Description: Did you know that some translations show that the now old fashioned word "covet" has the same meaning as desire, or envy or want or to yearn?
Lack of Contentment 1
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
We know intellectually that God is in charge of our lives that everything we have and are is due to
him, to his action. I think we feel that our ability to breath is due to his goodness and his power
and yet we have to take a breath. Obviously, we have to take a breath. He has given us the ability
to breathe but we have to take a breath and so in that way our faith in him is shown by our action
and yet we don’t have to gather this room full of air and compress it into a cylinder so we have
enough air for the rest of the week. So, our faith in that situation is shown in not taking action.
There’s a certain thing that we can’t do, we aren’t meant to gather all the manna for the whole
week. We aren’t meant to gather all this air in. There are certain things that we are meant not to
do and that show our faith in him and there are other things that we do and that show our faith in
him. If we breathe it shows our faith that he’s made this air pure and that it will give us life
and yet we don’t feel we have to take all the air in this room and squeeze it into a cylinder so
that we’ve enough for next week because in that case we’re not showing faith in his ability to
provide for next week.
So, it’s interesting that faith shows itself sometimes in action and sometimes actually in inaction
you might say. Of course the whole issue for those of us especially on the road or those of us
involved in business, is when do you act to show your trust in God and when do you not act to show
your trust in God? When is inaction an expression of faith and when is action an expression of
Some of the things God has given us to help us know the difference are these laws that we’ve been
studying in the early chapters of the Bible. You remember, we’re at Exodus 20 and of course, some
of them are really plain. God says, “Look, if you trust me with everything, if you trust me with
your life then you won’t kill. You won’t feel it’s your responsibility to get people out of your
way — you’ll trust me to manage your life. You won’t commit adultery — you’ll trust me to arrange
that you’ll have satisfaction physically in your life. You won’t steal — you won’t have to take
things from other people. You won’t bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Then we’ve reached Verse 17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, if you trust me. If you
have faith in me you won’t covet your neighbor’s house, you won’t covet your neighbor’s wife, you
won’t covet his manservant or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your
neighbor’s.” So, if you really have faith in the Father you won’t covet other people’s things.
And it might be good just to spend a few minutes thinking about that because it’s a little deeper
than we often consider it to be. You’ll find a little indication of the depth, if you turn to
another version of that commandment in Deuteronomy 5:21. Deuteronomy 5:21, the same commandment,
“Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife,” and then the next sentence, “And you shall not
desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass,
or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
It helps us a little maybe because we can see the word covet as some special action that we’re glad
we’re not guilty of but yet for some reason God has given us this commandment about it. We don’t
realize that one possible translation of covet is desire. “You shall not desire your neighbor’s
house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass.” I looked up some of
the other meanings of the word covet and it can mean desire, or lust for, or envy, or it can mean
want, or it can mean to begrudge, or to crave, or to hunger, or to long, or to yearn, or to idolize.
It seems to me one of the basic meanings is that you won’t look at something that somebody else has
and wish you had it too. And of course I’m thinking particularly of everybody here including myself
who are just – we’re anxious for things, for God’s glory. I don’t think we want the sales for
ourselves, we’re anxious for them for God’s glory and yet it is easy in that process to find
yourself wishing, “Boy, I wish I had that person’s sales. I wish I had the sales that she had last
week.” Or, “I wish I had the sales he had last week.” Then it can get into other things, “Oh, I
wish I had that territory, if I had that territory.” It’s just a passing thought but yet it is, in
a way, desiring what somebody else has.
Of course what many of us have found is you don’t go along that apparently innocent road too long
before Satan gets you into other roads. “Oh well, I wish I had that kind of life.” Or, “I wish I
was doing that kind of thing.” Or, “I wish I was there rather than here.” And it can very easily
get you into a whole attitude of just general discontentment with your own situation and with the
things that you have. You don’t like to say you’re coveting because you’re not conscious of
planning how am I going to get Trump’s millions, or how am I going to get that other person’s house.
You’re not involved in that sort of thing.
