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June 24, 2018, 12:00 AM

Thou Shall Not Covet


Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbors House, Spouse or Stuff.

 

I left out of that list one item and let me start with it because it is the easiest of the things officially on the list. I assume that none of you are coveting your neighbors slave. It is worthy of two comments; First, this is one of those place where it is obvious the bible was written to a different people than those sitting here this morning. Second, if your neighbor has a slave to be coveted then I suggest strongly that you or we need to go to the authorities. Sadly, the realities of slavery and trafficking people are all to real on this planet even today. So, I will assume that you are not coveting your neighbors slave.

 

Moving on to “you are not to covet what belongs to the other” we have finally gotten to the tip of the arrow I spoke of last week. Remember, I was suggesting that the last six of the Ten Commandments all point in a direction and so are more than simply six rules to be followed to the letter of the law. Well here is the point on that arrow.

Lets review a little bit. We started with the physical harms you might do to your neighbor, moving from the direct to the indirect harms. We then had the verbal harm you might do to your neighbor. Now we have the mental thoughts about harm to your neighbor and remember Jesus says that whatever you have thought is as bad as what you have done. This commandment is about what we think and there are two Luther writes:

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not try to trick our neighbors out of their inheritance or property or try to get it for ourselves by claiming to have a legal right to it and the like, but instead be of help and service to them in keeping what is theirs.

and

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not entice, force, or steal away from our neighbors their spouses, household workers, or livestock, but instead urge them to stay and fulfill their responsibilities to our neighbors.

 

So, Luther once again goes to the place of instead of seeking to harm your neighbor you should be about the work of helping your neighbor. So, let me go there...

Instead of not being jealous your neighbor has: a pool, a bigger house, newer renovations, a great inheritance, a beautiful spouse or the perfect SUV – Instead we are to help our neighbor to maintain these wonderful things and wish them more and better if they want it. Here are my questions:

  1. Do you know your neighbor? Yes the one who lives in the domicile next to yours.

  2. Who are those people that you hang out with and spend time with, that are not just your spouse and your children?

  3. Which unrealistic television person, from make believe land, are you being jealous of and more and more they find us comparing our lives to those of the people we watch on TV (and the internet) not the people who live directly around us.

  4. Who is the person you most disagree with and when was the last time you prayed for them and I mean honestly prayed not for their conversion but for their well being.

So let me just point out that many of us do not know the people living directly next to us. And if we move that bar out to the second or third domicile then most of us statistically do not know the people who live there or anything about them more than maybe to recognize their face. And thus in the most direct sense we don't know our neighbors and maybe that is a problem.

If you were not able to point out who you hang with and spend time with outside of your spouse and children, then you are missing an opportunity for community and we all need community. In fact I am reading more about how the lack of community is leading us to be less civil, increases the crime rate and increases the abuse of drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc. We all need community, maybe it is the other parent at soccer, maybe it is the parent you see all the time at the school, maybe it is a coworker who you occasionally fraternize with outside of work, maybe it is the walking partner or ….(pick something different). We all need neighbors and they all need neighbors and thus we need to spend time with people and yes even people who hold opinions that are different from ours and might change our minds or at least our understand of what those who are asking for a different outcome want, because we will never achieve world peace or even neighborhood peace unless we understand not what the other says they want but the longing and desire behind that wish.

Sometimes examples are helpful. Let us say for a moment that you are open to the LGBTQIA+ community and you meet with someone who is spouting rhetoric that is against this group of people. First, can you pray for that person to find peace and wholeness. Second, can you listen to them long enough to understand what about this reality they find to be confusing or challenges the norms that they use to give life value, ... or is it that they really want grandchildren and are afraid their child might not have children if they belong to one of these groups or … is it that they want their child to be ever happy and safe and they worry about the abuse their child might suffer if they belonged to one of these sexual or gender orientations. Finally, can you love them instead of praying for them to change, praying for their well being instead of the blinders to come off.

Now, if we close our blinds and don't make to much contact with the people directly next door to us we don't need to figure out whether they fit one of the categories of people that challenge our view of the world. If we don't ever come in contact with people that differ from our opinion we never need to defend our position. And one of the easiest ways to do all of that is to turn on the TV or YouTube or Facebook and spend time with our carefully cultivated list of people, places and things that agree with us. Many of them may be from the land of make believe but their lives seem very much real and become our ordinary and because we tend to curate the good stuff and post it while leaving out the boring or negative we get a constant stream of media that agrees with us, is always happy and provides lots of fodder for the desire mills inside of us. Ah, how well Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram can stir up the demon of covetousness. And how do we ever get our feet back in reality where we are to help real people around us to live better, more meaningful lives.

I want to help you with an exercise. First, imagine the person you know whose life best mirrors what you think it means to be Christs like. Second, imagine a person who is most difficult to get along with. Got it the most Christ like person you know and a difficult person you know. With both of them in your head I want you to image how the most Christ like person you know would deal with the most difficult person you know. Yes, how would the Christ like person handle the difficult person. Now, pray for the difficult person, ask God to help them be well, and whole. Now think about that person and how you might approach them next time you see them. Maybe you even know why they are so difficult, is there anything you can do alleviate or help heal that hole in their life. If there is and you help provide for it or even just acknowledge it, you might just find their heart melts and you have a friend for life, with whom you can talk even when you disagree. Occasionally, you might even find they are not as difficulty as you previously knew.

In conclusion I suggest that we learn the skills to know and help our neighbor so that we might fulfill the command of Jesus when he says, “Love your neighbor as Yourself.”


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