I admit it. Rich folks can irritate me. Years ago, I was talking to a well-off friend. She was complaining that her family’s taxes were going up. She said to me with total sincerity. “You know, Kennedy, a quarter million dollars a year. It’s not a lot.” I just kind of nodded, mainly because I was so shocked. But inside I was thinking. “A quarter mil sounds like a lot to me, a whole lot more than I’m making.”
At the time, I didn’t have much sympathy for her. But then a few weeks ago, I read this article about folks in her income bracket. These folks should be living the American Dream. They have money. They have status. Their kids attend the best schools in the best neighborhoods. Yet even these folks and their kids aren’t living the dream. No, it’s more like the nightmare. Just take the kids. In one elite high school in super-rich Silicon Valley, here are the stats. 80% of their students suffer from moderate to severe anxiety. 80%! Over half show moderate to severe signs of depression.
Their parents are living the nightmare too. Experts talk about what they call a “time famine.” Workers, especially the most highly paid ones, don’t have enough time for what truly matters. They have no time for decent relationships with their spouse or children.
Suddenly I thought back to my friend’s husband, who worked in finance. I remembered his stress, his 80-hour work weeks, how miserable his job made him. And I thought. I get it. But these are the elite, the one percent. And if it’s that bad for them, what does it say about everyone else?
Here we are living in the wealthiest nation on earth. People have more creature comforts than ever. Every day brings almost limitless options for entertainment and diversion. Yet, people have become more anxious, more troubled, more lacking in joy than ever before. What is going on?
People have forgotten what these words means, and why we need them more than ever. In these words, God provides a path back towards fulfillment, towards joy, towards a life that is as it should be, as God created it to be. In this command, God shows the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
So, what has happened to make lives so driven, so stress-filled? People have forgotten how dangerous desires can be. Don’t get me wrong. God wants you to desire. Heck, God has placed you in a world full of stuff to be desired. And God wants you to desire them. Heck, I’m already working up some desires for that delicious pumpkin soup after worship. God is not telling you in this commandment to not desire. But God is warning you. Your desire can get out of hand more easily than you could ever imagine.
So, God tells you. Desires gotta live within boundaries. Your desires can’t cross boundaries that hurt others, that injure relationships, that negatively impact other folks’ stuff. That’s what coveting is. It’s desiring too much. So basically, God is saying in this commandment. Your desires can never come at the sacrifice of your relationships, your relationship with God and your relationships with yourself and with others.
But desires can be tricky. They can take you over before you even realize it. Have you ever heard of the fantasy books The Chronicles of Narnia? Growing up, I loved those books. The books tell the story of four kids, two sisters and two brothers, who have adventures together in the wondrous land of Narnia. But when the first one of them, Lucy, discovers Narnia through a magical door in the back of a closet, no one believes her. Can you blame them? Who has heard of a magical land that you get through the back of a closet?
But then, her brother, Edmund, wanders into the same closet. And the magic door opens for him. But here’s the problem. For decades Narnia has been under an evil spell. In Narnia, it’s always winter, but never Christmas, just cold and dreary all the time. And Edmund runs into the very person who has created the spell, the White Witch.
But the White Witch doesn’t seem bad. She takes Edmund into her beautiful sleigh. She wraps him up in a beautiful fur blanket. And she gives him this awesome food called Turkish Delight. Edmund loves it. He can’t get enough. He tells her all about his family, his two sisters and his brother. When the White Witch hears that, she gets worried.
You see, when she cast the spell, a magical creature delivered this prophecy to her. The creature said, when two daughters of Eve, and two sons of Adam arrive in Narnia, your spell will be broken, and your power destroyed. And now, exactly that, two daughters of Eve, and two sons of Adam have arrived. So, she figures, if she can kill them right when they arrive, she’ll stop the prophecy. So she asks Edmund to bring them to her, and he will get more Turkish Delight. And Edmund says. “Sure, no problem!” So, get this. Edmund becomes her willing accomplice to his own death. And all she had to do was give him something delicious to eat.
Edmund loves that Turkish Delight so much he lies to his siblings again and again. He betrays them just to get another taste of that wonderful dish. Do you know, when I read that as a kid, what I thought? Sure, I thought that Edmund was a jerk. But do you know what else I thought? I thought. “Wow, what must that Turkish Delight taste like? I’d love to get some of that.” Even after I knew what that food led Edmund to do, I still wanted a taste. But of course, I would never do what Edmund did.
But that’s the problem with your desires. They lie to you. They tell you that you’re in control, when you’re not. And more than that, they tell you if one little taste was good, more will be better. But it’s not.
Heck, more is so not better, economists even made that into a law. They call it the law of diminishingreturns. Basically, this law states a kind of obvious thing. Let’s say. You run a factory with a hundred machines, and a hundred employees, but you want to produce more. So, you think. I know what I’ll do. I’ll hire 1000 more workers and then I’ll make way more stuff. But you still have only a hundred machines. And what happens? Now, you’ve got a thousand employees fighting over one hundred machines. And that makes for some serious diminishing returns.
