Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
God’s Boundaries for Abundant Living Resources on sale now.
About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
More is never enough. It produces drivenness. If you have this size house, unconsciously, you’re born in America, what’s the next step? Bigger house.
Whatever kind of car you have, there’s an unconscious pressure, get the next car, the bigger one, the nicer one, right?
If you have this job, you want this promotion. More is never enough. If you have x amount of money, x amount of fame, x amount of this, x amount of that, more is never enough. And if you believe, unconsciously, that more is never enough, it produces a drivenness and a push in your lifestyle.
The second lie that we believe is the, what I call, when/then thinking. When I’m out of school, then I’ll be happy. When I’m married, then I’ll be happy. When my marriage gets better, then I’ll be happy.
When I’m stronger and sexier, then I’ll be happy. When I lose twenty-five pounds, then I’ll be happy. When I make the starting team, then I’ll be happy. When I get a good job, then I’ll be happy.
When I make x amount of dollars and live in this part of town, then I’ll be happy. When I can finally drive this kind of car, then I’ll be happy. When I can finally get a place up in the woods or down by the beach along with my main house, then I’ll be happy.
When/then. When/then. When my spouse becomes a Christian, then I’ll be happy. When I’m famous and more spiritual, then I’ll be happy.
It produces disillusionment. Because thinking people realize that whatever you’re asking God for today, whatever you’re working for, whatever you’re driven to get, the moment you get it, what happens? It’s a moving horizon. It has to be the next thing, the bigger thing, the better thing.
And you know something? It is amazing though. We are so shot through with when/then thinking in our culture. And you know what it leads to? Disillusionment. Disillusionment. Because you think, then, it’s almost like grasping oil. I’ve got it! And then it’s gone.
And you know what this happens to, you know, I’ve met two or three of us pastors. I remember when it was, if we ever get to be a hundred people, then I’ll be happy. If we ever get from a hundred to three hundred people, then I’ll be happy. In this town of forty-five hundred, if we would ever become a church of five hundred people, then I’d be happy. Then, someday, someway if I could ever pastor a church of a thousand people and you know what? You could, you know, we can make it spiritual and it’s the same sick disease.
And you just have all the struggles and all the pain and all the ups and all the downs. The more is never enough produces drivenness. The when/then thinking produces disillusionment. And then the final misbelief and thinking is that success is how I’m doing compared to others.
The way I measure success, I compare how I’m doing compared to other people. The standard of whether I’m doing well is I look around and find out what other people are doing and I measure myself with them.
And it’s inbred. I remember, I can still remember probably five, six years old. Right in the front of my yard, going, my dad’s bigger than your dad. My dad could beat up your dad. Why didn’t I just say my dad’s big? Or why didn’t I say, my dad’s strong? But it was, I never, I learned, five or six, by the time, my dad’s bigger than your dad.
And then I learned when I went to school. And they would give me this little thing every six weeks that told me how I was evaluated. I never got a report card and said, “Oh my, I think I’m starting to fulfill my divine potential. I’m measuring myself with me. I think I’m gifted in certain areas and I’m making progress and I’m doing well compared to me and what God has given me.”
Is that how, what you all did when you got your report card? What did you do? You went to your sister, “What’d you get?” “I got a B.” “I got an A. Ha ha ha.” “Well, I got a C.” “I got a B.”
And then, you know, if you had a real smart sister you realized, don’t go there. What did you do? You found someone, you know, “Hey, what did you get in math?” And we compare one another. And sometimes our parents played into it unknowingly. “My kid should be smart like Bobby.” Because I’m not Bobby. I never said that back to my parents but…
And then we graduate from report cards. And so People Magazine says what? The top ten dressed people in America are…right? And so, you look at what you’ve got on and say, “Wow.” I measure success by, hold it, the top ten sexiest people in America are… And they’re on the front and you look at them and go, “Well…”
And then, no, no, no, no, no. Then Forbes is going to say, the top 500 companies are… “Well, how’s my business doing with top Fortune 500?” And then, the Wall Street Journal’s going to come out. Or Money Magazine with the top hundred richest people in the world are… And then you look at their names and look at. And you know what? How I’m doing compared to others is a dead end street.
We said how a man or a woman thinks in their heart, so you become. You are the product of your thinking. Here’s what I want you to hear. When you have more-is-never-enough thinking, it produces drivenness. When you have when/then thinking, it produces disillusionment. And when you measure success by how I’m doing compared to other people, it produces dissatisfaction. Because I’ll guarantee I don’t care where you get, there is someone smarter. Wherever you get, there’s someone richer. However sexy you think you are, there’s someone sexier. So, you’re always dissatisfied.
And it’s behind these types of thinking that produces passions and drives that the Bible calls, write the word in , coveting. It’s these passions and drives that the Bible calls coveting. The word in Hebrew is “hamad.” It’s an inner desire. It’s to delight in something. It’s an urge. It’s a passion. It’s to be highly motivated. It’s to be driven. It’s to be compelled. It’s to lust for. It’s, I can’t live without, impulse.
