Greetings in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6
Today’s message is both deeply personal and profoundly universal. It speaks to a condition that we all, as human beings, grapple with — the state of our hearts and the nature of our desires. Today, we venture into a discussion that transcends the external manifestations of our faith and delves into its very core — the state of our hearts.
Our journey through the Ten Commandments brings us to the final commandment today, “You shall not covet.” This commandment, unique in its essence, moves us beyond external behaviors and pierces the heart of our being — our innermost desires, thoughts, and attitudes. The very things that shape who we are and dictate how we act.
We live in a world that often blurs the lines between desire and covetousness. A world that seduces us with the illusion that more is better and that the grass is always greener on the other side. But as followers of Christ, we are called to resist these messages, to find contentment in our lives, and to guard our hearts against covetousness.
So, I invite you today to embark on this journey of self-discovery with me. As we delve into the heart of the matter, let’s explore the true meaning of covetousness, understand the effects of unchecked desires, and learn how to cultivate a heart of contentment in a world that constantly provokes dissatisfaction. Let’s uncover the path to true peace and fulfillment together.
The Divine Dilemma of Covetousness
Our exploration today begins with understanding what it means to covet. When we read Exodus 20:17, it’s clear: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” This commandment encompasses a broad range of potential objects of desire, but the central thread is the same: it is an injunction against unhealthy longing for what belongs to others.
Covetousness is more than just a desire for material goods or physical possessions. It’s an insidious state of heart and mind that fixates on what we lack, often to the exclusion of recognizing and appreciating what we have. It’s a hunger that’s never satisfied, a thirst that’s never quenched. It distorts our perception of reality, makes us ungrateful for our blessings, and can even drive us to harm others in our pursuit of what we desire. Covetousness, at its core, is a destructive force that disrupts our relationship with God, with others, and even with ourselves.
Now, it’s important to clarify that not all desire is wrong. Desire, in and of itself, is a natural part of the human experience. It motivates us to strive for better, to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. The problem arises when desire becomes disordered, when it turns into obsession, when it blinds us to the needs and rights of others, when it pushes God from the center of our lives and replaces Him with the object of our covetousness.
Understanding this, we can begin to see why God commands us not to covet. It’s not simply because He wants to impose arbitrary rules or restrict our freedom. On the contrary, this commandment, like all the others, stems from God’s deep love for us and His desire for our wellbeing. God knows the harm that unchecked covetousness can inflict on our hearts, our relationships, and our communities. He knows that a heart consumed by covetousness is a heart in turmoil, never at peace, never satisfied.
Furthermore, God understands that covetousness fundamentally undermines the relationship He seeks to cultivate with us. Covetousness makes us focus on the creation rather than the Creator, on the gift rather than the Giver. It distorts our perspective, making us believe that our happiness and fulfillment lie in what we can acquire rather than in who we are in God. It leads us away from the contentment, joy, and peace that come from a deep, abiding relationship with God.
Lastly, covetousness harms our relationships with others. It breeds jealousy, resentment, and conflict. It makes us see others not as fellow human beings, deserving of dignity and respect, but as competitors in a zero-sum game of accumulation. It erodes the bonds of community and mutual care that God intends for His people.
So, we see the issue of covetousness is not merely a matter of individual morality or personal discipline. It is a matter of the heart that has profound implications for our relationship with God, with others, and with the world around us. It’s a divine dilemma that we all must confront, that we all must wrestle with in our journey of faith. But the good news is that God does not leave us to face this dilemma alone. He provides guidance, wisdom, and strength for the journey. And that’s where we will turn next in our exploration.
A Heart Transformed: The Power of Contentment
Contentment, in stark contrast to the tumultuous state of covetousness, is a condition of peace, acceptance, and satisfaction in our current circumstances. Contentment does not mean complacency, nor is it about settling for less than what God desires for us. Rather, contentment is the recognition of God’s abundant provision in our lives and our reliance on Him for our needs.
The Apostle Paul speaks to this in his letter to the Philippians when he says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). These words reveal a profound wisdom that Paul discovered: the secret of contentment is not dependent on our external circumstances but on our internal relationship with God. It’s about trusting in Him who strengthens us and satisfies our deepest needs.
Understanding this, we can see that contentment is more than just a virtue to be cultivated. It’s a transformation of the heart that happens when we reorient our desires towards God and recognize His sufficiency in our lives. Instead of looking outward at what we don’t have, contentment invites us to look inward and upward, to recognize and appreciate the gifts and blessings that God has already given us.
Jesus reinforces this principle in the Sermon on the Mount, teaching His followers not to worry about their physical needs: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). Jesus isn’t dismissing the reality of our earthly needs, but rather, He is inviting us to trust in God’s provision and care for us, freeing our hearts from the tyranny of worry and anxiety.
A heart grounded in contentment can look at the world not with envy or resentment but with gratitude and joy. It finds joy not in the fleeting and often unsatisfying nature of material possessions, but in the unchanging and everlasting goodness of God. This is the kind of heart that God desires for us, not because He wants to control us or limit our enjoyment of life, but because He wants to free us from the destructive power of covetousness and lead us into a life of true fulfillment and peace.
