Jesus said, “Just think about the birds in the sky: although they neither sow seed nor harvest nor gather into silos, yet your heavenly Father provides them with what they need. Aren’t you more valuable than they are?”
— Matthew 6:26 (USC)
Covetousness is the significant theme of Matthew chapter 6.
First, Jesus has handled the coveting of status, recognition, and impression — to elevate one’s repute above what was truthful, and worse, to impugn the status, recognition, and impression God gives. The covetousness of seeking a higher impression for one’s self reveals a lower-than-acceptable self-esteem. It speaks of the opposite effect to that which we are trying to achieve. Coveting reputation is a great lack of integrity. But our humanity suggests that’s what we are all tempted to do — to show ourselves better than what or who we are.
Second, Jesus handles the coveting of other things of this world — ‘valuables’ and money — when the only things of true worth are the eternal things of God.
Third, Jesus fixes on the actual outcome of covetousness, which is anxiousness.
If we are perfectly content, we have nothing to worry about. But we worry because we have to have life ordered a certain way. We stress about having the right clothes to wear, and the right food to eat at the right time and in the right way. We who are very particular are bound to get the particular ills of anxiousness. And the worst of it morphs into a disorder.
Jesus is getting to the point in this last package of verses in chapter 6: “don’t worry about what you’ll get and not get, and about the quality, quantity, and timing of everything.”
The birds have not a fleeting worry, unless that is a predator lurks nearby.
If we are anxious we know why now. If we wish to be less anxious, we know just what we need to do: surrender our coveting grip on the things of this world. (Though, I do also need to concede that many who do have anxiety disorders have them because of complex reasons for which we are not qualified to judge upon. The anxiety in view, here, is the anxiety of the average person.)
Now that the link between coveting things and anxiety has been made clear, we may then set about addressing the semblances of covetousness we engage in.
Contentment is possible only when we release our covetous grip on the things of this world.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. What things or concepts of personhood do you covet? How will you surrender these to God, if, in fact, you will?
2. Where there is anxiousness of a genuine variety — like that which is propagated by workplace bullying — what can be done to address the situation? (Sometimes getting out of the environment is our only option.)
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.