I've been guilty the sin of envy. The last of the Ten Commandments
given to Moses by God was not to covet. More precisely the Commandment states:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your
neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything
else that belongs to him.”
Hebrew word for covet is hamad and
means “to have a strong desire for.” Coveting is an internal sin. One Bible
commentary states, “Coveting was not merely an appreciation of
something from a distance, but an uncontrolled, inordinate, selfish desire.
This tenth command governed an internal matter: the sin of coveting occurred in
the mind. This demonstrated that God intended the Israelites not only to avoid
the actions named in the previous commands, but also to turn away from the evil
thoughts that led to those actions.” (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary,
Let me explain
how I have violated this commandment. It has been a long time since I coveted
or envied other people’s houses or cars ― but I often find myself jealous of
other men’s health and physical abilities. When I became disabled with multiple
sclerosis in 1984, my children were only five and seven years old. During those
early years with the disease there were such wild fluctuations between attacks
and remissions that I was either too horrified by what was happening to me or too
afraid to be envious. Looking back at the first years with my disease, I don’t
remember jealousy being an issue (although I’m sure there must have been times
when it was). The issue of envy, coveting or jealousy really became a spiritual
issue for me later when I had longer periods of remissions from the MS to
contemplate my predicament and losses.
My sin became particularly acute after I
became a grandfather. By that time my MS had changed to one of slow
degeneration and I found myself stewing internally. To see other grandfathers
swimming, skiing, bicycling or rough-housing with their grandchildren made me
jealous. I watched from the sidelines as other men headed off camping with
their grandchildren; I sat in my wheelchair burning with jealousy and thought, “Why
can’t I be doing that too?!”
I told this
interior sin of mine to a friend. He replied, “Well, that’s understandable.” I
suppose he was trying to be kind but his comment was irrelevant to the sin.
Understanding why someone sins does not lesson, erase or mitigate the sin. You
may suspect that a childhood of deprivation may have caused a woman to become a
kleptomaniac, but she is still a thief. A loveless marriage may contribute to a
man having an affair, but he is still guilty of adultery. Sin is sin.
reason why we sin is less important than recognizing when we sin and responding
with confession and repentance. The grace of my Baptism does not inoculate me from
the weaknesses of my nature that lead me toward sin and evil.
all guilty of violating God’s law: The gravity of sin – whatever it may be –
must not be downplayed or discounted. Sin is destructive to our prayer life and
Christian growth, our human relationships, and our relationship to Christ. Sin
separates us from God. By Christ’s Passion, crucifixion and resurrection we are offered forgiveness of sin. It’s there for the asking through faith is Christ's atoning sacrifice.
For me to
allow jealousy, envy or covetousness to take root in my heart is really to
doubt the sovereignty and goodness of God. Something far better awaits me in
heaven. That should be enough to live contentedly here.
writer of Hebrews said, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you
have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Perhaps this passage deals specifically with material possessions but I
place it in context with my reality of physical incapacity. I must not let my
temptation to be jealous of other men turn me bitter. Be grateful for those
things I still have? Yes, I still can get about with my wheelchair and my
family accepts me as I am. They have not forsaken me and nor has God.
My life is rich and there is every reason to be content. Forgive me Lord
for my discontentment.
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