You Shall Not Covet

You Shall Not Covet

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)

Coveting is a marriage of two of the seven deadly sins—one part envy, one part greed. Greed is the inability to say, “Enough.” It is the desire that lurks in the basement always asking for more. It is an emptiness that seeks fulfillment through the next acquisition. Envy is the inability to enjoy the life we have because our eyes and thoughts are always on what another person has.

Coveting weds the two by supplying the specific object of our envious greed—the neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, or work animals. Coveting is worse than envy or greed in that it takes aim both at another named person and that which belongs to that named person.

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Pirahna Pond and Gossip Graveyard

Pirahna Pond and Gossip Graveyard

Communities are made up of people, and these people meet at conversation crossroads.

Simply put, conversation crossroads are places where people talk and tell what they know. You probably know that God cares about people, but did you know that the conversations we have matter as much to God as the people we have them with or about? The Apostle Paul zeros in on this issue in Ephesians 4:29—5:2.

I’ll condense those verses so you can more clearly see the commandments they contain:

  • No evil talk out of your mouth
  • No words that tear down
  • No words empty of grace
  • No gossip; no slander; no malice

I want you to come on a trip with me and visit two conversational crossroads. The first is Piranha Pond and the second is Gossip Graveyard.

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Takers and Givers

Takers and Givers

In the creation of the new community, Israel, God gives them a simple command. Do not steal. Respect established boundaries. Return to the owner what does not belong to you. Power is not the privilege to take what you want. Scales and balances must be fair.

Treat each other as God wished to be treated in the garden—His boundary respected, His ownership recognized, His creation tended, His gifts appreciated. Honor the property of others. Respect ownership. No stealing.

I remember well the night my family was robbed. We lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, at the time. We had walked to McDonald’s for ice cream with our two children.

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A Decent Proposal

A Decent Proposal

Affairs are everywhere, even reaching as high as the White House. Adultery has infiltrated our marriages, our entertainment, and our society.

As we’ve been reminded with the latest news headlines of the Ashley Madison website hack, married people are registering in droves to cheat on their spouses. The Ashley Madison website boasts about having almost 42 million anonymous users and claims it is the most popular website for married dating encounters. Really?

I realize I have the home field advantage of calling adultery a sin here on my blog, most likely being read by Christians. Place me on a talk show today, and I’d be booed and hissed for suggesting that marital faithfulness is the primary covenantal bond for the human family and should be championed as the way marriage is meant to work.

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The Command to Honor Your Father and Your Mother

The Command to Honor Your Father and Your Mother

The fifth commandment is “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

The context of the Exodus story is concerned with future generations remembering the miracle of liberation. It is written with an invitation for children to marvel at the way God creates a people from scratch. You find phrases like “when your children ask you” and “from generation to generation” scattered throughout the narrative. The fifth commandment instructs the young, yet mature, adults with aging parents to honor their mothers and fathers so that their lives in the land will be long.

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The God Who Tolerates No Rivals

The God Who Tolerates No Rivals

Do cell phone companies bug you as much as they do me? “Extend your contract—get one thousand bonus minutes!” “Switch and we’ll send you a check for one hundred dollars! Get your whole family to switch, and we’ll throw in text messaging! Get your town to switch, and we’ll make you mayor!” New gimmicks. New deals. Companies compete viciously, all for your cell phone loyalty.

Loyalty of the people is a prize of high value. Our liberated friends in the wilderness were surrounded by gods. Behind them were the gods of Egypt, who for a while looked quite powerful and efficient. Then they met the God of the plagues. In front of them are the gods of the Canaanites. These gods are seductive. They offer good crops, rain, victory over the tribe next door, and plenty of children. Who doesn’t want what’s behind those doors? Gods, gods. Which to choose? Where to place your loyalty?

One of the interesting things about Christianity is that our God does not stand in a line of world religions like club rush day and say, “Pick me; please pick me!” In the words of Jesus, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16).

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By What Authority?

By What Authority?

On July 18, 1996, an early morning Bible-quoting contest turned ugly in Dadeville, Alabama, ending with one man dead and another fleeing justice. Gabel Taylor, 38, died after being shot in the face. Police are looking for a suspect who was comparing his Bible knowledge with Taylor’s. It was discovered that their disagreement arose because they were quoting different versions of the same passage. The suspect reportedly retrieved his Bible and was angered when he discovered that he had been wrong.

True story. And as sad as this account is, it is not the first time a believer has sought to defend his or her interpretation of Scripture with an angry tirade. We live in a chapter of the Christian story in America that finds many people defending the authority of Scripture in ways that do great damage to the cause of God and the people for whom Christ died. They are the kind of Christians we wouldn’t want to be linked to. Could it be they misunderstand the issue at stake?

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The Ten Commandments: The Gift of Heaven

The Ten Commandments: The Gift of Heaven

In the Book of Exodus, God acts and something inexplicable happens. Slaves are set free. The powerless are empowered for a journey thought impossible. The powerful are left in shambles with their firstborns in the mortuary and their army at the bottom of the sea. God rewrites the expected ending. The dying live; the living die.

In essence, Christians see the shadow of resurrection in this story. God moves in a way that creates a future where there was none. A dead end becomes a new highway. People without need for a map now browse travel brochures. They are going somewhere. Their future is blessed by God. Tomorrow is a gift.

Out of this come the Ten Commandments. They come on the other side of Egypt, on the other side of liberation. They are not given as an exit plan from Egypt or a road map to the Promised Land. They are given after God has already acted on their behalf. The commandments are given to people who used to be as good as dead and are now vibrantly alive—and free.

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Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

Do You Want to Dance With God’s Law?

How do you feel about law?

When’s the last time you browsed the two-volume truth-in-lending law or the federal law for income tax or the rule book at your local school? I would guess if you requested to see a copy of your company’s code book, the pages would be in pristine condition, hardly thumbed by human fingers.

Have you ever known anyone to record the company policy manual on a CD so he or she could memorize it en route to and from work? Or have you ever come across a college student sprawled out in the middle of campus reviewing the campus code of conduct?

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