August 17: Romans 7

Nathan Shurden
There are some commands that shock us into seeing ourselves for who we really are. Thou shall not covet is one of them.

"I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness."--Romans 7:7b-8

The reason the commandment to not covet draws us to honesty about ourselves is because the command centers on the inward orientation of the heart. Coveting is not an outward action. It does not deal in externals, so it can't be proved empirically. To covet is to say something about the self-centeredness of our desires, to expose the motivational center of our lives. In short, the command to not covet forces us to ask the question, "What is at the center of your life: God or yourself?"

But wait--it gets worse. Paul tells us in Colossians 3 that covetousness is more than self-centeredness; it is self worship (see Col.3:5). When we break the 10th commandment, we also break the 1st commandment. To covet is to make ourselves the reference point for life, which is to automatically fail at our life's mission: "to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." So, what are we to do?

In order to snap the spell of covetousness, we have to be mesmerized by the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the grace of God's law! Coming to grips with our own covetousness, means we also have to come to grips with our own need for a Savior. That's exactly what happened to Paul in Romans 7. He knew he could not rescue himself from the sinfulness of his own heart. The problem ran too deep. We must realize the same, and then in the gospel break the power of covetousness.

How do we do that? When must ask God to show us what Paul saw--that the only person who ever had the right to live life with himself at the center, chose on the cross to make you the center of His love. When that wondrous love is alive within you, the spell of the self-centered life is broken. And then, and only then, and not a moment sooner, can we expect to experience the power of free grace to flood our lives with self-forgetful, God-centered joy.