The desire of the slothful kills him,
For his hands refuse to labor.
He covets greedily all day long,
But the righteous gives and does not spare.
One of the things about coveting that makes it so hard to deal with is that it can largely reside in your thought life. You might not even notice that you are doing it. For the most part, people are aware of it when it starts to come out. At least in Christian circles, it is not considered tasteful to publicly covet. But privately, envy and covetousness can tear us up.
Without an active defense against it, it will be there. We all have vulnerable places – whatever we are currently feeling low about is probably it. Feeling like your house is a mess? You will see people who seem to have it all together. Feel fat? Naturally skinny people abound. Feeling like a terrible mother? You’ll see lots of people who are being sweeter, more thoughtful, more patient, more everything than you.
But there is one specific kind of envy that I want to address today because it is one that this verse so aptly deals with. I am talking about a kind of envy that hides itself in the desire to give more, especially to your children. The picture in this passage is of a slothful person who won’t work, but is instead coveting what others have. This is contrasted with the righteous who gives without holding back. This verse does not break down who has more and who has less. It isn’t the poor man who covets and the righteous man who has. It is the slothful man who covets while the righteous man gives.
We were recently talking about this at our house, because it is the most natural thing in the world for parents to want to give their children everything: happy memories combined with the piano lessons you failed to get combined with a spectacular education combined with a big college fund combined with a down payment for their first home combined with vacations and really fun decorated rooms, excellent meals, fun camping trips, beautiful traditions and fun toys.
Basically, we want to give our children the world. That is all well and good – except for one thing: sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we don’t have the money or the resources. Sometimes all the things that we so desperately want to give them are all the things that we are coveting. We probably don’t see it as coveting because we think that what we want are all good things that we should want – that we are right in coveting.
But what we have noticed is that whenever you think that you really need something in order to give it, you are probably not giving something that you have. In reality, all of us have enough to give to our children. All of us have been given much. All of us have been blessed beyond measure. We have everything that it takes to leave our children with a rich spiritual inheritance because Jesus Christ is sufficient. Love was freely given to us, and it is free for us to give. Forgiveness belongs to us, and kindness, mercy, joy, hope, thanksgiving, and laughter. No matter what our external situation is, we have riches to give.
The reality is that it takes work to give away the things that we have. It takes diligence, it takes persistence. It is easier to stop working and just desire. It is easier to spend your time thinking of all the things you want to have than to give away freely what you do have. But giving freely is the work of righteous, and the desire of the slothful will kill him.