The ninth and tenth commandments*, “You shall not covet,” are the two most challenging commandments in our culture today. Our consumer society is built on the idea that an individual does not have enough. It is the economic law of supply and demand. We must create a “want” for more stuff, so that we have a demand to produce more stuff. If there is no demand for something, there is no reason to produce it.
Yet our mass market culture is good at producing wants. We are constantly seeing/hearing/experiencing messages that tell us to want something, anything and everything. We are caught in the game of “wanting” the newest whatever because everyone else has it and we “need” it. Our culture constantly stokes the fire of desire. So when we hear the commandment, “you shall not covet,” it seems so bizarre and difficult. Confirmation students are not the only people wrestling with this.
Several years ago I took a group of seniors on a tour boat ride around Lake Minnetonka. The tour guide started telling us about the large homes that surround the lake. “This property was purchased for $5 million dollars, and the new owner remodeled with another $5 million.” Or “That property was purchased for $7 million, the old house torn down, and a new house built for $10 million.” After the boat ride, I told the group of seniors, “We just spent the afternoon breaking the tenth commandment.” Now we may not want a house on Lake Minnetonka, but looking and pricing such homes rarely feeds our contentment center.
So how do we obey this commandment? By shifting our focus away from this constant barrage for “bigger, better and more” to the Gospel message that I am loved and accepted by God just the way I am. My real identity is not a consumer who needs more, but a steward who hold everything as a trust from God. I truly need to hear God’s message of gracious acceptance on a consistent basis. Otherwise the culture’s message that “You are not good enough, unless you buy this or pursue that’ will win our souls.
How do you define “coveting?” How do you deal with it?
Lord Jesus, help me to seek you with all my heart and soul.
*Martin Luther in his catechism followed the Roman Catholic tradition from St. Augustine in numbering the commandments. Presbyterians, Episcopalians and others use a slightly different system that combines the ninth and tenth commandments.