I am so grateful that I live in this present age, because I live under the grace and mercy of God not under the Law of Moses. Had I been born before the first century AD, I would have had to convert to Judaism and followed the Law perfectly in order to assure my place in heaven, as I am a Gentile. But because I was born after Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am no longer under the law; not bound by the plethora of rules about behavior, dress, assemblage, planting, sacrifices, etc. In the words of Peter, I would have lived under rules that no mortal man could bear.
But, if you go back and really look at the laws God gave Moses, there was always a really good reason for the things He told His people not to do. Take the commandment “thou shalt not covet”, for example. While there are plenty of ways that this commandment could be used to show why we should be grateful and satisfied with what we have, another reason for this command is because you cannot truly see what’s behind the thing you covet.
For example, I’ve known couples who have projected an aura of a perfect marriage to those in their churches, at work, even among their families. And I’ve heard people comment, “I wish I had a marriage like they do.” The truth of the matter is, however, that those marriages may not be all they seem to the outside world. I know of two marriages where people on the outside thought they were perfect; that the couples were so in love with one another even decades into their marriage. Yet, the truth of the matter is, in one of those marriages, the wife was completely miserable, and didn’t even like her husband. At home, they rarely spoke to one another, and the husband had at least one affair while everyone was gushing over the wonderful, beautiful, “perfect” marriage this couple had.
Imagine a woman in their church, seeing their marriage from the outside and proclaiming, “I want that kind of marriage!” How disappointed would she be to be given that kind of marriage, to wake up one morning and totally dislike her husband, to no longer have conversations with him and then discover that he’s cheating on her? I’m sure she would want to go back to her ho-hum, average marriage!
In the other marriage, the wife was a virtual prisoner. All her friends and co-workers thought she had the perfect marriage, yet her husband would not allow her to have any contact with her family. She was even forced to stop speaking to her mother because the husband was afraid her family would give her support and a place to stay in order for her to divorce him. He was so terrified of her divorcing him that he drove her to the point of suicide. They had not shared a bed in more than a decade when the wife died. The husband had her cremated and placed her ashes in a cardboard box on a shelf in the laundry room and didn’t notify her family of her death.
As is the case with so many of the old, cliché sayings, the one about being careful what you wish for is based squarely on Biblical teaching, specifically the command to not covet what your neighbor has.