Coveting…it’s what we do

Exodus 20:17 – July 6, 2014

This commercial began this past Sunday’s sermon.  http://youtu.be/qGJSI48gkFc

These are the final lines of the commercial: “You work hard, you create your own luck and just gotta believe, that ANYTHING is possible…As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking 2 weeks off in August.”

cadillac_poolside3_3x2I just hate this commercial – I can’t hide it from you. It is the perfect anti-10 commandments commercial. And it’s perfect for today as we round out the 10 with the last 2, which are all about wanting what other people have. We are plunged into this commercial man’s kingdom, into the kingdom he has worked hard for, built with his own two hands.  He deserves it because he’s worked hard for it. It’s not about respecting the world’s resources, it’s not about valuing what other people do, how other country’s operate.  More importantly, this commercial is not about what God has given us to care for, to manage. It’s about dominating, and to dominate, you don’t take time off, because then you don’t have the stuff to show for it.

This is NOT Good News.  It’s not.  It may be shiny and pretty and organized.  But it ain’t Good News.

IMG_2649We all have stuff.  And you really get in touch with just how much when you move, which I did this spring, and many of you schlepped my stuff from point a to point b.  I hated how many boxes it took to move me and have been giving things away, paring down ever since.

 

 

 

 

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A month or two ago I read a piece about Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, 2 best friends, 2 young professionals who write a minimalist blog. The snippet I caught was to only keep things that are useful or beautiful, which has helped me let go of some things.  This got me to go to their website, theminimalists.com. Here is just a snippet of their story and how these 2 young, successful friends were feeling in the face of their 6-figured salaries:

 

the-minimalistsYou see, back then people saw two best friends in their large homes with more bedrooms than inhabitants and they were envious. They saw our six-figure jobs, our luxury cars, our new gadgets, and our lives of opulence, and they thought, These guys have it figured out. I want to be just like them. They saw all of those things—all of that superfluous stuff—and they just knew we were successful. After all, we were living the American Dream, weren’t we?

 But the truth is we weren’t successful at all. Maybe we looked successful—displaying our status symbols like trophies on a shelf—but we weren’t truly successful. Because even with all our stuff, we weren’t satisfied with our lives—we weren’t happy. And we discovered that working 70 to 80 hours a week and buying even more stuff didn’t fill the void. In fact, it only brought us more debt and anxiety and fear and stress and loneliness and guilt and overwhelm and paranoia and depression… What’s worse, we discovered that we didn’t have control of our time and thus we didn’t have control of our own lives.[1]

They outline a 21 day process of minimizing your life that I’ve read through, and now wish I’d read it through a while ago and we could have spent all summer on the 10 commandments!  Because they name the power of stuff in our lives – it impacts what we think about, what we worry about, and who we are as God’s people.

We’re so good at coveting, aren’t we?  Wanting what other people have, accumulating. Small things, big things, shiny things. And God – remember it is the same God who created us and knows us– God knows what our desire is capable of — strong enough to actually lead us to taking, or to accidently hoarding, or to working too hard for, to focusing on those things rather than on relationships with other people.

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Along with the young professionals I mentioned earlier, scripture’s King David’s coveting led him down a path where he broke over half of the 10 commandments in one fell swoop!  King David famously spied Bathsheba bathing on the roof and coveted her which then led him to commit adultery with her, and then he lied to Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and arranged for his murder. Just look what coveting led to in this man’s life – it destroyed lives all around him!

 

 

 

So, when we begin to spend all of our energy focusing on what others have and then working to achieve or take what they have – either directly from them or through working our fingers to the bone to purchase them – well, it changes how we see each other. As a person not to be served and loved but as one to at least match if not out-match.  A spirit of want inhibits our very ability to see what it is we already have. It squashes our ability to be grateful for what we’ve been given if we’re always ready to earn and achieve; to want and to take.  Ultimately, it damages our relationship with our neighbor and with God.

These last 2 commandments are about wanting what other people have in such a way that it disrupts our lives, shifts our priorities, and hurts us, and our relationship with other people.  God knows we are prone to thinking we don’t have enough – to live with a mentality of scarcity instead of abundance.  It shows a deep mistrust of God’s activity in our own lives. This kind of worry and focus can make it almost impossible to see what it is we are grateful for – even the struggles along with the great joys in our lives.

On a weekend when America celebrates its freedom, as Christians we celebrate a God who frees us in the most radical ways – ways that look nothing like democracy but instead drip with mercy and grace and call us into living lives that are in constant transformation. God gives us the 10 commandments not to restrict us but to free us.  God frees us to live life in such a way that we are not constantly in search of what others have. We are freed to live in these ways so that it frees other people – our friends and neighbors; strangers and even enemies – to live too.

gratitudeSo one way we will celebrate this freedom together is to try something together. Each day this week, write down what you’re grateful for. What are the things, who are the people, what experiences in your life that bring gratitude to your lips and heart?  Put them on Facebook or Twitter, or write them privately in a journal.  Talk about it with your family over dinner or before bed.  What in this life do you have that you are grateful for?

 

There may be some days that are more difficult for you to see what you’re grateful for.  There may be other days where you just can’t stop writing.

Either way, I trust that in doing this, God will free you from the chokehold that is overabundance and consumerism and release you into the joy and appreciation and gratitude for all that we have been given and all that we have to give.

I pray that the 10 commandments can live in your lives in a more real way – that you can see them as ways to love God and love the world.  After all, that’s what we’re here for.

Amen.

 

P.S.  This video is not Good News either.  But it’s a response to the video at the top of this sermon.  I like it’s attitude.  It’s trying to reach out to the neighbor.  It’s trying to serve someone else.  BUT it’s also trying to sell you an expensive car.  Just sayin’.  (There’s a swear right at the end of this video if that kind of thing offends you.)

“The upside?  Anything is possible.”



[1] http://www.theminimalists.com/21days/

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