The Word, Animated in God’s Family (Part 3) — Staying on God’s Side of the Fence

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”So we may boldly say: 

        “The LORD is my helper;
        I will not fear.
        What can man do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:1-6 NKJV)

    Some things seem to be almost universally known to be wrong. No culture advocates murder. In no culture is adultery thought to enhance marriage. All human cultural forms recognize the concept of ownership and oppose property theft. God deals directly with me as to the issues of murder, adultery and theft, and He clearly and succinctly commands me not to do them, and calls them sin. If He didn’t, I probably would have understood that they were wrong anyway. But that 10th commandment……I don’t think I would have ever identified that as sin or even as wrong on my own. 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. (Exodus 20:17 NKJV) Even the great scriptural mind of Paul missed this one. In Romans 7:7 he wrote  For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”

    A man once admitted to me that after months of tension between his dog and his neighbor’s (expressed as constant barking for which both men blamed the other’s dog as the initiator) he climbed the 4 foot chain link fence that separated their yards late one night and poured antifreeze (a tasteless but deadly poison for dogs) in the neighboring dog’s water bowl. He awoke the next morning to the early expected phone call from his neighbor but got an unexpected surprise. Apparently as his dog watched him climb the fence and deliver what appeared to be water to his rival, he climbed the fence and drank it — and was lying dead in the neighbor’s back yard. I felt no sympathy for the man, but I sure identified with that dog. Often when I see my Master delivering something to my neighbor I immediately think I want it, and I plot a fence climb. Like that dog, I think that everything my Master has should be given to me. Like Paul, if He hadn’t clearly told me this was wrong, I’d have spent my life cutting and climbing fences.

   Let your conduct be without covetousness…  Don’t you wish He had said – without too much covetousness? He didn’t. Jesus calls me to be happy with what He has given me daily. I may have “needs” and surely have “wants”. I often conflate the two and call them both needs. When I do, I improperly thank the Lord for His provision like this – Thanks Lord, but I still need……  He answers that prayer in the conclusion of today’s verse — be content with such things as you have.

   Paul also told me what I could covet without breaking this commandment if my covetousness is spiritual and not material. He explained what I could see in the possession of others and deeply want without sinning. In1 Cor 12 where he explains and names spiritual gifts he concludes But earnestly desire the best (spiritual) gifts. And again in chapter 14 — Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts. I live as an illegal alien on earth. I’m a citizen of the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven. I need to remind my heart often to stay on God’s side of the fence.

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