And by the way, the word is neutral. Roughly half the time in the Old Testament, it’s used as something good. And about half the time, it’s used as something evil. But the idea is, a consuming passion, desire, drive for something.
This word actually is used of God for His love for Israel. He has a “hamad” for the people of Israel. He has a “hamad” or a love, a desire for you, an intimacy with you.
But it’s also used of this passionate desire that Achan had for what? A bar of silver. It describes the passion and desire that David had, I mean, the guy’s got seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. You would kind of think that more is enough. You know? But he had to have what? One more. Bathsheba.
In fact, you know what I haven’t given you is some psychology. David is the more and enough. Achan is the when/then thinking. And Ananias and Sapphira are success compared to how I’m doing to others. Aren’t they?
How am I really doing compared to others in my spirituality? Well, Barnabas gave a lot of money. So I’ll try and fake that. Achan is, when I have more money then I’ll be happy even though it’s under the ban. And what happened to him? David is, you know, my lands. If a thousand wives don’t do it, I’m going to go on record and say I don’t think two thousand would either. But what he bought into is more, more is never enough.
And behind each of the sin of David and Achan and Ananias and Sapphira is coveting. Some coveted another’s wife. Some coveted another’s reputation. Some coveted material wealth. And what the ninth commandment prohibits is coveting. If you want a definition, it’s an inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire that leads you away from God and corrupts your relationship with others.
I can hear you. Please go slower and say that again. Okay, I will. Slower. It is an inordinate, ungoverned, selfish desire. And if you don’t want all those adjectives, just say a selfish desire, that leads you away from God and corrupts your relationship with others.
The command is, you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor. Don’t covet his house, don’t covet his wife, don’t covet her husband, don’t covet his manservant, his maidservant, his donkey, his oxen.
Don’t covet. Don’t have this passionate, inner, inordinate, selfish, greedy desire to have what they have. Don’t believe that you need more to be satisfied and the way to get more is get some of theirs. Don’t do that.
Don’t believe when I have what they have, then I’ll be satisfied. Don’t believe that what real success is, is driving a car like them, and having a family like them, and knows as many Bible verses as him, or have a body like hers. Don’t do it! It’s what it says. That’s the command.
The tenth commandment is a command of the heart. Have you noticed that this one doesn’t show up. I mean, you don’t do this one with your hands, you don’t do this with your feet. You don’t kill anybody, you don’t lie with your tongue.
The tenth command is a command of the heart. The command extends and makes clear that the law is not simply a legal code to relegate men and women’s actions, but it’s a divine axiom to govern the innermost being of men and women’s hearts.
The tenth command is a command concerning your desires, and your drives, and your wants, and your goals. The tenth command prohibits, are you ready? It prohibits wrong thinking. And finally, the tenth command is a direct attack on envy, jealousy, and [passion]. And you know, just before you feel like, oh my lands, I thought the first nine were tough and I’m getting killed.
Let me tell you why. Why would God give this command? Why would your heavenly Father, why would the one who sent his son to die for you on a cross, why would the God who cares so deeply for you make such a difficult and high command to say, don’t envy, don’t be jealous, don’t think more is better, don’t compare with others? Why? Because He wants to put a boundary around your personal contentment and your private joy.
He loves you. He wants you to experience joy. He wants you to experience contentment in Him with who you are, where you are, with what you have. Is this a violation of healthy, good, what I would call holy ambition? No. But this is a prohibition against coveting, desiring, being driven, to get, attain, capture, manipulate something of someone else’s with the private belief: then I’ll be happy.
And since God knows that you’ll be disillusioned, since God knows that, you know, you’re going to just be, live a driven life. And since He knows it’s going to be pain, what’s He do? Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
How do you think you’re doing on this issue of coveting? I mean, how, you know, just if you were, scale of one to ten, don’t tell anybody, don’t raise your hand, don’t put up, like, how many fingers. But, I mean, just, sort of, how do you think you’re doing? Just, I want you to put the number in your mind. Because then I’m going to give you a test. And then I want you to take that number and evaluate it with, sort of, how the test comes out.
Because this one I think is so important is this reason. If you keep the tenth command, you’ll do pretty well on all the other nine. If you don’t covet, if you’re satisfied with who God made you, doing what you’re supposed to do with Him, and Him alone, what you’ll find is, an awful lot of those other commands involve hurting, stealing, lying, manipulating, being driven so you don’t take a Sabbath.
It all revolves around thing with the belief system that it will deliver for you. And you know what? If you learn not to covet, you’ll find that most of these other commands, you’ll do pretty well on.
So turn the page if you already haven’t. Let me give you five symptoms that tell us, consuming passions are robbing our joy. See, that’s the issue. God does not want your joy to be robbed.
