PERSECUTED | 40 Days of Focus, Day 25


Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:10 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
(Matthew 5:10 | The Message)

Most of us have no idea what it really looks like to be persecuted. We’ve all experienced bullies and jerks. We’ve all face insults and passive aggressiveness. But real persecution is deeper than that. Persecution arises out of fear and a lack of understanding. We fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear.

One of the most misunderstood types on the Enneagram is Type 5 – the Observer or Investigator. Fives have a deep inner commitment to truth and knowledge. They would rather sit back and people watch than actually engage in social interactions. They read the Encyclopedia for fun as kids. They are typically the type of people who know a little bit about everything and everything about something. The pursuit of knowledge and insight takes a high priority in their lives, to the point that they can seem aloof or standoffish. They tend to act more introverted than most other Types.

As such, they can be hard to relate to. They may be able to talk your ear off about differentials or automatic transmissions, but might not be up to date on the latest Marvel movies.

They are passionate about getting things right and doing things right. When they gain interest in a subject, they tend to go all in. They can be some of the best researchers, scientists, and engineers. But they might not be the “best” spouse, friend, or coworker. This can lead to ostracism and misunderstanding.

And we fear that which we don’t understand. We cannot love that which we fear. We mistreat that which we do not love.

Fives can feel persecuted because of their beliefs, values, and hoard of knowledge. They can feel left out, excluded, and unwelcome. That is…if they ever admit to these feelings.

An example of a Five in Scripture facing some level of persecution is Nicodemus. He appears three times in John’s Gospel. First he has a nighttime conversation with Jesus in which Jesus challenged everything he thought he knew about God. The second time we see him, Nicodemus is standing up for Jesus, pointing out that their own law prohibits the leaders from arresting Jesus without cause. They all turn on him and begin to ridicule him – even though he was simply stating facts, using his knowledge of the law to defend Jesus.

People don’t really like know-it-alls. That’s the boat most Fives find themselves in more often than we realize.

It’s important for all of us to do a better job getting to know one another. You cannot love your neighbor if you are afraid of them. You cannot overcome your fear of them if you don’t take the time to know and understand them. That’s what we all want, really – to know and to be known; to love and to be loved. And that’s what the kingdom of heaven is all about.

Do you know any Fives in your life? How might their knowledge come into conflict with their relationships?

What is our typical response when someone else points out where we’ve gone wrong? Even though they’re right, why do we react negatively?

Is there a person or group of people you’re afraid to get to know? Why? What steps can you take this week to reach out to them?

PEACEMAKER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 24


Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
(Matthew 5:9 | The Message)

Everyone who would rather avoid conflict, let me know by making a passive aggressive comment under your breath!

There are very few people who appreciate conflict and arguments. Type Eights aside, most people would rather avoid those hard, painful conversations. But I think we are all aware that absence of conflict does not equal peace. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. Whenever a family never fights or argues, it’s probably because nobody is talking to each other, they’re all just avoiding the tough topics that need to be addressed. Anger and resentment bubble and simmer just below the surface. From the outside everything might look ok. But unless there is some conflict, there can never be real growth or healing.

Some of the Beatitudes have a more obvious Enneagram connection than others. This is one of those. Enneagram Type Nines are commonly known as Peacemakers. When they are unhealthy, Nines tend to avoid all conflict and uncomfortable situations. They can physically leave or mentally check out – or worse, use numbing behaviors – in order to preserve their inward tranquility. But when Nines are healthy they can become expert negotiators, mediators, and peacemakers.

There is a difference between a peace-lover, a peace-keeper, and a peacemaker. Peacemaking is the hard work of entering into the conflict and the chaos in order to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire. Nines are especially equipped for this task because they can easily step into other people’s shoes. They have an easier time than most seeing the world from other people’s perspective. They can easily see both sides of a conflict and determine a middle-ground on which to compromise.

Healthy Nines make really good pastors, church elders, teachers, and even politicians.

I love how Eugene Peterson words this Beatitude in The Message. He describes these people as those who “can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.” Nines are not inherently competitive (for the most part). Nines just want everyone to have a good time playing the game. Unfortunately we live in a world full of competition. We compete for jobs, for online attention, for resources, for followers, for the promotion, for the corner office, for the spot in that graduate program. We’ve turned singing, dancing, modeling, and cupcake baking into major competition shows. Peacemakers are those who step in and remind us that not everything is a competition. Life is a team sport. Ministry is a team sport. Business and government and baking are team sports.

