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David Otten: Contentment is antidote to coveting

By David Otten
Contributing writer
updated: 4/2/2019 11:34 PM

Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.

Perhaps you remember the toddler years of your children or currently have children who are at that age. Then you are aware of the Toddler Property Laws.

"If I like it, it's mine. If it's in my hand, it's mine. If I can take it from you, it's mine. If I had it a little while ago, it's mine. It must never appear to be yours in any way, because it is always and forevermore mine!"

Let's be honest. We can all be just like little kids. Deep down, within all of us, there exists an insatiable desire to look at someone's snowblower or lawn mower, bike or boat, patio or porch -- indeed, just about anything and everything that belongs to someone else -- and long for them all to be mine!

The desire is called "coveting." God addresses this vice in Exodus 20:17 where twice God commands that, "You shall not covet." Coveting is not just a consideration that purchasing an item would be a good investment or a dream to have some day own your own business, but an obsession and conniving to acquire something or someone no matter what.

Because of our sinful nature we are wired to covet. We must learn contentment as St. Paul points out. "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." (Phil 4:12) Being content conquers coveting.

Coveting has an M.O. that is a pattern. See. Covet. Take. Eve saw the fruit, she coveted it, she took it. What did that lead too? Death! Death to relationships with others. Death to our relationship to God. Death to peace in our life.

Remember J.R.R. Tolkien's works, "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." Throughout these books it is coveting that shapes the plot. All the main characters must be able to overcome the sin of coveting the one ring.

How do we deal with this temptation?

First, we must recognize its M.O. See, Covet, Take.

Second, don't rationalize or justify it. The world and your flesh are going to tell you that you deserve it. You worked hard, you slaved and labored. You can figure out a way to get it no matter what.

Third, look to your loving heavenly Father who is the giver of all good things. Read in His word how He supplies the needs of His people. He gives contentment, which is opposite of coveting. Fourth, personalize what God did for you by sending His Son to die on the cross for you and to make you his own a second time through redemption.

Finally, internalize that God wants us, warts and all. Through this all our strength is not in ourselves but in God by His Word, sacraments and those He sends to us in our struggle with coveting.

God is a zealous god who fights for you and tells you, "You're mine."

• David Otten is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.