I mean, it was Nehemiah in the thick that, what did he say was his strength? The blank of the Lord is my strength. What is it? The joy. The joy of the Lord. It’s a byproduct of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit of God doing something in your heart and your life and it flows out of your emotions that gives you energy and drive and excitement.
And you can go against all kind of adversity. And when you do not have the joy of the Lord, you’re often just driven by your passions. By goals. And with a mindset, more is better. Success means getting, achieving, having. And so let’s do a little evaluation. I think there’s, kind of, five symptoms that let you know where you’re at with regard to this issue of coveting.
Symptom number one is fatigue. F-A-T-I-G-U-E. Fatigue. Fatigue from high-speed lives, long hours, lives of high-stress, non-stop lives, get ahead, keep it up, go for it. Work, work, work, push, push, push. It can be in sports, it can be in music, it could be in school. It can be, I’ve got to do this in school and this in music and this over here and this over here and this in ministry. It can be work, it can be job, it can be I gotta be a perfect mom. I gotta be better than any other mom. I gotta have the cleanest house on the block. And on top of that have a Bible study and lead a Bible study with some other women. And, and, and, and.
It’s, I’ve got to be promoted by this age, I gotta make x amount of dollars by I’m thirty-five. By forty-five I have to own, outright, my house. By fifty, I’ve gotta have x amount of dollars in my 401k. You name it. But it is push, push, push, push, push, go, go, go, go, go fast. And what you are, most of the time, is tired. Tired. And beat. And the symptoms are coming home and the La-Z-Boy looks good and the remote looks appealing and it’s just like… The ol’ remote and a bag of chips, you know, spiritual refreshment like never before.
Proverbs 23:4 says, “Do not wear yourself out to be rich. Have the wisdom to show restraint.” And I would say, don’t wear yourself out to be a perfect parent. Don’t wear yourself out to have a perfect body. Don’t wear yourself out to have the greatest job.
Now, Godly ambition, goals, Spirit directed, absolutely. Consuming desires that cause you to mis-prioritize and not have time with God, time with your family, time for yourself, and appropriate rest? Absolutely not.
Second indicator that coveting may be a bigger issue than you think, is debt. And what I mean here, debt that is not relegated to long-term appreciable items, is a symptom of coveting. Ecclesiastes 5:11 says, “The more money you make, the more money you spend.”
They did a survey of high school girls. You know what the number one occupation or preoccupation of high school girls is, in America? Recreational shopping.
Ninety-three percent of girls. This is above being with their boyfriend. Ninety-three percent of teenage girls in America said, of all the things I could do, what I like to do most is go to the mall. Go to the mall and shop. Cars, clothes, toys.
At least, six or eight years ago, for the average America family, I don’t know, it’s probably gone up. For the average American family, for every thousand dollars that they make, they spend thirteen to fifteen hundred dollars.
We have nearly twenty trillion dollars of consumer debt in America. That means that, see, no matter, you know what it tells you is, is that I am buying stuff I can’t afford, that I don’t need, to fulfill needs that don’t get met and I spend more than I have. Why? Because I’m not content. Why? Because more is better.
And, if I measure my success by you, if you get a new SUV and I don’t have one, I gotta have one. And I never say that because Christians would never say that. It would sound too ungodly. So what we do is, you know, we talk about, you know, we really need more room and, you know, we’re doing a lot of Bible studies and because we’re doing Bible studies, you know, our friend’s kids are coming and we gotta have the room in the back.
And we go to camp, like, once every two years and we need because of that and…
And we need to add onto the house because we really want to serve people and the reason for the pool is baptisms. We don’t need a pool. It’s baptisms. We have a calling of God to spend thirty-five thousand dollars that we don’t have because someday, someway, somehow, we might want to do a baptism in the back.
Can I tell you something? If your priorities are in line and God gives you the money and you’re giving off the top and you’re generous and if you want a pool, buy a pool. And enjoy the pool. If you don’t have the money for a pool and you put in a pool, you’re in debt because you’re believing a bunch of lies. If you can’t afford a nice car and you’re driving a nice car and you’re leveraged up to your nose and working obscene hours and living with unbelievable pressure, you have bought in to the coveting model.
You are a prisoner. How much joy is there in, should we pay Visa this month or MasterCard? And then, you know, you got these people on TV. “Oh, now wait! I can take all the equity out of your house, put you on another level of debt, and we can really help you get sunk deeper than you ever dreamed.
Debt, recreational shopping, you do understand. And this is why, you know, what goes into your mind may be the most important decision you make every day. You do understand that I think some of the smartest, some of the most creative people in the entire world live in New York. And I’m sure there’s some in Chicago. But I think of New York and LA and you know what their goal is? Their goal is to build discontent in your heart. And they come up with, I mean, they’ll pay up to a million or a million and a half dollars to get one minute of your time during the Superbowl. That’s how effective they think their propaganda is.
And what they want you to know is, if you don’t drink this beer, you’re not with it. If you don’t wear this shirt, you’re really out of it. Unless you wear these kind of shoes, drive this kind of car, and have this kind of watch, what kind of a wimp, dumpy person are you? I mean, what’s your problem?
