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)

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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)?

Biblical Enneagram Types: FOURS

Do you have that friend who’s just a bit different? They’re the ones with the unique hair styles, kinda “out there” clothing choices, who listen to bands you’ve never heard of. They are outside-the-box thinkers. They don’t like to be labeled or categorized.

In fact, if they think “I’m not any of the Enneagram numbers. I’m my own number!” then they’re most likely a FOUR.

Maybe this describes you or someone you know. Fours, often called the Individualist, are, in fact, different. According to some experts, there are probably fewer Fours than any other number. Fours fear being “normal” or just like everyone else, but they also deeply desire to belong and feel accepted. That’s the tension of Fours. They want to be accepted as part of the group while maintaining their own individual identity.

This all leads to the vice of Fours: envy. They see the life everyone else has – their perfect and pretty Instagram lives – and they want that. Everyone else seems so normal and happy, why can’t I be? If Fours aren’t careful and self-aware, they can let their envy drive them to really dark places – which is where Fours like to hang out, anyway.

It’s been said, “Fours don’t have feelings. Fours are feelings.” In this way, they couldn’t be more different than their Three neighbors, who are feeling repressed. Threes have difficulty accessing and expressing their emotions. Fours have trouble NOT accessing and expressing them.

Fours see the world in a way that is profoundly concerned with beauty and truth and art. A lot of Fours are poets and artists and mystics and song writers.

One famous Four was a King.

No, I’m not talking about David. He was probably a Seven. I’m talking about King Saul. You can read his story in the book of 1 Samuel.

Saul’s life was full of twists and turns, highs and lows, and ultimately ended in tragedy. From early in his life he was signaled out as different. He was “head and shoulders” above everyone else – literally. He was a tall, stately man. But like many Fours he was full of shame and self-doubt. When the prophet Samuel first met Saul, here’s how that conversation went:

“And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”
Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”
(1 Samuel 9:20-21)

Self-doubt and self-degradation are snares for a Four. Saul had no confidence in his own abilities. He had trouble seeing in himself the things that other people saw. In fact, the very next chapter records the story when Saul actually gets publicly chosen to be king – and he hides!

Finally Saul son of Kish was taken. But when they looked for him, he was not to be found. So they inquired further of the Lord, “Has the man come here yet?”
And the Lord said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”
They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.”
(1 Samuel 10:21-24)

Saul is different than everyone else – a head taller than all the others. He was gifted in ways he didn’t even see in himself. He was unsure and lacked confidence in his abilities. And Samuel says the most “Four” thing ever – There is no one like him among all the people.

Things went ok for Saul in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before his kingship took a turn for the worst. There was a time when he achieved a victory over his enemies, the Philistines. Samuel the prophet told Saul to wait until he arrived in order to offer sacrifices to God. But Saul didn’t like that idea. He waited for a while but grew impatient.

He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him.
“What have you done?” asked Samuel.
(1 Samuel 13:8-10)

If some numbers on the Enneagram are prone to ask “Why?” Fours are prone to ask “Why not?” Why not me? Why not Saul? Why couldn’t Saul just go ahead with the sacrifices? Why do we have to wait for Samuel? What’s so special about Samuel? Why not me?

The envy of a Four can start out so small, but it can escalate rapidly and grow out of control. Envy cost Saul his kingdom. And envy would ultimately cost Saul his life.

Things when from bad to worse as Saul continued to spiral toward the darkness. Fours are comfortable in the melancholy and the sadness. But don’t make it where you live. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Saul found himself. After a string of bad choices and rash misjudgments, we see a tipping point for Saul:

Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.
(1 Samuel 16:14)

The king’s officials brought in musicians to help calm his mood or cheer him up. It didn’t work. Saul just continued to lash out at the innocent people around him. David was one of those musicians. Saul tried multiple times to kill him. Saul even threatened his own son, Jonathan, for befriending and helping David.

In times of stress, Fours really tend to struggle with jealousy and envy of others. David was the new, rising star among the people of Israel. The people even made up songs comparing David and Saul. Unhealthy Fours are constantly comparing their lives to others – and the others always have it better than they do.

Fours, for better or worse, are outside-the-box thinkers. They will come up with solutions to problems that others never would even consider. In Saul’s life, however, this didn’t really do him much good. One of the most interesting stories from his life is when he paid a late night, costume-clad visit to a medium’s hut. (If you have a friend who suggests going to a fortune teller for fun, they’re probably a Four…)

He dawns a disguise and calls upon this witch to summon the spirit of Samuel, who had passed away some years earlier. The ghost of Samuel tells Saul that because of his sinful choices and actions, both he and his son would die in the upcoming battle. Sure enough, the next day Jonathan fell in battle. Saul witnessed it all and fell on his own sword, taking his life.

Fours have a tendency to wallow. Especially if they are unhealthy, Fours can go to that dark, sad place and have a hard time getting back out. I think that’s why Fours like to surround themselves with art and beauty. Beauty gives us a reason to hope, and hope drives us out of despair.

Saul had cut himself off from all beauty and hope, being driven by nothing other than his envy toward David. That envy fueled his own insecurities, shame, and self-doubt, ultimately leading to his demise.

Fours, your life doesn’t have to be a Shakespearean tragedy! You don’t have to live in the drama and the melancholy. Those places are fine to visit, but you don’t want to live there. Don’t settle in. Find out what is bringing on those feelings of sadness or depression and deal with them. Don’t blame it all on other people or circumstances beyond your control. Saul blamed all his problems on David instead of taking ownership of his own idiotic choices that got him into the mess.

Fours – find things that bring you true joy in life. Don’t worry so much about fitting in or being unique or whatever it might be on any given day. Focus on finding true joy and beauty in your ordinary, everyday, mundane, routine life.

Believe me, you make our lives so much more interesting just by being you.
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