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Don't Fixate on What You Don't Have

A Devotional by Karen Schoeppach

As I was thinking about who to ask to do a July devotion, I wondered if I didn’t already have something already written that would be appropriate. I found this lesson used for a Deborah Circle gathering. I think the topic is one that fits anytime of the year.

The Tenth Word

Exodus 20: 17

No lusting after your neighbor’s house – or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s. The Message

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. NRSV

To covet means to desire greatly. The Oxford Dictionary

The author of our study, Eugenia Anne Gamble, titles this, our final lesson, “Words of Love: Don’t fixate on what you don’t have”.

In the U.S.A. of our times the more we have, the better our position in society and the better, the more secure we feel about ourselves and that position we hold. Or, strive to hold.

There are two terms in Hebrew that we translate as “covet”. “Chemdah” expresses having the desire to possess something physically lovely, close at hand and irresistible. “Ta’avah” is a deep yearning for something even if that something is not present physically or is not outwardly beautiful.

When one experiences chemdah, the desire is overwhelming and results in immediate action regardless of the consequences. Eugenia uses the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel: 11). David’s actions to possess Bathsheba are immediate and he does not consider the effects those actions will have beyond achieving his goal.

Ta’avah builds up slowly. The desire may never result in action. But it can take up room in the heart and can displace something else and affect our view of life.

What do you covet? Is it “chemdah” or “ta’avah”? How do you think advertising links to what and in what way we covet today?

Eugenia asks us to look at the story of King Ahab, his wife Jezebel and the Israelite Naboth (1 Kings 21). This is a definite example of the disaster that follows coveting something that belongs to another. Jesus touches on coveting by raising certain issues. Look at what Jesus talks about in Luke 12:13-15 and the dispute over inheritance. Or Matthew 6:24 where Jesus gives a warning about trying to serve two masters – God and money (what it buys and controls).

I leave you with this prayer: God our Father, help us to be mindful of chemdah and ta’avah and how it affects our lives. Remind us of the consequences of each and how far-reaching they can be. Give us strength and wisdom. We ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen


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