Monday, September 16, 2013

In Search Of Truth, Exodus 20:17

The last of the Ten Commandments is unusual in that it more directly addresses hidden internal sin. Specifically, sin that can lead to a number of other sins described in the Ten Commandments. Desiring what is not rightfully ours can directly lead to adultery or  theft, and indirectly lead to any of the other sins described in the Ten Commandments.

As we learned previously, the Ten Commandments were not intended to be all-encompassing or the most important moral commands from God. They were the starting point, the foundation on which God would construct a community that could effectively be taught and transformed by Yahweh through further teaching.

The command against coveting helped support a healthy view of possessions and personal rights. Further teaching regarding personal possessions and coveting is found in the New Testament.

(Ephesians 5:3, ESV) But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

(Hebrews 13:5, ESV) Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This doesn't mean we shouldn't seek out enjoyable geek experiences, but it does call us to be content when pursuing a particular geek experience is not a responsible use of our resources.

(Romans 13:9, ESV) For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The root Greek word for love in Romans 13:9 is "agape", a kind of love that aims to benefit others. With this kind of love as our priority our minds will not even wander into desiring what someone else has, but will instead be happy for them to have what they do. We'll also first be looking for ways to bring happiness and fulfillment to others before we look for ways to gives ourselves pleasure.

That kind of love feels sadly alien and unnatural to me, as I have long struggled with materialism. And it doesn't make me feel any better to know that I am not alone in that.

There is a dark side to much of geekery that I think our generation should commit to eliminating, and that is the element of greed and coveting. For many of us geeks, we measure our "geek cred" by the number of things we've collected and crammed on our shelves. A "hardcore" geek is often someone who is so passionate about their hobby of choice that when a new opportunity arises to spend money or time on it they feel intensely compelled to do so. Speaking for myself, I can even feel strangely "incomplete" if I don't have all of the DLC for my favorite video games, or if I don't purchase the blu rays of my favorite movies the day they are released. I can also hang on to things long after I have lost interest in them, simply because I like having them contribute to my geeky collection.

I want to be clear in saying that scripture does not teach that everyone should discard all of their possessions and not spend money on entertainment. But our possessions should serve an identifiable, God-honoring purpose, rather than be an end to themselves. (1 Timothy 6:10, Luke 19:11-27)

Entertainment that helps us relax after a period of work is good and useful. But I don't know how to argue that possessions on my shelf that serve no purpose except as "geek cred" are honoring God. When I give people a tour of my office, I enjoy mentioning that "those two filing cabinets are both full of comics". But that does nothing to honor God. It only attempts to honor me.

I've recently taken some very small steps that I hope signify larger steps in the future. I've begun "cleansing" my geek collection of things I don't use any more, such as specific comic books in my collection that I honestly don't ever see myself taking the time to pull out and read again. I also recently sold about 5 RPG video games to help pay for a new one. (That took some careful, rational thought for me to do without cringing.) I'm hoping more and more to let that materialistic type of geek inside me die to be replaced by a geek who loves geekery no less than before, but also values living life on purpose. A geek who is content to not be "the geekiest", but instead be more like Jesus... if he would have liked rolling dice and taking on some side-quests now and then.

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