ContentmentNovember 20, 2023 | Meritt Raup
This sermon discusses the 10th commandment against coveting. It explains that coveting is a sin against God through pride and unbelief and a sin against others by devaluing and using them. The sermon encourages growing in godly contentment through having the right person as our satisfaction in God, enjoying the right pleasures he provides, and living out the right practice of generosity.
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Good morning. It’s great to be with you as we open God’s Word together. So please turn to Exodus, chapter 20, verse 17. And if you’re using one of the Pew Bibles, you can find this on page 60. Today we are looking at the 10th commandment. And we’ve reached the end. This is it. I don’t know about you. But throughout this series, I’ve realized how worse a sinner I am. The 10 commandments are not just about outward actions, right? I didn’t murder, so I’m good, right? No, the 10 commandments, they probe deep into our hearts. They reveal our core desires and our struggles in life, and they show us just how prevalent and sinister our sin is. But more importantly, I’ve realized how great a Savior we have. This really is the purpose of the law, isn’t it, to show us where we’ve fallen short. And then to point us to him, the only one who can truly save us our sins, they are many. But his mercy is more. It won’t be the end of our series. Next week, we’ll wrap up everything with the concluding section of this passage. But today, we come to one of the most overlooked commandments, and perhaps even one of the commandments where it’s most respectable to break it. According to Jerry Bridges. We all agree that murder is bad. Adultery, that’s bad. Stealing is bad. But coveting doesn’t often make that same list, does it? But the truth is, we ought to treat coveting just as seriously. Because our society is materialistic. Where profit is the end all be all. Success in life is based on how much stuff you can accumulate for yourself. We’re a get-rich-quick schemes abound, promising instant wealth, while really they’re only serving the people that are peddling the schemes. So we ought to treat coveting seriously. Because our society is also very visual. Social media has put everyone’s life on display for all to see. This even happens outside of social media too. You know, we curate our own image so that other people will see us. Look at me. Look at how awesome my life is. Don’t you wish you were me? Or we look at other people and then we think look at them. Their life is pretty awesome. I wish I were them. Of course, we don’t say this out loud. That’s really what we so often think and feel. This passage is just what we need to hear today. So read with me. Exodus 20:17 says You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. First, beware. Coveting is deadly. Coveting is deadly. And this isn’t just my opinion. This is what Jesus says about coveting in Luke chapter 12. He’s teaching the crowds, and a man interrupts him. It’s never a wise thing to interrupt Jesus when he’s teaching, by the way. And this man asks Jesus, tell my brother to split the inheritance with me. He’s really asking to fraud his own family to get money. It’s what Jesus replies, Man, who made me the judge over you? And then he says, Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. life does not consist of an abundance of possessions. I like the way the ESV puts it, Take care and be on your guard against all covetousness. The sin of coveting is not one that we often focus on. But it can be catastrophic if left unchecked. G Clayton describes it well. When he says whatever men may think or say this sin, without intervening action or repentance, will assuredly destroy the soul. Coveting is a deadly sin. But we first need to understand what God specifically commands us to avoid. So let’s let’s take a step back a little bit. What is coveting? Well, to covet is to desire what others have so that it becomes an idol to desire. Have what others have so that it becomes an idol. It’s when you desire to have something that belongs to someone else, so much that you find your satisfaction in that thing rather than God. Coveting is all about desire. But desire itself is not a sin. You know, we have righteous desires, and we have sinful desires. When God made Adam and put them in the Garden of Eden, he gave Adam, it says, every tree that was pleasant to the sight, and good for food, every tree that was pleasant. The word for pleasant- there it’s the same word in Hebrew as the word for covet. God intended Adam to desire the right thing. But it wasn’t long until Eve saw another tree that was good for food and was a delight to the eyes in desirable to make one wise, a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Again, it’s the same word in Hebrew is desirable. We can desire rightly, and we can desire wrongly. Desire itself is not a sin. Rather, it’s the object and motivation of our desire that makes us covet. To covet is a disordered love, instead of loving God and loving others the way we ought to. We love other people’s stuff at the expense of God and others. Now, a simple example of this is with toddlers. A brother and a sister are playing together. And the brother looks at the sister and says, I want that toy. And so the brother takes the toy. It’s mine. I have it. So then the sister starts crying because they get got their toy taken away. And then, the parent hears the commotion from the room next door and comes in and then takes the toy away from the brother because it’s not theirs. And so now the brother is crying, and you can see how coveting leads to all sorts of sinfulness in our lives. When it comes to coveting, I think we can be full-grown toddlers. Sometimes we’ve just gotten better at hiding it or expressing it in socially acceptable ways. Or we bottle it up and never actually deal with it. We’ve all thought in our