The Ten Words from God pt 9
“Enough is Never Enough”
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United Church, Aurora, CO 2/22/2015
Based on Exodus 20:17
This past Tuesday Salem UCC hosted the annual Shrove Tuesday celebration. One of the games that we played was “Name that tune.” So I thought in the spirit of Mardi Gras I would read some lyrics from a song and see if you can name that tune. “Some boys try and some boys lie, but I don’t let them play, no way, no way. Only boys that save their pennies make my rainy day. Cause we are living in a material world and I am a material girl. You know that we are living in a material world and I am a material girl.” (the song is Material Girl by Madonna) One more song and the hint is it comes from a Broadway Musical. “Never thought that I’d ever live this life. Money stacked in rolls, honeys on each side. Anything I want, I can say it’s mine. No more worries about how can I provide.” Need another hint? “Money makes the world go round. Hey, makes the world go round. Money makes the world go round.” (title is Money Makes the World go round)
I would like to share an ancient monastic folklore. Once upon a time, a disciple traveled for miles to sit at the feet of an old nun who had acquired an unusual reputation for holiness. People came from far and wide simply to watch her work, to listen to her chant, to hear her comment on the scriptures. What the seeker found when he finally reached the site of her hermitage, however, was only a tiny little woman sitting on the floor of a bare room plaiting straw baskets alone. Shocked, the seeker said, “Old woman, where are your books? Where are your chair and footstool? Where are your bed and mattress?”
And the old woman answered him back, “And where are yours?” “But I’m only passing through,” the seeker said. “And so am I,” said the old woman knowingly. Pg 122, The Ten Commandments, by Joan Chittister As we begin the first week of Lent, we come to the last of God’s ten words to us, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” This commandment addresses the deepest issue of human kind – that of emptiness. I think it most appropriate as we enter the season dedicated to reflection upon our lives that we start off by looking at the deepest affliction that affects us all – the sense that we are not fulfilled in some way.
In the late 1970’s, President Jimmy Carter was quoted in Playboy magazine saying that “He had committed lust in his heart”. One of Americas most morally revered President’s admitted that at least once in his life, he had “coveted” a woman. To some this admission was highly scandalous. I think this is an amazing show of moral character for a leader to share that he has issues of the heart. What bothered me with the reactions across our nation was the majority sense of “what’s wrong with that? He didn’t act upon it,” to the out and out “who cares” attitude. The idea of “covet” is wanting something that you don’t possess, going beyond that of a desire into obsession.
The deeper question is, “what creates that desire to ‘covet’?” The act of coveting is rooted in “lust.” Jesus said it this way, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28) Jesus here combines the seventh commandment with the tenth, suggesting that even thinking about killing, or adultery, or theft, or lying, constitutes the act itself.pg 128 The Ten Commandments, John Holbert this makes use all guilty at this level of activity!
I don’t know if you have noticed but as a scripture reference for the last few commandments I have added these two verses, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3 For when we truly begin to believe in these two verses, we start to realize that there is only one thing in life that truly matters. Every major religion teaches this truth in one form or another. To the Hindu, the process is made plain in the sanyasi, the seeker who leaves all things – life, career, family – to seek the God within. In Buddhism, the purpose of life is to achieve nirvana, the state of desirelessness in which all suffering disappears and the seeker sinks into the flow of the universe without expectations, without demands. In Islam, it is the witness of the Sufi, who remind us that there is a life above what we call life in which creature and creator come to one heart, one mind, even now, even here. In Hebrew, it is in the culmination that comes from the realization that the mystical awareness of the One God to which the first commandment leads us, is everything, is enough, is all there is, is what life is really about. Pg124, The Ten Commandments, by Joan Chittister
There is a story about an exhausted American businessman who traveled to a faraway island for a vacation. Every day he went to the beach to swim, and every day he found a native there slowly cleaning fish in his boat. “Do you catch fish every day?” the visitor asked. “Oh, yes,” the native said. “Plenty fish here.” “Well, the visitor asked. “how often do you fish?” “I fish every morning,” the native said. “But what do you do then?” the businessman asked. “Well, “ the native said, “first I clean the fish for supper, then I take a little siesta, then I build a bit on my house, then I eat with my family, and then, for the rest of the night, I play my guitar, visit with my friends, and drink my homemade wine.”
“But don’t you see?” the visitor asked, “If you fished all day, you could sell your fish, buy a bigger boat, hire helpers, can, pack, and sell your fish all over the world, and make a lot of money.” “But what would I do with it?” the native replied. “Why, you could buy a house, quit working, enjoy your family, take big vacations, and party with your friends for the rest of your life!” “Mister,” the native said to the businessman, “that’s what I’m doing now and I only have to catch one fish a day to do it.” Pg127, The Ten Commandments, by Joan Chittister Of course this story talks about the gnawing hunger that lust can have on our soul.
There is a healthy need to work to provide those things that we need in life”, a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to keep us warm and hide our modesty, and enough for diversion through play. But when we fail to fill our hearts with God then we move toward the unhealthy desire of lust, which is excess. Every week we pray, “give us this day our daily bread.” The belief in this phrase is that God will provide us with what we need: enough food, enough shelter, enough friends, enough love. It is in the disbelief of this that things like “covet” start to root it’s self into our heart. The sin of lust isn’t in the desire of having, as much as it is in the lack of trust we have in God.
As start our journey into Lent this year, let us truly dwell on the word from God, “I am the Lord your God.” I can think of no greater joy that will comfort our hearts than to truly understand the power in that one statement, for it is the assurance that we are in community with the One who dreams only the best for us. Amen