************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 113-115 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 6, 2011, 2011
Q & A 113-115
"The Tenth Commandment"
"Zones of Seduction. How supermarkets turn shoppers into hoarders." That was the title of an article I read this past week. What an eye opener.
The article gives us an inside look at a supermarket designed to test shoppers' responses to different marketing strategies. "Take a careful look at this lady," said an observer looking at a monitor. "She's about to enter our latest speed-bump area. It's designed to have her spend 45 seconds longer in this section, which can increase her average spending by as much as 73%." The observer called it "the zone of seduction."
This section of the store was different from the usual aisle. It had upscale floor tiles which gives the cart a clickety-clack sound as it is pushed around, causing the shopper to instinctively slow down. The shopper's speed was displayed at the top of the screen, and as soon as she entered the zone, her pace slowed. She began looking at a tall tower of Campbell's soup and then plucked a can off the top. Bingo! The sign in front of the display reads, "1.95. MAXIMUM 3 CANS PER CUSTOMER." Before the shopper left the area, she had selected three cans for her cart.
A guide explained what happened. "Yesterday we ran exactly the same offer, with some differences. There was a dollar sign in front of the price and no 'Maximum 3 cans per customer' line. We also gave the shoppers smaller-size carts and changed the floor tiles." On the first day of the experiment, only 1 in 103 shoppers purchased Campbell's soup. The next day, 1 in 14 bought the soup.
The article concludes with this statement: The next time you go grocery shopping, take a look at the signs, the floor and even the carts. Every element has been designed with an eye toward getting you to grab three cans of something that wasn't on your list. The more attention you pay to the details, the more aware you'll become of how you're being manipulated.
This, my brothers and sisters, is what happens with soup! But it also happens with clothing, with cars, with TV's and stereos, with computers, with everything that is part of your shopping experience today. Everything is designed to make you covet. And it works – with most people.
We are looking at the tenth commandment today, the commandment about coveting:
(Ex 20:17) "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
I Do Not Covet
A Did you notice something strange about the Catechism's treatment of the tenth commandment? The Catechism doesn't really deal with the tenth commandment. So, I want to begin by looking at the tenth commandment itself. Then, we will cover what the Catechism says.
What does it mean to covet? It is a lust and longing and carnal desire for things. To covet is to strongly desire what belongs to someone else. It is a desiring or wanting of what is not rightfully ours. It is a sort of mental theft.
B Today, as I indicated in my introduction, we are urged to covet. Advertisers strive to create within us a lust for things. Of course, we no longer covet our neighbor's maidservant or donkey. Instead, we covet our neighbor's car or truck, his lawn-mower or snow-blower, his house or his vacation home. We are invited to covet, urged to covet, pressed to be discontented with what we have. We are pushed to long for more, better, faster, and more expensive belongings.
If I were to pick the three things that people covet the most, I suspect they would be beauty, intelligence, and money.
The girl who is unusually attractive has the world at her feet. The handsome athletic boy is treated as a king. An extra half-inch of flesh on a woman's nose rearranges her entire life and affects whom she marries. Ugly salesmen are less successful than their handsome competitors. The short man faces lifelong disadvantages. Our is a culture that covets youth and beauty.
Intelligence is also highly rated. New parents first of all examine their baby's eyes, ears, nose, and other appendages for imperfections. And then most new parents (and grandparents) begin looking for signs of budding genius.
Money is also highly rated. A teenager on a bicycle somehow seems less worthy than the same teen in a Chevy Camaro. A family in Savannah Heights is more highly regarded than the same family in the Oval.
C In response to this the message of the tenth commandment is clear: coveting is wrong. We may not selfishly and excessively desire possessions, especially those that belong to another person.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains the tenth commandment this way: it forbids "all discontent, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor" and requires "full contentment with our own condition."
Note that in this commandment we are not talking about an action – like murder or adultery or theft or Sabbath breaking or idol worship – as we do with the other commandments. Rather, we are talking about an attitude, a mind-set, the inner desires and thoughts which man cannot see but God can and does see.
To the people of Israel the tenth commandment must have come as a surprise. They lived in a day and age and culture that defined evil strictly in outward terms. Thus idolatry, cursing, Sabbath-breaking, adultery, killing, and stealing were wrong. But now God also says to them, "You shall not covet ..." (Ex 20:17). The Lord God Almighty was telling His people that He is concerned not only with outward actions but also with the heart, the inner life. He did not only consider the actions of His people but even looked deeply into their heart. He actually was forbidding evil desires. Thus God is indeed a jealous God. He is jealous of man's actions and of man's thoughts – that they all conform to His will.