But Nines tend to struggle finding their place in life, or going through the process of individuation. They tend to define their identity based on their relationship to others. As kids, Nines picked up on the message that their own desires and ideas and opinions – even their presence – didn’t matter much. So they  defer to others who are more assertive and would often prefer to fade into the background. But when Nines step into their role as Peacemakers, then they can truly become who they were meant to be. Or as Peterson words it, “That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”

What’s the difference between peace-lovers, peace-keepers, and peacemakers?

If peace is not simply the absence of conflict, then what is it? How would you define it?

How is peacemaking connected to our identity as children of God? What does he expect from us? What is our place in the kingdom? In the world?

PURE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 23


Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
(Matthew 5:8 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
(Matthew 5:8 | The Message)

Pure in heart. Now that’s a phrase we don’t use a lot. We don’t tend to talk about purity that often. We want our water to be pure. We want essential oils to be a certain degree of purity. We like pure gold and Purity Milk. But our hearts? Is it even possible to be “pure in heart?”

When I think of this phrase I think of innocence. Deep down we all know that we adults are anything but pure and innocent. In fact, if we meet someone in their late teens or early twenties who actually is “pure,” we feel uncomfortable around them. We call them sheltered or socially awkward. There’s something unsettling about an adult who is “too” innocent or pure hearted. They’re just a little too childlike.

But isn’t that the point? Jesus said that we must become like little children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus pointed out children as an example of the kind of faith it takes to follow him. Children who haven’t become jaded or cynical yet are refreshing and even inspiring. They don’t get the innuendoes. They don’t automatically distrust people. They don’t carry around emotional baggage. There is freedom that comes from purity.

Care-free. Joyful. Optimistic. Does this sound like a certain Enneagram type? If you know the Enneagram, I’m sure you’re thinking of Sevens, also known as Enthusiasts.

Sevens are fun to be around, because they’re always up for the next adventure. They bring joy and excitement to their work and whatever else they find to do. Healthy Sevens have an innocence about them that draws people in. Think Bob Goff or “Joy” from Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out.

Sevens are always concerned about what comes next. They want to see all the things. They want to do all the things. Most of the time the expectation of the thing is better than the thing itself. Planning the trip can be more fun than actually going on the trip. Ordering the new product is better than that product arriving. Mapping out the project is better than executing the project.

But what’s the best thing you can imagine? Can you imagine actually seeing God? Being in God’s presence? As exciting as it may be to anticipate that moment, it’s nothing compare to experiencing heaven.

Sevens can be some of the most hesitant Type to actually do the hard inner work required of them. They enjoy being themselves, why would they want to change?! But Enthusiasts must align their inner world with their outer world to become fully present in the moment. They’re always looking to the future, but God is always now.

Bring your inner and outer world into alignment. Pursue your dreams from a pure motivation. Become fully present in the moment. Then you will be able to take a look around and see God at work all around you.

What do purity, joy, and productivity have to do with each other?

What do you think it means to “see God?” What do you imagine that will be like?

What does it look like for an adult to be “pure in heart” or innocent without being completely awkward about it?

MERCIFUL | 40 Days of Focus, Day 22


Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
(Matthew 5:7 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
(Matthew 5:7 | The Message)

A word about mercy. The word is closely related to the concepts of justice and grace. Here’s an easy way to keep them all straight.

