Forgiveness For Eyes That Grow Hands

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

God’s design for life begins with perfect fear, love and trust in Him.  This perfect fear, love, and trust in Him function like a foundation to a perfectly built house.  Everything else rests upon this sure foundation. 

Then comes the use of God’s Name, followed by gladly hearing and learning His Word.  The themes in the Second and Third Commandments function like the structure of the house, the framework if you will. 

Our house metaphor needs walls, windows, doors and some decorations too.  This is where the gifts of: authority, life, a good reputation, marriage, contentment, and possessions come into play.  These gifts become the walls, windows, doors, and decorations of our foundation and structure, thus completing our house.  Indeed, the gifts of authority, life, marriage, a good reputation, and so forth flow out of fear, love, and trust in the Lord.

As mentioned in previous sermons, the commandments are the Lord’s protection of His gifts; they function like protective fences for God’s gifts.  The First, Second, and Third Commandments seek to protect the foundation and structure, whereas commandments Four through Ten function to protect the walls, doors, windows, and decorations.  Together all Ten Commandments guard the Lord’s good and perfect gifts ‘to’ and ‘for’ us; the commandments guard God’s house, this design of how life ought to be.  
Tonight though, we will be focusing on the remaining three commandments of our six part series: the Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments.  In other words, we are going to focus on the gift of possessions and the gift of contentment.  Indeed, returning to our house metaphor, we will be looking at the remaining doors and windows of our house, the house that represents God’s perfect design for life. 

Like the Fifth and Eighth Commandments, the Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments have a bit of overlap as well.  The Ninth and Tenth Commandments state,

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his.

The Seventh Commandment states,

“Thou shalt not steal.”

In other words, coveting happens when the gift of contentment is attacked by our sinful nature and this coveting can fuel and lead to the breaking of the Seventh Commandment, stealing.  That is to say, coveting is having sinful desire for anyone or anything that belongs to our neighbor.  If left unchecked however, this coveting will lead to robbery, theft, or dishonest ways of getting that which we covet, thus breaking the Seventh Commandment of stealing as well.

Truly, the Lord is all about protecting the gifts of material possessions and the gift of contentment.  They need protection because of our hearts and because of the tactics of the Evil One.  Yes, from our hearts proceed all evil thoughts, such as coveting. 

This covetous heart is really exposed and ensnared by the Ninth and Tenth Commandments though.  These two commandments on coveting will catch us every time.  These commandments are directed precisely at the most upright, good and religious people.  Because just when you think you’ve kept all the other commandments, along comes the command “Don’t covet.”

In the other commandments, God dealt with actions.  In the ninth and tenth He zeros in on your heart and your desires.  With these two as with the others, God is protecting our neighbors from ourselves.

Coveting is looking to get what God did not give you.  In other words, don’t let your eyes grow hands.  That’s what we do when we covet.  We are saying that we are not content with what God has given us, so we look to our neighbor’s things, or blessings, or reputation… “if only I could get my hands on some of that.”

Coveting happens.  But no matter where or when it happens, the sin is the same.  We have a problem being content with what God has given us, whether it’s house or spouse, goods or kids.

Simply put, when we long for the honor, wealth, happy life, or what seems to be the ease of the lives of others, we are coveting. 

When we become stingy and self-indulgent with our money so that we can try to keep up with the Jones, we are coveting. 

When we live with grudges and a fist full of discontentment about what we should’ve got and what we supposedly deserve and how others shouldn’t deserve their gifts, we are coveting.

When we have wanted our neighbor’s spouse, property and possessions or if we attempt to win the affections of our neighbor’s spouse or children away from our neighbor, we are coveting.

There is no doubt about it that the Ninth and Tenth Commandments shine the light of truth on us good and religious people.  God’s Law shows us as the malcontents we really are.  And amazingly it all goes back to the First Commandment; we really don’t trust God and how He chooses to take care of us.

