The Ten - Wanting Yourself Out Of Community
Today we make it to the tenth rule of the relationship God has invited us into. My hope as we have worked through this study was to try and remind you that God invited us to take part in a story. It is a story that is honest, raw, and at times a bit uncomfortable. The more of the story we know, the more we see it reflected in our lives. When we take an honest look at the Bible, we see our story. Let me show you what I mean.
Back in Genesis 1 the story begins when God speaks the world and everything we know into creation. God creates man and puts him in the garden, a paradise. Adam has every need met, he has a purpose, shelter, food, and most importantly he has real community in his relationship with God. It would seem that Adam had everything. As the Story continues in Genesis 2 we notice that the community is not complete, yet. Adam has this amazing place, a job, and this uninterrupted relationship with God but there is still a craving for more. In one of those scenes would have loved to actually see, God has all of the animals come by for Adam to name; you’re a horse, and you look like a bear, and you’re definitely an alpaca. But there is more going on here; God wants Adam to understand that there was not a suitable helper for him. God is not surprised, that while a dog might be man’s best friend, there is a need for a deeper form of community. So God causes Adam to fall asleep and from his rib God creates Eve.
As Genesis 2 ends Adam and Eve are living in paradise, with an uninterrupted, unhindered, relationship with God. There is this perfect community: Adam, Eve, and God. They walk together and spend time together. Notice that God doesn’t spend time with just Adam or just Eve, but this is a community built for all of them to spend time together. In this little community we see that God has given them everything they need, but it’s just not everything they want.
In Chapter 3 we are introduced to a decision; do I want a relationship with God or do I want something else? Eve and Adam had it all, but it wasn’t enough, they craved for more. It’s a story that we read time and time again in the pages of scripture, and one we see everyday of our lives. God offers Himself to His creation and we want God and something more. How many times would you say that you have been given God and you longed for something more?
We were created to live in community with God. He established that community, and throughout the story He has moved again and again so that we could know Him and live in relationship with Him. Our story is filled with moves and counter moves. In Genesis 2 God creates community, in Genesis 3 Satan counter moves to destroy that community. In Genesis 6 God moves through Noah to reestablish that Community. In Genesis 9 Satan counter moves through Ham to destroy that community. In Genesis 12 God calls Abraham out of Ur to establish community, in Genesis 12 Satan counter moves through fear and Abraham lies. In Genesis 13 God reestablishes His covenant and once again offers community. The cycle continues all through the Bible and in our lives as well. God wants us to be in a community with Him and for some reason we want something more.
As God closes out the rules of our relationship He put community at the forefront of the discussion. In this 10th commandment God uses the word neighbor 3 times in an effort to remind us that we are living in a community. There are no loners in the family of God. We are all connected to one another, because we are all connected to God.
The last of the commandments is, in many ways, as comprehensive as the first. Actually more than any other this commandment focuses on the interior of the human heart. It is not concerned so much with what we do, but with what we think. It is less about action and more about attitude. The eight commandment forbids stealing. The tenth says, don't even think about it. The seventh commandment condemns adultery. The tenth warns us about even considering it.
That doesn't mean that the tenth commandment isn't interested in behavior. Our actions are the children of our thoughts. This commandment seeks to drive out evil actions before they are born. The heart of the 10th commandment can be seen in James 1:14-15: "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death."
Before a thief ever steals, he first coveted his neighbor's possessions.
Before a man or a woman ever give in to adultery, they first coveted someone’s spouse.
Before the first word of slander is ever spoken, the gossip coveted their neighbor's reputation.
The word covet simply means desire, which is morally neutral. In 1 Corinthians 12:31 Paul said, "But eagerly desire the greater gifts." He uses the same word as covet. He was referring to the gift of love and said that it was right to covet the gift of loving others. There is nothing wrong with desires, goals and dreams. In fact, our ability to imagine and fashion a better world than the one we are given, is one of our greatest attributes. It is when we begin to covet the lesser gifts that our desires take us away from God and His community.
