Thursday, September 28, 2017

All About a Cup: A Tale of Coveting

by Danetta Kellar

I used to think that coveting was a condition of material wealth. 

After all, in a society where most anything one could want is available at most any time, the choices are endless. And with social media and photo enhancing, everyone’s life looks enviable. If we see it and we want it, we don’t have to wait long to have it, if we must. 

My misconception changed when I moved deep into the bush of East Africa to live among a tribe whose material possessions consisted of only the most basic, utilitarian items. 

One day after a hot and dusty afternoon of hand-digging the cornfields for planting, the village wives gathered under the spreading acacia tree for chai. Squatting on their lean, sinewy haunches, colorful cloth wraps hiked up above their calves, the women stirred the pot and chatted. 

I quietly joined them, contributing the extra sugar so hard to come by. 

Our village father had three wives, and together they shared the labor of planting, harvest, cooking, cleaning, and raising children. 

The youngest wife sauntered up to the chai circle, confident in her status as the husband’s current favorite. 

In her hands, she cradled an oversized, pink plastic mug. 

All conversation ceased. The silence weighed in like a stern rebuke.

“Give me that cup,” demanded the head wife.

“No,” declared the third wife, turning away defiantly like the teenager she was.

The middle wife, along with the rest of us, watched breathlessly to see what would happen next.

“Give me that cup or I will call up the jinn on you,” threatened the first wife.

As animists, their culture revolved around their fear of jinn, or evil spirits. Appeasing the jinn was paramount to keeping peace in the village. When displeased, the jinn wreaked havoc, sometimes even death.

The third wife’s eyes grew large and filled with fear. Trembling, she handed the coveted cup to her co-wife.

The co-wife then turned to the gaggle of children sitting behind her like a pack of puppies and tossed the cup to them. They scrambled and fought over the cup, the oldest girl finally seizing it and holding it high like a trophy. 

The pink cup had been coveted, fought over, and claimed by a new owner.

Coveting is not a matter of abundance. It is a matter of the human heart, clamoring to possess more, the best, the most over others. It is a matter of selfishness and pride, and it exists in every society, in every human heart.

There are several antidotes for coveting, no matter your culture or amount of possessions.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I  leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5, NIV

Content means satisfied and not wishing for more, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. 

When we are satisfied, we tend to handle the possessions we do have more loosely. We are more likely to be generous. It is easier to love and serve others. 

Contentment is dependent upon the next antidote, trust in God.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6, NIV

It did not take me long after moving back to the United States to collect an abundance of material possessions. Eventually, my husband and I decided we needed more room, a bigger house to hold our stuff. After trying to sell our house without success, we came to the conclusion that it was not more space we needed, it was more trust.

God gives us the portion we need. He grants to us a secure lot with carefully drawn boundaries. Those boundaries are in the form of health, energy, money, and time, among others. 

We will be most satisfied, most content, when we trust the boundaries God has given and live within them. 

We purged our stuff and remained in our pleasant and adequate house, where we now live with deep contentment. 

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. James 1:9-10, NIV

The message of the tenth commandment is not only for the poor who might wish for more. It is not only for the wealthy who are striving for more. It is for every person, regardless their station in life. 

You see, we are given wealth or poverty to serve. In our wealth, we can give to those in need. In our poverty, we can give to those in need. What we give may differ, be it money, or compassion and understanding.

Humility is a strong remedy for coveting. 

When we entrust our circumstances to the Lord and accept our position, whether it be one of abundance or lack, our impulse will be to share what we have, not strive to take more.

How have you combated coveting in your life? Share!


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