Ten Covenant Words
The Next Commandment
“For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Exodus 20:17a “You must not covet your neighbor’s house.”
It’s no wonder that God addressed the sin of desire to the children of Israel! The first murder occurred in Genesis 4:5-6 because Cain got ticked off when his offering didn’t get the notoriety he thought it deserved. Cain killed Abel because he desired what his brother had…he wanted his offering. He wanted the acclaim that Abel received from God. When God talked to Cain and asked what was wrong, God explained to Cain why Abel’s offering had been accepted. The problem with sin is that it often escalates…fast! At first, Cain was unhappy, then angry, dejected, furious, devastated, and outraged enough to kill his brother.
When God made the covenant with his children he knew that wanting what their neighbors had was just the start. God knew there was a predisposition to desire and that if we let it take root it will grow and flourish like a weed just like it did for Cain. Every gardener knows that weeds grow faster than roses. God knows that as well. Hosea 10:4b says, “So injustice springs up among them like poisonous weeds in a farmer’s field.”
Cain’s injustice that killed Abel became a poisonous weed that grew quickly all because Cain wanted what he did not have.
Understanding why humans desire what they cannot have helps us get a grasp of how the downhill slide happens. In Matthew 13:24-29 we learn, “Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. “The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.“‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”
While the farmer started the crop with good soil and good seed, in the middle of the night his enemy came and put weeds in with the wheat. The farmer did not expect the enemy to come and was not watching, so by the time morning came the weeds had taken root and spread. Weeds spread very quickly and by the time the farmer realized he had a problem there was no way to pull the weeds without damaging the wheat. That’s often the case with us. The enemy comes unexpectedly and plants a suggestion. We aren’t expecting it and before we know it the suggestion becomes a thought and the thought becomes a desire and the desire becomes a plan.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
I’ve heard a lot of people use the enemy as an excuse in my lifetime though. They blame the enemy for their sin. We need to take a good look at the process that takes place. Notice that the only part of the step the enemy is involved with is the initial suggestion. Here’s where we have the ability to take matters into our own hands. By reading scripture and taking time to know God’s plan and desire for our lives we really can know the difference between a passing thought and a bad suggestion. Deep down we know the difference in right and wrong and we ultimately choose to allow the suggestion to take root. In the moment we begin to hear and feel the suggestion, if we refuse to water the weed then we allow it to dry up. We really do have power from God to refuse the thought.
The key is in being grounded in the Word and being in an ongoing conversation with the Spirit. Repeating scripture and keeping prayer at the forefront of your mind keeps the enemy at bay. While the enemy knows scripture, he hates hearing it so when you quote scripture (any scripture) the enemy doesn’t stick around very long. Anytime you feel like you are in an unsafe position (physically, emotionally, or spiritually), quoting scripture makes it so the enemy will ‘take his exit’. The spirit of evil knows he was defeated by Jesus at the cross. Past tense: was. It is a done deal. When fear begins to creep in repeat what The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My (God’s) grace is sufficient”.
In the case of desire, repeating Psalms 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need” would be very helpful. By repeating that verse when you realize you are thinking you want to have something someone else possesses, you are telling the enemy, “You can move on because I have everything I need from God.”
Another way of warding off the enemy is to repeat the name of Jesus when you realize a suggestion is trying to take root.
Bottom line is, the suggestion comes from the enemy but we are the ones who feed and water it. Without food and water, the suggestion isn’t going to go anywhere.
If we love our neighbor as ourself, we will not covet the provision of his house.
Jesus’ disciples faced the same choice and allowed the suggestion to grow and take root. Remember when James and John’s mother came to Jesus to ask him a favor? In Matthew 20:20-23 we read, “Then the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus with her sons. She knelt respectfully to ask a favor. “What is your request?” he asked.
She replied, “In your Kingdom, please let my two sons sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”
But Jesus answered by saying to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink?”
“Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”
Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. My Father has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”
James and John, and especially his mother had no idea what they were asking! They were probably thinking when Jesus over throws the Romans and takes the thrown could her sons sit at his right and his left. Then when Jesus told them they had no idea what they were asking for, they assured Him they could sit on the thrown with him. Little did they know that Jesus was speaking of the cross. Jesus was asking them, “Can you take the persecution and suffering of dying a cruel death because you serve me?”
While Jesus did not promise they would sit at his right and his left, he did tell them they would indeed drink from the same bitter cup. The two brothers did suffer persecution. James died in 44 AD a martyr. Tradition says his brother John most likely died after 90 A.D. in prison. It is not known how John died.
The point of the story with James and John and their mother is that they were asking to be elevated above the other disciples. Why would they have thought they should or could ask that question? Where did the root suggestion come from? Obviously the three felt like they deserved some sort of honor for the good deed they had done, so the sin of pride was prevalent.
Jesus turned the request into a teaching opportunity. He made it clear that he could not make the decision who would sit at his right and his left because that was a decision that would be made by God the Father. Jesus also told them in order to even be considered they needed to learn to be servants and that meant they would be last in line. That also meant they would need to get rid of their pride and be willing to be the last in line serving everyone else. James and John (and their mother) had not thought what their request looked like to the other disciples.
They were not thinking, love your neighbor as you love yourself.
I mean, wouldn’t you think the other disciples would have been surprised or outraged? Perhaps they were at the beginning of the conversation, but by the time Jesus made it clear that they were asking to be last, they would have realized that not only James and John had been effectively taken care of, they would also have walked away from the conversation wondering what it would feel like to have to be last in line. That sure does change the outlook on wanting to be first!
In Seminary I majored in Ministry Leadership and we studied many different leadership models. One of those models was Servant Leader. It’s based on ‘the first shall be last’. As we look at provision from God and we think about not coveting what others ‘have’ in terms of provision one of the most important concepts is remembering our provision is OUR provision. It’s based on what God’s plan for us and what He has given us to accomplish.
