The Tenth Commandment

“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, NLT).

This is the tenth and final commandment, and it’s difficult to keep. The old adage goes, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and I think the spirit of that is true. The issue is really a matter of who rules the heart.

Let’s take the issue of a man desiring his neighbor’s wife. We’ll call this guy George. His neighbor will be Connor, and Mrs. Neighbor will be referred to as Marla.

George is at a point where he’s ready to settle down. He wants to find a woman he truly loves and marry her, maybe have a couple of kids with her. George has been dating, but he hasn’t found the woman he can see himself developing laugh lines with and sitting in rocking chairs with in their sunset years.

Truth be told, he really wants to be married to Marla. She’s friendly, always says hello to him when she sees him and laughs at his corny jokes. She’s easygoing. She’s quirky; she likes sci-fi movies and has a cactus garden. She likes to bake, especially pies. She baked a lemon pie for George when his dog died. If George was married to Marla, he thinks, he’d shower her with attention and kisses and wouldn’t care who noticed.

And Connor? George doesn’t feel very strongly about him. He seems like a recovering snob, like he’s trying not to be the jerk he probably was as a younger man. He doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he drinks red wine, which he told George the only time he’d ever seen Connor drink, at a Christmas party a few years ago. And he’s never really seen Connor be overly affectionate towards Marla except for a kiss or two on the cheek and an arm wrapped around her every now and then.

What George doesn’t know is that Marla is uncomfortable with PDA, so Connor isn’t overly affectionate because she doesn’t like it. Marla may bake, but Connor cooks. He makes her favorite meal when she has a rough day at work. He was a little bit of a jerk growing up, but it’s because he was socially awkward and, for many years, didn’t have close friends. Marla helps him with that. And Marla may be polite to George and think his jokes are funny, but she doesn’t really like him because she thinks he’s conceited due to the fact that whenever they do chat, he only talks about himself.

George is idolizing marriage, especially marriage with Marla. George wants what Connor has with her, but George isn’t Connor. His relationship with Marla wouldn’t be the same. God brought Connor and Marla together because they love each other and work well together. The same could not be said for her and George.

Or let’s say George and Connor are neighbors and both are single, but George has a really nice car as a result of his really nice job. Connor sees the level of respect and adoration people look at George with, and he’s jealous. He wants that sort of approval from others. Then Connor is only serving himself, and his heart belongs to the god of appearances.

Or maybe one wants the other’s house or style or cheerful disposition or functioning relationship with his parents. We all want many things others have that we don’t.

We want because we aren’t content with what God has given us.

God gives to each of us as He sees fit. We’re different people with different relationships with God and different problems. God provides for all of His children, but because of our personalities and vices, that provision doesn’t look the same to everyone.

We shouldn’t covet what God has given our neighbor because God’s gifts for each person are tailored to each individual, and God wants that person to have what is best for that person, not what’s best for his or her neighbor. Making peace with that comes from knowing God, trusting God, and being thankful for what God has provided for you. Just as God has given to your neighbor, He has given to you your own unique gifts of provision. That is not only worth contentment, it’s worth celebrating.

By Carrie Prevette

The Ghost

I have a habit of not expecting shows to live up to their hype and being proven wrong. Stranger Things was no exception. Everyone who had a Netflix account, it seems, was talking about it. Going into it, all I knew was that I hadn’t heard a single bad thing about it and it looked a lot like The Goonies, so I was interested.

I watched it with my brother over the course of two Sundays. We watched the first half one day and watched the second half one week later. It almost physically pained me to wait that long.

But because some people may not have watched or finished it yet, I won’t go into any details about the show. I just want to say that when Pastor Alan said he had a mini-series planned that would be using the Stranger Things font, I was immediately interested. (I’m also interested in discussing the show if someone else would like to do so.)

The truth of it is that we do treat the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost, whichever you’d prefer to call it) as a stranger thing. It’s something we don’t understand, so we avoid it to the point that it becomes a little taboo in general. And I think a large part of the reason is because we have something to compare the other two parts of the Trinity to. God is an authoritative figure and a figure of power. We can all relate to that in some way, for better or for worse. Jesus is the most human component since He was actually human, and we can relate to Him the most. The Holy Spirit is abstract. We can’t put our finger on it and have nothing tangible and consistent to compare it to. It empowers us and convicts us and pushes us, and since those manifest themselves differently in each our lives, we don’t know what to make of something that does it to all of our lives equally.

The Holy Spirit is evident in both the Old Testament and the New, but for the sake of time, I want to focus on the power of the Holy Spirit because I think it’s the most prevalent quality of the Holy Spirit in our lives and one we don’t often think about.

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV) reads, “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

As we discussed last week, peace and harmony don’t happen all the time even among people who share the same belief systems. So the Holy Spirit’s power here is shown in bringing people together. I have never seen anything that so perfectly demonstrates harmony through selflessness. Not just getting along but being altogether on the same page. We don’t read that some sold their possessions and others thought they were idiots for doing so. We don’t see that one said to another, “Ew. I don’t like him, and I’m eating lunch with someone else from now on.” No, the Spirit was empowering them and enabling to look beyond themselves and strengthen other people in doing so. It empowered them to be more like God. As a result, the number of believers kept growing and growing.

