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“You shall not covet.”
᛭ INI ᛭
Are you content? That’s a rough question these days. Is anyone really content? The world is full of discontents and malcontents! Everyone’s striving and fighting for more. It doesn’t really matter what it’s for! More money. More influence and popularity. More clothes. More stuff. More cars. More house. More food. Bigger promotion. Better job. Better wife—your neighbor’s wife! A better life.
Anxiety and worry are everywhere—the endless news cycle reports it and produces it. The coverage interrupted by ads from all sorts of companies who want you discontent, unhappy, depressed. From makeup to clothes, cars to getaways, food to medicines—the world wants you coveting all sorts of things. It offers many different ways to satisfy your every desire! And if all else fails, there’s alcohol…
The religious leaders were discontents, malcontents! They wanted Jesus dead because they hated Him for His popularity, coveting their own position. “They loved the glory of men more than the glory of God.” (Jn 12) “They [loved] the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues.” (Mt 23:6) “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our place.” (Jn 11:48) (That’s what they’re still worried about, so they get the guard of soldiers from Pilate.) Out of discontent, they’d handed Him over to Pilate in the first place. Even “he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.” (Mt 27:18) (Envy and coveting are two sides of the same coin. You covet the person, place, or thing someone has, while you envy the someone who has it.)
So, are you content? We’re never fully content with the gifts of life. (Grass is always greener…) Like the people and things God graciously gives. Those are a gift just for you. (We also give gifts chosen just for certain people.) So, whatever God gives to you is just for you; whatever He gives our neighbor is just for them.
Nevertheless, we still want and desire more. The American dream! This wanting, which is coveting, really is sin, even though it’s not an action. God tells us coveting is sin, because we “would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Rom 7:7) Coveting leads to actions, but coveting itself isn’t outward action. “Be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Lk 12:15)
Coveting is the opposite of being content. So, are you content? With what you have? (Our spending and saving versus our giving confesses discontent.) What about your family, your friends, your work, your life? Are you content enough to die? To depart and be with Christ? Or to do you covet more time? Are you content enough to die to your own wants for the sake of others? Are you content to live? To live in your baptism that “has crucified your flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal 5)
Always wanting more, being discontent, living for yourself isn’t life. It’s death! Whoever is “self-indulgent is dead even while [they] live.” (1 Tim 5:6) Discontentment is death. It’s the death of joy. The death of giftedness, that is, the death of receiving all things as gift. It’s the death of living only from the Father’s “goodness and mercy.”
Coveting is also idolatry (Col 3:5), having a false god, and so everyone who covets breaks the first Commandment. (Eph 5:5) The person, place, or thing you want is your god. See how much blood, sweat, and tears you pour out for it, or him, or her! How much sacrificing, scrimping and saving, you do! How much worry and fear you have! And for what? After you get it, there’s always something else…
Not so with Jesus.
FOR YOU JESUS WAS CONTENT AND MAKES YOU CONTENT.
He lived receiving all that He had, or maybe didn’t have, as gift. He knew that His Father cared for Him and trusted that He would care for Him. It didn’t bother Jesus that He “had nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt 8:20) “In life” Jesus had “no house, no home” (LSB 430) “In death” He had “no friendly tomb but what a stranger gave.” (LSB 430) Whether it was sleeping in a boat during a storm, being cared for by others, or being buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, Jesus always lived content. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to [finish up] his work.” (Jn 4) So He was content to live and content also to die. “It is finished.” (Jn 19) “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Lk 23)
The Father cares for you like He cares for Jesus. (Jesus says so many times.) Jesus’ Father is your Father—yours by Holy Baptism. As with Jesus so it will be for you. Not just tomb, but empty tomb—life restored, life forever. Since He will give that on the Last Day, He will also care for you day to day. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32) You can live receiving all things as gift, your Father cares for you. Jesus’ cross and tomb say so. Jesus’ contentment also is credited to your account and your discontent to His! (You’re redeemed!)
FOR YOU JESUS WAS CONTENT AND MAKES YOU CONTENT.
And **“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Pet 1:3–4)** This is granted freely by grace, out of His mercy, and it is received by faith.
The life of faith is the contented life, unfaith is discontent. Paul lays it out:
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim 6:6–10)
Coveting is to be discontent. It’s not just about love of money. It’s love of anything! Their god is their belly…with minds set on earthly things. (Phil 3:19) Money. Stuff. Influence. Food. Doesn’t matter. The end of such people—eternal lack. “Outer darkness. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth.”
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col 3:1) You have been raised with Christ. You’re baptized. Your god is now not your belly but the God who was buried “in the heart of the earth” for you, “just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish.” (Mt 12)
Beware of your flesh and blood and its passions and desires! (James 1) It produce all manner of sin and unrighteousness. “It does not submit to God’s Law, indeed it cannot!” (Rom 8:7) Believe what the Scripture says about your flesh, but there is medicine that will preserve the new life given in Holy Baptism. If you’ve got a pulse, you’ve got a flesh that will covet all the way to the grave and would take you resurrected all the way to hell, and so we have an unending need of the medicine.
The Christian Questions, along with the Large Catechism, tell us the Lord’s Supper is the medicine. (Because of our pressing need Christ commands: eat and drink.) Only filled up with the Lord’s own righteousness through the forgiveness of your sins received by faith in physically eating and drinking the bread and wine that are Jesus’ body and blood will you be content. (Something that is never fully realized in this life.) Yet, what else do you need when the “precious blood of Christ” is yours? FOR YOU JESUS…MAKES YOU CONTENT.
Are you content? You really can be. What else do you need? FOR YOU JESUS WAS CONTENT, even to cross, death, and grave—not even His!—for you. FOR YOU JESUS MAKES YOU CONTENT. He contents you. He baptizes you, giving you a crown, a throne, a mansion in His Kingdom! Not satisfied with your god being your belly, Jesus feeds you His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Fed with that, you really are content.