Covetous? Who, Me?
Good thing envy's not really my problem. Or is it?
Do not covet.
Yeah, we know, it’s one of the Ten Commandments. And it’s this week’s focus in the Bible study I’m attending. I loved the point that Lisa Jo Baker makes in We Saved You a Seat: When you covet, you’re comparing your life to someone else’s. You can’t compare yourself to others and encourage them at the same time.
Wow, really inspirational, I thought to myself as I underlined the passage in the devotional. Good thing envy’s not really my problem.
Please tell me we’ve all done that. By “that,” I mean we’ve all assumed immunity to a particular sin. We’ve all glanced at the person in the next aisle, thinking, Hey you, yeah you. You hearing what the pastor’s preaching? You’d better be. Meanwhile we offer a solemn “amen” and a prayer for their unfortunate soul.
In fact, I don’t even have to ask. It’s something we all do because we’re all human. That’s why Jesus admonishes us to remove the log from our own eye before pointing out the speck in someone else’s. And despite our best intentions, it’s often impossible to notice the log in our eye unless God brings it to our attention. And that part is always embarrassing. After all, there was a log in our eye as we sat there judging everyone else! How could we not know?
As the Bible explains, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Not My Problem … Right?
OK, back to the devotional. As I said, I was working through We Saved You a Seat. It contains several interactive exercises. Fill in this blank, write this verse, make this list. Often I breeze through those parts with a pencil, barely writing anything.
But on this particularly lazy Sunday, I decided to fully engage with that day’s exercises. Until I got to the last one. It asked me to make a list of everything I envied in other people. Ugh, no thanks, I instinctively reacted, though I didn’t really know why. My mind attempted to work this repulsion out.
Well, first of all, envy’s not my problem. But boy, can I point to a list of people who do covet! This exercise could be really beneficial for them. Not me.
There. I didn’t need to dig deep and list the things I coveted because they didn’t exist. I am perfectly content. Go me!
Still, I felt uneasy. As if my perfect contentment wasn’t so perfect. As if deep down, there were some things I could list. I just didn’t want to peek into the deep caverns of my unknowable heart. But by God’s grace, I took a deep breath and flicked on the flashlight.
Suddenly, the log was visible, plain as day. Things I coveted rapidly appeared in pencil scratches on the paper before me. But wait, envy’s not my problem.
“Nice joke,” God must have thought.
“I the Lord Search the Heart”
For months — years — I’d tricked myself into thinking I was truly content. That the “do not covet” commandment didn’t apply to me because I didn’t have that problem. To you reading this, that might sound silly. But remember that verse from Jeremiah? The heart is deceitful. We can’t know what’s going on in there. The Bible says so!
But right after that, it says something even more important. Who can understand the heart? Verse 9 asks. Well …
“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)
As I completed the exercise, I understood why Baker included Jeremiah 17:9-10 in that day’s devotional. We can’t know what’s going on in our heart — including the things we covet — unless God gives us the grace to flick on the flashlight. We can’t see the log in our own eye unless he points it out.
Seeing our own sin exposed is part of God’s grace. It’s not comfortable or convenient. It’s embarrassing and difficult. But is it ever necessary. Without this difficult grace, we’d never see how desperately sick our hearts truly are. And only when we see how sick they are can we fully appreciate how awesome it is when Jesus makes them new.
So as it turns out, envy is my problem. Is there a sin you think you’ve mastered or bypassed altogether? If so, you might just be guilty of it. Why not ask God to take a look?