minds, I want the toy. Whatever that toy is for you, fill in the blank. The nicer car, the bigger house, the larger salary, the more luxurious vacation of a company is not only material things, but it also deals with greater popularity, more prestigious recognition, better looks. You know, this passage mentions a few of the things that we should not covet your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s spouse, your neighbor’s servants, your neighbor’s animals. People have tried to restrict coveting to these four areas or tried to make the application today. What does that look like? But I think the key phrase is the last phrase of this passage, where it says, “or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” So if you aren’t sure, ask the question. Does this rightfully belong to someone else? If it does, and if you desire that thing more than you find satisfaction in God, then it’s coveting. So that’s what coveting is. But what is it that makes this coveting so deadly? Well, we need to realize that coveting is a sin against God. And it’s a sin against others. This is true of every sin, really, in so many ways. But coveting is particularly noteworthy. In this way. Let me share with you how coveting is sin against God. And then, we’ll turn to consider how it’s sinned against others. So here are two ways that coveting is sin against God. First, coveting is a form of pride that says, I want better, I deserve better. We look at everything that the Lord has entrusted to us. And then we look at our own merits, and we say, it’s not enough. I want more. I deserve a higher wage than what God has given me. Does God know how awesome I am? We may not say it like that. But that’s really what we’re thinking deep down. We may even hide our covetousness behind good motives. I would do much better in managing all those resources. Lord, you picked the wrong person. They’re not even a Christian. I would do so much better with all that. The reality is if we were to obey this, we would realize that everything that we’ve been given is a gift from the Lord. He owns it all. In his incredible grace, he’s chosen to entrust some of it to us. We’re called to use it for his sake. We’re simply stewards of, it’s still his. He’s given it to us. We don’t deserve any of it. But in his grace, He lets us use it. To covet rejects the gift of God by saying I deserve better. But secondly, coveting is a form of unbelief. That says, I don’t think God is enough. By definition, coveting is desiring something greater than God. Deep down, we don’t believe that God has enough to satisfy us. This is what happened with the Israelites coming out of the Exodus, right? The story that we’re right in the middle of in Exodus 20, a God miraculously delivered them from Egypt, you know, the 10 plagues, Moses before Pharaoh, Let My People Go, the parting of the Red Sea. He delivered them in miraculous ways. You would think that the Israelites will be grateful when they do, but what do they do? What’s the very first thing they start doing in the wilderness? They start grumbling. God, why did you bring us out here to die? At least we had food in Egypt. I mean, we were slaves, but at least we had some food. Like, are you serious? Like, think of how God feels when he’s done so much to provide for his people. And then they turn around and say, That’s not enough. God, you’re not enough for me. How offensive. It’s the same thing that we do when we covet? Yes, God, I know you’ve provided for me in all these ways. But I don’t think I can trust you right now. I’m gonna take things into my own hands. I don’t think you’re enough. How offensive to God, isn’t it? Coveting is a nasty form of unbelief. says God you are not enough. You know, we can summarize this by saying that coveting is all about discontentment. You know, Thomas Boston preached a sermon about this 300 years ago. He titled his sermon “The Hellish Sin of Discontent.” This is what he says he says, “I will show the evil of discontentment and paint out this sin in its blackest colors. It is the hue of hell all over. This discontentment is such an evil against God because it says I’m not satisfied with what I have. And God, you’re not enough. So coveting is a sin against God. Coveting is also a sin against others. So here are two ways that sin is your coveting his sin against others. First, coveting devalues others, it’s closely related to envy. And I love the way John Blum puts it, he says, “Well, envy is a twisted kind of valuing of our neighbor. We wish we were him. Coveting is a twisted, devaluing of our neighbor, where we care more for his stuff than for him. When we covet, we place a higher value on stuff than we do on people.” This is not the way it should be, is it? Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can’t love our neighbor in the way we should love our neighbor if we value their stuff more than them. Nobody likes a friend who only cares about using your stuff. They always want to come over and hang out so they can borrow your things but not actually hang out with you. Or the boss who only cares about what you produce. Not you as a person. Coveting devalues others. Secondly, coveting uses others and places a value on someone only so far as we can get something from them. We network with someone because we know that they can help us get ahead in our careers. We don’t actually care about them as a person, though. We covet the status or the recognition that someone else can give us. You might try and hang out with the right friend group. Because if you get in with them, then all of a sudden, your social standing increases. Where’s the friend from years ago who reaches out and wants to reconnect? “Hey, it’s been a while. Let’s get together, and you get together. And then you realize that they’re really just trying to sell you something, and they didn’t actually care about reconnecting. Coveting is dangerous because it turns