The Ten Commandments Part 10
Finding True Contentment
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 6, 2005


Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)


[Top section used at the beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]

Good morning. Welcome to Sunrise this morning. We’re going to sing a few songs today as a way to express our love and worship to God, and I would encourage you to devote yourself to doing just that this morning. Later on we’ll be finishing up our series on God’s Top Ten as we look at the tenth commandment. Now, as we’ve been working our way through God’s Top Ten, I’ve been giving you a different Top Ten at the beginning of each Worship Celebration. So this morning, I’m going to give you…

The Top Ten Imponderable Questions…

10. Why can’t women put on mascara with their mouth closed?
9. If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?
8. If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
7. Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
6. Is it true that cannibals don’t eat clowns because they taste funny?
5. Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?
4. If you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
3. What if there were no hypothetical questions?
2. If a pig loses its voice is it disgruntled?
1. If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?

That’s my Top Ten list for the morning. Later on we’ll be taking a look at Commandment #10: “Do Not Covet.” But right now, here are a few announcements…


If you’ve been with us over the past several weeks then you know that we are coming to the end of a series on the Ten Commandments. If you haven’t been with us over the past several weeks, well, we are still coming to the end of a series on the Ten Commandments. Over the course of these ten weeks we’ve worked our way though each commandment and examined what it really means. And we’ve discovered that pretty much all of them deal with an issue of the heart. For example…

  • The commandment “do not murder” could be traced back to anger or bitterness in our hearts.

  • The commandment “do not commit adultery” could be traced back to lust in our hearts.

But today, we don’t have to trace anything backward, because the wording of the commandment itself deals with the heart. It deals with the out-of-control desire we have for more stuff. Simply put, it says…

Exodus 20:17 (NLT)
Do not covet…

What is coveting? Well, coveting refers to the strong longings we have for things we don’t own. Perhaps it’s something that someone else owns and we decide we want it. And it typically involves some level of envy or jealousy or even resentment.

So this morning as we examine this tenth commandment, we’re going to talk about how coveting develops in our lives, what are some of the things we covet and why, and then we’ll identify some steps you and I can take to move beyond coveting to contentment. Okay? Let’s go.

There are four main stages of desire. The first one is okay, the other three are not. They are…


Four Stages of Desire:

1. I want it.

The desire to have something is actually something God placed within us. It is one of the things that keep us going. It motivates us. Can you imagine life if you never desired anything? You would have no accomplishments, no goals, no ambitions, and no joy in life. You would never travel, you would never build friendships, you would never even go out and buy the necessities of life. Without this basic desire we would have no world records, no space travel, no medical breakthroughs.

Wanting a promotion is fine. Wanting to be successful is fine. Wanting to own a nice house and have nice stuff is fine. You can go overboard, and we’ll get to that. But the basic desire is perfectly fine. The Bible even tells us desire is okay when it comes to spiritual gifts…

1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts.

Some translations such as the King James even use the word “covet” here. So “covet” is sometimes used in a negative sense, and at other times in a positive sense. Coveting or desiring something is not necessarily wrong. It all comes down to what we’re desiring and how much control that desire has over us.


2. I must have it.

This is when you start to get into trouble… when you move from, “Hmmm, that would be nice to have,” to, “I’ve got to have it.” This is when you start to think that somehow life would be easier and you would be happier if only you possessed “it”. You believe your life is incomplete without it. You surrender to the lie, “If you want it you should have it.”


3. I want it all.

I’m like that with peanut M&Ms. One’s not enough; I want them all. This is when you have an insatiable thirst for more. Your greed begins to take over, and it continues to seduce you until you reach stage 4…


4. I want it all, including yours.

And that’s when coveting is full-grown. This is specifically what the tenth commandment is referring to, as you discover by looking at the full verse…

Exodus 20:17 (NLT)
“Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns.”

It’s when you suddenly don’t care who gets hurt and you don’t care what friendships are destroyed. All you know is that somebody has something you don’t have and you want to take it from them. And from there, it can lead you to violate several of the other commandments by stealing, housing hatred or bitterness in your heart, and even committing adultery. Not to mention pushing God out of first place in your life.


