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Do not Desire your Neighbour's house

All around the world for generations Christian children have been taught the ten commandments, starting with “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other God’s before me”, and finishing with “You shall not covet”, or in other versions “Do not desire”, or “Do not want other people’s things”.

In full this last commandment reads:

“You are not to desire your neighbour's house, nor your neighbour's wife, his male or female servant,
his ox, his donkey, nor anything else that pertains to your neighbour.” Exodus 20:17.

This may be a surprising commandment to many.  Desiring your neighbour’s house seems pretty harmless when listed after “Do not murder”.  Surely there is nothing wrong with wanting more? According to many self-help text books greed is a good emotion to foster as it can motivate you to greater success right?  Wrong!

Greed, or desiring what you don’t have is a sin and a serious offence to God.  We have been given so much but instead, like Adam & Eve, we often devote our energy to desiring what we don’t have, which is a real problem. 

As explained in Ephesians 5:5:

Be sure of this: no immoral, impure, or greedy person [who has lustful desire for the property of others and is greedy for gain], for that one is in effect an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God, for such a person places a higher value on something other than God. AMP.

God set up this command for our best interests, not to restrict our lives but to enable us to have a better and more worthwhile life.  Greed is never satisfied (Pr 27:20) and desiring to have what other people have only sets you up for a life of misery.  Learning contentment releases you from the tyranny of materialism and provides the peace and freedom to enjoy the more important things of life.

Jesus said “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” Matt 6:24.

The apostle Paul wrote: Don’t let your feelings get out of control. Remove from your life all evil desires. Stop always wanting more and more. You might as well be worshiping statues of gods. God’s anger is going to come because of these things. Colossians 3:5-6 NIVR.

Jesus warned what happens to people who hear God’s message but “start worrying about the needs of this life and are fooled by the desire to get rich. So the message gets choked out, and they never produce anything”. Mtt 13:22 CEV.

Covetousness, envy and greed is serious to God.  Not only does make you miserable by stealing your peace and joy, it breaks one of the ten commandments, chokes God’s message, makes you unfruitful, makes you an idolater, despising God, brings God’s anger and makes it impossible to enter the Kingdom of God! 

Avoiding greed is so important that Paul writes: You must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is greedy ... Do not even eat with such people! 1 Cor 5:11.

This is obviously a big deal!  So how can we turn our covetousness around so we are focusing less on our wants and more on God?  The Bible has lots to say on this, here is a small sample of solutions:

Trust   So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  Mtt 6:32.  Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7.

Focus  Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [that you need] will be given to you as well.  Mtt 6:32.  Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles... fixing our eyes on Jesus. Heb 12:1. 

Compassion   Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Luke 12:33.  If anyone has this world’s good and sees his brother in need yet closes his ear against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17.  Share with those in need.  Eph 4:28.  Look out for each other’s interests and not just for your own. Phil 2:4.

Contentment  Have the same attitude as Christ who humbled himself.  Phil 2:7.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. 1 Pet 5:6.   But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.  1 Tim 6:6-8.  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Phil 4:11.

Many New Zealanders today waste an enormous fortune in rent or mortgage interest and devote their entire working lives to live in a house that others can admire.  God doesn’t want a house to be the desire and focus of your life, wasting your efforts and resources in this way - He has better plans for you - He has your best interests at heart. 

Deciding to be content is the greatest financial investment you can make.  Does this mean that we should be homeless?  No it doesn’t.  God knows what you need and delights to give good gifts to those who ask him.  

Liberty Trust can help you to have a home without wasting enormous sums on rent or mortgage interest, while following Godly principles of stewardship and helping others at the same time. 

The house that God has in mind for you may not be as big or grand as your neighbour’s but you can be sure that it will be everything you need.  God makes sure that the sparrow has a nest.  God made sure that all of the nation of Israel had a place in the Promised Land.  God’s plan is for you to be at peace under your own fruit tree.  

Everyone will sit under their own vine
    and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
    for the Lord Almighty has spoken.  Micah 4:4