As you can see, these evil covetous thoughts not only erode contentment, but these covetous thoughts are like hot embers.  They are hot embers that are fanned by the Evil One in order that they catch fire.  When they catch fire, the flame attacks other people through robbery, theft, and getting things in dishonest ways, thus leading us to the Seventh Commandment.

This commandment has to do with taking advantage of our neighbor in any way that makes them lose something.  As with the other commandments, with this one God is protecting your neighbor from you because He knows how we can be tempted to look at what our neighbor has and make plans to take it.

Granted, you probably wouldn’t do it outright like a common thief.  But stealing happens more commonly and more innocently than you might think.  God counts it as stealing when we are lazy in our work or at school.

He considers it stealing because we are taking time and materials from our employer or teacher.  God also counts it as stealing when we over charge someone for something or try to get something for far less than what it’s worth.  We steal when we fail to care for the property in the neighborhood, school, or church so that it is improved.  We steal when we do not help our neighbor in his needs.  We steal when we work for ourselves rather than for Christ and the benefit of our neighbor.  And yes, it is also stealing when we hold tightfisted to our finances becoming stingy in our giving back to the Lord, when we withhold our thank offerings from the offering plate. 

Dr. Luther said in the Large Catechism that “thievery is the most common craft and largest guild on the earth.”  And we have all practiced that craft one time or another.

Instead of stealing, God’s design is to help your neighbor improve and protect their possessions and income.  Love looks out for its neighbor’s benefit, not its own.  Truly, God is gracious enough to give each of you exactly what you need.  With your needs, not necessarily your wants met, you are freed up to help and serve your neighbor.

God always gives us the money and possessions we need, especially in America, so we don’t have to worry about taking what belongs to our neighbor.  In fact the wealth and possessions, whether great or little are gifts from God so that you may bless others with what you have been given.

With all of this stated in regard to the Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Commandants, we find ourselves again at the end of our rope like last week, and the week before that and the week before that.  Convicted of sin, no way out, mouths shut, at wits end, and spiritually bankrupt. 

It is most definitely true that the Holy and Divine and Good and Salutary Law of God not only protects His gifts and reveals sin, but when it is proclaimed, it also has a way of stopping us dead in our tracks.  It catches us red handed and points a finger at us saying, “Guilty!”

This is all much needed and is very good.  Otherwise stated, it is good when we are stripped down and shown for what we are:  naked, frantically grasping for fig leaves; poor damned miserable sinners.   

This is healthy and a good place to be.  Otherwise stated, this is right where we need to be, especially the week before Holy Week.  Yes, when the Law shows us that there is no way out by our own reason or strength, we are actually being prepared to hear about the only way out.  We are being prepared to hear about what the Lord thinks, says, and does ‘to’ and ‘for’ us.  Truly, the only way out of this is by God’s giving and forgiving, namely in His Word and Sacraments delivering the benefits of Holy Week to us.

Dear baptized Saints, you, who have ears, hear…. in Jesus, you have a gracious God who provides for you in His death and resurrection.  In Jesus you have forgiveness; you are forgiven, the debt has been canceled, and you have been gifted every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.   Indeed, in the Holy Week gift, the Lord has met your greatest need and desire, as well as giving you the proof and promise that He will always see to your needs of both body and soul.

Believe it or not, that’s it!  We have finished six weeks of rehearsing and relearning God’s design for life in the Ten Commandments, though somewhat abbreviated at times.

It hasn’t been anything flashy or entertaining and it wasn’t supposed to be.  Because the Ten Commandments themselves are not flashy.  They are rooted in the simple everyday actions of faith in God and love toward our neighbor.  They are there as protective fences to protect God’s gifts.  They come from God Himself and reveal to us His perfect will for our lives.  They show us where fall short and sin against God and neighbor and they lead us to see our need for Holy Week and our need for the God-Man Jesus Christ  dying and rising for us.  Undeniably, they prepare us to hear about the all availing sacrifice for sinners, Jesus Christ, who not only takes away the sins of the world, but also fulfilled the Law perfectly for you and in your place.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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