You’re not involved in envying somebody else’s coat, or somebody else’s shoes. You’re not dreaming
at night of the coat that that other person has or the car that that other person has. So, you feel
you’re not really involved in coveting. We always think of coveting as old Scrooge stooping over
his gold coins and counting them in his austere attic and we tend to think, “No, no we don’t covet
that way.” And yet, it is so easy for us, maybe not to covet in that sense but to wish, just a
little wish. Just as they say, “This is on his wish list.”
I saw that the other day in the newspaper, some guy who had bought over a bank, Yorkshire Bank or
something in England. This has been on his wish list for many years. It’s possible to have a kind
of wish list that Satan keeps stirring up inside you especially, when you’ve had a bad week of
sales. Especially, when things have not gone exactly right, or you’ve tripped over something that
you suddenly miss a little, you just haven’t the money to do that, or you haven’t the opportunity to
do this, and it’s very easy at that moment for your dear mind to go out and just, “I’d like to have
what that person has.”
Now, why? Why not do that? Well, there are some very good reasons. Psalm 139, first of all, is
the basis and we’ve read it before often but it’s such a foundation of our ordinary life that it’s
important to look at it again. Psalm 139:13, why not covet what somebody else has, or desire what
somebody else has, or yearn for what somebody else has? Well, because of this, Verses 13-16, “For
thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee,
for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame
was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the
earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days
that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Because, God knows you right well.
Look at that line, “Thou knowest me right well.” Why not covet what somebody else has? Because God
knows you right well and God has given you exactly what you need. Exactly what you need and you
don’t need what the other person has otherwise God would have given it to you. God has provided you
with just the things that you need at this time.
That’s the basic foundation for putting the knife into any desire for what somebody else has. Be it
their sales, or their success, or their territory, or their lifestyle, or their marriage, or their
future, you are special. You are special, nobody like you in the whole universe, nobody at all and
the things that you have and the things that you haven’t have been carefully arranged by God for you
and so you contradict the Father when even one little stray thought goes out in a little desire for
what somebody else has.
You see it there in Isaiah 45:9 and 11. Isaiah 45:9, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker, an
earthen vessel with the potter! Does the clay say to him who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’ or
‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a
woman, ‘With what are you in travail?’ Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
‘Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands?’” That’s
why, you know.
Never for a moment look up and think, “Lord, should I have what she has? Shouldn’t I have what he
has?” God’s answer to you all the time is, “My child, I know exactly what you need. Moreover, I’m
making something different in you to what I’ve made in that person. You’re going to be different.
You’re going to be different. You’re not going to be the same as them. If you were going to be the
same as them I’d have given you the same things that they have. But you don’t need those things at
this time because I’m doing something different with you.” And so it’s glorious because our eyes go
back onto God and away from other people.
And why is this? One reason, it’s in Galatians 1:15-16. Galatians 1:15, “But when he who had set
me apart before I was born,” — now remember that. “When he who had set me apart before I was born,
and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might
preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood.” I don’t know if your Bible
has a footnote ‘c’ at the word ‘to’ where it says, “Was pleased to reveal his Son to me,” but in the
Revised Standard Version you go down to that footnote and it says, “The Greek is ‘in’.” “When he
who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal
his Son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles.” That’s the purpose of your
life, that Jesus would be revealed in you in a way in which he is revealed in no other person and
that means a separate program entirely for your life.
You have a different life entirely to me, a different life to Rick, a different life to Irene,
you’ve a different life than anybody here. You have a different life to everybody else in the world
and God is about the business of revealing his son in you. I’ve written this bit down so that I
wouldn’t get it wrong, “Certain things have not been given yet because Christ wishes to reveal
himself to you first apart from those things.” So sometimes God will not give you the sales, or
will not give you the money, or will not give you the things that somebody else has because Christ
wishes to reveal himself to you first apart from those things to show you that he himself is your
strength. He has other ways of bringing the answer about. He wants you to go for him first apart
from those things.