This kind of car, beautiful blondes jump into. This kind of car, hunky men who are understanding a loving, they look at you and say, “I can’t believe it’s butter.” Right? And so, we have an advertising industry that every day on video, TV, billboards, checkout lines, it gives you message after message after message after message. Whatever you have…. Isn’t it amazing?
Even get a new shirt and it feels really good for about two weeks and then it’s an old shirt. And then you see a new shirt. And this new shirt that was really new two weeks ago feels like an old shirt. And who wants an old shirt? Well, who says it’s new? Well, the guy who says it’s new says, well, they put a little collar on it and they changed the colors for this season and now you got a last year’s shirt. You want to be walking around with a last year’s shirt?
I mean, if you’re a woman you don’t want those pants to go all the way down to here, you want them to come up here, right? And then, two years from now, they’re going to put them down here. And if you don’t, I mean, are you really going to wear those dresses that come all the way down to here like was really in three years ago? Well, then, well they were but I’m glad they changed those ones that went up to here. You know?
And then you have the big lapels. I mean, I’ve got, in my closet, I kept my dad’s. I got about thirty, forty ties. I buy one every six or seven years whether I need one or not.
Because you know what? They’re wide, then they’re thin, then they’re wide, then they’re thin. You know what? Why? So idiots like me, before I learned, would buy new stuff each and every season.
Their goal is to tell you who you are doesn’t measure up. What you have doesn’t measure up. But if you buy what we have. If you buy this timeshare, you’ll have quality family time like never before. If you buy this car, people will look at you different. Once you finally get this watch, people will know you have arrived. If you wear this suit, I mean, a tailored suit, then they’ll know. And it is driving us into debt because we believe a lie. And behind it is coveting.
The third symptom is worry. Ecclesiastes 5:12 says, “A working man can get a good night’s sleep but a rich man has so much that he stays awake worrying.” Concern, anxiety, energy that goes simply into keeping stuff up.
I had a good friend, he’s a radiologist in California and then he was over a pretty large group and became, you know, very well to do. Did very well. And his daughter majored in Spanish. And he just thought, “You know, I’d like to learn that.” And to the little community college and took Spanish 1, 2, 3, 4. And then he said, you know, the only way to get it, I’m going to immerse myself in the culture.
And his daughter was a Spanish major and now a missionary and so he went to Central America for about six weeks. And, with no one that’s speaking [English]. Lived in a home. And he came back and he and I were hanging out doing something. And he said, “You know, everyone says this when they come back.” But he said, “I’m flying back on the plane and life was so simple.”
And he said, “I came back realizing just how much stuff I have to take care of. You know, I gotta write all these bills to all this stuff, there’s a guy, a maintenance guy who needs to come to do the pool, there’s a maintenance guy on the two cars, I got two cars. And then I did get that little sports car and I gotta keep that thing up.
And then, you know, the maintenance of doing life, the worry, if your mind is consumed and anxious about taking care of all the stuff, maybe you ought to simplify it. Maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe more isn’t better. Maybe the when/then isn’t true and you’ve been when/then, when/then, when/then, when/then, maybe you ought to just say “now.” I’m gonna thank God for what I have and live a different way.
The fourth evidence of covetousness is conflict. James 4:1 says, “What causes conflict and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the desires,” that’s our word lust, passions, “that battle within you?”
If you’ve been in the corporate world or I’ve seen it in the ministry world, when someone covets someone else’s job, they start making innuendos in the corporate world about how that guy doesn’t really do a good job or how she doesn’t do a very good job. And they drop little things here, why? Because they want to move up and the way to move up is to get rid of that person, so what happens? Conflict.
Or you don’t have to go the corporate world. Go to the average marriage. Do you realize the number one cause of divorce in the average marriage is centering around the issue of… finances.
You know what? And it always reveals values. She wants this. He wants that. Can’t have it all. He wants to save some, she wants to spend some. She wants to save some, he wants to buy this. And then you get to the end of the month and it reveals all kind of pressures, a differences of values, and you have quarrels and conflicts. Why? Because of the desires. The passionate desires. We can’t be a happy family if we don’t have this. We can’t have a happy family unless we live in this kind of house. We can’t be a happy couple unless we save so much money.
And whatever they are, the conflict rises up. In fact, if you want to see the truth of this, just get two toddlers and three cookies. You don’t have to learn this one. Give me any two toddlers, three cookies in the room, you will have a fight. Why? It’s in our Adamic DNA. We covet. We want what someone else has.
Test, I think, of friendship is when you hear something awesome and wonderful and great about a friend and your initial response is genuine joy. When you’re both single and longing for a date and haven’t had one and then they get one with the guy that you think, wow, he’s a great guy and he’s a holy guy, and all the rest. And your immediate response is not, “Why didn’t he ask me instead of her?” It’s, “Thank you, Lord.”
