"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17
True confession: each day, as I drive into my apartment complex, I glance at the new sign stationed at the entrance of my neighboring church's driveway. Their colorful electronic display changes messages every few seconds, mentioning their mid-week Bible study, upcoming programs and the times of their Sunday morning services.
This sophisticated sign is not the only thing I covet about other churches. When congregations give away bicycles during their children's services or ecstatically declare how many new members they welcomed this past Sunday, I crave what they have. I wish for the "things" they possess that make them attractive to their communities.
Oh, how I desire their things and their achievements!
But what I must remind myself is that coveting draws us away from the present moment, from the blessings of the "here and now" and from loving extravagantly. Coveting traps us in a place of unhappiness instead of freeing us to dwell in God's bliss. Coveting is the distraction that deters us from seeing that the grass really is greener on our church's side of the fence.
Here are seven commandments to help us in stopping the insanity of Church-coveting:
1. You shall not covet another church's size of worship or membership.
2. You shall not covet another church's or Christian's special gifts and creativity.
3. You shall not covet another church's or Christian's energy levels.
4. You shall not covet the number of new members another church welcomes.
5. You shall not covet another church's new programs.
6. You shall not covet the number of youth or young families in another church.
7. You shall not covet the nearby church's brand new sign, building addition or new technology.
God, help me see that coveting the possessions of another church will distract me from where you are in my life. And may I find a way to toss my jealousy out the stained-glass window. Amen.
Michelle L. Torigian is the Pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ, Cincinnati, Ohio.