Thou Shalt Covet
America’s ongoing rebellion against the most basic tenets of God continues to progress with each election cycle. The current emphasis seems to celebrate an attitude specifically denounced in the 10th Old Testament commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NAS)
The idea of covetousness is again condemned by Paul in his letter to the Romans (7:7-12). But exactly how does one “covet”? The original Hebrew idea conveys “desiring” and “being attracted to.” The Greek denotes “lusting after.” It is not merely the satisfaction of a need, but a far more powerful impulse. Yet the sin lies not in the actual desire, but the object of that desire.
Notice that the commandment does not forbid us to want a house, a spouse, employees, success, or prosperity. He is telling us to not yearn for our neighbor’s house, spouse, or anything else. Men, you can seek a wife, but you are not to seek your neighbor’s wife.
Notice that the inclusion of a house and other possessions directly implies ownership. Your neighbor’s donkey is not your donkey. It is his. He owns it. You can have your own donkey, but keep your hands (and your mind) off his. If there was no such thing as private and personal property, God would have given us the Nine Commandments.
Enter into this condemnation of covetousness the modern American idea of “fairness.” Does your neighbor have a bigger house than you? That’s not fair! Does your boss get a bigger paycheck? Not fair!
It could be pointed out that America itself is not fair by this measure. Just look south of the border to see a country where the “poor” in America instantly become middle class, if not rich. According to a 2011 report by The Heritage Foundation, "What Is Poverty?", over 98% of America’s “poor” have a television, refrigerator and oven. Almost 88% have a microwave, 84% have air conditioning, 79% have a DVD player and cable or satellite television, and 76% have a cell phone. Take all of this to any Third World nation and you now have someone who is undeniably rich.
This is not to defend poverty by any measure, but to point out the fact that the constant stirring of envy and strife flies in the face of godliness. The resurging agitation of the so-called 99% against a highly selective group of “one-percenters” not only defies logic, but fails the smell test as well. Ask yourself this: Would you rather occupy a tent in a public park or the corner office of a successful business? Would you rather your child grow up to be an angry protestor or Bill Gates? Or how about just having job security employed by a successful small business owner or a stable corporation providing something others need or want?
The vast majority of Americans – and people of every nation – want a decent place to live, with enough wealth to determine their own future. This means being free to succeed (and occasionally fail) in business without someone seizing their assets under the banner of “fairness.” Behind that rhetoric lies nothing but envy and covetousness. Those controlled by it do not want just to be left alone in their own house — they want yours or someone else’s.
There are also those who seem to think that if everyone can’t have something equally, no one should have it at all. I certainly believe everyone should have the freedom to earn, achieve, gain, or purchase, but there will always be certain limitations. The limits should never be forced in place because of envy or greed.
This is clearly the strategy of liberals, progressives, and socialists. We are being told that the only remedy to the high unemployment and stagnant economy is to take someone else’s wealth by force. The truth is that the solution can only be found through wealth creation. And herein lies the fundamental problem.
A large segment of society fails to understand the basic truth that prosperity, opportunity, and wealth are created, not simply shared. When more jobs are needed, they must be created, not taken from one and given to another. Wealth is not finite. There is not a limited pie that can only be cut into so many pieces. God has given us the ability to create more. Those who do not know God perpetuate this false notion that someone else has unfairly taken a bigger piece of the pie than he or she deserves. They do not recognize, or simply refuse to admit, that every one of us has the God-given ability to create our own “pie,” then share as we see fit. We need not covet our neighbor’s; we only need to make our own. It is important to remember that people created in the image of God can, in fact, create necessary resources. Man, not matter, is the ultimate resource.
Furthermore, the notion that the rich have only gotten rich because they have taken from the poor cannot uphold under scrutiny. Obviously, there are the Bernie Madoffs of the world. There are thieves who have become rich (and more who remain poor), but they are the exception, not the rule. I do not believe that Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Sam Walton, Mark Zuckerberg and most wealthy Americans cheated the masses in order to gain. Instead, they invented, entertained, engineered, and innovated. This is wealth creation, and it’s something we can all do, though not to exact levels. Some people will succeed with a little, some with a lot. The point is that we must remain faithful with what we have, acquire any wealth honestly and honorably, and utilize it for good. If we would each do that, we wouldn’t care that someone else might have bigger, better, or more.
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