And all this and other miracles being done via the apostles is equally as impressive. Don’t get me wrong; I understand and respect the role of the apostles in the history of the church and as leaders in our faith. But we know these guys. We know how much they struggled learning what Jesus was teaching them and seeking the will of God and acting in faith, and here they are performing actual miracles. It’s not on their own strength or merit; it’s a result of the Holy Spirit.

Inspiring, isn’t it? A bunch of people with no formal education and different backgrounds coming together and doing incredible things.

The crazy thing is, it’s just as available to us. The Holy Spirit can guide and lead us individually and collectively just as easily as it did those fortunate souls in Acts

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, NRSV).

The Holy Spirit gives each of us a gift and reveals to us how to use it. It is the giver and the instructor. God wouldn’t leave us hanging. He wouldn’t expect us to figure it out on our own. No, He sends a part of the Trinity, part of Himself, to help us along.

There are many gifts because there are many different kinds of people. If we are all different parts of the body, and we all have different purposes and individual relationships with God, it follows that we would have different gifts. It demonstrates the uniqueness and fairness of God as well as how beautiful and intricate His plans for each of us are.

The Holy Spirit empowers each of us in the same ways through knowing each of us intimately. It gives each of us a gift, the knowledge of how to use it, and the boldness to do so. To be an entity that we avoid, it longs to know us, to aid us in growing and knowing God better. It’s time we start seeing it as such.

By Carrie Prevette

Prized Possession

I’m a sucker for a good image.

There are pictures saved on my phone right now that exist in my world solely because I enjoy looking at them. I won’t use them as my lockscreen or set them as my cover photo on Facebook or anything like that. They have no great meaning in my life. But if I’m sad or bored, I’ll look through my pictures and find them and smile.

I have a photographic memory. Details will stick out in my mind when I remember things, like the color of someone’s shirt or the number of pens on a desk. This also helps me remember what people say because I can remember how much sunlight was coming in the window behind them or how chipped my nail polish was when I looked down at my hands. (Three and a half years ago in my Philosophy of the Mind class, our professor, Dr. Hoyt, told us that there’s a study that proves people who doodle when they take notes tend to retain more information. As a doodler, I found this comforting, but as a person whose memory seems to work that way most of the time, I shouldn’t have been surprised.)

I’m a visual learner. If you tell me how to do something, there are plenty of ways I can mess it up between what you tell me and how I perform your instructions. But if you show me how to do something, I can compare what you did to what I did and make my own notes. I can see and remember.

It’s probably no surprise that my favorite literary element is imagery. I love it when someone chooses just the right words and weaves them together well enough to form a picture in my mind.

James 1:16-18 (NLT) reads, “So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

Verse 17 is one of my favorite pieces of scripture in the Bible because it evokes this image of God that I truly love. It makes me think of God in heaven surrounded by various sources and colors of light, looking down on us with pure love and smiling. It’s an image that comforts me.

These three verses have a lot to show us. The beginning of verse 17 says that God only gives what is good and perfect, and I think that’s difficult for a lot of people. Humans are creatures who like to blame and properly place fault. We like to know where our troubles originate so that we can know who or what to be mad at. I think that’s why God so wrongly receives blame when something’s not right in our lives. We blame our heartbreaks, our financial ruin, our bad health, our daily struggle on Him when if it wasn’t for Him, there would be nothing left of us.

Life can be painful. And I’m not trying to get into whether or not God’s the reason behind bad things like hurricanes or cancer or any other travesties. I’m simply saying that God can use the pain that comes from those travesties for a purpose. I’m also saying that it’s not right that we blame God for all the bad stuff but hardly ever credit Him for the good stuff.

If there’s anything good in your life, it’s a gift from God. It’s a gift born out of unchanging love for the purpose of making you happy, of making you glad you’re alive. Even if it’s just one thing, it’s reason enough to thank God. When we go back to the root of it all, He’s the cause of every bit of positivity and every smile in our lives.

Verse 18 begins by saying God chose to birth us by His Word. That can be taken two different ways, Him creating us physically through His Word and breath and Him recreating us spiritually though the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Either way (or both ways), the point is that God chose us.

I’m a loud, blunt, sarcastic know-it-all. The fact that God chose to create and then recreate me proves His intrinsic, unconditional love.

I have many flaws, and I’m sure you have some too. Everyone does. We’re not a perfect species. Our time on this earth is filled with slip ups, unsavory moments, and ugly truths. But James tells us at the end of verse 18, “And we, out of all creation, became [God’s] prized possession.”

God could love something more dazzling or more loyal or smarter far more than He loves mankind, but He doesn’t. We’re His favorite.

James starts this section of scripture by telling us not to be misled, which must mean something or someone will come along and try to persuade us that we’re wrong. Yes, there’ll be plenty of people and things that’ll try to shake your faith. But they’ll only shake you as much as you let them.

We must exercise our faith in order to maintain and grow it. Hold on to God’s promises. Read and remember scriptures. Pray about everything – your troubles, your doubts, others and their problems. Communicate honestly with God. All of this builds your relationship with God and your faith in Him. When all else fails, remember what James tells us: Everything good is from God, He chose us, and out of everything, we’re His favorite.

By Carrie Prevette

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