From the pulpit: The human hearts problem

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2006

We humans have heart problems.

Physically, the statistics are not good. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in the U.S. Added to strokes, both components of cardiovascular disease account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths &8212; one every 34 seconds.

What is true of our physical heart is true of our spiritual heart, the seat of our affections. Exodus 20:17 describes a key heart problem when it says, &8220;You shall not covet.&8221;

James Boice calls this &8220;the most revealing and devastating of all the commandments&8221; because it is &8220;an attitude of the inward nature which may or may not express itself in an outward acquisitive act.&8221;

Simply put, coveting is craving in my heart more of what I have enough of already.

About 3500 years ago, Moses warned God&8217;s people not to covet someone else&8217;s most expensive possession (house), most important relationship (spouse), most obvious sign of affluence (servants) and even their means of transportation (ox or donkey.) Not much has changed since then.

Why is coveting so destructive? First, coveting stresses the heart. Like exercising too strenuously can cause heart attacks, coveting causes us to hunger excessively for what others have. Rather than being thankful for what God has given, coveting causes us to be distracted, anxious and envious about what God has given someone else.

Second, coveting hardens the heart. Physically, a healthy heart is soft, supple and responsive. Spiritually, God seeks to make our heart soft, generous, loving and forgiving. Coveting, however, makes them hard, joyless, envious and bitter. Paul Eldridge writes: &8220;What we have not poisons what we have.&8221;

For me, coveting clogs my relationship with God like a blocked artery. It restricts the flow of his contentment, love and forgiveness in my life. What is the antidote? Perhaps I need to covet the right things.

Ephesians 2:6-10 explains what we should covet-not someone&8217;s worldly house &8212; but my home in the heavenly realms; not my neighbor&8217;s spouse but Christ with whom I am united; not a celebrity&8217;s affluence, but the riches of God&8217;s grace to me; not my friend&8217;s new donkey (or car), but the honor to use what God has given me to do good works for his glory.

Marck Cushman serves as the minister of pastoral care at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. He can be reached by phone at 776-5350