So those are the four stages of coveting. Again, the simple desire to have something is not evil in and of itself. But it becomes a problem when it is left unchecked and is allowed to evolve into an unbridled and insatiable desire for more. “Wanting” is not bad; it’s the wanting that’s never satisfied that’s the problem. And that’s the kind of wanting or coveting that we’re talking about here in this commandment.

In your notes, I put a statement that contains the keyword of coveting…

Coveting Catchphrase: “All I want is more.”

Keyword: more.

Have you ever heard about the experiment of the Frog in the Kettle? Now, don’t try this at home, but in case you’ve never heard of this experiment let me describe it to you.

If you take a frog and drop it into a pot of boiling water, what do you think is going to happen? It’s going to jump out. It’s going to immediately know it’s in trouble and get out of that pot as soon as possible.

However, if you take that same frog and put it in a pot of cool water, the frog will kinda like it and will stay in the pot. And then let’s say you gradually turn up the heat… ever so slowly. The frog may notice that it’s starting to get warm, but he’s comfortable and doesn’t really feel the need to do anything about it. Before long, the frog’s enjoy the Jacuzzi until finally, it’s frog legs for dinner. He stayed there until it was too late.

You’ve really got to wonder about the sicko who came up with that experiment, don’t you?

But I think there’s a lesson for us to learn here as it relates to coveting. You see, coveting can start in a pretty innocent way and gradually begin to take over. Think about it in terms of debt. None of us like to be in debt. But the truth is, very few of us go from being financially stable to being bankrupt overnight. No, it generally starts pretty innocently. You buy something you want… maybe not something you need, but you want it… so you get it and it sets you back a few bucks. Nothing you can’t handle, and you enjoy it. You’re still in pretty good shape.

Well, you get tired of it and decide you want something new. So you go out and buy something else that sets you back a few more dollars. Still nothing you can’t handle, but the heat’s been turned up just a little bit. Maybe a few days later you see your neighbour has a new TV, you go over and admire it and decide, “You know, I’m going to get me one of those, too.” So you go out and spend some more. Now you’re starting to feel the heat, but you still kind of like it… you’re enjoying the stuff too much to change anything. And the temperature continues to rise until before you know it, you’re cooked.

Coveting has a sinister way of taking over. It can all start off so innocently, but left unbridled it can grow out of control.

“Isn’t it odd how the things we covet—desire so much to possess—finally possess us? They creep up silently, and suddenly they snatch us.”
~ Paul Beckingham

So what is it that we covet? What forms can coveting take? Well, coveting can take several different forms. Let me suggest seven of them to you this morning…


What Do We Covet?

  • Possessions

    This is the form of coveting that advertisers target. They want you to feel like you absolutely need to buy their product in order to be happy. And without it, your life is meaningless. So you see something on TV, or you see something in the Mall, or you see something in your friend’s house and you feel like you’ve got to have it for yourself. When you talk about coveting, this is usually what comes to mind.

    Luke 12:15 (NLT)
    “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.”

  • Relationships

    Shera and I have a friend that we haven’t seen for years. She actually took part in our wedding, but then moved to Ontario and we haven’t really heard from her since. I was online this week and came across her Blog. (If you’re unfamiliar with what a Blog is, it’s short for weblog. It’s basically a diary that you post online, sometimes dealing with a specific theme but more times than not it’s just random thoughts.) Anyway, I was reading our friend’s blog and it’s amazing how many times she wrote about her frustrations at being single. She talked about other friends of hers that are in dating relationship and are getting married and how. She feels like she needs a man to be complete.

    If you’ve felt like that, let me tell you; we’re more trouble than we’re worth. If you’re looking for significance in a relationship, you’ll be sadly disappointed.

    Or perhaps you’re already married. But as you face the struggles that marriage inevitably brings, you start to look around at other marriages. And maybe you look at someone else’s marriage and it seems to be problem-free. You look at the joy and happiness that they seem to have and you don’t see any problems, and so you begin to covet their marriage. Now, if that coveting leads you to make some positive changes in your own marriage, that can be good. But if that coveting is allowed to grow out of control, it will lead to envy and jealousy and even bitterness and resentment.

    Maybe the relationship you covet isn’t a romantic one at all. Maybe it’s just a friendship. Maybe you were never the popular kid in school and you were always jealous of the kids who seemed to have all the friends. May be that has carried over until today.

  • Physical Looks

    [Show cartoon...]

