“Don’t even think it!” The phrase was well used by my friend and colleague, whenever she saw ‘that look’ on a student’s face. I can still hear it in her broad Yorkshire accent! But she was right – prevention is always better than cure. It’s really the essence of the tenth commandment – “Thou shalt not covet”. Stopping wrongdoing in its tracks, by not even giving it brain space.
I remember a preacher once saying (in the context of marital faithfulness) that you can’t help looking once, but looking a second time is where the problems start. St Paul taught to ‘take every thought captive’ (2 Corinthians 10:5) – that is to be aware of what you are thinking, and take control of it. So much better to prevent than to regret. Stepping in on yourself, before temptation gets a hold. Pure thoughts lead the way to pure deeds.
The concept of coveting, is wishing you had something that belongs to someone else, which of course might lead you into finding ways of ‘liberating’ them from it. But as I pondered this one, I wondered if I own things that other people might wish to have. If I flash around the nice things I have, does it put someone else into temptation? Am I wise with stuff? Do I share enough of the good things I enjoy?
And there again, there are some things we can and should covet. When I see someone who is sold-out for God, living life beautifully committed to him, bearing good fruit, I want what they’ve got! These are things that you can’t take from them though; they are not in short measure, and you have to put in the effort yourself to get them. Seeing others going for gold in their spiritual lives should urge us on to achieve in our own lives the riches God has for us.
So the questions follow.
- Who is a good example for me, to set my sights higher?
- What fruit and gifts of the Spirit do I eagerly desire?
- Is there anything in my life, that others would covet? Anything that I am excelling in enough to make others want to do better?
- Is there something I can teach or help someone else with?
So if you’re going to do some thinking, just make sure it’s the right things you are thinking about!