Friday, September 02, 2005

Hardness of Heart and the Insatiable Nature of Coveting

I have been busy in my attic in the past week, organizing and cleaning and getting things ready for school. The attic has a large room lined with bookshelves down two sides and has a chalkboard and bulletin board on the end wall, a large desk for me, and two very large tables for the children to work at. All this activity has meant that I haven't had much time for being on the computer, watching tv (not that I watch it much) or even listening to the radio. My activities have limited my exposure to what is happening down south with those who have suffered from the effects of Hurricane Katrina.

There is nothing like a tragedy or even a near tragedy for making the important things in life stand out.

So here I am, sitting in a comfortable home, surrounded by so much stuff that keeping it in order is a challenge, able to eat enough food that I am overweight, and having enough clothing that could keep me clothed for several weeks before I ran out and needed to wash them. Is my heart happy? Am I satisfied? I should be, and when I stop to think on all these things, I am. But how easily I forget and fall into the sin of covetousness.

We tend to think of coveting as an inordinate desire for more things, at least I used to. But it is more subtle than that. Look at what the Westminster Larger Catechism has to say about it:

Question 146: Which is the tenth commandment?

Answer: The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

Question 147: What are the duties required in the tenth

Answer: The duties required in the tenth commandment are, such a full contentment with our own condition, and such a charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our inward motions and affections touching him, tend unto, and further all that good which is his.

Question 148: What are the sins forbidden in the tenth

Answer: The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate; envying and
grieving at the good of our neighbor, together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

It isn't merely wanting something of our neighbor's, or even wanting more that we can get legitimately; it is being discontented with our own estate. For me, this discontentment often takes the unhappy form of murmuring and complaining about my housework, nagging the children to clean up, and being generally grumpy while the work is in progress. I also fail to encourage where I should because I am harder to please than I ought to be. Then I get upset with the children for being the same way when they do their own chores.

I have been trying to imagine what it would be like to be without a home, food, decent shelter, water, proper sanitation, and exposed to the elements and criminal acts, as well as seeing my children in a similar situation with me, or worse yet, not knowing where they were or if they are alive. When I think on this, it makes me so thankful that life is so good for us, and I am humbled because of the mercy and lovingkindness of God to such undeserving people as we are.

And then I get busy and forget again.


No wonder we are told over and over in Scripture to remember God's benefits to us. We all have attention deficit disorder when it comes to the kindness of God and the gratitude we owe Him because of it.

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