Heidi: We are glad to be joining you once again in this time. I hope that your school years are off to a great start. If moms are back at work, I hope that that’s going well. I just hope that you all are doing well and you feel the Lord with you wherever you are listening to the podcast today. Today we are starting our last Commandment. We are looking at the 10th Commandment today. We’ll do this podcast episode and the next podcast episode to finish this up.
Jani: Can you believe it, Heidi? We’ve gotten to the end of the Ten Commandments.
Heidi: Haha, I know! Jani and I were just sitting across the table saying how much we’ve loved this series and yet we’re also glad that it’s the 10th commandment. We’re excited to see what else the Lord might lead us to in the next few months.
Jani: Yes, yes. To “move on” in such good ways. Isn’t that kind of the Lord to always keep stretching us?
We hope this series has been restorative to your soul, both to your own walk with the Lord, as you’ve looked at different ways that God loves us through this law. It’s so amazing to me that his law is his love letter to us.
And then how to communicate these laws, these laws written thousands of years ago, to the children in your life. If you’re just a new listener joining in these last few podcasts, we want you to know that all of this series is on our website. And if you’re looking for something to do with your children during family devotions, we’d recommend going back and look at, begin with the first one first commandment and you’ll be able to see the ones that say, “How to give this commandment to your children” and that will give you some clues and how you can study these commandments with your kids.
We’ve lingered over these verses in Exodus 20 in hopes of giving you time to meditate on them and camp on the love of God for His children.
“How does God love us by telling us not to covet?”
Now, as Heidi said, these next two podcasts are going to focus on the 10th commandment, we know it as “You shall not covet.” Although it is longer than that. It goes on for all the things you shouldn’t covet in that verse, but we’re just going to take those four words, “You shall not covet.”
“How…?” we wonder, “How does God love us by telling us not to covet?”
Well, I think one of the ways he loves us is this. The 10th commandment speaks directly to our hearts. The other nine commandments tell us what to do and what not to do. But this commandment rather than forbidding an action forbids a state of mind and attitude of the heart.
Heidi: You guys hear my children in the background as we’re talking about state of minds and attitudes of the heart their upstairs playing.
Jani: And Heidi and I are wondering what’s our attitude of mind.
Heidi: All right, I thought, “Do I need to go make them be quiet, Jani?” but we decided to do this podcast. So hopefully it’s not too distracting.
Jani: The thing is, many of you are young moms. And you’re probably trying to listen through noisy children. So you totally understand. And I personally am so appreciative that this young mom, Heidi Howerton, would be willing to meet with me and make this more relevant to her generation by giving herself to me so we’re gonna let those kids play and if they get too wild,
Heidi: Then we’ll settle them down. We’ll send Jani upstairs to give them a harsh talking to.
Jani: And I’ll give it to him Heidi, boy will I.
Covetousness is a spiritual problem
So we are saying that covetousness is a spiritual problem.
Think this through with Heidi and me. We live in a consumer culture and consumption has become our way of life. Whenever I think, “I wish I had her…” and then you fill in the blank, I wish I had her talent. I wish I had her family. I wish I had her home. I wish I had her job. Then I’m dealing with this heart sin of breaking the 10th commandment. Our life isn’t full enough for fun enough for good enough for us to feel good about. God isn’t answering my prayers in the way I want him to for that relationship or that expanded budget or for that much needed vacation, and so I covet. Now this doesn’t just apply to material possessions, clothes, houses, furniture, cars, and vacations. It can also apply to things like intelligence, family connections, and energy levels. It can apply to invitations to events or control or over the lives of our grown children. It can apply to musical talent or career recognition, or influence or power or beauty. You name it. The list is endless, isn’t it?
Now let’s be clear. The 10th commandment does not forbid desiring to improve my lot in life. But it does forbid envying my neighbor’s ability to improve her lot in life. It condemns the comparison game. Why did she get that? Why does she have that? Aren’t I just as deserving? Now desire itself is not our problem. God made us for desire. He made us to long after to yearn for to stretch out for great, eternal things. In Psalm chapter. Sorry here in Psalm 1910. The Psalmist tells the judgment. Sorry, Kevin. In Psalm 19:10, the psalmist tells us,
“The judgments of the Lord are more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold.”Psalm 19:10
Obviously, God wants us to desire some things. Desire itself is not our problem. The focus of our desire is. Our problem is misplaced desire. This commandment does not forbid us desiring a husband or a home or a child or a job. But we are not to lust after our neighbor’s husband or home or child or job or you name it. This commandment takes us right down to the deepest interior of our beings, to see where our desires are really focused.
