Have you ever looked at what your friends have and thought “I really wish I that was mine” or “why do they get to have that and not me?”. One of my greatest passions is travelling – seeing the world and exploring all it has to offer. I try to visit new countries as much as possible but as a 23 year old working for a church, I’m not exactly a millionaire…so financing it can be problematic. I have been incomprehensibly blessed by numerous people over the last few years to enable me to see what I have seen, but naturally there are limits. Even despite the fact that I’ve been able to travel a little bit recently, I still feel the jealousy rising up inside of me when friends of mine get to go to places that I can’t. An old friend of mine has just returned from spending a few months travelling around north and south America; another is in India; another in Australia; another is in Dubai; others in South Africa and there are people in many other countries besides. They get to do a lot of the things I want to do…only now. It’s not fair! Well, yesterday, I read this:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
– Romans 13:8-10 (NIV – emphasis added)
I’ve read this passage many times. For some reason, Roman’s is my ‘go-to’ book if I don’t know specifically what I want to read in the Bible. My standard (honest, non-analytical) takeaways from this passage are:
- the only thing we should owe others is to love them
- don’t commit adultery
- don’t forget you can’t murder people
- love your neighbour as you love yourself
I’m no Rick Warren, but I usually read this as a pretty straightforward passage…until I’d realised that I’ve actually been missing a crucial statement the whole time.
“You shall not covet”
If I’m honest with you, I can’t remember the last time I heard the word ‘covet’ outside of Christian circles. It means to ‘yearn to possess or have something’ and we often hear it at the bottom of the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
– Exodus 20:17 (NIV)
The thing is, I know not to covet other people’s stuff. To be honest, I also know not to gossip or speak badly of people but unfortunately I still fall short on a pretty regular basis. It’s a little bit different to murder or adultery in that it can’t be measured by external actions. It’s pretty easy not to commit adultery or murder someone because the reality is, other people will see or be directly affected by those actions (whether that’s the right attitude or not is another issue entirely). However, whilst you can openly covet something, it’s more likely a feeling that manifests itself internally; so it can’t always be seen. It’s one of those sins that are easy to hide. I know I want to do it less, but it’s not a priority…
Reading the passage above really threw me yesterday. Love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.
Essentially, if you love people enough, you won’t covet their stuff.
I’ve never really looked at it like that before. I get jealous of other churches for the amazing facilities or equipment they have, or as I said, of other people for the amazing trips they get to go on or of people who seem to have the perfect families when I’m not even close to starting mine yet. But at best that’s a love-deficient attitude; at worst, it’s entirely love-less. If the focus is on loving others in the way that the Bible teaches, I need to take myself entirely out of the equation and stop putting my situation first. Who cares if a church is ‘ahead’ of us technically?! I should be rejoicing that they are seeing incredible things spiritually! Who cares if people are going to amazing places?! I should be excited that they would have the opportunity rather than comparing it to me. As for these phenomenal families, I should constantly be thanking God that these parents and children get to grow up with the firm, loving foundations and support that they need. What I need doesn’t change how happy for them I should be…
…which brings me right back to the passage. Love your neighbour AS YOURSELF. It’s that err, simple!