If you lack sales, or money that another has, this is because Christ intends to manifest his
sustaining life to you and in you, in a personal way, that is appropriate for you and that’s it.
God has a different plan for your life to what he has for others. I’ve written in the next point,
“Any lack in this fallen world is permitted only to demonstrate the complete supply and provision of
Christ in the midst of that lack.” So Christ in his death foresaw this lack that you would have in
your life and he has provided an answer for that lack.
“What we need therefore is not what our neighbor has but Christ.” What we lack and need is not what
our neighbor has but Christ. “You’ve been given certain things and you lack certain other things
because Christ’s strength is going to be manifested in you differently from everyone else.” So,
there’s every reason to be glad and thankful for everything that you’ve been given this past week.
There’s no place for wishing that you had this person’s sales, or this person’s territory, or this
person’s things because God himself is dealing with you and what he wants is you to look up to him
and to begin to deal with him instead of looking away to other people.
There’s only one right way to get what you need and that’s in James 4:2. James 4:2, “You desire and
do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not
have, because you do not ask.” “You do not have, because you do not ask.” I mean, Dan had an
example of it I know this week, but it’s up to him sometime if he wants to share that but I’m not
even suggesting that this morning because it’s so easy for us then to listen to his testimony and
think, “Oh yes, that’s what we should do.” No, each of us is to find God’s way with us. Each of us
is to find God’s own personal way with us so it’s very good to help each other with the ordinary
business of sales methods and ways of dealing with people. But, having done that all is still to be
done because God is dealing with you individually.
What is the cause of coveting? Well, I just have a couple very brief ones, three actually. Romans
12:2 it seems to me, is one of them. Romans 12:2, why do we end up coveting? Romans 12:2 is one
reason, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you
may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” One reason is we’re
conformed to the world. We’re preoccupied with what others in the world value and so we covet. We
think, “Oh, that’s worth having,” or, “That’s important to have,” or, “Everybody is after that,” and
so we’re after it too and we treasure that so we’re being conformed to the image of this world
instead of renewing our minds and treasuring the things that God gives us to treasure, and
treasuring Jesus, and treasuring the manifestation of Jesus to others and the expression of Jesus to
If we express Jesus joyfully to the people in the stores, God will add all other things onto us.
But I think often what we do is we go about with a hang dog look not in a true spirit of praise, and
joy, and light not entering into the store with Christ’s spirit of joy, and praise, and victory in
us. Then, of course, all other things are not added unto us. But really the truth is if we value
God’s manifestation in us above everything else then God will add all other things onto us. But, if
we’re conformed to the image of this world and get our eyes off God and onto sales, or territory, or
this, or that, then I think we end up coveting.
Another reason is Romans 1:25 which is really along the same lines. Romans 1:25, “Because they
exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the
Creator, who is blessed for ever!.” Because we begin to treasure the things instead of God himself
we begin to treasure his gifts rather than him himself. We begin to care more about sales, or about
money, or about things than about God himself and that causes us to covet. What we need most of all
is his presence in our hearts, the glory of his joy and delight beside us.
I think another reason is Genesis 3:1, right away at the beginning at the time of the fall. Genesis
3:1, another reason we covet, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the
Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the
garden”?’” So, the serpent came up to the woman and said, “Now look, God says he’s kind, you say
he’s loving, you say he’s faithful to you, you say he gives you everything you need, and yet has he
said there’s a tree here in the garden that you won’t eat, that you shouldn’t eat of? Is that kind?
Is that faithful? Is that generous? I mean, is God really as faithful and generous as he says?”
When you covet you really question God’s faithfulness, you question his judgment.
I think we catch that at times in ourselves when we find ourselves wishing for something or wishing
that something was different. Really in a subtle way we’re questioning, “Now wait a minute, is God
really in charge here? Does he really love me? Is he really being kind to me? Is he really
faithful or has he forgotten me?” When we want something that we haven’t got we’re really saying
that. We’re saying, “Lord, you haven’t given it to us but we need it. We need it. I’d tell you we
need it.” And you know, if you push me and press me and say, “Well now brother I need my food, I
need lunch. I’m talking about lunch money.” Well, does God know that or does he not, you know?