  • Justice: I get what I deserve (positive or negative)
  • Grace: I get what I don’t deserve (positive)
  • Mercy: I don’t get what I deserve (negative)
We want the world to be fair and just. We want everything to be boiled down to a simple ration where the guilty are punished and the “good guys” get rewarded. But that all breaks down the moment we understand that bad things happen to good people, and the “bad guy”sometimes gets away with it. We begin to believe that the world is chaotic, that it’s dog-eat-dog, and that only the strong survive. We can’t take anything for granted – even our personal safety and survival.
Some of us learn this lesson earlier in life than others. These people often become dominant Enneagram Type Eights, or Challengers. Eights value strength, action, power, and justice. Eights make good superheroes. Eights tend to be the most aggressive/assertive type on the Enneagram. They can come across as intense and intimidating, “larger than life.” They wear their anger on their sleeve, but keep their more tender/vulnerable emotions buried deep.
So why would we talk about Eights in relation to this Beatitude?
Eights are heavy on the side of justice. If someone wrongs them, they want to make sure that person is held accountable and pays for the transgression. They want life to be fair and right, like Ones, but Eights aren’t as perfectionistic in how they go about fighting for justice. Ones might fight in the courts. Eights will march in the streets.
When it comes to justice issues, Eights are almost always on the side of the underdog. They see a lot of themselves in those who are mistreated, bullied, or oppressed.
Eights have the justice thing down. It’s mercy they need to work on. Eights are good when it comes to “people get what they deserve.” Not so great with “people don’t get what they deserve.” Mercy can be viewed as weakness, which is what an Eight wants to avoid at all costs. Mercy is vulnerable, making it a double whammy.
But mercy is strength because it requires us to absorb the full cost of the transgression, to let it go, to defer “justice” in order to preserve relationships.
Someone cuts you off in traffic? You let it go.
Someone gives you a dirty look? Smile and shake it off.
Someone utters a passive-aggressive insult? Just roll with it and move on.
Someone says they’re sorry? You forgive and move forward.
Deep down Eights know they are the ones most in need of mercy and forgiveness. They are painfully aware of their own weaknesses, their own shortcomings, their own failures. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(James 2:12-13)

When Eights move to a place of health and security, they can offer not just justice but also mercy and grace. In opening themselves up to the vulnerability of mercy, they will find themselves on the receiving end of all they ever wanted.


Why is mercy often thought of as a sign of weakness?

What does society tend to value more: justice, grace, or mercy?

What do you think about James’ statement that “mercy triumphs over judgment?” How can that make sense in the real world?

HUNGER | 40 Days of Focus, Day 21


Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
(Matthew 5:6 | The Message)

What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for? What sustains you? What keeps you feeling whole and satisfied?

For certain people among us, the answer is simple: perfection.

We all know those people who want everything to be done right, for everything to be as good as it could possibly be. We know those who chase perfection in all they do – how they raise their family, how they perform academically, how they clean their house, how they organize the files on their computer. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. They have a very binary view of the world – right/wrong, black/white, good/evil, straight/crooked.

Good enough is not good enough.

We call these people “Perfectionists.” They find their home at the ONE spot on the Enneagram. Sometimes they are also called “Reformers” because they have a way of seeing what’s wrong with a system or organization and then acting to change it. This can be great for a business. It can be less great with relationships.

Ones have a tendency to “should” all over everyone and everything. You should do this. You should do that. You shouldn’t do that, ever. You should always do this. In their pursuit to make the world around them “perfect,” they are plagued by the phrase “good enough.” Think Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series.

The problem is that we live in an imperfect world. The solution is not to “should” all over everything until it becomes perfect. That’s never going to happen, and it will only lead to frustration, anger, and burnout. The solution for Ones is to love.

Jesus says at the end of Matthew 5,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

But the context of perfection in this instance is Love – specifically love for one’s enemies. In other words, when we can simply love without agenda, without expecting anything in return, without exception people to change – then we can experience perfection as God defines it.

Ones put a lot of pressure on themselves to avoid mistakes and to do everything correctly. God is urging us to let go of those pressures and walk in love. Instead of chasing your own perfection, seek God’s righteousness (Mt. 6:33). When we seek God’s righteousness above all else, then we will be made full, complete, whole like we never could have known before.

Why do we feel the pressure to be “perfect?” Has social media use relieved those pressures or made it worse?

What’s the difference between human perfection and God’s righteousness?

How does love help combat the trap of perfectionism?

MEEK | 40 Days of Focus, Day 20


Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
(Matthew 5:5 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
(Matthew 5:5 | The Message)

Google defines the word “meek” as quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on; submissive. It’s closely related to humility. We have a hard time with those words in our society. It’s a shame that meek rhymes with weak – because that’s not what it means. It’s a shame that humble and humiliation share the same root. We associate humility and meekness with weakness and fragility.

A Clydesdale may be meek and submissive, but that in no way means he’s weak or fragile. To be meek is to harness your power, to control your strength, and not to impose your will on others by force.

Again, it’s closely tied to humility. To be humble is not to think less of yourself, but to think of yourself less.

I always find this line from the Book of Numbers amusing:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
(Numbers 12:13)

Irony is bragging about how humble someone is. But we all know people like this. We all know people who would give you the shirt of their backs. They would open their home for a dinner party in a moment’s notice. They would drop everything they’re doing to help you out of a bad situation.

