Welcome to the eleventh edition of Maximizing Ministry Part X. Today we explore The Tenth Commandment.
Exodus 20:17 “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Covetous living is a testimony of discontentment. To be discontent is to lack satisfaction. One of the most important lessons we get from is the learning of how to be content (Philippians 4:11-13). This is a step that we complicate with thoughts of, “I can’t or I have to have… because…” Can’t does not really apply, because we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us. It is good to see the word strengtheneth in this form, because the “eth” ending means that we are strengthened repeatedly and continually.
With this ongoing empowerment, we can – if we want to, learn to be content with such things as we have. Being content does not mean that you have to settle for less than God’s best. Being content means that you will not reduce your ways to sin, in order to achieve otherwise. It means that you will not grumble against God, comparing yourself to others and complaining about the differences.
When we trade covetousness for thankfulness, we fulfill God’s will (I Thessalonians 5:18) and open the door to a greater blessing. By way of thanksgiving, we can make a request to God (Philippians 4:6), rather than desiring our neighbor’s possession(s). God appreciates thanks (Luke 11:18) and is ready to receive it the more. He enjoys being appreciated and will return the favor. Adding to trust to thankfulness, we have the power to be content.
Even from prison, Paul wrote to the Philippians by way of his envoy, Epaphroditus, that he was able to be content (Philippians 4:11). It can take some reasoning with a worldly heart, to find contentment. Yet, when the heart is submitted to God, it’s treasure is not of this earth (). It is with a submitted heart that Paul dictated, “10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.” Even in affliction, Paul would not have resorted to blaming God for his troubles (James 1:13). He put the welfare of others before himself, sending his envoy Epaphroditus home to the Philippians despite Paul’s lack of many companions as he awaited trial. Epaphroditus had survived a near-death illness. Paul wanted the Philippians to have the joy of knowing that their fellow servant of Christ was well. Paul did not wait for his situation to be resolved, but sent Epaphroditus home presumably as soon as he was well enough to travel. Paul’s letter was soul-stirring and real.
True contentment will not leave the heart longing and seeking to be fulfilled in ways that dishonor God. Being content does not mean that one should not aspire to do great things. Jesus also said that we would do greater things on earth than even He did (John 14:12). The difference is the intention of the heart. God knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and understands what motivates everything that we do.
We can glean from Paul’s words that his contentment was not conferred upon him without price, but it was something he learned – and that no doubt without suffering. We can in further study of Paul’s life determine that his education in contentment was not primarily the work of letters by degree. He did not take a class in contentment, in order to achieve the present state. It was rather through walking with God and his fellow servants (Proverbs 27:17).
How can we become truly content? We must lose fear (2 Timothy 1:7) and understand that God is our Jehovah-jireh (provider) (Philippians 4:19). Much covetousness is fueled by fear: fear of not having enough or being enough (status). These fears cannot stand with a heart submitted to God. Regardless of what the world thinks, the Lord knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19) – so we need not worry about status; and our provider is near to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18). Forsaking fear, we must take the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16, Proverbs 30:5). Ultimately, we must have faith that God will do what He said He would do (Numbers 23:19, Isaiah 54:17).