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Back in the Saddle Again (But with a Little More Clarity)


It is good to be back at work. I am grateful for these three weeks off (four Sundays of preaching). It allowed me to attend to some household needs that I have neglected. (I am almost caught up on those!) And it also allowed me to have the space to address some spiritual needs. One of the resources that has been guiding me is Sinclair Ferguson’s book Devoted to God. It has been a real balm to me.

One of the things I have learned about myself is a struggle with the sin of covetousness. This came to me as I was focusing on Colossians 3:5 (ESV) ‘Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.’ The first four sins are pretty obvious, but I have not paid much attention to this fifth sin. Perhaps it is because we don’t see it as such a big deal. After all it is buried at the bottom of the list of the Ten Commandments. But Paul says, ultimately it is idolatry. Which is counter to the first commandment to have no other gods but the Triune God.

Merrill Tenney defines covetousness as ‘the inordinate desire to have something’. Usually, in our narrow minds we characterize that as a ‘material something’. But I am learning that covetousness is essentially saying to God, ‘I want my situation to be different from what you are providing right now.’ As I have pondered this in my own life, I see behaviors that exhibit covetousness.

  1. When I am frustrated with my current situation, I see that it breeds discontentment.
  2. When I am discontent, I seek escapism or something that will fill the discontent with an alternative that will make me happy other than Christ.
  3. Covetousness leads to impatience. Impatience is always a sin as I am not relying upon nor trusting God in His timing.
  4. Also, when I want out of a situation, I want to rush through it. I work harder and longer hoping it will end sooner. I think I am moving ahead of God or getting His agenda done in a timelier manner. That leads to frustration and burnout and eventually … more discontentment.
  5. It becomes idolatry when I make myself and what I desire greater than my God. I idolize the self.
  6. When I idolize the self, I begin to use others for my own needs rather than serving them.

As you can see covetousness is a big deal.  It is a sin I need to mortify. As John Owen wrote ‘be killing sin or it will be killing you.’ As I have been meditating upon this, I have found that the first place I must start is going back to the gospel. In my union with Christ, what do I not already possess? And of course, the answer is I have all I need (or should want) in Him. I am learning to cherish Jesus more and more and how I draw down upon Him in unpleasant circumstances that appease any covetous desire I have.