America needs the Shema

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 5-6, 1 Corinthians 10

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 5:21

I don’t think it would be a breaking news story to suggest that Americans have a problem with coveting. Don’t get me wrong, everyone does. This is not a uniquely American issue. However, you would be hard pressed to find a society in the world that does more to ACTIVELY PROMOTE coveting as something that is actually to be desired. We treat coveting as something to strive for and not something to be avoided.

In almost every self-improvement book you read today you will hear advice on the importance of visualizing what you want one day (almost always focused on the material things we desire), putting them onto a vision board, sharing these goals with others, and a whole host of other tactics designed to help you keep your goals in front of you.

I have promoted these things many times to people I mentor. Goal setting and visualization can be powerful tools to help us maintain our focus through challenges in our lives. The problem occurs when we point ourselves in the wrong direction. The error is when our vision board is full of our wants and desires as opposed to the big picture goals that God has impressed on our hearts.

If someone were to look at your vision board, whether it is an actual one you created or a metaphorical one that simply exists in your mind, what would they see on it? Would they see the impact you want to have in the lives of others, big picture goals God has put on your heart for your life to advance his Kingdom, the type of friend, parent, or spouse you want to be? Or would they see the lake house, fancy car, early retirement, and other worldly toys?

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing inherently evil about any of these items. God occasionally blesses abundantly. I know quite a few people who are extremely well off that are incredibly intentional about using the material blessings they have had in their lives to be a blessing to others. They also give very generously. Having a boat and a lake house is not sinful, but they should never be the focus. If material goods are the ultimate goal, we are quite literally training our brain to covet. If those are a big part of the “why” we do what we do each and every day, we have missed the point of the gospel. We are making a conscious decision to covet as a lifestyle. We are embracing that coveting is how we will get what we want out of life and really isn’t that big of a deal.

And yet coveting made it onto God’s Top 10 list.

So many Christians in today’s society seem determined to fight various cultural wars. We feel like “the country is going to hell” and something needs to be done to stop it. There are so many battles that we choose to fight and almost all of them have to do with the actions of others. “We need to fight for our children and grandchildren by stopping those awful sinners corrupting our country!” We are incredibly eager to point out the sins of others and how those sins are glorified and promoted in our culture today. “Something needs to be done!”

And yet most of us would prefer to avoid looking inwardly.

Jesus said “first remove the plank from your own eye before helping a brother remove the spec from his”.

In America, the plank that is so large in all of our eyes that it is blinding us, is coveting. Myself included.

Avoiding coveting is so darn hard, but it is worth the fight. You cannot 100% conquer your human nature. There will always be moments where you covet. God knew we could never be perfect and that is why he sent his son to die for us in the first place. We may not be able to ever fully escape brief moments of coveting, but we can choose to avoid coveting as a lifestyle. We can choose to reject what our culture has told us about coveting being the way to eventually achieve YOUR goals. We can remember that we are ultimately here, not for our own goals, but for God’s.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 today we read what was the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book called the Shema:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

If we want to avoid a life devoted to coveting, it begins with embracing the Shema. It begins with striving each and every day to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and strength. It begins with talking about these things with our children, friends, and neighbors. It begins with writing these on the doorframes of our houses, tying them as symbols on our hands, and binding them to our foreheads; instead of fixating on the bigger and better car, house, toy, or vacation.

Where will we devote our heart, soul, and strength this week?

This week I am going to start with praying the Shema.

Thought to ponder

What items have I allowed onto the vision board of my life that need to be taken off and what is God calling me to replace them with?

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