When someone that you’re a friend with gets the promotion and is able to get the house and their priorities are in order and you say, “Wow. That’ll be great for you. I’m so excited for you.” When someone has the success or makes the big sale. When your immediate reaction is, “Wow, that’s great!”
I’ve got a friend like that named Steve. And I’ll never forget, we were on, like, three or four or five radio stations and there was this one big one that, I mean, it was going to be outrageously expensive and God did a miracle and we ended up doing some things. And I think he was about four times as happy about that event than I was. And it was so humbling. And we’ve been buddies for eighteen or twenty years now. And he’s watched as we’ve been together and we both came out of this little church of thirty-five people.
And he started out as the defensive coordinator, the football coach in the town. And then later he came on staff and we got to do the run together there in Texas and then we did another ten, eleven years here. And just God started doing things in my life and I think the person, other than probably my wife and family, that were more amazed and overjoyed genuinely about the blessing, success on my life, was Steve. And then he would, he really began to talk to me about, hey, here’s, hey man, you gotta protect yourself. And there’s going to be new pressures. And, like, he took on personally, I want you to be successful and I…
I mean, it’s like, wow, this is awesome. And then we kind of laugh and we had breakfast, I told you about, when I was in California. And he turned to me because we used to go to elder’s meetings. They always went to midnight. And, back in the little Texas town. And there’s only, like, forty-five hundred people. I mean, that was the metro area of Kaufman, Texas.
And so the only thing open was 7-11. And Steve and I would, after an elder’s meeting, about twelve o’clock, we’d go to 7-11 and get, you know, those really rank burritos that you can put in a microwave? And we would put those things in, get a Diet Coke, and sit outside next to the car and talk about what God was doing. And we had breakfast. He said, “God’s done a lot since those burritos at 7-11, hasn’t He?” And he’s now a senior pastor of a church that’s growing and doing amazing things. But the test of friendship is do you rejoice when something great happens to a friend?
And final symptom here is dissatisfaction. You will never be satisfied if you long to be rich. And I would add, or famous. Or have a perfect life, or … you fill it in. You will never get all you want. Success is always a moving target.
Coveting robs us of the achievement that we can enjoy and it shows contempt for God’s grace and provision. Did you ever think about it that way? That when you’re just never ever, ever satisfied with what God has given you, that it’s kind of contempt where, “God, will you do this?” And He does it. And you go, “Well, that’s nice but this is what I want.” And then He does it and you go, “Well, God, that’s not what I…”
And we get to the point where, I wonder if the Lord just sometimes crosses His arms and says, “You know, why don’t I just let you experience some not… instead of some blessing. Because no matter what I do, all you want is more.” Because you bought into the more is better. Bigger is better. When I get this, then I’ll be happy.
Fatigue, debt, worry, conflict, dissatisfaction. On a scale of one to ten, how you doing? How much of this could be behind, in your heart, behind maybe some issues you’ve been thinking about all week in the Ten Commandments. Could it be that some unresolved anger, some murderous thoughts are really because there’s conflict toward someone because you want something and you can’t get it?
Could it be that you unconsciously lie or even steal, because we found out we were all thieves, because there’s some desires and you can’t get it and the way you think you can get it is to take a shortcut or say something that’s not true?
Could it be that God is no longer your God but there is an idol because unconsciously you covet and you believe that this job, or this person, or this thing will really make you happy? Do you see where I’m going? Once you break the power of coveting in your life, the other nine commands begin to fall into place.
Well, let’s get to the positive side. You look a little depressed and I’m feeling that way looking at your faces. You know, you’re looking at me like, “Man, I thought the first nine were tough and this is really, really…”
Well you know what? There’s good news. And the good news is that the reason God wants you not to covet is He has the desire for you to be content and He has the desire for you to be pure. Because purity produces peace and joy and love and God wants you to experience that. And as long as there’s this little motor inside [makes motor noise]. Gotta have, gotta have, gotta have, gotta have, he’s got it, I want it, he’s got it.
As long as you have that, you’ll never have peace. You’ll never have joy. You’ll never be able to enjoy and love the people that are in front of you because you’ll always be thinking about what you really need, that would really make you happy, tomorrow, or the next day, or next year.
Let me give you three keys to discovering this kind of contentment. In Philippians 4:12, the Apostle Paul says, first of all, we’re not going to get it overnight. It’s a process. I have learned. Circle the word “learned” will you?
“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.” That means that there was a day when the Apostle Paul woke up and he thought more was better. There was a day when he when/then. When I’m a super duper, super duper Pharisee, then. And he learned that that didn’t work. And he got disillusioned. But he learned.
