Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness… Luke 12:15
Now, I understand that this is in the context of financial greed, but the implication is deeper. Jesus says all covetousness — and covetousness manifests itself in myriad ways. Paul saw the prohibition against coveting as what enlivened sin in him (Rom 7:7ff). It was the tenth commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s: house, wife, servants, ox, donkey, or anything he has. Coveting is idolizing (Col 3:5), because it is wanting something in God’s place. It is therefore, as the tenth and final commandment, a type of summary, an injunction against breaking the first command (Which says, “You shall have no other gods before Me).
But how do I stop coveting? Well I can’t; and this, unfortunately, rips me up. It jacks up my pride and delusions of goodness. I can fake obedience outwardly, but inside, I know my heart covets. I can purposefully and self-righteously avert my eyes from my neighbor’s wife, but still covet in lust. I can praise God for so-and-so’s ministry, or, when I meet so-an-so say something like “Your ministry is a blessing to me” — but what I really want is to hob-knob with them, or to have a their status.
And I can’t change what I want. That’s where grace comes in, God acting upon us sovereignly — changing our desires by the work of his Spirit:
God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:3-4).
Sometimes the debate over free will and “monergism” vs. “synergism” can be theoretical, but I for one crave God’s sovereign working over my own desires. Because I desire wickedness apart from his working. But when he works within me, then I can will and work according to his good sovereign pleasure. He changes desires. He turns my covetousness (i.e. idolatrous) heart toward himself in his Son. His Spirit works unilaterally and I am made and being made increasingly new.