Now God loves us in this commandment, how? By helping his children see that as long as we are seeking our happiness in things and people and circumstances, we’ll never find real satisfaction. Things break, people disappoint and circumstances inevitably change. And so God restores our souls by warning us not to hunger after these transitory things. God knows what we really need, not just what we think we need and want. He sees down into our very hearts and teaches us not to covet, so that we can learn to deal with our restless discontentment.
God loves us in this commandment. He knows our hearts. He knows they tell the truth of who we really are. The 10th commandment is a mirror to our souls, revealing, if we’re willing to look carefully enough, our view of God amidst all our misplaced desires. When I’m tempted toward covetousness, I need to ask myself, “What is it about God that I don’t understand in this situation, why isn’t God enough for me here?”
Personal Experiences With Covetousness
Now, in this I’ll share a little story with you and then Heidi will as well about how we’ve had to deal with this commandment. For many years, the focus of my heart was a car.
Heidi: What kind of car, Jani?
Jani: Anything with four wheels and a steering wheel that would get the six of us somewhere without having to walk. We lived as many of our listeners know, we lived in Scotland for four years while Ray earned his PhD at the University of Aberdeen up in the northeast corner of Scotland. It was wonderful. We had such a good experience there. But the Lord really took my heart through some good learning exercises as well. And one of them involve this commandment. The month our fourth child was born. Our investor went belly up, and we had no money left on which to live. Ray was on a student visa and he could not work. So we had to sell our car. We were halfway into the program. It didn’t make sense for us to try to come home. We didn’t have enough money for airfare to get home. We didn’t have a job waiting for us here. For two years, the final two years of our program there, as I walked back and forth to our village for food and medicine doctor appointments, as I took a bus the 20 miles into Aberdeen for family clothing needs or birthday and Christmas gifts.
Heidi: Were you just grumbling in your heart the whole time or were you able to not grumble? I would struggle with wanting to grumble.
Jani: It was a struggle not to but that was a good struggle for me, Heidi. As I look back now, I’m sorry I struggled so much but I did. I did struggle. Even as I would walk to and from church every Sunday, I think I’ve shared with our listeners with these four little kids, I’d push Gavin in the pram. But Ray had to go early because he was helping at the church and I had the kids to get there. Oh, wherever I was walking, I coveted a car, whether it was going into the village for food, whether it was going into Aberdeen for one of the kids birthday gifts, whether it was walking to church, I was breaking the 10th commandment. I tried to be noble, Heidi, I really did and not complain. But in my heart, I still whined. Why Lord, you know I’ve tried to submit to Ray. I’m trying to encourage him to follow what he feels is your will for him and our family but I feel like this is unfair. And so I made a deal with God. I do not recommend this. My deal was if God would give us a car, I would stop complaining. In fact, I told him if he would give me a car, I’d be happy. Well, two years later, when we returned to America to plant a church in Eugene, Oregon, God did give us a car through my generous parents. But did I keep up my end of the deal? Was I truly happy? Well, really, Heidi I was for a few months. It was wonderful to drive to the grocery store in that. But we were rather a large family. There were six of us and this was a two door Chevy Impala. So one of the kids would have to sit in that in between armrest between the front two front seats. And my parents gift really wasn’t big enough for our growing family. So now, I started coveting , you know
Heidi: A bigger car!
Jani: Yes! A minivan. That was my dream. Eventually, of course, we were able to sell the smaller car and get a minivan and we all fit in so nicely. Oh how we loved all the space. But by then I was a suburban soccer mom with a full time job teaching school and for kids to carpool around to their sports and orthodontics. And plus getting Ray to and from work and his ministry needs when he needed to drive on the weekend somewhere. So was I happy with our singular minivan? No. Now I was coveting a second car and my bargain went something like this. Any car would do. Lord, I promise you this time I truly will be happy. Now the object of this story is not to tell you how foolish your podcast host is and how covetous I am. Was it wrong for me to want a car? Was it wrong for me to desire a second car. Not necessarily. I don’t think that was necessarily a sin. But where it became sinful was when that desire began to overrule my heart, my emotions, my words, actually, my view of God is where it came down to. I wasted. oh, Heidi I just wasted so much spiritual energy thinking about how much easier our lives would be if we had two cars. The root of my covetousness was my distrust of God truly understanding and sympathizing with what I thought my family needs were, rather than trusting him with what he knew they really were. Have you ever had an idol in your heart, Heidi?