These people, in Enneagram language, are called The Helpers. They are Enneagram Type Twos. They are driven by a need to be needed. They want other people to call on them for help. They are gracious hosts, warm and inviting to strangers, and generally pleasant to be around.

But while they often put on a humble, meek exterior, an attitude of pride is lurking just below the surface. This pride leaks out when they feel unappreciated or taken for granted. They can become indignant when they help someone out and don’t get a Thank You in return. If their actions go unnoticed, it can drive a Two crazy to the point of burnout. Think back to the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 11. Martha is slaving away in the kitchen while her sister is sitting at Jesus’ feet with the other disciples. Martha gets angry and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her.

Pride and humility are two sides of the same coin. Humility can be easy to fake, but when tested the pride will almost always reveal itself.

Ironically, for a Helper to become healthier they need to spend more time focusing on themselves. The pride that’s hidden below the meek facade is fed by praise, acknowledgement, and by being needed. Twos actually need to starve that pride by learning to say no to others and setting boundaries. When Twos are able to starve their pride and get free from the trappings of outward validation, then they can become truly healthy and happy Helpers, who serve not from a place of pride but from genuine humility.

Or as Peterson words it in The Message:

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.

When Twos are able to live out of a place of genuine humility, they find within themselves the love and acceptance they always craved from outside sources. They no longer need to be needed with no regard to their own needs. Rather, they can now find ways to fill their own cup so they have something more to pour into others.


Why do you think it’s so easy for pride to hide below the surface of humility?

What is the more genuine display of humility: refusing to ask for help or making your needs known? Or letting others know what you need and how they can help?

What do Twos (Helpers) gain by embracing true humility?

MOURN | 40 Days of Focus, Day 19


Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 | NIV) 

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
(Matthew 5:4 | The Message)

Enneagram Type Fours are commonly known as Individualists or Romantics. They tend to be more creative types – painters, musicians, authors, poets, etc. They have a unique way of seeing the world, and they want to be seen by the world as unique. They are driven by a desire to be special, different, authentic, but most of all to be accepted for who they are. You may not know who they are from one week to the next as they try on different personas and styles.

But the thing that really sets Fours apart from most other types is their comfort with melancholy. Fours tend to be drawn to sad movies, heartfelt TV dramas, and emotional indie music. They embrace sorrow like it’s a close friend. It’s been said that Fours don’t have emotions, they are emotions.

This comfort with sorrow can likely be attributed to their own feelings of brokenness. Many Fours grew up feeling different from everyone else. It might be a physical abnormality – too tall, too short, glasses, freckles, curly hair, anything that can cause a child to feel self-conscious. Or it might be a different way of interacting with the world and their peers – they might be into different types of books, movies, tv shows, or cosplay than most other kids their age. But somewhere along they way they begin to believe that there is something wrong and different and bad about them. They feel like they don’t belong and they never will. It’s like there are key pieces missing in the puzzle of their lives.

Fours have a deep seated envy of others whom they perceive as “normal.” They want what other people have, they want to be accepted and find belonging, but they don’t want to conform or be thought of as “normal.” This tension can lead to a predisposition for anxiety and depression.

But I believe Fours, or “those who mourn,” can teach us a very valuable lesson. So many of us would rather reframe a bad situation, crack a joke to lighten the mood, or avoid the pain altogether. Fours teach us the value in sitting with our pain and our sorrow. They teach us to lean into our emotions, not away from them. Fours teach us the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:

It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
(Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)

We cannot find comfort if we never allow ourselves to truly feel, to mourn, to grieve. If we keep going through life with a forced smile on our face pretending that “everything is awesome,” then we’re not opening ourselves up to the possibility of true peace and comfort.

The LEGO Movie featured the popular song “Everything Is Awesome.” But the sequel that just came out (The LEGO Movie 2, the Second Part) features a different take on that song. Just look at these lyrics.

Everything’s not awesome
Things can’t be awesome all of the time
It’s not realistic expectation
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try
To make everything awesome
In a less like, unrealistic kind of way
We should maybe aim for not bad
‘Cause not bad, well that would be real great

Mourning is part of life. Things can’t be awesome all of the time. We should stop telling people to “cheer up” or to “get over it.” We should stop expecting people to grieve on our timeline and in our approved way. Jesus himself is referred to as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Jesus comes to us in our distress, in our grief, in our depression, and he doesn’t tell us to “turnt that frown upside down.” He sits with us. He weeps with us. He feels deep compassion and empathy for us.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34:18)


Why do you think so many people try to avoid sorrow and sadness in their lives? Can you see the benefit to embracing those emotions rather than pushing them aside?

