There is it, the snicker-inducing laugh line of centuries of teenager-filled Bible classes.
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17 (KJV)
Don’t covet your neighbor’s ass.
Get it out of your system and then take a travel back in time with me to the days of Exodus.
After years of slavery, wandering in the desert and not having a great time as God’s chosen people, Moses shows up with the 10 Commandments, including this No. 10 kicker that wrapped up greed and envy into a nice little package. In those times before your local neighborhood superstore, a lot of people had very little and most people had hardly anything at all.
That extra ass or ox outside your neighbor’s tent? That could be the difference between surviving and thriving. Didn’t God understand? Our brains are hardwired to want that stuff! But whoa, say Moses, even in these times of little, turning your eyes to your neighbor and trying to Keep Up with the Judahs only created hurt in your heart and distanced yourself from the true value of a relationship with God.
Fast-forward to Jesus and he is saying the same thing, especially to the rich young man. Don’t let your possessions, your love of them or your want of them (avarice and lust) get in the way of Heaven.
And now park your time machine back here in 2013 when we are up to our ears in a 24/7 consumer complex of coveting. We now have nearly as many tools to cultivate our envy as we do to power our lust.
Pinterest anyone? What are these perfect photos of perfect people with perfect products doing to our hearts?
I fall into the trap all the time, driving down cul-de-sacs full of new homes out of my price-range. Looking at the ads for just the right clothes in a magazine. Just because we are men doesn’t make us immune to these feelings. If anything, the web has pumped up the volume to make sure we have the most well-designed things in the most exclusively curated packages.
Don’t covet your neighbor’s ass? These days we are coveting our neighbor’s abs!
So how do we set this filter up in our head to keep coveting from overwhelming our sense of what is going on in our life now? How do we keep it from taking a mental inventory of everything in our house (and on our body) and feeling like total garbage?*
* I have done exactly that, from my top of my dandruffed head to my flat fleet.
I’ve done it a few ways:
First, remember that all the pieces God has allowed to move to get you exactly where you are at that exact moment. Remembering that great-great-great-great-grandfather August had to decided to get on that boat at that time in the 19th Century, then meet that exact girl and fall in love, etc., etc., makes you understand that you are the sum of a pretty big equation and that whether or not you have a particular brand of shoes doesn’t account to much. (And also remembering that ol’ man August pretty much ate potatoes every day helps you too.)
Second, be in the moment. In the moment, you have all that you have and nothing more. You are not gaining or losing anything. Anything you might want to going to take an accumulation of time in order to get. It is going to take action and resources. But at that moment, you have contentment. Want something more? Make a plan for it. Make sure you have the money for it and it won’t make the rest of your life tumble like a badly constructed Jenga tower. We’ll be writing a lot about budgets, finances, Dave Ramsey and my highlight reel of money-related screwups, so put a pin in this for the weeks to come.
Finally, your life isn’t crap. Close your eyes. Count to three and open them. You are alive. God has given you that great gift. You have a future that he wants to be a part of. Want to have great things and provide for your family in ways you never have before? Well that doesn’t begin in a place of crap, that begins in a place of hope. (You might have to go through crap to get there, but God will be with you)
Every day is an opportunity, but we need to look at it like that, instead of looking at it as another day of failure. I’ve been in that place and sometimes still slip into it. It’s not a fun place.
God has the grace to show us that coveting to the point of despair is no place to be. It’s as bad as murder, stealing and adultery, because like those things it kills something – our sense of contentment.
Leave the ass in that other guy’s yard. Be Whole Donkey.