Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament writer and theologian whose heart and soul is energised by the testimony given within the Old Testament about the God of Israel. In this book Brueggemann writes on one text alone (Ex 20:17) and he surveys its impact upon the whole of Scripture.
Brueggemann’s whole thesis is that this commandment challenges all that our society holds dear. Instead of the pursuit of power and money, we’re invited to trust in this abundant gift-giving God. Israel failed to live in this life giving abundance and it is only in Jesus do we see its fullness in his life, death and resurrection. With the outpouring of the Spirit the early church, with its eyes fixed on Jesus, seeks to live out this new life in the hope described in the book of Revelation of the time when all things will be made new.
Like Micah or Amos who challenged the coveting that defined eighth century BC Israel, so Brueggemann challenges the coveting he sees being lived out in the USA. He asks uncomfortable questions to his own church about their capitulating to covetousness and instead of condemning it condones it as a valid Christian way to live. Brueggemann’s hard hitting questions about economics, and in particular about how sustainable is the variant of Global Capitalism we all live in and benefit from at the present, are ones we cannot ignore. He describes coveting as a way of thinking and living which separates us not only from our neighbour but also from our God. For as we covet in our pursuit for more and more, we become restless and discontented knowing not the peace that Christ can give but rather that never ending pursuit of having enough, which is idolatry.
Yet, as like a prophet, he also speaks of hope. He describes how Paul takes the destructive language of coveting and instead makes it captive to Christ. Instead of coveting things, Paul urges us to covet more and more of Jesus. Instead of the endless pursuit of having enough, are to endlessly pursue the never-ending and fathomless love of God we know in Jesus. For as we seek, so we shall find and as we knock, so the door will be opened to us and we will know the fullness of life that is to be fund in Jesus alone.
Brueggemann aims to disturb. He does so by laying bare the tawdriness of coveting but then by opening the door to a life where we need not covet anymore because we know that we have life, and life in abundance.