll become a restless, frantic person.

If we worship love and acceptance, we’ll become a slave to others.

If we worship external beauty, we’ll become shallow.

And worshiping anything other than the true God will make us something other than what he created us to be.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 158)

 

“Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.” (John Piper, Desiring God, 81)

 

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  (John Piper, Desiring God)

 

Physical tastes like hot fudge vs. caramel are morally neutral. It’s not right or wrong to like the one over the other.  But having a spiritual taste for the glory of Christ is not morally neutral.  Not to have it is evil and deadly.  Not to see and savor Christ is an insult to the beauty and worth of his character.  Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin.  It must be fought.  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 33)

 

Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God.  The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures.  He will be all in all or He will be nothing.  God will not be used.  His mercy and grace are infinite and His patient understanding is beyond measure, but He will not aid men in their selfish striving after personal gain.  He will not help men to attain ends which, when attained, usurp the place He by every right should hold in their interest and affection.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 57)

 

Covetousness is desiring something so much that you lose your contentment in God.

The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God.  When contentment in God decreases, covetousness for gain increases.  That’s why Paul says in Colossians 3:5 (RSV) that covetousness is idolatry.  “Put to death what is earthly in you; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  It’s idolatry because the contentment that the heart should be getting from God, it starts to get from something else.”  (John Piper, Future Grace, 221)

 

Covetousness precipitates men to ruin, and shuts them out of heaven.  “This ye know, that no covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Eph 5:5.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 178)

 

Unwise counselors may try to tell us we should fight the loss of feelings.  Yet gluttony for spiritual feelings opens a wide door to the other appetites, including greed, overeating, sexual lusts, the hunger for power, and other sins.  When feelings become the focus of our faith, religion becomes not a friend but an enemy, concealing the true state of our heart.  We wonder why we fall into sin so soon after a seemingly powerful encounter with God.  What we fail to realize is that our hearts were stolen by spiritual gluttony, not real reverence.  We have been misled into believing that these feelings are an indication of the temperature of our hearts and the commitment of our will.  They are not.

So God steps back.  He stubbornly denies us the spiritual feelings with which we’ve grown so familiar.  This is frequently accompanied by very dry periods, times when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling and our hearts feel like hot, dry sand.  God does this so He can irrigate our desert with the cold water of pure faith, so He can break our addiction to the sensual and call us to the truly spiritual, and so we can humbly say, without doubt or need for reinforcement, “O God, You are my God, and I will follow You all of my days.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 186-7)

 

The person with an abiding spirit of gratitude is the one who trusts God.

The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness.  Gratitude arises from the lived perception, evaluation, and acceptance of all of life as grace–as an undeserved and unearned gift from the Father’s hand.  Such recognition is itself the work of grace, and acceptance of the gift is implicitly an acknowledgment of the Giver.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 24-25)

 

Gospel Application: Look to Jesus for the secret of discontented contentment.  He was not content with mankind’s struggle against the world, our flesh and the Devil.  But, He was content and desired to do His Father’s will: to redeem and restore us. (Rom 7:25; 2 Cor 8:9; Heb 12:1-2; 1 Pt 1:14; 2:1, 11; 4:2; 2 Pt 1:4)

 

Something awful has happened; something terrible.  Something worse, even, than the fall of man.  For in that greatest of all tragedies, we merely lost Paradise—and with it, everything that made life worth living.  What has happened since is unthinkable: we’ve gotten used to it. (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 9)

 

The only fatal error is to pretend that we have found the life we prize.  (John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, 14)

 

We must delight in God.  And only God can change our hearts so that we delight in God.  We are thrown back on God utterly.  The Christian life is all of grace.  “From him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.” (Rom 11:36).  (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 53)

 

Spiritually illuminated, Paul saw that his entire interior life was filled with coveting.  And when he tried to abstain from coveting, he coveted all the more.  The Law killed–it condemned him!  He then knew what he was.  He felt the sentence of death.

But it was this despair that gloriously opened him to grace.  And today the same honest realization will do the same for us.  None of us can keep the Law.  I’m guilty!  You’re guilty!  I can’t do it!  You can’t do it!  There is only one way to turn–and that is to God’s grace.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 180)

 

The fact is, we are all covetous.  It was precisely this Tenth Commandment that convicted the Apostle Paul he was a breaker of the Law.  As Paul relates in Rom 7, in his initial superficial understanding of the Law he thought he was doing quite well.  But then he seriously considered the Tenth Commandment, and this was the outcome, in Rom 7:7-9.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 179)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Find your contentment in God.  Flee from sinful desires.  They cannot satisfy.  There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of every person that only God can fill.  (Jn 4:14; 2 Cor 4:18; Phil 1:12-18; 4:11-13; Col 3:5-6; 2 Tim 2:22; Tit 2:12; Heb 13:5)