The last commandment is pretty clear. It doesn't just say, You shall not covet. Then it would be wrong to eagerly desire anything. It is very specific. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, or your neighbor's wife or his servants or his ox or donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
The focus isn't on things, but on community. Even the language emphasizes relationships. "Neighbor ... neighbor ... his ... his ... neighbor.” God makes a reference to your neighbor seven times in this one verse. When we covet our neighbor's possessions, whether they are things he or she owns or relationships they cherish, some sinister things begin to happen in our hearts.
We were created to value people over things. We were created to value community over possessions. We were created to find fulfillment in the relationships we have with the other people created in the image of God. But often times we get short sighted, we look at what the creation has to offer and we forget about why we were created in the first place.
If this story sounds familiar, it should. It’s a story hat has been told a million times since Genesis 3. I know you could stay and listen to me preach all day, but I just want to look at one story this morning. It’s the one found in Luke 12:13 - 21. (Read Text)
I want you to picture this scene in your mind. Jesus is teaching when, suddenly, a man interrupts Him. Jesus correctly diagnosed this man's problem as covetousness, actually He called it greed. Then Jesus, who created us, diagnoses the fact that this sickness of the heart always produces two problems.
First, it destroyed the man's relationship with his brother.
Notice that Jesus said to him, Who made me a judge or arbitrator over you? Jesus knew that something had already come between this man and his brother. This man had chosen stuff over family and community.
The truth about human nature is that when we get focused on things we lose the ability to see anyone else. Think about it this way, I went by and visited my friends at Ace glass and got a small piece of glass and a mirror to make this point. What is the difference between a mirror and a piece of glass?
The mirror is just a piece of glass, with silver on the back. While you can see through the glass, the silver on the mirror will only allow you to see yourself. The same is true in our lives; when we get focused on the silver, we lose our ability to see anyone else.
When we covet what someone else has we lose the ability to see the person. All we can see is their possessions. They are no longer siblings or friends or folks created in the image of God we are called to love. They become rivals. We see them as competitors to be beaten, not relationships to be nurtured. They are no longer beings made in the image of God, but possessors of what we want. The things they have are more important than the people they are.
Which leads to a second sinister development in our hearts. We begin to measure success not by the depth of our character but by the abundance of our possessions.
Our struggle with success is that it often leads us to define our lives by how high a pile we can build rather than how deep a soul we can develop. That was the fatal flaw the rich fool made. To him, and to all who are guilty of covetousness, success has less to do with who we are and more to do with how much we have.
One of the problems of living with that definition of success is that we can never quite get there. Someone else will always have a bigger pile of possessions. There is always an upgraded gadget, or bigger house, or newer style.
A young couple may set their hearts on being the first in their circle of friends to get out of an apartment and into a house. And they may succeed. But then someone else will build a bigger house. Or furnish it more elaborately. Or locate it in a more affluent area. Or park a nicer car in the larger garage. Suddenly, being the first to own a house isn't enough. It has to be a bigger house with nicer furnishings in a better neighborhood.
The rich fool in Jesus' story had to have bigger barns to store all of his things. If Jesus had not ended the story so abruptly you know what would have happened next. His bigger barns would have made his pile of stuff look smaller. So he would have said to himself, I have nice big barns in which to store all my goods, but now I don't have enough goods to fill my barns. What shall I do? This is what I will do; I will buy more fields and raise more crops to fill my bigger barns. Then I will eat, drink and be merry.
But then His barns would have been to small so he would need to tear down his big barns to build even bigger barns. Then more fields. Then bigger barns. And the cycle would just continue. When we define success by the size of our pile, we are sucked into a cyclone of dissatisfaction. We spin around and around, unable to stop, unable to rest, unable to find peace.
This desire to have more and more and our inability to find contentment in the community God has provided us causes all kinds of havoc in our lives and our souls. We cherish things more than people.
