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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
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.