So, let us strive for this contentment, drawing on God’s strength and trusting in His provision. As we do, we’ll find that the allure of covetousness loses its power over us. Our hearts become aligned with God’s heart, our desires with His desires. And in that alignment, we discover the peace, joy, and fulfillment that only He can provide. In our next section, we will explore practical ways to cultivate this contentment and resist the pull of covetousness in our daily lives.
Cultivating Contentment: Practical Steps Toward Inner Peace
Having grasped the essence of contentment and the transformative power it can have on our hearts, we now turn to the practical aspect of cultivating it in our daily lives. This is no easy task in a world that constantly bombards us with messages of discontentment, where we are urged to want more, have more, and be more. But, as followers of Christ, we have the guidance of His Word and the support of His Spirit to help us navigate these turbulent waters.
- Appreciation of What We Have: The Apostle Paul urges us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). An attitude of gratitude is a powerful antidote to the poison of covetousness. We can cultivate this by starting each day with thanksgiving, acknowledging the blessings God has bestowed upon us.
- Focusing on God’s Promise: In Hebrews 13:5, we read: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” What a powerful promise! God’s faithful presence in our lives is the greatest treasure we possess. When we focus on this promise, we will find the allure of material possessions pale in comparison.
- Simplicity and Generosity: In the book of Acts, we read about the early Christian community: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45). The early Christians practiced a radical form of simplicity and generosity that stood in stark contrast to the greed and excess of their surrounding culture. By simplifying our lives and sharing our resources, we are actively rejecting the culture of covetousness and living out the values of the Kingdom of God.
- Keeping our eyes on Jesus: The writer of Hebrews invites us to “look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is our ultimate example of contentment and self-sacrifice. Despite the hardships and temptations He faced, He remained focused on His mission, finding joy not in earthly possessions but in fulfilling the will of His Father.
As we seek to cultivate contentment in our lives, let’s remember that it’s not about trying harder or doing better. Rather, it’s about surrendering more fully to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As we submit to His leading, we will find that contentment becomes not just an occasional experience but a defining characteristic of our lives. As we wrap up our weekly devotion, let’s reflect on how cultivating contentment can impact our relationships, our community, and our world.
Life Application: Cultivating Contentment in Everyday Life
Having delved into the concept of contentment from the perspective of God’s Word, and having outlined practical steps towards fostering it, we now turn our attention to how we can actively apply these insights to our daily lives. How can we make contentment not just an abstract principle or a lofty ideal, but a lived experience, a defining feature of our character and conduct?
- Daily Practice of Gratitude: Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to combat the pervasive spirit of discontentment that pervades our society. This can be as simple as starting and ending each day with a prayer of thanksgiving, acknowledging the blessings we often take for granted. As Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Regularly expressing our gratitude to God changes our perspective, helping us to focus on God’s provision rather than on what we lack.
- Aligning our Desires with God’s Will: Contentment is not about suppressing our desires, but aligning them with God’s will. As we immerse ourselves in Scripture, spend time in prayer, and seek godly counsel, we can discern God’s will and align our desires with His. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” the psalmist writes in Psalm 37:4. When we delight in God, our desires naturally align with His, and we find contentment in pursuing His will.
- Serving Others: Jesus models a life of selfless service, and calls us to follow His example. In Mark 10:45, He says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” When we turn our attention away from our wants and focus on the needs of others, we break free from the prison of self-centeredness that fuels discontentment. Serving others, whether through acts of kindness, volunteering, or using our gifts to benefit others, brings us joy and cultivates contentment in our hearts.
- Trusting God: Ultimately, contentment is rooted in trust—trust in God’s love, goodness, and faithfulness. It is believing in God’s promise when He says in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” As we walk through life’s highs and lows, we can find peace in knowing that God is with us every step of the way, orchestrating everything for our good (Romans 8:28). Trusting God in every situation cultivates a deep-seated contentment that transcends our circumstances.
- Practicing Simplicity: The practice of simplicity—a lifestyle that eschews excess and focuses on the essential—can also help cultivate contentment. This could mean decluttering our physical spaces, being intentional about our commitments, or adopting a more minimalist lifestyle. As we simplify our lives, we create space for what truly matters, freeing ourselves from the endless pursuit of more.
The journey towards contentment is a continuous one, a path that we must choose to walk each day. It won’t always be easy. There will be times when we stumble, when the allure of more and the pressure to keep up with societal expectations can seem overwhelming. But let us remember Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” With Christ at the center of our lives, we can cultivate a contentment that is steadfast and enduring.
So, as we close this sermon series, let’s make a commitment, individually and collectively, to foster contentment in our lives. Let’s lean into God’s grace, immerse ourselves in His Word, serve others selflessly, and trust God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. As we do this, we will find that contentment is more than just an abstract principle. It becomes a lived reality, a reflection of our faith in God, and a testament to the transformative power of His Spirit at work within us.
May we each find, in our journey towards contentment, a deeper relationship with God, a richer appreciation of His blessings, and a more profound sense of peace and purpose. In cultivating contentment, may we bear witness to the truth of Christ’s words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” After all, this is precisely what Jesus demonstrated before the cross and on the cross.