James and John were the sons of Zebedee. We know from reading Acts 12:1-3 that James was beheaded by Herod in 44 A.D. His brother John is thought to be the only disciple who died of natural causes. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos after 90 A.D. where he received the Revelation (vision) which is the last book of the New Testament. While both brothers were told they would drink from a bitter cup, God had a very different plan for each. Jesus’ point that day was that God would provide for each according to what was needed.
You and I are no different today. God provides exactly what we need in order to accomplish His work and will in our lives. Your plan will not be like your brother’s plan. While it can be difficult (as it was for the disciples) when we ask God to help us love our neighbor, God’s focus for us turns to loving the plan God gave your neighbor AND loving the plan God gave you.
God’s Desire FOR Them
The day God wrote this commandment on the tablets for the children of Israel, what desire did God see in them? After they left Egypt they had grumbled about a lot of things!
They grumbled about being in the desert and said they were better off in Egypt.
Exodus 16:3, the children of Israel said:
“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”
As slaves? Really?
They grumbled about no food. God gave them manna from the sky.
They grumbled about the kind of food. God gave them a plentiful supply of meat.
They grumbled about Moses being on the mountain too long.
I’m sure if God would have made the sky purple they would have grumbled that they wanted pink.
The point is no matter what God gave them, it wasn’t good enough; they always wanted more or different!
When God wrote this part of the covenant (commandment) on the tablets their actions had to be at the forefront of his mind. God knew they were a “stiff-necked people”. He referred to them in that manner in Exodus 32, Exodus 33, Exodus 34, Deuteronomy 9, Deuteronomy 10, and 2 Chronicles 30! God definitely knew they needed the ninth commandment. They needed to be grateful for what they had instead of always looking for what they didn’t have. The root of this commandment was from Israel’s constant desire to have anything they didn’t possess.
God knew they needed to learn to rely on Him but also that they needed to be satisfied with His provision for them. Scripture does not say anywhere that when God gave them manna they were pleased that they had food. They actually looked at it and said, “What is it?” So Moses explained what it was and how they were to use it. They were told not to keep the extra, but of course some of them did and in the morning they had maggots everywhere.
The point is they were never satisfied.
They were always looking for more, or different. They were never grateful.
When we think about people we know who are always dissatisfied, the reason can be surprising. I’ve know people who aren’t ever happy with what they have and they are constantly thinking about what else they want. There are others who complain about what they have but they don’t know exactly what they want. They aren’t sure what will make them happy. The common thread with everyone who is unhappy with what they have is that they are not grateful. They are so busy complaining they don’t take time to be grateful for what their have. If they stop to take time to thank God for what they have, they would realize God gave them that specific gift for a reason.
God gives to each person a full measure of what they need. Philippians 4:19 says, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”
God gives exactly what is needed when it’s needed. The reason God gives different people different provisions is because we all have different needs. We need to always remember the need isn’t merely based on financial gain. If we need to learn to understand a concept, God will help us understand. If we need emotional assurance, God gives it in the measure we need it. Remember, God gives provision in order for us to accomplish His will.
Some people who have a financial blessing are given that blessing so they will use it wisely for the poor. Others who are given a full measure of wisdom are called to speak encouragement and wisdom to others. To those who are called to preach, God gives them the necessary tools to preach the good news. Each is given accordingly for what is needed.
Jesus was clear to teach and demonstrate God’s provision. When he fed the 5000, they only had two fish and five loaves and it was enough. Jesus was teaching them (and us) that God can do anything, including multiply food!
When my children were small I have seen the food expand and grow to the point it was enough. If I had been feeding one little girl God would not have multiplied the food, but because I was feeding a girl AND three boys who had a bottomless pit for a stomach, God did multiply the food.
Equal provision for all means everyone gets exactly the amount they need. So everyone gets 100%. If the family has six people all six get exactly what is needed. If they are a family of one, they also get exactly what is needed. It’s important to note here that there are times God is building our faith and we have to trust Him and thank Him for what he is about to do. That can be difficult to do if fear is a factor. If that is the case we can always talk to God about our fear and give it to Him (and remember to repeat 2 Cor. 12:9). There is nothing God can’t handle! Additionally, God always wants us to come to Him with even the smallest problem we have. Nothing is too great or too small for God.
I’ve heard people say they don’t want to bother God because He is busy. We need to really realize that God is omnipresent – present in every place at the same time. Not only are we not a bother, we are always in His presence. Being thankful for that helps us to SEE how God is ever present in our lives. We are reminded that God is “ON IT”!
Provision in our culture is somewhat difficult because in some circumstances we have an abundance of food, money, or clothing. We aren’t concerned about provision because we don’t have needs. If that is the case with you, I would encourage you to look around you to see who you can bless with your abundance. I prefer anonymous giving because it’s giving the gift to God. Since everything I own comes from God and belongs to God, it’s awkward for me to have someone thank me for a gift I’ve given. That’s because it really came from God.
As we consider being thankful for provision and considering sharing our excess, we need to remember that Jesus answered the question of desiring more and being covetous by teaching his disciples how to love one another. When you think about it, when we love someone we watch for what they need and it’s easy to share what we have with them. When you love someone you forgive them readily. When you love someone you don’t look at what they have and hate them because they have it. You are happy that they are blessed. While it’s human nature to be sad if you have a need that hasn’t been fulfilled, God reminds us to always take our requests to Him and trust that he will supply them. Once again we need to thank Him for answering. 1 John 5:15 says, “And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”
Additional Scriptures for provision:
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
“God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”
I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Today’s Spiritual Practice: BE thankful for God’s Provision.
Thank God for shelter, food, friends, and family.
And BE Blessed, Deb