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Peace for the Covetous Heart

July 2, AD 2015 0 Comments

Of all the commandments, “Thou shalt not covet,” never seemed the most difficult. I knew that I could be materialistic, could focus on things over people, and could be envious of another’s success. Yet, I told myself that most times I would never want something bad enough to take it from someone else. Of course, when we think we have something under control that usually means it is an area Satan is winning without a fight.  I was not really aware of my struggle with covetousness until a priest described it as wanting a life other than the one that God has willed for us.  Suddenly, I saw myself in a new light. How often had I wrestled with God, praying through gritted teeth “Thy will be done”?  So many times I found myself calling to God, “This isn’t fair! Don’t I deserve a break?” On rough days, I have even, in my secret heart, wished that I had a different life.  Unconsciously, I was allowing covetousness to fill me with anger, fear, and ingratitude.

In a culture obsessed with wealth, consumption, and worldly success, Christians know that we have to be on our guard against greed – the material side of covetousness.  We need to check ourselves with Christ’s words that it is possible to “gain the whole world but lose your soul” (Matt. 16:26).  When we covet, we put the things we desire over our relationships with others and with God.  We set our hearts on lesser things.  Like most of us who aren’t saints yet, I have not yet mastered my thoughts and desires so that they are focused on heaven. But the tangible things like houses, clothes, cars, and the latest technology aren’t the only things that pull our gaze away from our heavenly goal, and, in many cases, they aren’t the most dangerous.

We are called to trust God to provide for us, just as He does for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. While many times that means waiting on God to provide for our material needs, it also means that we have to trust him with our emotional and spiritual needs as well. We have to trust that we are where we are and who we are for a reason, just as a bird does not wish to be a fish or a flower a tree. That we are created for a purpose and equipped with what we need to fulfill that purpose.

It can be so easy to see someone else and think “there is someone equipped with what they need for a happy life.” Whether we are envying their abilities, their temperament, their vocation, or something else about their situation in life, we are giving into the spirit of covetousness. With social media, it is increasingly easy to covet the lives of others from afar. When we hold our lives up to the filtered, edited, and showcased lives of others, we think, “They have it all together. I am not as happy or as holy or as fulfilled as that person.”  Even without knowing it, we can find ourselves dissatisfied and discontented. We can lose the peace that comes with trusting God.

Our culture encourages us to seize the “life that we deserve,” which often means that we are left floundering when the life we have doesn’t look like the ideal of those around us. There is nothing wrong with working toward a goal or believing that we can improve. But when a sense of entitlement leads to a discontented and covetous heart, we can lash out with anger, doubt our own worth, and lose sight of the life with which God has blessed us.

The antidote for all the kinds of covetous greed that eat away at our soul is simple: contentment. We are to rest peacefully in God’s will for our lives. St. Paul, who throughout his missionary journeys lived in a constant state of dependence on God and waiting on His will, said “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content.” (Phillipians 4:11) Even though it can be difficult to discern God’s will, that does not mean we should cease trying or substitute our own vision.  The life that God has given us, the crosses we have to bear, and the path of vocation which He has set before us are tailor-made for the persons He made us to be.

When we feel ill-at-ease in our own skin, restless at heart, and unready to take up the burdens that seem unfair in our lives, we have to choose not to react with anger and fear. Giving into covetous thoughts will never bring us happiness or peace, because they lead us in the wrong direction – taking from others to fulfill our desires.  We can only learn to be content if we trust our Father no matter how dark the road and how ill-equipped we seem to travel it. Thankfully, St. Paul tells us how he has learned contentment: “I can do all these things in Him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:14)  Christ, who trusted His father and submitted to His Will to the point of death, can give us the ability to destroy the power of covetousness over our hearts and to rest content in the knowledge that His love is guiding us Home.

About the Author:

Megan Twomey studied English and History at Hillsdale College. While she was there, she converted to Catholicism and also bumped into a friend's big brother, who just happened to be her perfect match. She now spends her time as a stay-at-home mama to a superhero preschooler and his toddler sidekick, with baby number three on the way.