The final command which God gives the Israelites reads as follows:
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
That word covet means to desire something. Strongly. Its opposite would be something akin to contentment. While both are verbs, it would seem that coveting is something that you do and contentment (a noun) is a state of being. Because if you’re “content with such things as ye have” as it says in Hebrews (13:5), you’ll begin to desire and work for the intangible qualities of the Spirit, such as peace and purpose, instead of hollow objects that promise such but never deliver. That’s one lesson that is tough to learn. It’s human nature to want to keep up with the Joneses, to have a “jones” for something that someone else has. As an aside, nowhere have I been able to find corroboration for my theory that the term “jones” is related to the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses”. But I can’t see any other etymology applying. Anyway…
“But covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31) The intangible things that can’t be bought. Because grasping for so-called “greener” grass will only leave you fried and miserable–and the opposite of content.
Think back. Think about the state you were in when God came in and surprised you with something unexpected. I find that it’s when my focus is on God that He’s able to show up and blindside me with a blessing. And when I’m looking to things, coveting that which I think I need, it always seems like they’re just beyond my grasp. And God tells us not to covet that which is someone else’s. Either way, it’s not good. Jesus says some things with reference to possessions that undercut every false notion we have if we’d pay Him heed and take Him at His word.
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s (and woman’s) life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he (and she) possesseth.” (Luke 12:15) When we grasp for more, we’re forgetting how much we’re worth to God. Interesting.
“Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:18, emphasis mine) Don’t be confused. Jesus isn’t speaking here—with His “haves” and “have nots”—of physical things, possessions. He’s speaking of the aforementioned intangible qualities of the heart. The “things that accompany salvation” (see Hebrews 6:9), etc. Things that can’t be bought and can’t be earned through our own effort. And when someone flaunts possessions in lieu of actual character, what they’re saying is that’s all they are and that’s all they have. Why would you want that?
Much is said in the Bible of relying on God for our needs. But what about our wants? Don’t ever think that God doesn’t want to give you something good. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” (Mark 11:24) I suppose it all boils down to wanting God more than anything that He can give. Easy enough, right?
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) And until you get these “things” contentment is where you want to be. It’s the undergirding strength that you need in order to not only obtain, but maintain your own. That and thanksgiving.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11)