Yesterday we looked at the Tenth Commandment, which prohibits us from coveting. I spoke about the fact that the Christian faith does not require that we abandon all our appetites and desires for the stuff and the experiences of life. The Christian faith, in other words, is not detached from everyday living. This is in distinction from some other traditions such as (for example) nirvana, which is a concept within Buddhism. Nirvana strives for detachment from the passions of life so that we can free ourselves from suffering and fear. The cross, by contrast, confronts and embraces the passions of life and redeems them through suffering love.
After the service someone asked a very good question which made it clear that I had not adequately explained what coveting is. They wanted to know how to reconcile the Tenth Commandment with my assertion that we are not necessarily in error simply because we have a desire for something. After all, I said, God created our capacity for desire, which means that it cannot be inherently evil.
At that point I had to explain that coveting does not prevent us from desiring things. It prevents us from desiring things that we are not entitled to have. For example, we are not guilty of sin when we desire our spouse, for this is part of God’s design for marriage. We are guilty of sin, however, when we desire someone who is not our spouse. Of course, the Tenth Commandment has to do with a lot more than just marriage and sex; it has to do with every area of life. The important thing to realize that it does not outlaw desire, but it does discipline desire. It asks us to reign in our desires so that they can be filled in ways that please God.
I heard a story once of a man and a woman who were having a secret affair. Whenever they met for one of their illicit rendezvous they would begin their time together by sharing a devotion with each other. Rest assured this was a prayer that God did not honor.
Once we step outside the Ten Commandments we are taking what God intended for good and using it for evil.