Since we will gather for worship and to partake of Christ’s body and blood given and shed for the remission of our sins, it is indeed good and right that we examine ourselves in accord with 1 Corinthians 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”
We do so this week on the basis of God’s commandment: “Thou shalt not covet.” In Exodus 20:17, God says: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Here, we deal with sins of the heart – desiring persons or things which are not ours to have, whether it be the property and goods of another, a neighbor’s spouse, servants or employees. Rather, we ought to be satisfied with what God gives us and help our neighbor keep what God has given and entrusted to him.
We break this commandment in so many ways because our sinful hearts are never satisfied with what God has given to us and entrusted to our care. Instead of trusting in the LORD God to provide us with all our needs, we grumble and complain about God’s gifts to us and desire what He has not given us, thinking that if we only had this or that person or thing, we would be happy.
Jesus warns us: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).
And God’s Words says: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3); and, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Colossians 3:5-6).
Notice that covetousness is called idolatry and brings God’s judgment – because it flows from a lack of fear, love and trust in the LORD God. And so often, the covetousness of the heart leads to outward sins of the flesh, whether it be acts of adultery, lying, or even obtaining the property and goods of another by theft or dishonest dealings.
We ask ourselves if our thoughts, words and actions truly reflect loving our neighbor as we are commanded. For, if we love our neighbor, we will not lust after or seek to obtain his or her spouse, employees or property. And, if we loved the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind, we would trust in Him to provide us with all we truly need and with those things which are truly good for us.
Again, we see our own sins and stand condemned by this commandment of the Lord God. We deserve God’s wrath and punishment for our evil thoughts and desires.
Christ Jesus kept this commandment perfectly in our stead. In all things, He trusted in God the Father to provide. And then, in love for us sinners, He selflessly went to the cross to suffer our just punishment, all that we might repent of our sinful ways and be pardoned and forgiven through faith in Him and His sacrifice for the sins of all (Romans 5:6-8).
The Bible also tells us (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Therefore, we who stand condemned by God’s Law flee to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross that we might receive God’s pardon, forgiveness and life eternal through faith alone in Jesus’ name.
I ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment?
Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross?
Do you also believe Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which was given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you?
As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word, to trust in the LORD God, to love your neighbor, and not to grumble, complain or desire what God has not entrusted to you?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]