people into a means to an end. I only want you back. Have the thing that you can help me get the thing that you have that I want. It’s not loving them the way we should love them. Coveting devalues others. Coveting uses others. Coveting is a sin against God. It’s also a sin against others. You know, I’m the kind of person who likes everything to be in order, you know, everything has to be in its proper spot. You know, if I’m cooking in the kitchen, and I’m using a cutting board, like the edge of the cutting board has to be parallel to the edge of the counter, you know, at everything has to be in a straight line or square, you know, some of you understand that, and others of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Well, in a similar way, this 10th commandment sort of keeps the 10 commandments square, so to speak, sort of serves as a bookend with the first commandment, right that the first commandment, You shall have no other gods before me. And this commandment, they both deal with idolatry, putting something before God, valuing something greater than Him. Now the first commandment focusing on our relationship with God, but then this 10th commandment showing how it plays out in the rest of our lives with others. And if this is such an emphasis in the 10 commandments, as a whole, it shows us the importance of obedience here, but also shows us the danger of disobedience. I think that’s strategically placed in this tent spot. Because of the potential it has to devolve into so many other sins. It’s like the game bigger and better. You know, that game you played before? Where you you start with something really small, like a penny or a paperclip and you go door to door and asking people hey, can you trade this for something bigger and better for me, and you see how far you can go see, see what the biggest item you can get is, I once saw someone who started with a paperclip and ended up with a house by the end of the game. Not sure how that worked, but coveting is like bigger and better. Except it’s deeper and worse. When you’re discontent in your heart, you open yourself up for many more outwardly destructive sins. And coveting is also we could say like a keystone sin. No, a keystone habit is one of those simple habits that you do like like making your bed in the morning. That sets up the rest of the day for success it leads to other areas of your life being in their spot in place. And so, we can say that coveting is like one of those keystone sins that has a great ripple effect in the rest of your life. No, King David experienced this far too well. Think about his story of his sin with Bathsheba. How did it start? It started with a discontentment in his heart. He noticed Bathsheba from the rooftop, and he coveted her breaking this 10th commandment. Then he made his his lust into an idol. Breaking the first commandment. Then he committed adultery. Number seven. He spoke deceptively to his soldiers to try and cover it up. It’s number nine. And he murdered her husband, Uriah. Number six. He stole Bathsheba as his own wife. Number eight. We’re already up to six of the commands that David explicitly broke in that story. And I think there’s an argument to be made that he broke all of the commandments in that story. But how did it start? Started with a discontentment – a coveting in his heart. I am not saying that all of us will go down that same path, just like David did. But this is where covetousness will lead you. If left unchecked and unrepented. It will lead to far greater sin than you initially sought out. This is why discontentment is a hellish sin that will assuredly destroy your soul. Satan loves to go fishing in the waters of a discontent heart. He casts out his line, and we take the bait, hook, line and sinker. For him, it’s like fishing in a barrel. I think I just combined a couple of fishing idioms there, but you get the point. So coveting is a deadly sin. So this is the sin that we ought to avoid. What is the parallel good that we ought to pursue? Because all these commandments have a good a positive that we should be pursuing? Secondly, it’s this be content because godliness with contentment is great gain. So it’s a quote from 1 Timothy 6 that we read earlier in the service. In this book, godliness with contentment is great gain. You know, contentment. It’s not a lack of desire, right? We often think that’s what contentment is. It’s about not desiring something I shouldn’t want that. This isn’t the way the Bible describes contentment. Contentment is also not a fatalism. God doesn’t want me to have that. So I just have to deal with it. I just have to live with what God has assigned me. This is just my lot in life, oh, well, that’s not biblical contentment. The Bible is description of contentment is far better than this. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord. Contentment is being satisfied in the Lord. See, this contentment is a misalignment of our desire, in our reality. We have this desire that’s up here. But our reality is much less than that. So we want to try and get our reality to be in line with our desire, right? If only I had more, then I would be satisfied. But the key to godly contentment is not bringing our reality in line with our desire, or bringing our desire in line with our reality. There’s so much that we could be that we could say about the topic of contentment, we could spend a whole series on it. But let me share with you three ways that you can grow in contentment. This isn’t a switch that we turn on and off. But it’s something that we can learn over time. Now the Apostle Paul was a a master of contentment. In Philippians, chapter four, he says “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances, I know what it is to be in need. And I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. Paul knew what it was like to be satisfied in the Lord. His life was full of ups and downs. In every