Thursday, April 2, 2009

April 3- Tenth Commandment

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

4/3- Tenth Commandment
21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Calvin: The purpose of this commandment is: since God wills that our whole soul
be possessed with a disposition to love, we must banish from our hearts all desire contrary to love. To sum up, then: no thought should steal upon us to move our hearts to a harmful covetousness that tends to our neighbor’s loss. To this corresponds the opposite precept: whatever we conceive, deliberate, will, or attempt is to be linked to our neighbor’s good and advantage… Now how does it happen that desires hurtful to your brother enter your heart, unless it is that you disregard him and strive for yourself alone? For if your whole heart were steeped in love, not one particle of it would lie open to such imaginings. The heart, then, in so far as it harbors covetousness, must be empty of love. (II.8.49)

Calvin emphasized loving God with the mind. He was a humanist scholar who appreciated that we can love God not just emotionally, socially, and spiritually, but also with our minds. Coveting was loving things with our mind so much that they control our hearts. Calvin saw similar rules by Jesus when he said anger in our heart was the same as murder, and lust in our heart was the same as adultery.
The other part of covetousness is that it leaves out love for neighbor. It is wanting what is our neighbor’s. It is greed without love. Loving our neighbor is an essential part of our faith, and covetousness fights against that.
Our culture is consumed with covetousness. Some commercials on TV and the internet hold up the value of the product. Others play upon our covetousness openly- “You’ve got to have this!” Some would say that without covetousness our economy would fail. But with too much covetousness (as today), we go into debt to buy things we don’t really need. In fact, we begin to think our wants are our needs. Needs like food, clothing, shelter, fade into the background. Needs become cell phones, internet access, a new car. We may blame some for wanting more house than they can afford, but many of us are covetous to the point of the neglect of our stewardship. I do not doubt that the amount of debt we have effects our ability to give to the poor, to missions, and our priorities. Instead of going to work “for the glory of God” I see, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go!” The number one reason marriages fail is money- often brought on by differing views of debt, and overspending. Covetousness can disguise itself with good intentions. Like over-spending on our children in order to give them the very best we can. But overspending on children may take away their ability to take responsibility and to teach them to be content.
The solution to covetousness, is to purposefully cut back. This may be easier to do in a poor economy! The Romans Catholics give up something for Lent. This could be helpful as a reminder we can do without something and still survive. Calvin chose to live simply. He did not want much or require much. He did not complain about what he did not have. Contentment with what God gives you also helps to fight covetousness. But also generosity, giving to others and rubbing elbows with the poor helps deflate our covetousness.

Prayer: God of peace, give me the ability to have peace in my heart with what I have. Help me to love my neighbor by being content and being generous.

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