When you are going through a hard time, would you prefer someone to tell you to cheer up? Or would you rather just have someone be present with you even if they didn’t say anything?

Why would a “house of mourning” be better than a “house of feasting?”

POOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 18


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 | New International Version) 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
(Matthew 5:3 | The Message)

When we focus in on aspects of Scripture like the 10 Commandments, it can be easy to think religion is all about following a set of rule and regulation. For the Jews, it wasn’t just the 10 Commandments. All together the Rabbis tallied 613 commands in the Torah. Beyond that they developed their own traditions and practices to act as a sort of “hedge” around the commands so they wouldn’t even come close to breaking them.

For instance, the command to keep the Sabbath Day holy evolved into an elaborate system of regulations concerning how far one could walk, what tasks could be done if absolutely necessary, and trying to define “work” as tightly as possible. Religion became more about rights, rituals, rules, and regulations than it was about relationship – which is what God wanted all along.

We humans sure do put the “mental” in fundamentalism!

The 10 Commandments were given on Mount Sinai. Jesus comes along and delivers his first major sermon on what is today known as the “Mount of Beatitudes.” He doesn’t begin with commands, but blessings. Religion says You’re blessed if you follow these rules. Jesus says You’re blessed. There are no “ifs.” This list of blessings, commonly known as the Beatitudes, are not a checklist for us to adhere to. It’s not telling us how we should be or what we should do. Jesus is looking out at the crowd, seeing the oppressed and the disenfranchised and calling them “Blessed.”

I’m going to address each of the Beatitudes in Enneagram language. If you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, then go check out my Enneagram page to find out more. According to the Enneagram, there are nine basic personality types, or “false selves,” and each one of us is dominant in one type. And I believe that each Enneagram number finds a blessing and word of encouragement in these Beatitudes.

Jesus begins by pronouncing a blessing on “the poor in spirit.” I’ve never really heard a satisfying explanation of what Jesus meant by that. But when I think of it in Enneagram language it begins to make sense. I believe Jesus speaks this blessing on Enneagram Type Threes – the Performers or Achievers. These are the type of people who put a lot of stock in success, or at least the appearance of success. They are very action driven, and they fear failure and insignificance.

Threes want it all. Threes want to achieve their goals, knock off their to-do list, and look good doing it. They want all the markers of success and status symbols for whatever “in-group” they’re trying to impress. Want an example? Just watch one episode of Parks and Rec. Leslie Knope is a THREE.

Failure can be devastating for a Three. It makes them feel worthless and insignificant. Imposter Syndrome is a big problem for a lot of Threes – everyone thinks you’re better than you really are, and only you know your true failings and faults. It’s a byproduct of their own success and achievement. They knocked it out of the park once, now they have to do it again…and again…and they have to do it bigger and better. It’s a cycle that never ends, but it’s one of their own making. They feel stuck and wish they could break free. No matter what they do, it’s never quite good enough. There is no end.

That’s why I love the way Eugene Peterson phrased it in The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.”

The song “High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco has become somewhat of a Three anthem. There’s one line repeated a few times that just nails it: “We wanted everything more than everything.” And what’s the promise to those who are “poor in spirit” or “at the end of their rope?” Their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Or again as Peterson puts it: “With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

The worst thing that can happen to a Three is failure and burnout. But the best thing that can ever happen to a Three is failure and burnout. When everything comes easy to an Achiever, they begin to get an inflated self-image. Threes fear failure and its repercussions, but in many ways they will never find real growth unless they experience failure. Threes have a tendency to believe the lie, “I am only as valuable as my latest success.” Only through failure can Threes begin to correct that lie and experience the truth that “I am loved not for what I do but for who I am.”

The world urges us to believe we are #blessed if we have all the stuff we want. We’ve got to be part of the hustle. We’ve got to grind for what we want.

Jesus says you’re blessed when you give up, when you dare to redefine success according to God’s terms.

Actress/Comedian Lily Tomlin is famous for saying, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Or as Jesus would put it:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
(Mark 8:35-37)

When you decide to get out before you burn out, when you resolve not to keep up with the Joneses anymore, when you redefine what success means, when you’re at the end of your rope – that’s where you’ll find the Kingdom of Heaven, ready and waiting for you.


Do you struggle to believe you are loved for who you are, not for what you do? Why or why not?

Have you ever experienced real failure or burnout? How did it make you feel? How did you recover from it?

If you were to redefine success according to God’s terms for your life, what would that actually look like? How would your life be different?

CONTENTMENT | 40 Days of Focus, Day 17


“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:17)

I’ve always thought this command was somewhat out of place. All the other previous commands having to do with our treatment of others were very action-oriented. Murder, adultery, theft, lying – these are all things we can actively do to a person to cause harm. But who does it harm to covet?

What does it even mean to covet?

If you ask Google to define the word, here’s what you get: yearn to possess or have (something). Some synonyms include “desire,” “be consumed with desire for,” “crave,” “have one’s heart set on.”

So this final of the 10 Commandments is more about an inward attitude than an outward action. In fact, this could be the one thing that leads to all the others. Look at what James says about this.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
(James 4:1-3)

Coveting leads to arguments, fights, quarrels, killing, and almost every other form of evil and violence against another human.

There’s an interesting encounter Jesus had with a man one day. He’s commonly known as the “Rich Young Ruler.” He came up to Jesus and asked what he had to do to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responded by listing commands 5-10. But I want you to read carefully the three different retellings of this story from Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

Mark 10:19 // “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 

Matthew 19:18-19 // “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

Luke 18:20 // “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

In place of “you shall not covet,” Mark’s account says “you shall not defraud.” Matthew’s account replaces it with “love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke’s account leaves it out all together. You begin to notice that Jesus is calling out this young man on his sin. Maybe he got rich by defrauding people. Maybe he is hoarding his wealth and not loving others by sharing what he has. Maybe covetousness is a sin that’s so hidden from himself that Jesus draws attention to it by excluding it from the list.

But I want to focus for a moment on Matthew’s account. Instead of “you shall not covet,” Jesus says to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s nothing new or surprising. We will dive into this command at the very end of this series. But what does this have to do with coveting?

I see two takeaways from this. 1) It’s hard to love someone you’re envious of. You cannot mourn with those who mourn if you’re secretly happy that they are suffering. You cannot rejoice with those who rejoice if you’re jealous of their success. Covetousness is one of the strongest barriers to loving relationships, and it will often lead us to mistreat and even oppress or take advantage of (i.e. defraud) them.

2) If you’re constantly jealous of what other people have, that might be a sign you don’t truly love yourself. We often focus on the “love your neighbor” part of the command while neglecting the “as yourself” qualifier. When you desire what other people have, that’s implying a feeling of self-pity and even self-loathing. It reveals an inability to love yourself as you truly are. You feel incomplete within yourself because you tell yourself you need _____X____ in order to be happy.

The Rich Young Ruler truly lacked the ability to let go of his covetousness, the very thing that was holding him back from loving his neighbor as himself. He wanted to know what good thing he had to add to his life. Jesus told him what harmful attachments and attitudes he needed to discard.

Do you know one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the entire Bible is? Philippians 4:13. Here, Paul says

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

But Paul isn’t talking about winning a football game or landing that big promotion. It’s incredibly important to back up a couple verses and see what he’s really talking about. It puts it in a whole new light.

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:10-13)

The opposite of covetousness is contentment. For Paul, it doesn’t matter if he’s living in a mansion or a studio apartment or a men’s shelter. He’s at home in prison and in the penthouse. He grew up wealthy and privileged and then found himself being stoned and left for dead. Whether he has plenty or is living in need of basic resources, he can be content because of Christ who strengthens him.

Can you even imagine a world where no one was ever jealous of anyone else? Where people were content with what they have and not always looking for the latest and greatest? Where no one felt the need to keep up with the Joneses? Where commercials and advertisers weren’t trying to sell you stuff 24/7? Where everyone – and I mean everyone – had enough, no more, no less?

It may not happen in our society any time soon, but that’s what the kingdom of heaven is all about. When God says, “you shall not covet,” he intends for us to be content with his blessings and to use them to bless others. I think Paul summarizes it best in his first letter to Timothy.

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. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
(1 Timothy 6:6-11)


Why do you think we have such a hard time being content with what we have?

What are the most recent additions to your “wish list”? Why do you want those things? Are they needs or wants? Will they help you glorify God or bless others? Or are they simply more “stuff” that will hold you back?

