Saturday, July 7, 2012

Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
 or his manservant or maidservant,
his ox or donkey,
 or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Exodus 20:17 (NIV)

Now that I think about it, I should have used the example of Ahab coveting Naboth's vineyard (which I used in the previous post to illustrate the commandment about not giving false testimony against your neighbor) for this commandment against coveting, for Ahab certainly had a problem in this area.  However, I am sure that I can find plenty of other examples in the Bible.

I think of Jacob, and how his uncle Laban coveted the flocks with which God had blessed Jacob.  I guess that not only the grass, but also the flocks look better on the other side of the fence.  Laban's coveting (not to mention cheating Jacob of his wages) did not end well for Laban.  His own flocks were diminished and he lost the esteem of Jacob and his own two daughters in the process, and eventually, Jacob and his wives left Laban's presence entirely.

Too often, I think, we are so busy trying to see what the other guy has, that we miss the blessings which God has already given us.  We think that someone else has life better than us, and that everything seems to be working out great for them, while we struggle or suffer.  Actually, the truth is that all of us have been far more richly blessed than we realize.  Also, in this sinful world, all of us feel the effects of sin's destructive ways at some point.

I think of King David, and his coveting of Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.  He took Bathsheba and had Uriah killed in battle when he learned that Bathsheba had become pregnant with David's child while Uriah was away.  That sin resulted in the death of Uriah, and also the child.  In addition, the sword would not depart from David's household:  from his own household, a son would arise who would make a bid for the kingship by lying with some of David's wives.  Actually, altogether three of David's sons would die violently:
  • Amnon (II Samuel 13:28-29)
  • Absalom (II Samuel 18:14-15)
  • Adonijah (I Kings 2:25)
One interesting aspect of this punishment was that when the prophet Nathan first came to David to confront him about the death of Uriah, Nathan told David a parable about a rich man who stole the only sheep of a poor man in order to feed his guest, instead of using one of his own many sheep.  (II Samuel 12)  Angrily, David had declared that such a man deserved death, but should suffer a fourfold retribution.  Nathan's parable had actually been about David's adultery with Bathsheba, and, in the end, David received the very punishment which he had declared would be appropriate:  Counting the child of Bathsheba who had died of an illness, along with the three sons who died violently above, David had suffered a fourfold loss.  Although David repented sincerely and was forgiven, this sin of coveting had left a permanent scar upon an otherwise exemplary life.

If that account of the spiraling devastation which sin can cause is not enough of an incentive to keep away from adultery and other forms of coveting, then I don't know what else could be.

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