As a early apostle, I bet there were days he got up and thought, if I can just preach more to more people and reach all the Gentiles then… And finally he learned, I’ve learned to be content that, you know, even though I’m in jail and it doesn’t make sense because I had this mission to reach the whole world, I’m going to trust that God…
I’m going to get up every day, I’m going to set the goals, I’m going to pray, I’m going to ask God for grace, and I’m going to bust it. But, Lord, you’re in control and I’m going to be content whether I have a little financially or a lot. I’m going to be content whether I’m out on the trail preaching, teaching or I don’t know why you got me in this prison because I’m not doing anything but writing a few letters. I’m glad he was in prison, aren’t you?
But what he learned was there could be guy chained next to him. You know, “…for this has turned out for my deliverance. Your prayers and the provision of Christ Jesus. And I want you to know that although some people are preaching Christ from envy and strife, I’m here with the whole Praetorian Guard and God is using it for His greater glory. The word of God is going out like never before.”
And those believers, here in the Philippian church are more bold than ever before because of my imprisonment. He says, I learned. I learned that just because circumstances aren’t the way I want them, I’ve learned that just because I don’t have as much as I’d like, I’ve learned that even when I have a lot, by the way, I’m learning that it takes as much grace and maybe more grace to be content when God gives you more than you ever dreamed than when you’re really hurting, especially financially.
To learn to receive and enjoy what God gives you and be generous with it, I think it often is even harder because, you know what, when you don’t have anything, remember those early years, some of us in marriage and, you know, we were trying to find quarters in the back seat and we went fifteen days in seminary and never ate any meat or didn’t go to the grocery store and took five dollars with thirteen other couples and went to the farmer’s market and we ate all vegetables. And Theresa made bread from whole wheat flour. I mean, we just, we lived on about nine hundred, eight hundred dollars a month.
But you know what? We were rich in faith. We believed God. Those were happy days. They were hard but they were wonderful. We learned to be content.
But I think sometimes it takes more grace as God has given many people in this room a lot, how do you know how much is enough? How do you learn to enjoy, richly, what He’s given you but not let it cling to you? Well let me give you three ways I think that you can do that. And we’ll wrap it up.
Number one, stop comparing yourself with others. Well, this gets to the heart of it. You want to be content, you want joy, you really want to stop coveting, okay? Stop comparing yourself with others.
The Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 10:12, “For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.” In fact, it’s stronger than that. Without understanding, it’s kind of like, they’re nuts. They’re crazy. It’s illogical. It’s irrational.
Don’t compare yourself with other people. Don’t compare your house with their house, your body with their body, your car with their car, your abilities with their abilities, your girlfriend, boyfriend with their girlfriend, their boyfriend.
Your wife, your husband with their wife, their husband. Don’t compare intelligence, don’t compare jobs, don’t compare social skills, don’t compare education, don’t compare spirituality, don’t compare looks. Don’t compare anything. And I love the look you’re giving me. It’s like, well what do I do with all that free time in my brain? Because that’s what we do. I mean, we’re unconsciously experts at it, right?
You walk in the mall, oh, can you believe that kid with the orange, what’s the orange hair? Why would he…? If you’re going to wear three earrings you ought to move the one to, I can’t believe that. Or, do you see that guy over there? Yeah, you can kind of tell, look at the kind of shoes he, he thinks he’s really cool. You know those kind of shoes and that’s… Or, did you see her? I mean do you see that top she had on last night at the dinner? This is a Christian conference and [laughs]. Right, right, right?
Or, hey, wow, do you see that guy? Yeah. That dude’s forty years old, he’s got muscles, he’s got muscles behind his ears, I mean, woo. What do you think about that? I don’t know but when this other guy, did you see his watch? You know those new kind of Rolexes that came, did you see it? You didn’t see it, did you? Well, he’s got one.
You know? And we just do it. You drive up to a stoplight and you look over. What do you do? You start comparing. You walk into a Starbucks and you’re in line, what do you do? You start comparing. You go to church, you hear someone sing, what do you do? If you’re musical, you start comparing. If you play an instrument, if someone’s up playing an instrument, what do you do? You start comparing.
I mean, we compare, we compare, we compare, we compare, we compare, we compare. When we do it we are without understanding. He says, I’m not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. When you measure yourselves by themselves, you’re without understanding.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What, then, am I going to do with this free time if I don’t compare myself? How about admire? Just as a thought. How about, wow, that guy’s probably worked out hard and, you know, I admire, he’s really made the best of his body. You know, I kind of, those aren’t the shoes for me but I admire that guy’s courage to wear those in public.
You know? Or, you know, whenever ever possible why not, you know, why not walk through someone’s house and admire it and say, “Lord, this is wonderful. I had no idea. You know people’s hearts but I’ll tell you what, I am so glad you gave them this. You know? I’m kind of glad they have a pool because we can swim in it anytime and I don’t have to do any of the upkeep. Lord, thank you very much.”
You know? Why don’t we admire and thank God and praise God and not judge motives and not put in expectations, not think we know what people are thinking and where their hearts are at, or why they do what they do, since we don’t know any of that and we’re forbidden to judge, why don’t we just admire and say, “Hey, great!”