I think we all feel together as a family that not one of us will let the other starve. That’s one
of the great blessings of being together in Jesus, we won’t let each other starve. But aren’t there
a lot of disciplinary steps before that point that God may want to use with us? Haven’t we to be
careful that we don’t cry uncle before the time?
It’s very hard for any of us to say how many sacrifices anybody in this room ought to be prepared to
face. But maybe we shouldn’t even be talking to each other about it. We should be saying, “Lord,
you have said you would supply every need of mine from your riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now,
if you haven’t supplied this, I can only come to it that it isn’t a need. I must submit my judgment
to your judgment and say, ‘Alright Lord, I thought this was a need but Lord, if it isn’t a need that
this hole in my side be filled in then I can only conclude that you will repeat the miracle that you
wrought in Christ whereby you enabled him to walk around Galilee with a hole in his side and not
bleeding all the blood away. I can only conclude then that you’ll enable me to do that, Lord.’”
A bit like Abraham with Isaac — I can only conclude that you will have necessarily raised this son
of mine from the dead. Seems that when you covet or desire something that God has not given us,
then we’re in fact questioning God’s faithfulness and we’re questioning his wisdom and his judgment
and we’re saying, “Look, you may think this isn’t a need but believe me, Lord, if you were down here
you’d know this was a need for me.” Now in fact, we get ourselves into an untenable position
because it’s the clay saying to the potter, “Why have you made me thus?”
What is coveting’s cure? Well it’s in Philippians 4:11. Philippians 4:11, “Not that I complain of
want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I
know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and
hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” And that’s the cure
for coveting — to accept the position that God has given you in Christ where he said unto thy
hands, Father, I commit my spirit and whatever you give me that is what I’ll receive and whatever
you don’t give me that I will be glad to do without. I will drink the cup that you give to me,
whatever that cup is.
Then there is a great deep peace comes into our lives when we put ourselves completely in our
Father’s hands and believe that he will give us what we need and that what he doesn’t give us, we
don’t need. There’s a great peace and a great simplicity comes into our lives. Of course, you’ve
no need for me to tell you that that’s the basis then on which one can begin building a real prayer
life and can begin building a life of power in God. But first, the basis of it and as Paul implied,
the continuing basis of power is being in that position where I don’t complain of want, I have
learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.
Those of us who have gone through these patches in sales know that the least, in a way, we can be
prepared to face is some extra discipline and hardship in our own lives. We hate to bring it down
to food and to clothes, and you have to get gas for the car so you have to keep going, and you do
have to have a place to sleep. But it does seem reasonable to believe that if we have responded to
the same master who called to follow him — Hudson Taylor and John Wesley, and the others — then we
will surely meet some of the inconveniences. Who knows if we’re privileged to follow with some of
the scarcities, or the lacks that they had in order for God to bring us into a place of reality with
him where we grasp his hand in ours and we know that he hears our prayers.
So some people have said that coveting is the basic sin. That it’s the basis of all other sins
because it’s wishing you had something that you haven’t got and to that extent it is thinking that
you ought to have something that God has not given you. In actual fact, therefore, it’s a rejection
of God and his love for you and his rule over your life. So some people have said coveting is
actually the basis of every other sin and I suppose you could make a point for that.
What I think is important for us in our situation is to realize that coveting is not just an old
miser gloating over his gold sovereigns but coveting can be just that little disturbing
dissatisfaction with our present state. That little discontentment with what God has given us so
far. And I think you know what we’ve said before at times, when will God give you something? When
he knows you don’t need it? No, when he knows that you’re satisfied with him, then God is free to
give you the thing. But, while you can’t do without that thing, God is almost honor bound or bound
in love to withhold it from you.
So, it might be good for us to just spend a few minutes before him allowing him to show us if
there’s anything that we covet or anything that we desire that somebody else has, or anything that
we’re wanting or yearning for in a way that is independent of him and of his will for us.
Let us pray.