circumstance, he knew how to be content. So then later on in his life, in First Timothy chapter six, Paul passes on what he’s learned to young Timothy, Timothy, this is how you can be content to I’ve seen this in my own life. And I want you to learn this as well. This is what it means to be content. So in our remaining time, I like to treat First Timothy six as sort of a case study in contentment. So you can turn there if you’re able to follow along. I won’t be preaching that passage per se. This is still a sermon on Exodus 20. rather think of this as a case study in how to obey the 10th commandment. Paul instructs Timothy how to do it. I think there is tremendous application for us today as well. So think of this in terms of three, three rights, three rights, three rights to grow in godly contentment. So the first is the right person, right person, meaning, godly contentment is learned through satisfaction in the Lord. Instead of putting our hope in created things, we put our hope in the creator. He is really the only one who can satisfy us. This comes from First Timothy six verse 17, says, command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God. Material things are so uncertain. stock market crashes, the natural disaster hits. The thief comes in and steals the item that you so eagerly desired, we’ll be out of style in a few months. Wait till next year, the new model will be out and your model is no longer usable. We will never be satisfied in anything other than the Lord. This is what we were created for. Right the the chief end of man We exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever. So we learned contentment by keeping God first in our lives. If covetousness is a sin against God, because of pride and unbelief, then godly contentment is learned through humility and faith. Humility recognizes that we deserve nothing of what we have. If coveting comes from a pride that says I deserve better than content It comes from humility that says, Everything I have is by God’s grace and faith, faith trust that the Lord will provide everything that we need. If covenant comes from an unbelief that says, I don’t trust God. Contentment comes from faith that says God has enough. Faith is the key for all of us here today. Whether you’ve been walking with the Lord for many years, or you wouldn’t even consider yourself a Christian this morning. Faith is the first step that all of us must take. This morning, if you acknowledge that you’ve broken this commandment, which I think all of us can agree that we’ve broken this commandment if we’re honest, the reality is he knows your sin. He knows that you’ve sinned against Him. He knows that you’ve sinned against others. So how Will everything be made? Right? He cares enough about you to die on the cross to make everything right. Don’t put your hope in things. They’re so uncertain, don’t put your hope in yourself. You will let yourself down. But Put your hope in God, he will never let you down. Put your hope in the right person, have faith in him. Then we’ll be able to say everything I have is from Him. And He is enough. This is the first step on the way to godly contentment. Oh, God never promises to fulfill all our once. But he will provide for all of our needs. You know, it’s the billionaire who’s asked you know how much money is enough money. But she says just one more dollar. On our way to godly contentment. We must have humility and faith. We must learn to be able to say everything that I have is from the Lord. The Lord is enough. That’s the right person. But the second thing we need to know is the right pleasure. The right pleasure, meaning godly contentment is learned through enjoying rightly all that God has entrusted to you. God is not against pleasure. In fact, God wants you to be happy. Did you know that? God wants you to be the happiest you can be. So much so that he richly provides us with everything to enjoy. This comes from First Timothy six, verse 17, again, where he says, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. This isn’t the prosperity gospel. God never promises to give us everything that we selfishly want for ourselves. But God does provide everything that we need. We need far less than what we think we need. You know, earlier in First Timothy six, Paul says that if we have food, and clothing, we will be content with that. Like, what about shelter? What about heat in the winter? What about that, Paul, we need a lot less than what we think we need. God has given us everything that we need. And he’s calling us to find as much enjoyment in those things that we possibly can. And here’s the key. We’ll find the most enjoyment in those things when we enjoy them for the sake of Jesus. God has given us vacations to enjoy. You will enjoy your vacations the most when you would enjoy them and find rest in the Lord. God has given us material things to enjoy. And we get the most enjoyment out of those things when you use them and leverage them to serve the Lord. Holding on to our things with a tight fist will never lead to contentment. But when we open our hands and steward them for the Lord, then we get to enjoy them in their fullness. God has given us skills, abilities and talents to enjoy. Well, we get the most enjoyment out of these things when we use them to serve the Lord. You know, I’ll never regret faithfully giving to the Lord.