    If I were to ask how many of you were dissatisfied with one part of your body, I’m pretty sure that every one of you would raise your hand. And you’d be able to do it without thinking about it first, because you’ve already thought about it. You’ve already identified something about yourselves that you wish you could change. “If only I had their body…” Problem is, if you ever actually fixed whatever it is that bothers you, you’d find something else. Because there’s always more.

  • Spirituality

    Maybe you look at others and wish you were as spiritual as they are. They seem to have it all together spiritually and you want that for yourself. This is a strange one to covet because we are all equally spiritual beings. God created each of us to be spiritual. You may covet someone else’s spiritual maturity, but the truth is that you can have it, too, if you’ll do something about it.

    So in this case, coveting that leads to action is good. But coveting that leads to resentment or jealousy or self-loathing is not so good.

  • Status

    Maybe someone has a better job than you and you want it. Or maybe they have more standing in the community and you want that. Whatever kind of status or power or position they have, you want it for yourself.

  • Money

    We talked about possessions earlier, but this is a little different. How many of us face financial pressures and think “if only I could make 10% more money everything would be fine”? Or how many of us get jealous of our coworker who got a raise when we didn’t?

    Let me point out a couple verses to you…

    Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NLT)
    Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!

    1 Timothy 6:10 (NLT)
    For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

    I was reading the other day… I think it was the newspaper… where the writer referred to money as the root of all evil. But he was wrong. Money’s not the problem, the love of money is. It’s the love of money that makes you covet it.

  • Intellect

    Ever look at someone and wish you were as smart as them? Ever think that if you were only smarter then you would be more successful in life? I hate to break this to you, but IQ has very little to do with whether you’re successful or not. There are plenty of brilliant people who never accomplish anything of significance. What matters is how driven or how motivated you are. How hungry are you? That can more than compensate for a few IQ points.


So we have all these different forms of coveting. But why? Why do we covet? Well, there are two main reasons…


Why Do We Covet?

A. We’re dissatisfied with God’s provision for us.

Take yourself back to when you were a child. Think about what it was like on Christmas morning. Imagine that you’ve gotten up and gathered with your family and you’ve spent the morning opening gifts. You were so excited. Maybe you started off trying to save the paper, but before long you’re just tearing it right off the gifts. Until finally, they’re all gone. You double-check, but… nope, no more gifts with your name on them. How do you feel?

Chances are that even in the midst of the excitement you felt a little disappointed. It was a let-down when you realized you were all through opening gifts. In a way, you felt like your parents hadn’t given you enough. Maybe there was one gift in particular you were hoping to get and didn’t, or maybe there really wasn’t anything in particular… you just knew you wanted more.

God has given us many gifts and supplied for all our needs. But somehow we never think it’s enough. We think He’s gypped us, He’s cheated us, He owes us more. And we just have a general sense of dissatisfaction with His provision for us. That can lead to coveting.


B. We want to feel fulfilled but we do not.

We sense that something is missing in our lives so we start to covet something thinking that it will bring us happiness and fulfillment.

When we don’t feel fulfilled, there are four main things we do today to try to solve that problem. Any guesses? These are known as mood altering activities…

  • Spend money

  • Watch TV

  • Eat food

  • Have Sex

Somehow we think that these activities are going to bring us fulfillment. And they do… for a brief moment. But by then you’ve merely compounded the original problem instead of solving it.


All right, so of we want to move away from coveting and move toward being content in life, how do we do that? Here are five steps…


Moving from Covetousness to Contentment:

1. Get honest about how much you want.

Don’t deny if you really want something. Admit it and move beyond it. Because denying it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Be honest about it. Instead of saying, “Oh, I don’t want a new car, I don’t want a new car, I don’t want a new car…” How about just admitting to yourself, “Yes, I do want a new car. But I really can’t afford it, I don’t need it, and I don’t want to become a slave to my desires. So I choose to do without it. Besides, I don’t want anything to come between me and God. I may want a new car, but I want to be right with God more.”


2. Decide how much is enough before you get there.

You need to decide before you get there or you will never get there. You will always be left wanting more. Whether your goal is to make a salary of $20,000 or $100,000 decide before you get there, or when you do get there it still won’t be enough. And then when you do get there, stay there. Live at that level. If you end up making more, that’s great. But that doesn’t mean that you have to keep elevating your lifestyle. Use the extra to invest or give away.


