I cannot remember ever hearing a sermon on covetousness, but if I commanded the power of the pulpit I would, for self-instruction and the love of my people, never entirely leave the subject alone. The desire to have what one does not, excited by jealousy of those who have it, is such a pervasive and crippling sin that its evidences and effects, while more subtle than those of the sexual transgressions continually and distractingly dangled before us, have at least as much to do with human misery on a universal scale.

For the healing of the soul, and to make us content with what we have, to make us able to count our blessings unhindered, we, in whatever state we are found, have been given this commandment by Almighty God:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

The last clause is a divine invitation to add anything necessary: you shall not covet your neighbor’s health, beauty, intelligence, education or place thereof, his children, employment, success, popularity, his conveyances, security in the world, or high connections. And this most certainly includes a thou shalt not to indulgence in the sanctimony of observing that all the neighbor has are probably less the gifts of God’s abundance than the result of mere chance, dishonest dealing, or accident of birth, and they shall all be taken from him in this life and the next, when he shall be stripped clean of all, his naked, shivering soul standing finally before a God who requires much of those to whom much has been given.

If we were rid of all this wicked folly we could rejoice with our neighbor on the good things he has been given whatever his sins, for we could then see clearly that we are in this regard the same as he is: unworthy recipients of the good and abundant gifts of God.  A wall that otherwise stands between us would fall because we, instead of hating his happiness, would share it, and our hearts would open in praise instead of withering in the Sirocco of lust and envy that is covetousness. We must place an angel with a flaming sword at the door of our being to protect us from this flesh and soul-eating thing, and no pastor who cares for his people will fail to speak to them of it, strongly and often.  In the avoidance of covetousness and the forgiveness of those who trespass against us lie contentment and rest for the soul.