In fact, with all that free time, I want to give you the next step beyond admiring is to rejoice and give thanks in what you do have. Once you admire and say, “God, I’m glad that guy…” By the way, this works. This really works. I mean, I’ve driven some really dumpy cars and got up next so some real nice cars and started down that path.
And when I’ve stopped I’ve gone, “Lord, thank you for this Chevy Nova. Lord, thank you that even in Texas, without air-conditioning, that it runs. Lord, thank you that, you know, I never dreamed I’d get to go to seminary. And I don’t have money for a car but your provided this one. And then, Lord, thank you.” And you guess what. I’m not looking at that car anymore.
“And thank you, God, that whenever you want me to get a better one, I’d appreciate it. And, Lord, thank you that if I ever get air-conditioning, I’ll tell you what, I’ll be the most grateful, cool dud you’ve ever met. Because after I get out of the car I feel like I need to change shirts in Texas in the summer. But thank you, Lord”
See, if you begin to rejoice and give thanks in what you do have, it changes things. I put a couple passages for you to meditate on and I suggest maybe some of these you write down on 3x5 card and you just, kind of, read them over at night and in the morning and put a few to memory. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “If God gives man wealth and property and lets him enjoy them, he should be grateful and enjoy what he has worked for. It is a gift from God.”
I think we need to very clearly, carefully teach and preach that it is a very serious sin to be materialistic. And I think materialism is as, I think it was John White entitled a book The Sacred Cow of the American Church.
Because we rationalize it. But there’s a balancing thing that needs to be taught. When your priorities are in order, when you’re giving generously, when your heart is free before God, the Bible says, God chooses, at times, to give wealth and add no sorrow to it.
And Ecclesiastes says, if God should choose, you know what? Wealth doesn’t have the power to make you happy, as evidenced by many, many, many wealthy people. And wealth doesn’t have the power to make you sad. But what it is, it’s a stewardship given from God, if God would choose.
And you’re thinking, “Well, yeah, those wealthy people.” You are those wealthy people, okay? Do you live in America? You are wealthy people. You drive a car, you have a house, you own a house, you’re in the top one percent of the world. You know what?
Then what I find is, we’re so self-conscious, is we don’t, on the positive side. If you drive a Lexus and your priorities are in order, enjoy it will you? If you get a really nice suit and you need a really nice suit for what you do and you’re generous with your money and your priorities are in order, don’t tell me you got it on sale and the seventeen reasons. For this reason and, you know, “It was because they were having a blowout sale and because of that. And of course I never really…”
I hear Christians all the time apologizing instead of giving thanks for what God gave them. If God gave you something nice and your priorities are in order just say, “Yes, the Lord, well, you know, I don’t deserve this but the Lord has been so gracious. What do you think? Some guy was staring thinking these were weird shoes like I wore them in public but I think they’re really cool and the Lord gave them to me.” Nah, I’m just teasing. But, you know, we’ve got to get that balance where we give thanks and enjoy what God has given you.
Notice that he goes on to say, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God, above reproach, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. Among whom you appear as lights in the world.”
If you really want to know if you’re coveting or not, whether you’re genuinely thankful or not, whether you’re really rejoicing or not just listen to what comes out of your mouth. And when it’s, I mean, it’s amazing, isn’t it? Instead of thanking God for the house I do have, I complain about what’s wrong about the house or I’m never going to be satisfied until we remodel the kitchen or until we do this and it only has so many square feet and we need more square feet. And I like this car but this is what I need. And these clothes are okay but this is what I really need and, you know, this school is okay but when I get to this school then…You know, it goes on and on and on. Rejoice and thank God and focus on what you do have.
Ask God what he wants you to do, set goals, develop strategies, pray, be moving toward whatever He wants.
But until He gives you something different, it is the will of God today to say, thank you for the wife you do have, the husband you do have, the limited health you do have, the finances you do have, the kids that you do have, the heart for God that you do have, the clothes that you do have, the country that you do live in. And you rejoice and you thank God for what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
In fact, as you look at that last verse on the page, every time you do that, you’re right in the center of God’s will. “For this is the will of God for you…” right? What is it? “…that you give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God’s will for you.” It’s a command.
Give thanks in all circumstances. Circle the word “all” will you? Do you know what the Greek word for “all” is? You ready for this? I’ve done exhaustive research. It’s “all.” It means everything. It just means, it means give thanks for all things. Not the things you like, not the things that are lined up the way you want. Give thanks for all things. This isn’t a high–five, gladding, you know, I’m thankful that, you know, my best friend just got cancer.
This is a willful, from the heart, saying, “Lord, I don’t understand why my best friend got cancer. But I’m going to choose to give thanks that because You are good and You are sovereign and You are faithful that You will work in this situation for good. Will You please deliver? Give the doctors wisdom. Heal my friend. But, Father, I refuse to get bitter. I refuse to get resentful. It is a fallen world. I choose to thank You that You will bring good out of this and so I thank You for this situation. Now, use me. And help my friend.”