3. Be grateful for what you have.

You know, there are those who would tell you that if you have enough faith in God, then you will never get sick and you will become rich financially. You’ll find a lot of TV preachers saying things like that, and it’s often referred to as a health and wealth Gospel. Don’t be deceived by their lies. God does promise that He will bless you, but He can bless you in a variety of ways. It’s not always financially. And even when the Bible talks about you becoming rich, it’s in a different way than you might think…

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (CEV)
And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have. We didn’t bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave. So we should be satisfied just to have food and clothes.

God does make you rich, but not necessarily by adding to your possessions. He can make you rich by simply helping you become satisfied with less.


4. Understand that contentment is not passive.

Being content does not mean that you lack ambition or have no goals. It doesn’t mean that you just sit around seeing what God brings your way. No, you still go out and earn a living and do your job well and buy stuff every once in a while. You just stop looking to those things as your source of significance.

The apostle Paul was a hero in the faith. He was an ambitious man who traveled through much of the known world spreading the Message about Jesus. He was anything but passive. But he was content. What he was sitting in prison, Paul wrote these words in Philippians chapter 4…

Philippians 4:11-12 (CEV)
I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have. I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions. I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little.


5. Seek your true significance in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

God created you and He knows why He created you. He knows that you are special. He knows that you are unique. Your true significance is found in Him. Listen to what David wrote in Psalm 139…

Psalm 139:14, 17-18 (NLT)
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God!
They are innumerable!
I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up in the morning, you are still with me!

God wants us to discover our significance in Him and not in “stuff.” Because “stuff” will always, always, always disappoint us. So He gives us the command: “Do Not Covet.”


And with that, we approach the end of this series on the Ten Commandments. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to examine each Commandment individually and really dig in to understand the meaning behind them. And it’s been good to understand that these Commandments given by God so many years ago are timeless. They really do matter here today in 2005. They are every bit as relevant now as they were when God first gave them.


But there’s one more thing that you need to know about these Commandments. And that’s this: Without Christ, they’re all meaningless. If you left here today and asked everyone you met what they think they need to do to get into Heaven, almost all of them will tell you that they need to be a good person and keep the Ten Commandments. Well, you can do your very best to live according to these Commandments and you can achieve a high level of morality. But if that’s what you’re counting on to get you into Heaven, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Because you can’t get to Heaven by being a good person.

Romans 3:27-28 (NLT)
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
God saved you by his special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

So as good as you may try to be, you can never be good enough. Because God is perfect. And in comparison to His perfection, we are all imperfect. None of us measure up. We call this imperfection “sin”, and the Bible makes it clear that none of us are exempt.

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

And so if you’re counting on your morality or your goodness to earn your way into Heaven, it’s not going to happen. Because you just can’t be good enough. Following the Ten Commandments is important for a healthy society and for a healthy relationship with God, but it doesn’t begin that relationship.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

You can’t do a thing to earn it, but it’s offered to you for free. So what do you have to do to acquire this free gift? Just two things… Believe and receive. Check this out…

John 1:12 (NLT)
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

You have to believe that Jesus is who He said He is… the Son of God… and you have to receive Him or accept Him into your life and choose to live for Him from this moment on. I have a suspicion that there may be people here this morning that wholeheartedly believe in Jesus… You have no intellectual qualms with Jesus being the Son of God… but you may have never received Him into your life. If that’s you, then I want to invite you to do something about that this morning.

I’m going to ask everyone here to close their eyes. This is between you and God. If you’re here and you’ve never received Jesus into your life but you’d like to do that this morning, would you raise your hand? Let me see it so I can pray for you and can provide some help as you begin this new relationship.

“Dear Jesus, I know that I’m not perfect and that I have done things that hurt You. And I want to say ‘sorry’ for my sinfulness. I believe that You died so I could be forgiven, and I want to turn to You now. I invite You to come into my life. I want to trust and follow You from this point on. Make me the person you want me to be. Thank You. Amen.”


For more, see the PowerPoint presentation "The Bridge to God" available on on the website. (109 KB zip file. Will need PowerPoint or a PowerPoint Viewer to play presentation.)


(Thanks to Dan Reiland who supplied much of the inspiration for this message in his audio series on The Ten Commandments.)




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