Robert Morris — The Principle of Contentment
We've been in a series called, "Relationship Through God's Top Ten List", and these are ten laws for a civilized society. I don't want to ever overlook that. But, there's a principle behind each commandment that I think we need to understand, so if you've missed some, you can go back and listen to them, and I will say this. About 2/3 of the way through, it dawned on me that I had missed the mark in some area on every principle. You know, sometimes when you think about the Ten Commandments, you can think, well, I haven't broken all of the commandments, you know? I haven't murdered someone. You know, I haven't committed adultery. I'm honoring my parents. I haven't had any idols in my house. You know, I'm basically an honest person.
I mean, you could go through, kind of like the rich, young ruler, saying to Jesus, I've kept the commandments. But when you think about the principle that's behind the commandment, you might have had the same revelation that I had, and that is, I thought, Lord, I'm guilty of all. I've broken all of these principles at some time or another in my life. And I just felt like the Lord reminded me, you know, Robert, I didn't give the Ten Commandments so you could make Me happy. I gave the Ten Commandments so you could be happy. I was giving you principles to live by for your happiness, not things you check off to make Me happy, because you're my son, you're God's daughter. God's happy with you. He's pleased with you. He loves you, even if you miss the mark. We're all humans, we miss the mark. But, these are principles that enhance our relationship with God and our relationship with each other.
So, we're on the tenth principle now, and it's the tenth commandment, Exodus 20:17. Exodus 20:17, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's". Okay, we like to boil the commandment down to, "You shall not covet", and that's okay, as long as we understand what the word covet means, and we're going to go through that. But the principle, I believe, that He's trying to instill in our lives through this commandment, is the principle of contentment. The only reason that we would ever covet what someone else has is because we're not content with what we have.
And, there's a Scripture in the New Testament, there are several on covetousness, but there's a Scripture that to me — the Lord gave me this principle before I ever started studying about it. I just felt like He said the tenth one is the principle of contentment. But there's a Scripture I want to show you, and I'm only going to show you the second part of it first, because you're familiar with it. And then I'll show you the first part, and it shows how contentment is the opposite of covetousness. All right? Or, the answer, the remedy to covetousness.
The Scripture is Hebrews 13:5. It says, "For He Himself", this is the second part, "has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Have you all ever heard that Scripture? By the way, that is a quote from the Old Testament. It's a quote from Joshua 1:5. It's when God was saying to Joshua, Moses is dead, but as I was with Moses, I will be with you. And He said to Joshua, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". So, the writer of Hebrews here is quoting that. But, what's the first part of the verse say? We know that part, but the first part says this. Hebrews 13:5, "Let your conduct be without covetousness, be content with such things as you have". "Let your conduct be without covetousness, be content with things as you have. For He Himself said, "I will never leave nor forsake". In other words, the way you be content is, I'll never leave you. I'll never forsake you. I'll always be your Father. I'll always be your provider.
So, here's part number one, what is coveting? What is coveting? Now, if you remember, I told you that the Ten Commandments are in two places in the Old Testament, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and you can read, by the way the word Deuteronomy means the second law, or the law a second time. Exodus means to exit or to go out. That's when the children of Israel went out. Leviticus means the law. It actually means pertaining to the Levites, but we prescribe it as the law, then Deuteronomy means the second law, the law a second time. So, in Deuteronomy 5 we have the Ten Commandments listed again, and they're a little different sometimes, so it's good to read both places so you can kind of get a fuller understanding. So, I'm going to show you what the tenth commandment is in Deuteronomy, and you'll understand a little more about the word, what covet means. All right?
So, Deuteronomy 5:21, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife and you shall not desire your neighbor's house, field, male servant, female servant, ox, donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's". Okay. So, the word covet means to desire, but it's stronger than the word desire. It means to strongly desire. Now, I need you to understand, we shorten the commandments sometimes so we can remember them. Like, we say the tenth commandment, sometimes we even use Old King James because it sounds, you now, a little more spiritual, but we'll say, "Thou shalt not covet". Okay, that's fine, as long as you understand what covet means. It means to strongly desire, but I want you to understand, the whole commandment is what God is saying.
And since it says desire, this is what it doesn't mean. God is not saying you shall not desire, you shall not have desires. That's not what He's saying. Here's what He's saying. You shall not desire what belongs to someone else. That's what coveting is. Coveting is not desiring a better house for your family, a better school system, a reliable car. That's okay to have desires. That's okay. What coveting is, is desiring what belongs to someone else. So, here's what Satan does. He does everything he can to get us to want or desire what someone else has. But, here's what covetousness does. Covetousness causes us to resent God, because God's providing something for him He's not providing for me. Covetousness is more serious than we think. I mean, it made it into the top ten!
And, let me show you some New Testament Scriptures on it, all right? Here's what Jesus said about it. Luke 12:15, "And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses". "One's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses". If you've been someone who's been blessed financially, and most of us living in America have been very blessed financially, compared to the rest of the world, that'd be a good Scripture to memorize. "One's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses". And Jesus says, "Beware of covetousness".
Then, there are a few places where covetousness is listed amongst some other sins. What's amazing to me is how serious the sins are, and covetousness makes the list. Let me show you a few. 1 Corinthians 5:11, "But now I've written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, not even to eat with such a person". Look at the list! And this next verse, in the list, it's going to tell you why covetousness is so bad. Colossians 3:5 says, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth, fornication", notice again the list it makes, "uncleanness", this is sexual uncleanness, "passion", this is sexual passion for someone outside of marriage, "evil desire and covetousness", watch this, "which is idolatry". "Covetousness, which is idolatry".
You've probably never even thought about that! Why is it idolatry? Because you're putting someone or something above God. That thing, or that person, has now become an idol in your life, and here's what happens. You'll actually exchange, if you begin to covet something, you will exchange God for that. If I could have that man's wife, if I could have that person's job, I'll do anything to get it. If I could have that neighborhood, in essence, you begin to say, I'll give everything I have to have that. And, a lot of people have given their relationship with God, because once you begin to covet something, you desire, strongly desire something that doesn't belong to you, it becomes an idol.
Now, why don't we go back and read Exodus 20:17 one more time, because I just want to show you how unbelievably clear God is on this one. And by the way, I have some humor in the message in a moment. Because you're out there like, I shouldn't have even come to church today. This guy normally tells jokes. He's just getting all over me. Okay. All right, so let me show you Exodus 20:17 again. Watch how clear God is on this. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox", and I'll explain what an ox represents in a moment, in the Bible, "nor his donkey", I'll explain that too, but watch this. And then He says, let me just say this, "nor anything that is your neighbor's".
Let me give a catch-all. You don't covet his truck, don't covet his barbecue grill, don't covet her clothes, don't covet her jewelry, don't covet their money, anything. Ox and donkey represented wealth. That represented wealth, because in Israel, the more land you had, the more oxen you needed to work the land. They worked the land with oxen. And the way they traveled was with donkeys, not horses. Only the ultra-wealthy had horses. Jesus Himself rode on a colt to follow the donkey, okay? So, a donkey represented transportation. Don't covet your neighbor's Lexus, or anything that is your neighbor's. So, please hear me again! God is not saying it's wrong to desire. He's saying it's wrong to strongly desire what belongs to someone else, because it will become an idol, but it's okay to desire. For instance, if you're not married, you can desire a wife. Don't desire someone else's wife.
Okay, so, point number one, what is coveting? Desiring what someone else has. Here's point number two. Contentment versus contention. Contentment versus contention. You remember, I love words, and we're talking about the principle of contentment. Look at these two words though, and look at the root of each word. Contention, contentment, contentment, contention. They're both content. They both have the root content. So, what's the difference? All right, the word content means happy or satisfied. That means you're satisfied. I'm happy, I'm satisfied. Satisfied. Contentment, when you put -ment on the end of the word, it means the state of. So, contentment means the state of satisfaction.
Contention, when you put the I-O-N, it means there's a struggle or a quarrel. So, this is a person who's not content, and has an inward struggle. Okay, so why am I telling you this? Because if you're not content, then you're not in the state of contentment, you're in the state of contention. It means you're not happy, so you're always competing. By the way, the word competition is the sister word to the word comparison. This is what happens when we are not content. We compare our house to someone else's house, our job to someone else's job, our spouse to someone else's spouse. Comparison. Comparison is not good. It's not a good thing to do.
Now, you can compare in a good way. If you're house hunting, you can compare. You can say which house would be best. You can even go to someone else's house and see something you like, compare it to your house, and say on the way home, I like the way they did their backyard. I did, too. Okay, that's fine. That's not coveting, as long as you're content with what God's provided for you. Are you following me? When you're not content, then you go to covet. That's where you cross the line. But when you go to comparison, you've got to think about this. There's a dissatisfaction when you look for what someone else has. It means you're dissatisfied with what you have. You begin to compare.
When you compare and you're dissatisfied, I want you to think about it, there's only one of two conclusions, inferiority or superiority. In other words, if my house is nicer than yours and I have discontentment in my heart, I could feel superior. If my house is not as nice as yours and I have discontentment in my heart, I'll feel inferior. You can't imagine how comparison messes you up. It totally messes you up, and I'm going to give you some wild examples, okay? Wild examples, all right? Not only do you not rejoice when someone else gets blessed, but if someone you don't like gets blessed, you get mad. Or, if something bad happens to someone you don't like, you rejoice a little bit. He was in a car wreck? Really? Was his face damaged? Really? Is it permanent? Just giving you wild examples. It's comparing. Comparison is never right. It's never right.
All right, let me read you a verse. 2 Corinthians 10:12, "For we dare not class ourselves". Okay, stop just for a moment. Isn't that amazing, how we class ourselves? Well, I'm this class or I'm this class, but not in the body of Christ, we're not. We're all joint heirs. "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves". That's always what happens, is you start commending yourself, or you have to build yourself up to everybody. "But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise".
Okay, this is what I was talking about last week. There are wise, foolish, and evil people. Okay, here's what I found out. Foolish people, the reason they're foolish, is they're always comparing themselves. Now, can I tell you something else about comparing ourselves, because we're really, this society is worse than any other generation, because of social media. And if you haven't figured it out yet, social media is posed. It is not real. You see a picture, this husband, my husband took me out to dinner for my birthday. And you go in and there's your husband, in front of the TV. They could have gotten in a knockdown, drag out fight right after that picture, but they don't post that picture. But, we compare ourselves. Are you all following me? And we covet.
Okay. So, I had this friend of mine that, he was in his late 30s and had never been married. And we were talking one time, and he said, Pastor, I have a theological question for you. I said, okay. He said, can I put two Scriptures together? I said, yes, you can put two Scriptures together. The problem is never putting Scripture together, the problem is putting your understanding of those two Scriptures together. That's where the problem always comes in. So, let me see the two Scriptures and I'll tell you if you're interpreting those Scriptures correctly, all right? And here are the two Scriptures, all right?
Psalm 84:11, "No good thing". "No good thing", notice the words good thing, "will He withhold from those who walk uprightly". The other Scripture, Proverbs 18:22, "He who finds a wife finds a good thing". He said, Pastor Robert, can I combine those two Scriptures? If I walk uprightly, will God provide me a wife? And I said to him, you can combine those two Scriptures. Yeah, you could combine those two Scriptures. And about a year later, he came up to me at a conference. He said, Pastor Robert, Pastor Robert! I want you to meet my good thing. And actually, like, you know, I call Debbie, Sugar? Good Thing became her pet name. He would come home and say, did you have a good day, Good Thing? And I haven't seen him in a while, but for about 15, 20 years after that, when I did see him, he would always call her Good Thing. He just called her Good Thing. Here's what's good about that. He never coveted anyone else's wife, because he knew he got his wife from God, and he always saw her as a good thing.
So, here's point three. It doesn't take long, it's a shorter point than the others. Here's number three. Delight before desires. Delight before desires. So, what's the answer to being content? Psalm 37:4, a very famous verse, but most people misapply this verse most people, most of you probably do too, because you don't know the context of it, probably. Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart". But notice, delight comes before desire. We're talking about coveting being a strong desire, so how do you get your desires to be right? Well, you delight in the Lord. But, let me explain it to you.
So, we have two sons and a daughter. There is eight years difference from Josh to Elaine. So we had Josh and then we had James, and then I prayed and prayed and prayed for a little girl. And then Debbie got pregnant, and I asked the Lord, is it a girl? Now, on Josh and James, I had Words on both of them. Some of you are thinking, why didn't you just have a sonogram? We didn't have sonograms back then. Okay? We rode dinosaurs to the hospital, all right? So. I asked the Lord, is it a girl, and He wouldn't say anything. And I mean, we went months, and He wouldn't say anything. I mean, He would say nothing, nothing.
And finally I said, why won't you give me a Word on this pregnancy? Is it a girl? And He said to me very clearly in my spirit, you want a Word? "Delight yourself in the Lord. He will give you the desires of your heart". And I said, yeah, but is it a girl? And the Lord said to me, why don't you figure out what that Scripture means? And it was like He sat there in the room while I began to study it. The whole psalm, of Psalm 37, David wrote it in his later life, wrote it probably as an instruction to Solomon. And what he was saying is, it's going to look like that the wicked flourish and that the righteous don't. That's what it's going to look like to you.
As a matter of fact, the word wicked is in Psalm 37, I think, it's been a while since I've studied, but more than any other chapter in the Bible, 14 times. 14 times in one chapter, he uses the word wicked. And what he keeps saying is, he's talking to Solomon now. He keeps saying, you're going to have to learn to trust God. Verse 3 actually says put your trust in God. Verse 4 says, "Delight in the Lord". Well, here's what he's saying. If you'll come to the place where you'll learn to be content with what God's provided for you, you won't be comparing yourself with other people. That's the whole context.
But I want to let you know, this verse is different than what you think. Most people think that it means if you serve the Lord, He'll give you what you want. That's not what it means. Listen carefully. It says if you'll trust, and serve, and delight yourself in the Lord, He will actually give you — let me say it another way. He'll actually put the right desires in your heart. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He'll give you", are you all following me? "The desires of your heart". He'll actually put the desires in your heart, if you're content with whatever God has for you. So when I saw that, again, it was like the Lord was sitting across from me, and I said, Lord, whether it's a boy or a girl, I'm going to be content. And it's like He got up and started walking out of the room, and He got to the door, and He turned around and said, that's good. And by the way, it's a girl, and she's sitting right down there. It's a girl. Here's what I'm telling you. If you'll be content with what God has for you, you'll never, ever have to worry about coveting.