Sunday’s Sermon

Charles Spurgeon writes the following concerning Matthew 5:43, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour.”

“LOVE thy neighbour.”

Perhaps he rolls in riches, and you are poor, and living in your little cot side-by-side with his lordly mansion; thou see every day his estates, his fine linen, and his sumptuous banquets; God has given him these gifts, covet not his wealth, and think no hard thoughts concerning him. Be content with your own lot, if you cannot better it, but do not look upon thy neighbour, and wish that he were as thyself. Love him, and then you will not envy him.
Mayhap, on the other hand, you are rich, and near you reside the poor. Do not scorn to call them neighbour. Own that you are bound to love them. The world calls them your inferiors. In what are they inferior? They are far more your equals than your inferiors, for “God hath made of one blood all people that dwell upon the face of the earth.” It is your coat which is better than theirs, but you are by no means better than they. They are men, and what are you more than that? Take heed that you love your neighbour even though he be in rags, or sunken in the depths of poverty.”[1]

Spurgeon’s devotional is a good reminder of the sovereignty of God and our responsibility regarding our neighbors. We are to love our neighbors, which is at the heart of all the second portion of the Ten Commandments. How? By not murdering, stealing, committing adultery, gossiping about them, nor, as we see in the Tenth Commandment, coveting their possessions.

When we come to this final commandment in the Decalogue, we will find at the root of it is God’s sovereignty, as well as our corrupt will and desires. This command is meant to help teach us to trust in His sovereignty and to deal with the evil desires of our hearts. What is the command?

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Understanding the Sin

First, we learn about coveting. You would think we would naturally know this, but we don’t. Even the Apostle Paul had to learn about coveting. Paul writes in Romans 7, that he would not have known what covetousness was unless the has said, “You shall not covet.”

Here we have master in the Law, and yet, he had to have his mind illuminated to the reality of this sin by God.

John Calvin wrote of Paul saying: “…let us remember what Saint Paul says, who being reputed as a great and wise theologian, having been nurtured in the law of God from his childhood, was nevertheless so blind that he did not understand that our poverty was part of the law of God until he was converted and our Lord Jesus Christ illumined him by his gospel to the end that he understood where the law of God must lead.”[2]

Calvin will go on to remind us that for all those who knew Paul before his conversion, he was a righteous man and held in high esteem. He did not “display evil that people could perceive and that was recognized by them, so much so that he justified himself in his imagination.”

But the Law took that from Paul. The Law showed him just how far he was from true righteousness. What did Paul covet? Was it the praise of men? Was it more money? Was it a better home? Was it prestige? Was it another’s wife?

Probably all the same things that we covet as well.

So what is it to covet? Coveting involves desiring that which does not belong to us. It is an “insatiable desire of getting the world[3].”

Augustine defined it as, “to desire more than enough.”

Proverbs 30:15-16 The leech has two daughters— Give and Give!
There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”: The grave,[a]
The barren womb,
The earth that is not satisfied with water—
And the fire never says, “Enough!”

The leach is never satisfied… neither is coveting or greed.

The idea is that for those who desire the world, enough, never is enough. The desire is always for more and more and more. How much is enough? One billionaire responded: “just one dollar more.”

Coveting is desiring more and more, and it never satisfies.

The problem with coveting, is that at the heart of this sin is a basic challenge to God’s sovereignty in our lives. We are basically telling God that He has some how missed the mark on what we have and what we should have. In our hearts, we are challenging Him on His decrees. We are saying that He was wrong in His decrees, and wrong in what He has given to us, and that He is somehow deficient because He has failed to give us all that we need.

The sad reality is that He has given us all that we need, and then more on top of that. Remember, all that we have is by His hand.

Q. 12. What are the decrees of God?

A. God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will,[43] whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time,[44] especially concerning angels and men.

The point is that if we are rich, it is because He ordained it. If we are poor, it is because He ordained it. We need to learn satisfaction where we are, accepting His hand, and if we are able, then work out of poverty, if that is what we desire.

There is nothing wrong with desiring good things. But to allow those things to become our gods, our obsessions, and occupy our minds, is to move into idolatry, and to challenge Him on His decrees.

Augur’s prayer…

Proverbs 30:7-9 Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
9 Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

What we are not to Covet

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

This isn’t that difficult to understand. We are not to covet anything that belongs to our neighbor. The last clause of the commands shows clearly this be the case and shows us forethought in God’s mind on the day when our neighbor’s ox is not all the desirable.

Just look at what is forbidden. If you desire your neighbor’s wife, you desire to break what God has bound together and committed adultery in you heart. That means that you are breaking more than one commandment in desiring that.

Next, we are not to desire his servants, male or female. No need to discuss this here since it is moot.

But we are also to not desire the ox or the donkey. The key here is understanding that these animals were needed for business. The more donkeys and oxen you have, the more money you can make. Again, this comes back to the principle of accepting our place in society, whether rich or poor. God has placed us there and we are to only change those circumstances if we can do so in a lawful means, otherwise we need to trust in God and His sovereign hand.

Ways We Covet

Thomas Watson gives us six ways that a man covets. I find this helpful, for it helps us see how we commit the sin.

First, when our thoughts are wholly taken up with the world, and not the things of God. Psalm 139:17-18 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

The man of God is focused upon God, not the world. Not so with the man that covets the world. His thoughts are always upon the world and how to get more of it. His mind is constantly dwelling on the world, and his desire for more of it.