But did you need an economist to tell you that? Anyone who has gone through a buffet line one time too many knows about the law of diminishing returns. But here’s the problem. We may know it, but we still get snookered by it. What do I mean?
Do you see how God includes all these things not to desire too much in this commandment? He gives you this super long list. Why? God is telling you. You can desire anything too much, including all types of totally wonderful things. Why does this happen? It happens because of the lie of more.
And we live in a world that has bought into that lie hook, line and sinker. Why are all those rich kids so stressed out? It’s the lie of more. Their schools think. Hey two hours of homework was good, so three hours has gotta be better. And yes, getting ten kids into Harvard was awesome, but if we get twenty kids that would really rock. So, these kids get driven and driven by this lie of more, more work, more achievement, more success, and it’s killing them.
And their parents get caught in it too. In 1962, top law firms expected their lawyers to bill 1300 hours a year. Now forty years later, one major law firm said that 2400 should be the number. Just to help you understand what that means. It means a lawyer needs to work from 8 am to 8 pm six days a week with no time for vacation and sick days to make that goal. When I was growing up, we used to joke about “bankers’ hours” as in those folks didn’t work much. But today, folks in finance joke about “banker 9 to 5.” That may sound pretty good until you realize it means starting at 9 AM and finishing at 5 AM the next day. And we’re talking about the folks living the so-called American Dream. We’re not talking about the folks working at Walmart, then driving Uber or some other internet job just to try to pay the bills.
But why do people do all these things? It’s because people buy into the lie of more instead of the truth of enough. At a certain point, more is not better. But enough is. But when you listen to the lie of more, you never have enough. And all around you, voices are coming at you that say that you don’t have enough. Your smartphone isn’t smart enough. Your living arrangements aren’t nice enough. Your TV isn’t good enough. Heck, your life isn’t great enough. Just look at all the fun your friends are having on Fakebook, oops, I mean Facebook. Have you ever heard that phrase FOMO. It stands for Fear of Missing Out. That’s the lie of more.
And when that lie infects you, it puts your desires on steroids. And when that happens you suffer. And everyone else around you suffers too. But it can be so easy to fall into this desiring too much.
Do you know we are living in the Golden Age of Television? You can find more awesome shows on TV or your favorite streaming site than ever before. I am loving it. At least I thought I was. But I couldn’t keep up. I kept adding to my list of must-see TV, but I couldn’t watch it all. I tried. I’d come home at night, and as soon as I could, head to the man-cave to catch up. But more TV wasn’t better. It was worse. My shows became something to check off a list. When a series ended, I felt not sadness but relief. I woke up sleep deprived each morning. And, my wife and I didn’t have time to spend together. And she noticed. She said. Kennedy, you are watching way too much TV. It’s not good. You’ve almost addicted. I disagreed So, she challenged me. If you’re not addicted, then stop watching for six weeks. And so, I did, mainly just to prove her wrong. But I gotta tell you. It’s been terrific. I’ve read more, slept more, hung out with my wife more, and to be honest, I haven’t really missed the TV.
But why did I watch more and more shows, even when it wasn’t fun anymore. I watched more, because I wanted to be more. I wanted to feel like I was in on all the hot shows. I sense without being up on that, I wasn’t hip enough. I wasn’t sophisticated enough. That’s why folks go for more, even when their more is so much less. They are afraid. Without that more, I won’t be enough.
Why do people push their desires to the breaking point? Why do they go for more and more even when all that more makes them less and less? They do it. You do it because inside you fear. You’re not enough. But if you had more money, if you had more friends, if you had more good looks, more whatever, then you’d be enough. And that fear has some truth. None of us are all we yearn to be. But pushing your desires, going for more no matter what the cost, that will never bring you the enough you seek. But in Jesus, that enough does come.
Why? Because even when you were at your worst, even when human beings in Jesus nailed God to the cross, God’s love was enough, even for that. In God’s love, even when you are not enough, even when you are at your worst, God’s love is enough. It is enough to make up all the difference.
More than that, that love frees you from ever worrying about being enough ever again. If in Jesus God died for you, if God did that, then what is more enough than that? In the security of that radical love, you realize. You already have more than you could ever have dreamed. You have enough. In God, you are enough. And in that enough, you can enjoy your desires without pushing them to the brink.
Why? Because you already know. In Jesus’ love, you are enough, now and forever. And in that love, you do become more. You become more at peace. You become more fulfilled. You become more you than ever before. So, where have your desires gone beyond their bounds? Where is your yearning for more making you less? Let it go. Let Jesus show you. You are enough because of his love right now. Let that love free you. Let that love fill you until you want no more.