Heidi: Oh, so many, Jani. I think all of our listeners can identify with that. I can think of our first house had a very tiny kitchen. I maybe had four bottom cabinets to store things in. And I remember for years opening the cabinets and all the pots and pans would fall on me and think, “Oh, Mike, I just need a bigger kitchen. I can’t even store my pots and pans and they’re always falling on me.” And now the Lord has blessed us with our farmhouse and it has plenty of cabinet space. And yet my heart thinks, “Oh, now I need this or now I need that.” I mean so many things, especially with social media these days. I think we as women in my generation, we see everything that everybody else has, and they seem so happy with it. But to remember that that’s not really true. You know, if it’s once I get the one thing that my heart wants, I immediately think of, well, I really need that desk for the office. So I’m not sitting on the floor doing this, oh, if I just had that I’d be happy. I feel that in my heart all the time.
Jani: We all do, don’t we? That’s why the Lord gave us this commandment.
Heidi: And it’s helpful for me to stop in those moments and remember it is a beautiful thing to want a desk for the office. And I remind myself, “But Heidi, once you get that desk, it will be wonderful. But it’s not going to make you happy you there’s going to be there’s going to be another thing that you want.”
Jani: Mm hmm. That’s a good reminder. I think what we’re seeing is we’re boring down to this question that we need to ask ourselves. What does my life really consist of? When I peel away all the layers of niceness, good manners, social charms, and the care we take to try to make a good appearance, what really occupies my mind and soul? When my mind has time to go to daydreams, what do I daydream about? What am I always planning for around the corner? What do I rejoice over? The Lord tells us in Luke 12:15,
“Take care. Be on your guard against all covetousness. For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:15
Oh dear listener, let’s agree not to be women who stifle our desires but let’s become women who feed our godly desires, our spiritual life is won or lost at the level of our hearts. Heidi, do you know my my husband loves the old spiritual fathers from centuries ago.
Heidi: I was just reading your son’s book, Danes book and he seems to love those too.
Jani: Yes, all our sons do and our daughter does too. Thomas Watson wrote way back in 1692, can you believe that 1692 Thomas Watson put it this way, when he’s writing about the 10th commandment,
“Faith not only purifies the heart, but satisfies it. It makes God our portion. And in him we have enough.”Thomas Watson
So when my heart isn’t satisfied, I need to ask myself, what do I really want? What do I truly want in life and death? Is Jesus Christ, in all His love and grace and beauty and glory, is he really enough for me? God knows our hearts. He knows they tell the truth about who we really are. That’s why he lovingly gives us the 10th commandment, you shall not covet. He wants us to look deep inside our own very hearts and see that even there, way down deep, we need a redeemer. Not just in our actions, but in our hearts, our thoughts, our desires, our longings. How kind of our king! Even if we can keep all the other commandments, which I think would be hard, this one is impossible. Who has ever lived a life without at least once thinking, “If only I had…” fill in the blank, “my life would be so much better, more satisfying, easier, then I would be truly happy.” Oh, I don’t think there’s a human being on earth that hasn’t asked that question. But God knows how to do the impossible. He can change our human hearts so that we trust Him with all of our lives, every detail right down to what occupies the desires sitting in our souls. He loves to transform self-centered, self-serving, complaining human beings into Christ-centered, Christ-serving, joy-filled servants. God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can fill our hearts with so much love for him that there’s no room left for jealousy and covetousness.
Heidi: I love 2 Corinthians 9:8 Jani,
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”2 Corinthians 9:8
Isn’t that a good reminder? That he can provide us everything we need in all moments at all times through his sufficiency.
Jani: Yes. We don’t have to make it happen. Or Psalm 23:1,
“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.”Psalm 23:1
Ray tells me that it could be translated, “I lack nothing. Whatever I need, my good shepherd will give me.”
Heidi: Jani, when I struggled with covetousness in particular a few years ago, I meditated on Philippians 4:11 that says,
“I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content.”Philippians 4:11
And I think later on Paul goes to talk about with food and clothing, these we shall be content, and I just kept reminding myself of that. Heidi, you have food Heidi, Heidi, you have clothing, Paul says that’s enough to be content.
