In the early 80’s, as part of a diversity program, the Denver Independent School District bused kids from the suburbs of South Denver to urban North Denver for K-3rd grade, and reversed the route during 4th-6th grades.
After a couple years of watching buses load and unload South Denver kids in front our aged, red-bricked schoolhouse, it was time for me to get on the bus and head south to a modern school building for 4th grade.
For a kid traveling south on I-25 back in those days, it was a treat to see the mountains to the west each morning. That part of Denver belonged to everybody. But as we crossed over the Platte River, the contrast was clear.
We were in the land of the new, two-story houses with the neat lawns and the nicer cars. As the bus squealed into the school parking lot, you could see moms and dads walking kids to the entrance. There weren’t any liquor stores within walking distance. No gang graffiti was in sight. All looked good.
This was my first real look at life on the other side, and as I rode the bus each week, I began to covet that life.
From what I knew, coveting was a bad thing mentioned in the 10 Commandments and responsible for bringing banishment to Cain, trouble to Jacob, and heartbreak to King David. I didn’t want to covet, but as a kid, I didn’t know what to do with it.
I’d find that even though I’d move to a decent Texas suburb, attend college and get a good job upon graduating, coveting never took a vacation.
Unfortunately, it never will.
It’s too easy and quite tempting to imagine somebody else’s situation as better than yours or something being extremely satisfying, especially with limited information and the wrong attitude toward that person or thing.
Even as an adult, I’ve found myself feeling just like that 9-year old kid on the school bus, looking out at the greener grass and wondering what it must be like to walk on it.
Maybe you feel the same way at times. With the advent of social media, I think the potential to covet is amplified.
But what does the Bible say about it?
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
I think the word “anything” here underscores the point.
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
The encouragement here is to see life as more than what can be gained in the form of material possessions.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10
This goes beyond us, getting us outside of ourselves and back on to the purpose for which Christ has called us, to love one another, including your neighbor with the sweet ox and donkey.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Ephesians 5:3
This is serious. There is a distinction between what is proper and what is not. And if we are saints, covetousness has no place in our lives.
Easier said than done?
Within our own strength, yes it is.
The only remedy to coveting is engaging with Jesus Christ. And we do that through prayer.
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13
If coveting is a weakness, we can be delivered from it daily. For those in Christ, true diversity exists. With Christ, you can love your rich neighbor. You can love your poor neighbor. Material possessions do not separate for we have stumbled into grace, each and every one of us a spiritual pauper.
Because of this grace, given to us by our belief in the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can celebrate our contrasts with others, knowing the good work that He is doing in our own lives is sufficient.
Instead of approaching this life feeling separated by a river of what we don’t have, maybe it’s better to look toward something with a little more majesty. I remember watching those mountains in the morning, standing tall like sentinels guarding the city, a gift from God to all who encounter them.
Why don’t we approach this life differently, void of covetousness, remembering the eternal gift of life given by God, who chose to love us regardless of which side of town we live on.