URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 4th May 2021 The Rev’d Trevor Jamison
Tuesday 4th May Dealing with Greed
Exodus 20: 17
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Have you ever shared a fridge with others who are not family members? It can be a nightmare. No edible item is safe, no owner’s initials on a milk carton prevents its contents reducing, or disappearing when your back is turned. And as for they who blithely appropriate your allocated shelf to store their food…
No one’s to be trusted, not even yourself. I’ll defend what’s mine to the last drop of my orange juice, but your yoghurt is meant for sharing, especially when you’re not around to do so. That’s coveting for you. It’s not just that you like what someone else possesses, but your uncontrolled desire leads you to take it for yourself.
Covetousness gets everywhere, not just inside fridges. It’s about ‘anything that belongs to your neighbour.’ Covetousness even gets into the other commandments. King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, which led to false witness and judicial murder, which enabled theft. And when Adam and Eve coveted divine status, just as with shared fridges, no fruit was safe.
This tenth commandment, with its talk of neighbours, takes us back to the first one, with its focus on God. Having other gods declares that God alone will not provide all you need. Being driven by the covetous desire to take what your neighbours possess, suggests the same. Summing up the law, Jesus declared that we should love God and our neighbour, and how we do one affects how we do the other.
In fact, his positive approach shows the way to fully living out this anti-covetousness commandment. Initials on milk cartons, or rules stuck on a fridge door, have limited deterrent effect on covetous desire. Fridge users who first put their trust in God, and try to love their neighbour, however, might be readier to share, not steal.
Gracious God, remind me of all the good things you’ve given me, so that I spend less time coveting the things you’ve given others. And make us all readier to share than to take. Amen.
The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields