“Covetousness puts God on the altar as the sacrifice for what we want more.”
As those words exited my mouth this past Sunday, they cut me to the core. Earlier in the sermon, I'd shared how God has been showing me my own covetousness. My wife and I have two kids already, Serenity & Joelle, and she was ready to hang up childbearing. It wasn’t that I wasn’t with her on that, but selfishly I would contend that decision was contingent on what we were having this time. I wanted a boy. Badly. When things would get tense, I would joke with her saying, "Look, God is the one who’s in control so if you got beef, pray and eat more chicken!"
She never thought that was funny.
With two girls already, I also joked around by saying that if the Lord gives me another girl, that’s Him telling me to either move to Tibet or some other foreign land full of monks and eunuchs, He wants me to get a cross bow like Darryl from The Walking dead, or He wants me to plant churches in prison because that’s probably where I would end up in their teens! The funny thing is, no amount of joking could cover the fact that in my heart the desire for a son was so strong that I would view God as less than and even punishing me if He withheld one from me. Even though we have two beautiful and amazing girls, and I know some of my very best friends are still waiting for one child. In spite of that, I wanted Noah. I wanted to give him my deceased little brother’s first name as his middle. I wanted him to rewrite the narrative of our family name so that it becomes synonymous with a relentless pursuit for Christ. I wanted to look him in the eyes and tell him to stand firm as a man of God in an age where biblical manhood is like "Where's Waldo?". And that’s a very good desire, but it's a terrible god. So, as I described what covetousness does, I realized in that illustration what my own heart was saying, "I would sacrifice God for a son."
Needless to say, I was ready to get off the stage.
After I finsihed preaching, I sat down and shed a couple of tears while other people sung. After service, I went to my office, repented and prayed for forgiveness. That moment pushed me over the line and in my heart I said, “God you're more gracious than I deserve. If I never see a son, Your beauty and glory isn’t diminished. And I’m not going to selfishly dig my feet in the ground if we don’t get a boy, if my wife really feels she’s done having children." Just so happens, later on in the day, we were having a gender reveal for our new child, and I was going to find out what we were having along with our community.
5:15 pm we’re about to open up the box full of balloons that will reveal what we are having. It was either full of pink or blue ones. Before we proceed, John pulls me aside and says, “Make sure you react with joy no matter what.” I thought to myself—seeing as he and his wife were two of only four people who knew the gender—that he was obviously trying to prepare me for “disappointment”. Good thing God did that for me earlier! But, we open the box and blue balloons ascend into the air, as I start the victory lap around the house!
Well, covetousness isn’t dealt with by us getting or not getting what we want. Covetousness is dealt with as God gets a hold of our heart. My covetousness didn’t go away when I saw those blue balloons; it was dealt a deadly blow when God exposed the weight of my sin and how I shelved Him for it. And how I didn't have my hope, energy, and worship anchored where it should’ve been the whole time—in the hands of a holy, beautiful, and gracious God. I don’t think me getting a son was a lesson in perseverance (because God heard my prayer and responded favorably) as much as it was me, through prayer, having my heart exposed and God wrestling my heart into submission and faith.
Before these thoughts continue and become a novel, let me close with a few things I’ve thought about since:
Covetousness is rooted in the heart, so while it manifested itself as a desire for a son recently, in a few days it could be something else.
The prayer games we play with God reflect the condition of our heart, not His capacity to hear or answer our prayers.
The question we need to ask ourselves regularly is, "Does God get your sacrifice or do you lay your life and His on the altar of covetousness?"
By the grace of God, these are thoughts I hope to share with Serenity, Joelle, and Noah one day.