Think of Operation Christmas Child that we’ll see here in a few moments. Our kids have been packing the boxes downstairs earlier this morning. You know, I’ve never thought to myself, you know, that hour that I spent shopping for kids, Christmas gifts who are in need. I probably could have enjoyed that better if I used it on myself. You know, I’ve never said, you know, that money that I spent buying those gifts for those shoe boxes. I probably would have enjoyed that money better if I bought lunch for myself. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It doesn’t make any sense. If you’ve ever used your time, your talents, or your treasure to serve the Lord faithfully, you know how much joy you get from it. We get the most joy out of our things when we use them for the sake of Jesus. In fact, when you experience the pleasure of rightly enjoying all that God has given you, it sort of creates a holy discontent, right? Like, that’s awesome. Like, I want to do more, how can I how can I give more how can I serve more? You experience the joy of, of giving. And you want to do more? Finding the right pleasure, and what God has entrusted to us will lead us to a godly contentment. Yes, Jesus calls us to deny ourselves to take up our cross, and to follow Him. He calls us to a hard life that will require sacrifice. But when we understand that, by this sacrifice, we gain all the treasure in the world. It makes every sacrifice worth it. Godliness with contentment is great gain. You’ll learn contentment when you rightly enjoy all that God is richly provided. The right pleasure is the greatest pleasure. When you have it, you won’t want to look anywhere else for it. So we learn contentment by knowing the right person by enjoying the right pleasure. And then thirdly, by living out the right practice, the right practice meaning godly contentment is learned through practical living. We don’t become content by simply thinking about being more content. This comes from First Timothy six verse 18. And 19 says command them to do good to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age. You know, like so many things in life, we learn through experience. It’s that hatchling that is sitting in the nest, dreaming about flying. They won’t actually learn to fly until they get out of the nest. Sometimes it might take a little healthy nudge to get them out of the nest. But they only learned by experience. You can watch YouTube videos about how to fix a leaky faucet all day long. Praise God for YouTube tutorials, alright. But you won’t truly learn plumbing skills until you get out the wrench and look under the sink yourself. Godly contentment is learned by doing good. By being rich in good deeds. By being generous and willing to share. When we give of ourselves, we won’t have time to think about all the things we could cover it. It’s like the servant who was so scared that he hid his masters talent in the ground. And he he’s waiting for his master to come back from his journey. And I can just imagine this, the servant being tempted was so all kinds of covetousness, right. He’s his talent in the ground. And he sees the other two servants, the one with the more talents and he’s watching them invest and grow those talents. And he’s thinking like, Man, I wish I had what they have, I wish I had more talents like they did. And all the while he should have been investing his own talent should have used what the master entrusted to him so that it would grow. It wouldn’t matter that he only had one talent because he turned that talent into another talent if he would have done it faithfully. Then when the master returned, he would have been content and knowing that he did what he needed to do to be faithful with what the Lord entrusted to him. So in the same way, we will be tempted to covet when we sit on the sidelines and just watch others. But we will grow and godly contentment when we practice it. When we do good, when we’re rich in good deeds, when we’re generous and willing to share, we will grow in contentment. So get in the game. live out your contentment in the Lord. And then over time, where you put your treasure there your heart will soon follow. So godly contentment is learned through through the right practice through living it out. So this is our case study in contentment with the apostle Paul, from 1 Timothy 6. It’s it’s about the right person. It’s about the right pleasure and about the right practice. So I hope you’ve been able to see the great gain that comes from godliness with contentment. Now the last phrase of verse 19, I think, wraps it up well. It says in this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age. So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. The great hope that we have in the right person, the great joy that we have in the right pleasure, the great love that we have for others in the right practice. This is the life that is truly life. This is the great game that we have in godly contentment. Yeah, I don’t know about you. But I would much rather have a life that’s filled with hope, with joy, and with love, rather than the life of coveting of discontentment. The prideful, the discontent life that devalues others and uses others for our selfish desires. Versus the hopeful, the joyful, the loving life that finds satisfaction in the Lord. The choice is yours. And by God’s grace, we can grow in this together. So beware, coveting is deadly. And then be content because godliness with contentment is great gain. Let’s pray together. Gracious Heavenly Father, we know that you have given us everything that we need. Your grace is enough for us. So we thank you, thank you for your provision in our lives. So we confess today that we fall short of this. We don’t acknowledge you as the giver of all that is good in our lives. We want more. We want better. We think we deserve better. And we don’t think that you’re enough so often. Father, forgive us for sinning against others, for using them for devaluing them in favor of their stuff. Thank you that you have forgiven us in Jesus. You sent your son to die for us so that we would be made right in your eyes. So we ask, we ask that you help us to find our satisfaction in you. Help us to have humility help us to have faith. Help us to enjoy rightly all that you’ve entrusted to us. Help us to grow in this as we live it out day by day. So we thank you for all the ways you guide us to this through Your Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen.