By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
I know that coveting has been a problem for millennia. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a commandment if it weren’t already a big deal. But of all the commandments, this one seems particularly American. Idolatry is up there, for sure, but there’s something about coveting that speaks to our way of living.
Of course, it’s long established that marketing and advertising exists to sell things to us with appealing to our covetous nature being the main selling point. The entire industry of advertising is about telling us that there’s something we didn’t realize we want, and then convincing us that we absolutely need it. Everything is from a place of scarcity. It’s all about there never being “enough."
I had the good fortune of joining with a number of Covenant members the other day at our Lenten Virtual Suppers, and part of our discussion was on the nature of “enough." What does enough mean to you? How do you know when you have enough? Do we draw a strict line with “enough," or do we let it creep up?
Here’s a small example: I have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. I currently have access to more episodes of television than any other time in human history. I can watch all of The Office at my leisure (even on my phone). This is an unthinkable luxury. It used to be reruns of the same five Seinfeld episodes and the occasional Everybody Loves Raymond. Now I can watch almost anything I want without paying heed to trivialities like “time” and “space."
Notice I said “almost” anything.
I’ve never seen The Handmaid’s Tale. Because it’s on Hulu. And I don’t have Hulu. That sometimes bothers me.
I am showered with the blessing of nigh unlimited TV shows, and yet I get hung up on the fact that there’s one show that is beyond my grasp. When do we say “enough”? How do we know when enough is enough?
I realized a helpful way of monitoring myself for “enoughness” is to ask myself the simple question: Why?
Why do I want this thing? Is it because I feel I need it, is it because I want it, or is it because I just recently heard of it and am a sucker for advertising?
Through this lens I realize I don’t need Hulu. I don’t need to spend the extra money for thousands of hours of TV that will go completely unwatched.
But it’s not just when it comes to TV that I feel the pull of coveting. The commandment says “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Now there are plenty of those things that I don’t covet, but this winter as I was shoveling the driveway I’ll admit to coveting my neighbors snowblower (which is our modern equivalent of their donkey). I have neighbors with a pool, and I covet that in the summer, even though I know I wouldn’t necessarily even want one in my backyard. I covet my neighbors across the street who have been having large gatherings throughout the pandemic, even though I know that the consequences of those gatherings could be grave.
But I have my house, I have my family, I have my health. When I look at those things of my neighbors that I covet, I need to remember to ask myself “Why?” and if I can’t find a good answer to that question, then I’m probably just being covetous.
That being said, I think I may buy a snowblower before next winter...