Secondly, a man may be said to be given to covetousness, when he spends more time trying to get the world, than he does trying to get heaven. “He will turn every stone, break his sleep, take many a weary step for the world; but will take no pains for Christ or heaven.”

Never spends time in God’s word, meditating upon it, dwelling in His presence, worshipping Him, focusing on Christ. He doesn’t have time for that. He will suffer where necessary in order to gain the world, but only desire heaven. Heaven is not that important to Him. He just wants the benefits of heaven, without the sacrifice.

This also plays itself out in the man or woman that are too busy for the spiritual realm. He is to busy to focus on the things of God, by being busy. I think this is far to prevalent in our lives today. There are so many ways for us to fill our lives with so many things, that we never take time, like Mary, to set at the feet of Christ and listen to Him.

Luke 10:38-42 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[a] feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus[b] answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

We covet the world too much when we refuse to let Christ have any of our time because of the busyness of the world.

Third, a man who is given to covetousness when he sets his heart upon worldly things, that for the love of them, he will part with the heavenly. He is willing to pass on the gospel in order to keep his earthly possessions. This is the saddest of all, because we know that in the end, we get to keep nothing.

Remember the story of the rich, young ruler. He came asking questions about eternal life, but he wasn’t willing to part with those things that he desired the most.

Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good[a] Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good?[b] No one is good but One, that is, God.[c] But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’[d] and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e]
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.[f] What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The reality is that this man did not keep the commands. He coveted the world, more than he desired eternal life. This is sad, Jesus showed the rich ruler his area of weakness, and the man refused to heed to words. His possessions were his world, they were his idol and those possessions were keeping him from the one thing he could not lose if he ever obtained it: salvation.

What is keeping you from salvation? What is keeping you from a closer relationship with Christ? What worldly thoughts, keep you from intimate conversation with Christ?

For the rich ruler, his possessions.

Ways to Over Come Covetousness

First, we do so by strengthening our faith. 1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our[a] faith.

“The root of covetousness is distrust of God’s providence.” We get so caught up in our fears, that we begin to long for something that doesn’t belong to us, whether it is more money, a better job with more money, a bigger house with more money, a better car with more money, a better family with more money.

The answer to this is not more money, or coveting after something He has not given to us, but trusting Him in the situation He has placed us. Remember, that ultimately coveting is driven by a distrust of God’s sovereignty. We are saying to Him: “You have failed.”

But turning back to Scripture, we are reminded of the God who keeps His promises to take care of us, even in poverty.

Secondly, we over come this sin by having a proper view of life. The things we covet are nothing more than refashioned junk, that will return to junk in the long run.

Remember the rich-young ruler? He could not bend the knee because his possessions. Just think about that where he sits right now, this very moment. None of those possessions are still around. They are no longer bringing Him happiness. Therefore, let’s learn from him. Our souls, our faith, our time with Christ is far more precious than anything we possess or own. So to hope for more possessions, knowing that it will all pass away, is a waste of time.

Thirdly, we overcome it by fixing our eyes on Christ and being reminded of His perfect life without covetousness.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The best course of action when we find ourselves faced with sin is to turn to Christ. Trying to turn to our own flesh to overcome it the very way we fall short. This is done by prayer and the word of God. We focus on Him in both, asking Him for relief from the temptation.

This is not saying we do not have a responsibility in the matter. We do. We see the admonition to flee from sin in the New Testament.

1 Corinthians 10:13-15 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.

Paul gives us these instructions to flee from idolatry. Don’t sit still, but turn away from it, run from it, put it behind you. Why? Because sin is evil. If we are to be holy, because He is holy, we must act in a way that we can. If that involves fleeing the sin, so be it.

1 Timothy 6:10-12 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Again, we are shown that we do have a responsibility in our sanctification. Flee the things that will hinder us, and pursue those things of God.

I like what John Calvin has to say on this.

“…let us realize that in order to serve God well, it isn’t simply a matter of our desiring to do good and to derive profit from it, rather we have to purge ourselves of all wicked affections and all corrupt thought to the extent that everything within us directs us toward the goal of fully surrendering ourselves to God. Let us not display that we have been distracted to turn to one side or the other, but let us be wholly in control (of ourselves) in order to run without impediments or stopping, indeed, to run in the way that God shows us, in such a manner as to be wholly pure.”[4]

Calvin isn’t suggesting that we can live pure lives in and of ourselves. He continues: “Now this ought to serve us in a twofold sense: on the one hand, we ought to pray for God to govern us more ardently by his Holy Spirit and to purge us of all vices and corruptions, and then having prayed that, each of us (ought) to take hold of himself, lest we do violence to our nature, to all our senses, (and) all our desires, seeing that there is nothing but rebellion in us against God’s law.”

In other words, we pray for God to aid us, guide us and direct us in overcoming these evil desires that the Law reveals to us. We also see these evil desires for what they are, and head back to Christ.

It is Christ that delivers us from our covetous evil desires. Christ is the one who is pure in this regard. In Him, we find just the opposite of our covetousness. We find one who emptied Himself, and coveted nothing.

Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Christ was perfect and covet-less. He is our standard, and our righteousness.

Benediction

1 Timothy 6:13-16

I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’ appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.


[1] Spurgeon, from Morning and Evening.

[2] John Calvin’s Sermons on the Ten Commandments, edited and translated by Benjamin W. Farley, Baker Book House, p. 221.

[3] Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments.

[4] Calvin, p. 225.

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