If only...

When it comes to contentment, there are two words that trip us up. “If only we could afford to live in that suburb, then we’d be happy”. “If only I was married, then I wouldn’t feel so unsatisfied”. “If only I had better clothes, then I’d feel good about myself”. “If only my husband were a little more sensitive like her husband, then I’d be content with everything else”. The discontent we feel is readily excused with a sentence beginning “If only”. It’s as though God only expects us to be content and desire rightly when all of our desires are met, but if not then we’re welcome to go on coveting the possessions or romantic relationships that we lack in our lives.

In Chapter 5,Coveting Money and Possessions’, we take a look at Judas and how his betrayal of Jesus stemmed from two faults - his hatred of Jesus and love of money. He was affiliated with Jesus, yet had no active faith in Him but rather a seething hatred that gave permission to his greed. Looking at the path of Judas leaves an impression of how vulnerable we make ourselves when we let active affection for Jesus slip. It seems that it’s when we have an affiliation with Jesus but no active affection for Him that we leave ourselves open for other loves to captivate, master and control us.

If only...” excuses are fuel to the fire of our coveting money and possessions. But we take our thanksgiving away from God with these excuses, putting the responsibility for our contentment on Him as the one who can provide what we desire.  

Kruger raises one key idea that can help us not to be possessed by our possessions - we are merely stewards. We don’t hold the title to anything, but God does. As stewards of everything we have, we recognise God as provider and that He may have given it to us as only a means of providing for someone else. As stewards we’re to be loose with our money, not tight-fisted, and to put off comparison because we know that God, in His sovereignty and goodness, has provided for us as He sees fit.

The next chapter, ‘Coveting Within Romantic Relationships’, is canvassing a sensitive but broad and damaging area of coveting. We first look at David’s adultery with Bathsheba. His example of seeing, coveting, taking and hiding, is a steep descent. David’s sin began the moment he set eyes on Bathsheba, seeing her in a lustful way, and the sin continued with one action after the next taken to hide his coveting.

Kruger’s discussion of this topic acknowledges that the desire for companionship comes as naturally as breathing, because we were created relational, so the desire isn’t inherently culpable. But the naturalness of our desires for a good husband doesn’t justify flogging “if only” excuses. Much of this chapter stems from the assertion that “we need to bring our good and right desire for relationship together with an understanding that no earthly relationship can mend the brokenness in our lives” (p. 147). We’re not to sit back and think that our covetousness is fine because it’s natural to have these desires, but acknowledge that even if we found that perfect husband we desire, we still would not feel satisfied in him, but only God.

This chapter offers seeking the Lord as the remedy to our coveting within romantic relationships. Though we should be motivated to seek the Lord firstly by our love of the Lord Himself, seeking Him will lead us to love others better and in turn find ourselves in healthier relationships. We’re also encouraged that true beauty begins with fear of the Lord, and to return to this when we start to see being physically beautiful as what we need to be to find a good relationship. 

A challenge I took from reading these two chapters was to desire and find satisfaction in God rather than making “if only excuses about money and relationships. Though money can provide us with good things and the desire for a good relationship is natural, we can only be liberated of our coveting in these areas when we recognise their limitations to satisfy. Why don’t we instead ask God to lead us to look for true satisfaction in Him who pursued us first?