 

Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord. — St. Augustine

 

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal

 

I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term, than to gain a distaste for it, because of a superior satisfaction in God. (John Piper, Desiring God, 11)

 

The one who would have God’s power must lead a life of self-denial.  There are many things which are not sinful in the ordinary understanding of the word sin, but which hinder spirituality and rob men of power.  I do not believe that any man can lead a luxurious life, overindulge his natural appetites, indulge extensively in dainties, and enjoy the fullness of God’s power.  The gratification of the flesh and the fullness of the Spirit do not go hand in hand.  “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal 5:17).  Paul wrote: “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Cor 9:27; see ASV, Greek; note also Eph 5:18).  (R. A. Torrey, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 75-6)

 

Grateful people overflow a little, especially with thanksgiving and passed-on kindnesses.  But they do not therefore lack discipline.  In fact, self-indulgence tends to suppress gratitude; self-discipline tends to generate it.  That is why gluttony is a deadly sin: oddly, it is an appetite suppressant.  The reason is that a person’s appetites are linked: full stomachs and jaded palates take the edge from our hunger and thirst for justice.  And they spoil the appetite for God.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 35)

 

As what poor things these things below are that we should covet them!  They are far below the worth of the soul, which carries in it an idea and resemblance of God.  The world is but the workmanship of God, the soul is his image.  We covet that which will not satisfy us.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 179)

 

Christians are not immune to covetousness.  Just as in the wilderness Israel longed to return to the fleshpots of Egypt (Ex 16:3), dissatisfied as she was with the spiritual food and drink she received from God (1 Cor 10:1-13), so too the NT church faces a perpetual struggle between a lifestyle led by the Spirit and a lifestyle led by the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16-26).  The power of desire is so strong that when speaking about the “world,” John refers to “the world and its desires” (1 Jn 2:17).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 344)

 

Don’t compare yourself with what someone else has accomplished or attained.  Don’t go around with a measuring tape seeing how much they have or how far they’ve gone compared to how much you have and how far you’ve gone.  If you have more, it’ll just make you proud.  If you have less, you’ll become envious and begin to covet.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 237)

 

“This is why a continual desire for worldly pleasures often signifies that all is not well.  Some of this world’s pleasures, even in moderation, will undermine a Christian’s spiritual life.  If a married man wants to flirt with other girls, even in moderation, one assumes that there is something wrong with his marriage—or if not, that there soon will be!  So it is when a Christian flirts with worldliness.  The command is clear and uncompromising:

Come out from them,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch not nothing unclean;

then I will welcome you.  (2 Cor. 6:17)

We are to abstain from every form of evil (2 Thess 5:22).”  (Kenneth Prior, The Way of Holiness, 144)

 

Wealth is to be accumulated strictly for doing works of mercy and spreading the kingdom.  Wealth is not to be stored up “for yourselves” (Mt 6:19-21).  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 72)

 

The higher grace is, the less earthly should Christians be; as the higher the sun is, the shorter is the shadow.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 178)

 

Hybris is the first and most popular form of idolatry.  But all forms of idolatry involve us deeply in folly.  All idolatry is not only treacherous but also futile.  Human desire, deep and restless and seemingly unfulfillable, keeps stuffing itself with finite goods, but these cannot satisfy.  If we try to fill our hearts with anything besides the God of the universe, we find that we are overfed but under-nourished, and we find that day by day, week by week, year after year, we are thinning down to a mere outline of a human being.   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 122-3)

 

People who are content with the avoidance ethic generally ask the wrong question about behavior.  They ask, What’s wrong with this movie!  Or this music?  Or this game?  Or these companions?  Or this way of relaxing?  Or this investment?  Or this restaurant?  Or shopping at this store?  What’s wrong with going to the cabin every weekend?  Or having a cabin?  This kind of question will rarely yield a lifestyle that commends Christ as all-satisfying and makes people glad in God.  It simply results in a list of don’ts.  It feeds the avoidance ethic.

