“I believe the sin of covetise is that pang of resentment you may feel when even the people you love best have what you want and don’t have…. There is nothing that makes a person’s fallenness more undeniable than covetise.”
-Marilynne Robinson (Gilead, 134)
I don’t want to want what my friends have. I want to want God. But I really want a girlfriend.
I feel terrible for wanting what my best friends have. I feel terrible when my heart beats a little harder—out of momentary anger—when I realize they are talking with a girl and I am not.
What about me?
Am I not good enough to date or like or want to kiss? What about me?
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom”” (Matthew 20:20-21).
I get resentful about new relationships and my heart aches. I want to be happy for them. I want to be happy for love wherever it exists, even when I’m not involved. But, much like the mother of James and John, I want to remind God that I prayed first.
Look at my journals through junior high and high school. I was so faithful in praying for someone good.
I’ve been pursuing God and a wife for so long. Shouldn’t my wish come true?
James and John wanted proof they were the disciples Jesus loved.
I want proof that I’m the follower Jesus loves.
“Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking”” (22a)
James and John’s mother didn’t realize her request. She didn’t realize the sheer magnitude of it all, the purpose of Christ, the reception of the power of the Son of God. She didn’t realize how to experience the love of Christ. It has no strings attached and it needs no proof. It is there, ever-present, self-expressive.
I don’t think I know what I’m asking.
“Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers” (22-24)
The conversation happened in front of the ten other disciples.
Who are they to get the right and the left?
Why would they think they could get the blessing and we couldn’t?
It makes me think, too.
Who is Drew to get the right or the left?
Why does he expect the blessing and not me?
When covetise happens, rivalries ensue. Friendships disintegrate and communities break down. The grappling for power, attention, notoriety culminates in distrust and indignation.
The disciples were indignant.
We are indignant.
Why should others receive the blessings we’ve prayed for?
Why can’t I be in love?
“But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (25-28).
We just want to be distinguished in the kingdom of heaven. With James and John, we want a blessing to prove our faithfulness. Our motivation is equal parts “We are owed this,” and “But I just really want this.”
Here comes the coveting again....
And covetise does not belong in our new identity. Instead, service and mutual respect hold court, and the Spirit sits on the throne of our hearts, molding us, if we allow her, into the type of humans who celebrate with those who celebrate.
The Spirit is turning me into a celebrator, not a coveter.
And when I become a celebrator, the gifts of life become so much more evident, whether I have a girlfriend or not.