When you become adult, it takes you quite some time to realize what was wrong with your past. It is also the same with me. I confessed that until around 1 year after my graduation, I do not have comprehensive life principle for foundation of everything I do. Hence, practically everything I do is based on pure instinct and latest trends. I just followed about latest entertainment or latest web technology and even study pattern to be able to mingle with fellow students in the university.
Currently, I would like to discuss about last command in Ten Commandment about sin of coveting which is taken from Exodus 20: 17:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor (Exodus 20: 17).
Now, the readers may ask whether this is relevant to our daily life. You may never want to have your neighbor’s house or wife. However, it is not that simple. Coveting in modern days has been evolved from ‘wanting to have your neighbor’s house‘ to ‘wanting to have similar house like your neighbor’s‘.
Are they the same? Theoretically, you may say it is different. However, practically from the effects they are the same. Both cause unrest and discontent to your heart.
Although I attend church and cell group, this sin has almost never been discussed as far as I remembered. It is discussed during cell group session but I did not remember my group leader mentioned it as a sin. Apparently, most churches have habits on rebuking ‘favorite’ sins like homosexuality, pornography, and prosperity theology but never mentioned about envy.
In our business and education institution, most assessment is based on performance rather than attitude and characters. Students are pitted against each others to get scholarships by scoring straight A during exam. We asked or tempted to ask each other how were our fellows’ result. In our job, there are always periodic performance assessment to determine whether we will get the promotion. These assessments have basically opened the great temptation to become envious.
After you desire the same thing as your neighbor’s whether they are possessions, social status, academic results and so on, the next frightening step is that you secretly desire to see negative things happen to your neighbor whose possessions you are coveting. Especially, if you think that your neighbor is undeserved for their possession because of little effort, unethical or some other reasons. Then, it will be just the matter of time before it destroys your character, relationship and eventually your health.
I never realize this thing until after graduation. It was a big struggle for me not to be envious after hearing all the good exam results from my fellows and comparing it with mine. I can theoretically blame on bell curve system which require good grades (A and A+) to be distributed to top 10% grade. However, it will be irresponsible for me because I am able to control my own emotion. I have done everything that was described in previous paragraph. Apparently, it become my obsession to be viewed as good or top student. I desired recognition from human rather than pleasing my God.
Having said all these things, how should we correct your heart and avoid this sin? I think firstly we need to realize that we cannot be number one because we are not God. We cannot be all-knowing, all-skillful and all-good. We just need to content with what we have. Next step is to identify our priority. Our priority should satisfy what is wanted by God (characters and wisdom) above what your teacher or your boss or your parents want.
Final solution is to practice sincere gratitude for what God have given you. What I mean is sincere gratitude, not merely mental practice of saying what you do not believe. For me, I confess a lot of times I just perform lips service instead of sincerely be thankful. I secretly believe that it is because my effort I was able to achieve all my achievements.
However, I was reminded what Moses said when he warned Israelites about forgetting God:
11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today (Deuteronomy 8: 11-18).
The verses above remind me to be thankful for God to give you ability to produce your wealth. I hope this testimony will be useful for readers to avoid the same mistake.