D It is important that we do not confuse covetous thoughts and desires with instinctive needs. By nature we have God-implanted needs. We need to worship and honor God. We need time to rest from our labors. We need parental guidance. We need food, drink, clothing, and shelter. We need to love and be loved. We need human dignity. Neither the Bible nor the Catechism speaks against our natural desire for any of these things. But it does speak against excessive wants, perverse inclinations, lustful thoughts. It speaks against needs which have become desires without proper limits. For instance, a proper desire is food for our tables; an improper desire is steak and lobster every night. It is proper to want a place to call home; it is improper to desire a mansion.
E Why is it wrong to covet? There are two answers we need to consider.
The first answer is that coveting leads to other thing. Coveting, you see, never just sits there and desires. It almost always reaches out and moves into action. Think of Achan in our Bible reading this evening. Achan coveted the gold, silver, and beautiful cloth of Jericho. Think of David coveting Bathsheba. Think of Ahab coveting the vineyard of Naboth. In each case, the covetous thought or desire led to a further act of sin: Achan stole what belonged to the Lord; David committed adultery and then murder; Ahab allowed Naboth to be unjustly charged and murdered. Coveting, almost always without exception, leads to another sin.
The second answer is that coveting leads us away from God and His Kingdom. Jesus tells us to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Mt 6:33). But when we covet, my brothers and sisters, we do not seek first the kingdom. When we covet, we make other things first and most important in our life.
II Summary of the Law
A Now, what does the Catechism say about the tenth commandment? When I ask the students in Pastor's Class to give me the summary of the Law in one word they think about it and answer with the word "love." Most Sundays we read the summary of the Law as it teaches us our sin: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to love our neighbor as ourselves.
When the Catechism looks at the tenth commandment it sees another summary to God's Law. "What is God's will for you in the tenth commandment?" "That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any one of God's commandments should ever arise in my heart. Rather, with all my heart I should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right." Notice, according to the Catechism, the tenth commandment covers all the commandments.
B Seen this way, the demand of the Tenth Commandment is that I am to have a new, a clean, a pure heart. When I covet, I show that my heart is corrupt and unclean. So God's will for our lives in the Tenth Commandment is a heart that is clean, pure, and holy. God wants my heart to hate sin and love righteousness. God wants my heart to delight in whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). God wants my heart to be like Jesus!
III A Hard Law to Keep
A Week after week God speaks to us and says, "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall make for yourself an idol. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet" (cf Ex 20).
As we listen to this law, how many of us are able to keep all these commandments? How many of us are able to keep even some of the commandments? As the Catechism asks, "But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly?"
Have you heard of the Holiness Movement? Many in this movement hold to the doctrine of "Christian perfection" – the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin. They believe it is possible in this life and on this earth and in this flesh to be liberated from one's fallen nature and the tendency to sin.
Based upon the Bible, notice what the Catechism says about the Holiness Movement and complete sanctification in this life: "In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience."
Who is the holiest person you know? Or, who is the holiest person you have ever heard about? Whether it be a family member, the Apostle Paul, Abraham, Ruth, or the virgin Mary they don't measure up. They are not perfect. There is only One Who perfectly obeyed all of God's commandments – and He is in heaven, at the right hand of God.
B Does this mean that we stop trying, stop striving, give up, and give in to sin? If I can't be perfect, should I just throw in the towel? Absolutely not! Filled with Christ's grace and Christ's Spirit saved believers "live according to all, not only some, of God's commandments."
IV Pointed Preaching
A More than one person has said something at the door about how pointed and hard-hitting my sermons on the Ten Commandments have been. Some of you might be thinking, "I cannot go to church without feeling guilty." Good. I hope you all feel this way. Because God, according to Q 115, wants pointed preaching of His Law.
The first reason: "so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness." God wants pointed preaching of His Law so we feel guilty. God wants pointed preaching of His Law so we feel convicted by our sins. God wants pointed preaching of His Law so we recognize what horrible, awful sinners we are.
This first reason does not stand by itself. Or else we would be a church of guilt-ridden sociopaths. Rather, an awareness of sin leads us to look to Christ – and Christ alone – for our salvation. Those who are filled with guilt and shame are to "eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness."
B The second reason: God wants the Law preached pointedly so that we pray and strive for the perfection that will be ours after this life. God wants us to be dissatisfied with our weak devotion, our shaky faith, and our imperfect obedience. When we hear His perfect Law, God wants us to say and think, "Yes, that is what I want to attain, that is how I want to live, that is what I want to be."
Don't forget the setting of the Ten Commandments and the Catechism. We are dealing with the life of gratitude. We are talking about those who have been born-again by the blood and Spirit of Christ. We are talking about those who are saved from their sin and misery.
Those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb do not covet. They do not entertain the slightest thought or desire contrary to any of God's commandments. Rather, with all their heart they hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.
Is this how you live as one saved by God?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page