Ten Covenant Words; Provision
The Next Commandment
Exodus 20:17a “You must not covet your neighbor’s house.”
“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.”
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.
We need to remember: Love your neighbor as yourself.
I’ve heard a lot of people use the enemy as an excuse in my lifetime. 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 between 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 God gave us 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 like we love ourselves, 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 throne could her sons sit at his right and his left. Then when Jesus told them they had no idea what they were asking, they assured Him they could sit on the throne 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 A.D. 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 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 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 might have 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.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Thank God for His Plan and Provision for you.
Spend time listening to God. As the Spirit leads, ask God to reveal one specific detail God has for you. Remember that God communicates to all of us in unique ways, so watch for how God will communicate your plan to you!
And be Thankful, Deb