Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jessie's Girl

One of the things that bugged me about living abroad was how terribly out of touch I felt.  As a nerd of the first caliber, I have never been caught up on pop culture but I'm not usually an ENTIRE decade behind.  Once in a while I still have to say, "Sorry, I must have missed that while I was gone," but these days we are LESS lost. 

The classes we attend at the gym help. The playlist isn't typically my style of music but it's fun to sneak references in to blog posts and shock my Freshman by telling her the name of the song she's humming . However, being a nerd, I can't just listen.  I think too.
One song on the playlist is "Jessie's girl."  It's an old song from Rick Springfield that was covered again about 8 years ago. Since I was panting, sweating and generally miserable all I caught the first couple of times was a line from the chorus "I wish I had Jessie's girl."  But that was plenty to send my brain haring off.

What word do we use to describe the act of wanting what someone else has?
You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)
That ancient rock ballad is the pure definition of "coveting."  The narrator has a good friend, Jessie, with a new and wonderfully attractive girlfriend. The singer is obsessed with the girl.  He wonders why doesn't she love him instead of Jessie? He tortures himself by imagining her and Jessie together.

As I watched the video with my daughter her first comment was delivered with teenaged distain: "Stalker!"  Then more thoughtfully she commented, "At least he's not going to do anything about it."  I'm not so sure.

I think the singer is in real trouble.  He's hovering on the verge of destroying his friendship, or his friend's relationship. He's not far from making life-destroying decisions.  To quote the Lord, "Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7).

Coveting is one of those sins of the heart we've been talking about and it illustrates a principle true of all of them.
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.  These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man. (Matthew 15:18-20)
Sins of the heart bleed over into more obvious ones.

  • Cain and Abel:  Step 1: Covet (Praise).  Step 2: Murder.  Step 3: Cursed by God.
  • David and Bathsheba:  Step 1: Covet (Friend's wife). Step 2: Adultery. Step 3: Lie. Step 4: Murder. Step 5: Cursed by God.
  • Ananias and Sapphira: Step 1: Covet (Praise) Step 2: Lie to the Holy Spirit.  Step 3: Struck dead by God.
The final result of all covetousness is death.  For Cain- a dead brother.  For David not only a dead friend but 3 sons lost to death.  For Ananias and Sapphira their own deaths.  For the singer?  It may be the death of his friendship, his friend's relationship or worse. 

And for us? 

Covetousness is an old-fashioned and formal term, one we may not have a clear understanding of. The sin of coveting is to have an illegitimate or inordinate desire. Wanting what belongs to your neighbor is illegitimate (his wife isn't yours).  Letting your desire for a new car overflow into every aspect of your life is inordinate.   Coveting is not a sin we hear churches picketing about on the news, but it is the beginning of a thousand other sins.  It's deadly and we've done it.

We have longed for something to the point that we began to resent the person who has it, like when we are hurt because someone else got the promotion, or the boyfriend, or the new car, or the new baby. We have wanted something to the point that we lied, cheated or stole to get it like when we want someone's good opinion enough that we've lied to maintain it.

As easy as it is to enjoy the peppy tune as I pedal along, "Jessie's girl" reminded me how devastating coveting can be, and how hard it is for us to recognize it and call it out in our own lives. We think of it as a natural reaction to other's good fortune, or we want to subtly blame our friend or God. We have no need to deny all desire. But be wary,  like all sin, as soon as we recognize it we are under obligation to confess and repent of it!

Don't be like the singer.  Don't let Satan fool you into excusing yourself or imagining that the consequences won't be all that severe.  Sin lies in wait.  Don't let it master you!


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