What effect do you think social media has had on our covetous attitudes? How is coveting related to things like FOMO (fear of missing out)?

TRUTH | 40 Days of Focus, Day 16


“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
(Exodus 20:16)

You know what phrase I’m tired of hearing? “Fake news.” It seems like we are watching from the sidelines as the talking heads on TV try to tell us what is true and how we know. Everyone has a different truth, or “alternative facts” as some might say. Something either happened or it didn’t. It doesn’t seem that complicated.

But on the other hand, it makes sense that we do this, and it’s not a new phenomenon. All of us operate under various cognitive biases, or preconceived ways of interacting with the world. These biases alter our perception of reality. They “help” us determine what is true or not.

For example, confirmation bias is our tendency to search out and pay attention to only evidence that backs up our already held beliefs. The bandwagon effect is our tendency to believe whatever everyone else is believing or thinking. The continued influence effect is our tendency to continue to believe previously misinformed ideas even in the face of contradictory evidence. The availability cascade describes our tendency to believe information and ideas simply because they are shared more frequently. The backfire effect is our tendency to hold onto beliefs even more strongly when presented with contradictory evidence. (for a full list of cognitive biases, click here)

Someone shares a political meme on Facebook. You see the meme, and it happens to confirm your beliefs, so you share it. More people see it, and the more they see it the more they accept it as truth. Then someone shares a link to a Snopes article debunking the meme as false. Those who share the meme dig their heals in and argue for the validity of the claims this meme is making. The longer the debate rages in the comments section, the more each side clamps down. It doesn’t matter if it is true anymore, as long as it sounds true or at least plausible.

Have you ever stopped to think that in sharing a “fake news” meme targeting a political figure, athlete, or celebrity, you are in fact violating the 9th Commandment and bearing false witness against a neighbor?

You may not even be doing it consciously. But that’s what makes this and things like gossip and slander so toxic to communities. There’s another word for “fake news,” false testimony, and misinformation. You may have heard it before. The word is “lie.”

It’s not very popular to use that word in today’s public discourse, but that’s exactly what it is. When someone shares a false news article, they are helping to spread lies. When someone is unaware of their own biases that blind them to the truth, they are slaves to lies. And maybe you haven’t noticed, but lies can devastate families, communities, even entire nations.

The lie that vaccines are dangerous and could cause autism has lead to the outbreak of nearly-eradicated diseases. The lie that the Clintons were running a sex-trafficking ring out of a DC pizza parlor influenced and egregious act of violence costing the lives of innocent people. The lie that Mexicans are violent criminals, drug dealers, and rapists has lead to a man-made humanitarian crisis along our southern border. The lie that Muslims are invading “Western” countries in order to bring about Sharia Law has lead to the meaningless slaughter of countless lives – most recently 49 in New Zealand.

This is no small matter. Fake news is not a pithy slogan that you can slap onto whatever story you don’t want to believe. Lies have consequences. Lies ensnare and enslave, but the truth will set you free.

You know who really wants you to keep sharing those memes without fact-checking or discovering the truth? The father of lies. Look at what Jesus says, which is as timely now as ever.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
(John 8:44-45)

Jesus knew long ago what Mark Twain observed: “How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again!” Or in the modern paraphrase, “It’s easier to fool a man than to convince him he’s been fooled.”

Society, however, seems to be right in line with Pilate. When Jesus was arrested, he was sent to testify before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. During the questioning, there was this little interaction:

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
(John 18:37-38)

Christians should be on the front lines battling against the spread of false testimony, fake news, clickbait, gossip, and lies.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
(Ephesians 4:25)

We may not like what we find when we take the time to discover the truth. But if all truth is God’s Truth, we should be people on the side of truth, honesty, and integrity. Truth is the foundation of all healthy relationships. If we can’t trust each other, we can’t be in real relationship. If we can’t trust each other, then we can’t really love each other.

Finding the truth may be extra work, but it’s worth it (see video below). Let’s not bear (or share) false testimony against a neighbor. Rather, let’s fight for the Truth to win out.


Why do you think false news stories and memes get spread so widely and rapidly? Have you ever been guilty of believing or sharing a fake news story? If so, how did you feel once you realized it was a lie?

Would you be willing to stand up for the Truth even if it meant losing some of your own social capital?

If we begin to think of politicians and celebrities as our “neighbors,” how would that change the way we engage with the news and memes online?