“God, I thank You, this day, for my family. God, I thank You so much for the body that You gave me. Yeah, I’m working on some things but thank You for the body. Lord, thank You for the education You’ve granted me. Thank You for the abilities You’ve granted me. Thank You for the spiritual gifts You’ve granted me. Lord, thank You for these opportunities that You’ve given me. Lord, thank You for the friends that You’ve brought into my life. Lord, thank You for the opportunities that I never dreamed I would have.”
And you start to rejoice and think on those things, it will kill coveting. I mean, it will take coveting right out at the knees. And guess what? You’ll start to like yourself. You’ll start to be grateful for who you are. Because I don’t know who those people are making up the styles. And I don’t know who the people are that decide who are, like, the ten sexiest, best looking whatever on the front of People Magazine.
But I just don’t think Jesus is the one picking them. Just a thought. I don’t think that’s the standard. And you know what? Personally, I’ve decided I’m not going to be brainwashed. And I’m not going to buy into it. And I don’t think that’s how God looks at beauty. I think man looks on the outward appearance but I think God looks on the heart. I want to be thankful for what I do have. I want to focus on what is real and what is true and what is noble and what is honorable and what is praiseworthy, and anything of excellence. And I want to dwell on those things.
And when you do and when I do, you know what? Your circumstances, this is great. Your circumstances cannot change one iota. You may not even lose the five pounds. You may not even get the promotion. Your circumstances can not change at all. But you are the product of your thinking. And as a man or a woman thinks in her heart, so you become.
You begin to thank God for what you do have and come up with a plan to deal with the issues that need to be addressed and your joy level with your circumstances not changing at all, will just start to rise, and rise, and rise. And you know the interesting thing? It’ll give you the strength and the focus and the energy to deal with some of the things that you struggle with.
One final way to be content and to kick coveting out of your life. One, stop comparing yourself with others. Two, rejoice and give thanks in what you do have. And three, share what I have to help others. The key word is share. Share what I have to help others.
Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17 to19, “Command those who are rich in this present world.” That’s all of us in this room. And what’s the command? One, not to be arrogant. Two, don’t put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain. But three, to put their hope in God who richly supplies us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to be, to do good and to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.
The Apostle Paul says, you want to be content? Look, tell those people that have a lot, don’t be arrogant. Don’t buy into the false belief that those things will satisfy. Don’t put your hope in wealth. Why? Because it’s so uncertain. It’s so uncertain. The market’s this way, it can crash in a minute. You can be, literally, in the Silicone Valley in the last few years, you can be a millionaire one day and dead broke the next.
In fact, some people, the way the tax laws work, they were worth millions and millions of dollars that they had to pay taxes on and then it went to nothing and so they had taxes on all this big money and they didn’t have a penny to pay.
This is a warning because God loves us and cares for us he says, it’s too uncertain. But he says, put your hope in God. Put your hope in the one who gave the Ten Commandments. Put your hope in the Lord Jesus. Why? Because He richly provides everything for your enjoyment. This is not a withholding God. This is not a God that never wants to give you something nice or good or pleasant or even material. He wants to give you all things to enjoy.
So what do you do when He gives you these things? Teach them to do good. That’s good works. Take the stuff that God gives you and share it. To be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.
Realize that everything you have is dropped into your hands, it doesn’t belong to you, it’s His, and He gets to pick whatever out of it, anytime, to share with other people. Create a generous mindset where you realize your time, your talent, your energy, your money, your stuff, your home, your pool, your car. It’s just vehicles to share and to help people.
And when you have that kind of mindset, here’s the promise: “In this way they lay up treasure for themselves,” which is awesome, eternal impact, “as a firm foundation for the coming age so that they might take hold of the life that is truly life.”
That’s where we started. You want to take hold of the life, the rich life, the abundant life, the satisfied life, the peace life, the life filled with loving, deep relationships. It will never happen unless you break the power of coveting in your heart. You want to take hold of the life that’s really life? He says, stop comparing with other people, rejoice and give thanks for what you do have, and then come up with a systematic way to share what you have and bless others.
And I encourage you to do it in the little things. Do it in little things. Learn to share your time. Learn to share the place in the line. Learn to share your money. Learn to share your stuff. Once you learn to do it in little things, it’ll become just a way.
What you want is you want to get new glasses and the glasses are called “Generosity.” And every situation you’re not asking, “How much for me?” You’re asking, “I wonder how I could bless someone?” And then here’s the deal. I do not understand this at all. Give and it will be given unto you. Good measure. Pressed down. Shaken together. Running over back into your lap. For in the same measure or amount that you give to others, it will given unto you.
The divine paradox is, the moment you stop coveting and start sharing and saying life is a stewardship and you start giving away time, and energy, and resources, this bizarre deal happens. God pours it back into your lap. And all the things that you were going after? The peace, and the joy, and the encouragement, and often the blessing, God gives it to you. He just gives it to you. But the way to get there is not coveting.