We live with a distorted definition of success. And we become desensitized to sin.
Satan may be evil but he isn’t an idiot. The Bible shows tremendous respect for his sly creativity and ability to slowly seduce us. He isn't always a roaring lion. Sometimes he is a sly fox or as sneaky as a serpent.
Remember the story of Joseph and Mrs. Potipher in Genesis 39? One day when Joseph was diligently managing Potipher's house when Mrs. Potipher came on to him and enticed him, saying “Sleep with me”. There was no time to think, so Joseph reacted. He left his coat in her hand as he ran from the house.
Joseph had never even entertained the idea of committing adultery with Potipher's wife. When he was first approached with the idea he replied my master doesn't give a second thought to anything that goes on here––he's put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn't turned over to me is you. You're his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God. Joseph’s greatest desire was his community with God.
But what if Joseph had coveted his master's wife? What if he had developed a resentful heart because of all that had happened to him? Here he was working as a slave in this rich Egyptian's house because his own brothers had despised him. His brothers threw him in a pit and then only rescued him so they could sell him. Now he is a servant, when just a few days ago he was being served. This was not how he envisioned his life. This is not what was supposed to happen. Look at all this man had. What if, in the privacy of his own heart, Joseph had indulged the thought of having sex with his master's wife? Then what would have happened when Mrs. Potipher made the pass?
Covetousness slowly reduces our sensitivity to sin. Covetousness allows us to justify our desires. Back before they were called business consultants, positive thinking gurus used to tell us, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve." They were trying to get people in business to think beyond the borders of reality, to imagine a different world. The thinking was that before people would try to shape reality in a different way they had to see it differently, in their minds.
In a backhanded kind of way, that's what Satan does to us. He tries to get us to imagine a different world. But not one where we are faithful or honest; he wants to move us in the opposite direction. So he doesn't try to get us to steal. He just wants us to think about how good it would be to have the nice things our neighbor has. He doesn't send a prince who is as emotionally sensitive as he is handsome to sweep us off our feet or a Sandra Bullock look-a-like who knows how to make us feel like a man. He sends a mental suggestion. A simple, What if? A subtle, I wonder what it would be like? A sinister, Why not?
That's why when Jesus deepens our call to community in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, "He who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." We haven't actually committed the sin, but we have taken a giant step toward it because we are no longer shocked by it. If you can entertain the thought, you can do the deed. That's why this tenth commandment is so powerful. It attacks sin at the root. It seeks to purify the soil of the heart before sin becomes a weed in our lives. It shows us the true value of community.
Haddon Robinson tells the story of young Chinese boy who wanted to learn all about jade. He went to an old teacher who specialized in the beautiful gem and asked him to teach him. The old man agreed and for the first lesson the old man placed a piece of the precious stone into the young man’s hand and told him to hold it tight. Then the old teacher began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it. After an hour, the teacher took the stone from the boy and sent him home, telling him to return the next day.
The boy was a bit confused but thought surely the next day would be different. But just as the day before the Old Teacher had the boy sit down and placed a piece of jade in the boys hand while he talked about the world and everything in it. This procedure was repeated every day for several weeks, each time with a different piece of jade. The young boy wanted to be polite to his teacher but thought he was doing nothing more than wasting time at the feet of a man who had lost his mind. The young man decided the next morning he would tell this man thank you and he was going to quit.
That morning he came to the lesson, sat down and the old man put a stone into his hand and instinctively the boy said, "Sir, that’s not jade!" To which the teacher replied.. "Now, you are ready to work with the precious stone, for now, you recognize the genuine.”
God has created and called us into real community, but far too often we settled for all the counterfeit things this world offers. True community with God consists of loving Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, body, and strength. The second rule of community is like the first, loving the people God loves.
Your call this morning is to get the silver out of your eyes so that you can focus on God and the community He created for you to enjoy.