The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more?  How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ?  How will it help me know Christ or display Christ?  The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).  So the question is mainly positive, not negative.  How can I portray God as glorious in this action?  How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 119)

 

A person that eats and drinks too much does not feel such effects from it as those do who live in notorious instances of gluttony and intemperance; but yet his course of indulgence, though it be not scandalous in the eyes of the world nor such as torments his own conscience, is a great and constant hindrance to his improvement in virtue; it gives him eyes that see not and ears that hear not; it creates a sensuality in the soul, increases the power of bodily passions, and makes him incapable of entering into the true spirit of religion.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 191-2)

 

The man who believes he was created to enjoy fleshly pleasures will devote himself to pleasure seeking; and if by a combination of favorable circumstances he manages to get a lot of fun out of life, his pleasures will all turn to ashes in his mouth at the last.  He will find out too late that God made him too noble to be satisfied with those tawdry pleasures he had devoted his life to here under the sun.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 94)

 

A life of ease has ruined too many people.  Hannibal of Carthage had conquered the conquerors.  He had even routed the Roman legions.  But victory was not to remain his.  One winter, battle was suspended and Hannibal and his army settled back to wait out the weather in Capua, a city of luxury.  These few months in luxury were enough to destroy his army; they lost their will to fight.  Their winter of ease made them an easy target for defeat in the spring.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 89)

 

So What?: All of us struggle with trying to find contentment, happiness and satisfaction in persons or things.  Our attempts are in vain.  Contentment can only be found in Jesus. (2 Cor 9:8; Phil 3:7-8; Ti 3:3; Jam 3:16; 1 Jn 2:17)

 

I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves.  I start to fit in.  I start to love what others love.  I start to call earth “home.”  Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do.  I begin to forget the war.  I don’t think much about people perishing.  Missions and unreached peoples drop out of my mind.  I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace.  I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do.  It is a terrible sickness.  (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, 112)

 

Why don’t we have the same kind of passion to rid ourselves of sin as we do when we desire to see others rid themselves of sin?   (Brad Shaw 8-9-04)

 

There is a battle, a war, and the casualties could be our hearts and souls.  The Christian life is about passion.  Passion for God and passion for people in need.  These are the words and ideas that when enfleshed can changed the world.  These are the things we live for.  (Ken Gire, The Reflective Life, 67)

 

Passion is at the core of you—it’s who you are.  Without it we would be automatons, going through the motions of life without feeling or distinction.  Passion gives you life.  It defines you just as much as where you come from and who you spend time with. (Richard Chang, Bits & Pieces for Salespeople, June 15, 2000, 17)

 

“This age will die, not from sin, but from lack of passion.” (Soren Kierkegaard as quoted by Tony Campolo, Carpe Diem—Seize the Day, 27)

 

Here we must be quick to add what the Commandment does not say, because it does not forbid desiring to have a wife or a husband or a home.  It forbids desiring Mrs. or Mr. Jones or their cars, their furniture, their clothing, their landscaping, their ski-boat, their appliances, their lawnmower, even their style.  It also forbids jealousy because they have these things; it forbids “poor me” bitterness and an attitude of ungratefulness toward God.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 173)

 

The Bible says that the rich young ruler went away feeling sorrowful.  But Jesus was even more sorrowful because he knew what divine joy and divine purpose the young man was forfeiting.

His ultimate problem was not that he had riches.  His problem was that he trusted in his riches.  That affected what he did with his money.  Because he put his faith in money instead of in God to see him through, he was not able to use his gifts the way Jesus called him to use them.  And he missed out on the security and satisfaction and freedom that come from putting his faith where it really belongs.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 104-05)

 

The reason so many church members are of little value to the kingdom of God is simply that all of their desires are set on things below.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 168)

 

The more you become aware of how many choices are up to you, the more eagerly you embrace your turn.  You can practice this today.  What will you feed your mind?  What thoughts will you dwell on?  Whom will you have conversations with?  Where will you direct your desires?  How will you take care of your body?  What acts of service will you engage in?  When will you choose to be interrupted, and when will you choose to stay on task?  What will you eat?  How will you spend your time?  All of these are calls you will make, and when you add them up, they create your life.  No one else can take your turn.  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 72)

 

Dead orthodoxy is being content with where we are in our relationship to God.  (Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 68ff)

 

I have gotten many calls over the years from people who harbor what they realize are ugly thoughts, such as resentment, jealousy, envy, or greed.  They ask me how they can control those feelings, since they realize that they are behaving badly because of them, or avoiding the person altogether out of fear and guilt.  Each time, I have suggested that they do something benevolent.  For example, when one woman was envious of her friend’s new, great job, I suggested she throw a congratulations party for her, or send her a congratulatory note, or something that would express the exact opposite of what her envy might lead her to do.  Each and every time I have made this recommendation, the caller expressed immediate relief from the ugly burden they’d been carrying, as well as a more positive feeling.  In contemplating the good deed, their minds returned to good thoughts.  Not only do good thoughts usually result in good deeds, good thoughts can resurrect good thinking.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 302)

 

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more.  I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace.  I am ashamed of my lack of desire.  O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still.  Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed.  Begin in mercy a new work of love within me.  Say to my soul, “Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.  (A.W. Tozer, as quoted by Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 99, 177)

 

JESUS:

THE SOURCE OF ALL CONTENTMENT

 

 

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