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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

Life Is Sacred

Life Is Sacred

Years ago when a preacher preached on the sixth commandment, the applicable points of relevancy were looks that could kill, murderous words, and criminal attitudes. Today the stakes are higher. Many of us know people who have been murdered.

Had I been ordering the Ten Commandments, I would have placed this one last. It seems that this is the epitome of dehumanization, the end of a slippery slope of sin. I’d keep the first four in place, because the erosion of life is rooted in a blatant disregard for the God who gives life. If we can make our own idolatrous gods, use God’s name to endorse our will, turn Him into our genie in the religious bottle, then we can de-sacralize the life God created.

First, we erase the Sabbath pattern that is meant to remind us of our relation to God. Then we dishonor our parents who gave us birth, placing ourselves at the center of the familial universe. Next we break our promises to those we marry, then we take from others what is not ours, then we twist the truth for our purposes, then we want their life, then we take it.

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

Keeping the Sabbath

Keeping the Sabbath

Everybody I know is tired. You are tired. I am tired. Your work wears on you. Your expenditure of energy in people, places, and things drains you. Your spirit is fatigued.

You shoulder major responsibility. You make life-altering decisions. You hire and fire. You give counsel. You care for an elderly person. You keep an eye on a feeble neighbor. You bake a casserole for the funeral of a friend.

You listen to complaining people. You hammer nails. You chase a toddler all day long and then wake up three times a night to coax him back to sleep.

In addition to the work, you battle the monotony of doing the same things repeatedly. Laundry breeds in the closet. School homework is eternal.

Customers keep showing up. Things break and require fixing, again. Grass grows. Snow has to be shoveled. Reports are due by the end of the week.

Little ones hit the floor, feet and mouths running. Paperwork stacks up. Planes line up on the runway. Your inbox, mailbox, and voicemail are full. Bills stack up. Groceries disappear. Gas tanks plummet toward empty.

We’ve done these things all our lives, every week, most days. And we grow tired of the rat race.

[Read more…]

Misusing God’s Name

Misusing God’s Name

Bill trashed the name of God with casual regularity. “GD” to him was normal language. His parents swore; his aunts and uncles swore; his school buddies swore. It wasn’t that anybody set out to abuse the name of God; it was just their cultural language. It came with the territory.

In all honesty, Bill was ignorant about God’s command. He meant nothing by it—and no one had ever said a word to him about his profanity. Bill was uninformed about the seriousness of using God’s name.

Then Bill met a genuine, authentic, honest believer whose life was consistent, a new friend deeply devoted to God. Bill liked hanging around with this guy and soon began to experience God’s accepting love through him. He was under conviction because the very God he cursed actually cared about him. But Bill’s resistance ran deep, and he responded to God’s gentle prodding by pushing back. He intentionally started offending his new Christian friend, notching up the profanity, looking for every opportunity to embarrass him.

But something began to happen to Bill. Each time he cursed the name of God, he became aware of the presence of the God he cursed. He realized that he was actually addressing God, provoking a response of presence. And Bill was softened by the exchange.

[Read more…]

Holy Terror and Tender Love

Holy Terror and Tender Love

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)

For some reason, after reading this commandment, the words that linger with us are “but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (v. 6). These words lift an inch off the page and beg our attention. All the other words, words like “jealous God, punishing children . . . to the third and fourth generation,” are barely remembered once we finish reading.

[Read more…]

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).

[Read more…]