Jani: That’s good. I like how he puts it “I have learned…” Contentment is a learned response. So let’s not beat ourselves.
Heidi: That’s a good reminder. I was just thinking, oh, how nice that we have to learn it. God doesn’t just demand that we know it right away.
Jani: That’s right. It’s so kind of him to teach that to us even through the 10th commandment. Even through, as you and I are talking, we’re learning more about it.
Heidi: And feeling convicted over it.
Jani: Yes, we’re praying our listeners do as well. It’s as if he’s saying to us, “As you get to know me better, your heart will be so content in me that it will be less likely to lean toward covetousness in those hard times.” You see, dear, dear friend, the opposite of this commandment, or another way to say it is the positive side of this commandment is “You’ll have me and that will be enough and I’ll give you all that you need. You’ll be so contend to me, you’ll learn contentedness.”
“How Do We Learn To Be Content?”
Now, how does this happen? How do I get to know God better? How do I learn to be content? Well, for me, the main way is through His Word. I love Psalm 31:19,
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in You?”Psalm 31:19
His abundant goodness is kind of stored up. He’s just waiting to pour it out on me when I come to him for my refuge, rather than that car or whatever else I’m longing for. You see, when we live in that expectation and awareness of God’s goodness stored up for us, then covetousness fades. Instead of asking ourselves, why did God do this? Or why didn’t he do that? We begin anticipating what good thing God has stored up for us in these circumstances. What is he working as we take our refuge in Him? You never know what goodness God is going to pour out on you. Maybe he will provide that car you need as he did for me eventually. Or maybe he will give you the grace to live faithfully without one. Maybe he will heal your loved one. Or maybe he will comfort you and your loss in ways you never thought possible this side of heaven. Maybe he will answer your prayer just as you thought he should. But maybe he will grace you in ways so rewarding that looking back on them, you begin to praise him even for that unanswered prayer. As an older woman in the Lord, I can tell you this, as I look back through my prayer journals, and all the requests I asked, I’m grateful for some of those requests that God did not answer the way I was asking.
Heidi: Our counselor has reminded me a number of times, Jani, when I’m struggling with God, not answering a prayer, she always looks at me with a warm smile and says, “God must have something better.” And that really encourages me in those moments. Yes, whatever, even listener, whatever you’re struggling with, and you think you want. If God’s not answering that prayer, he must have something better. And we don’t know what that is. But we know he loves us and he’s a good father.
Jani: That’s so good, Heidi. It really helps if we can live with a sense of expectancy, that God will bring something good out of a difficult experience. Now that’s a radical approach to life. You won’t find unbelievers thinking that. You’ll only find it in the Bible. As we were talking about even the Apostle Paul had to learn it, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Contentment is a learned behavior.
How To Find Joy in Christ And Not Things
Heidi: Jani, can ask you a question. I don’t know why I asked for permission, I should just go for it. These days when your heart struggles with covetousness, what do you do? What does it look like for you on a day to day basis to find that joy and fulfillment in Christ, and not in things?
Jani: I try to keep a running conversation going with the Lord, Heidi. And I tried to ask him, Lord, am I breaking your 10th commandment here? Is this a fiery arrow from our enemy to trip me up and to cause me to be unhappy and complaining? Or is this desire that you’re giving me? Is it a seed that’s going to sprout and grow into something fruitful for you. Help me to discern that, Lord, help me to learn how to be content now, but to keep looking forward and asking for more, there’s always more of God waiting for us out there.
Heidi: That’s helpful, Jani. I was reading the children’s story yesterday and it talked about this old saying that says, “You can’t stop the bird from landing on your head, but you can prevent it from building a nest up there.” And that just came to mind is I’ve never thought before is covetousness is almost a fiery arrow from the enemy trying to grab our hearts. And so it’s that same idea, what do I do with this thought? Sometimes we can’t prevent the thought from being there, but we can prevent it from staying there and growing and building.
Jani: Yes, camping on it, going back to it over and over again, stewing in it. Well, I think this might be a good place for us to end our podcast today, Heidi, and on our next podcast, we can pick up more of what does it mean to be content in the Lord? And how can we show that to the children in our lives? Thanks for listening today, may God restore your soul as you think through the 10th commandment.