And he said unto them, 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) KJV
And He said to them, Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness (the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more); for a man s life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above his needs. (Amplified Version)
I believe the Spirit of God impressed this topic on our hearts to ponder as women at this point in time. I pray that God will open our eyes of understanding to appreciate His desires for us in Jesus Name. Amen.
Easton s Bible Dictionary defines covetousness as a strong desire after the possession of worldly things (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5; Hebrews 13:5). Being covetous seems to be the embodiment of dissatisfaction, with oneself and with one s situation and/or material possessions. The people who are covetous are dissatisfied with almost everything about themselves, and they are often miserable because of it.
Covetousness is as old as mankind. It is a sin that over time, man has tried to redefine to suit his selfish intent. Modern age thinkers have even tried to downgrade its severity to suit new times permissiveness and selfish acceptability. It is unfortunate that where covetousness is not called by its real name, many people tend to stay there. However, covetousness retains its meaning in spite of the many attempts to rebrand it and give it more acceptable names. The Bible warned ahead that men would gather teachers to themselves who will teach what their itching ears want to hear. Jimmy Chapman calls covetousness Sin The Saints Have Sanitized i.e sin that man has made more acceptable by removing what is unpleasant or undesirable in it. So they say it s not really a sin.
Right from the beginning, in the beautiful garden of Eden, man lost his place in God s original plan because he coveted that which God placed beyond him. In the same way today, many choose to undermine the beautiful place God puts them, but long for a place or something apportioned to others. God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed and everything they would need at each material time. The Bible tells us that God restricted them from just one thing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Gen 2:16-17 .The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."
Surprisingly, the one thing and only God restricted them from, was what they longed for and went after. One may wonder if they had finished eating all that was available from the trees God gave them access to, before opting for the very one He warned them against. Covetousness is wanting, at all cost, something God has not placed within our reach. Recall a contrast from what happened to Joseph in Potiphar s house. Potiphar gave him access to everything except his wife. That one thing he was restricted from went after him. If Joseph had gone for Potiphar s wife, that would have been covetousness which would have made him nobody and drown the glory of God that eventually showed forth in his life.
Covetousness is the source of many evils in our society. Man is tempted and ensnared by the things he lusts after. The moment desire gets obsessive and inordinate, it has become covetousness. Covetousness is an unwholesome craving for what is beyond one s reach; especially that which belongs to other people. Aside unbelief, James 4: 1-3 aptly explains the major reason why we do not get answers to some prayers .
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
Covetousness; a result of wrongful desires
In Gen 3:1, the serpent asked Eve if God instructed them against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to stop them from having their eyes open, thereby being like Him? She did not know that they did not need that tree to be like God because they were already in the image and likeness of God. The serpent planted a wrongful desire in her. God did not see anything wrong in them being like Him. That was why He made man in His likeness. The serpent made them covet what they already possessed. As God s children, we must see clearly that the problem of greed and covetousness lies with wrongful desires in our hearts and a lack of contentment. What we are lusting after will not bring satisfaction. In real terms, it s a journey to dissatisfaction in continuum. We must always be mindful of where desire stops for covetousness to take over. James 4: 1 asked and answered. Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
When we strive to lay hold on things that God does not want us to have, even if it is alright for others to possess them, it shows that there is covetousness within our hearts. There will also be covetousness within our hearts when we, out of self-gratification and fleshly indulgence, reach out for more than what God wants us to have. However, even if we do not reach out for something outwardly, covetousness may still exist in our hearts if there is the presence of a wrongful desire for what is outside God s will for us. Whatever we get out of greed will ultimately harm us.
Covetousness; aggravated by spirit of competition, envy and jealousy
Covetousness can easily be aggravated when one has a spirit of competition or comparison, or a spirit of envy and jealousy. For instance, we may be contented with what we have only until we see our friends or neighbors having more than we have, we become discontented and desire what they have. When we finally possess such things, we find that they have acquired more possessions and we become dissatisfied again. The spirit of covetousness in us will provoke us to be discontented and seek for more and more.
A story was told of two neighbors. Both of them work very hard to acquire material possessions to prove that they are better off than each other. One day, a rich man says to one of them, I will grant you a wish. You can ask me for anything, including money. The man was very happy and started thinking of all the things he will ask from this rich man. But the rich man goes on, Besides giving you whatever you ask, I will also give your neighbour double the portion that you receive.This man then became very disturbed and the desire to ask for anything disappeared. Instead he was heard muttering to himself, Shall I ask for a pain in the neck? so that my neighbor can have double.
Covetousness; aggravated by fear and insecurity
Covetousness can also be aggravated by a sense of fear and insecurity. Sometimes we covet material wealth because we want to feel more secure as we face the uncertainties of the future. When people have a surplus and the future looks bright, they tend to feel more secure. Christians in such a situation may think that they are trusting in the Lord, whereas in reality, they could be placing their security in temporal things. Their true state is revealed when they are tested and found to be wanting. This is an aspect of our lives that we need to properly tackle with prayer and the word of God, lest it overtakes us and ruin our lives.
There are two paths:
1. A path that seems to provide comfortably for our needs in the material and financial
sense but may be detrimental to our walk with God.
2. Another course of action that is helpful for our walk with God but involves uncertainties in meeting our material and financial needs.
When we are faced with such a situation, are we able to be truly open to the Lord? Will the Lord be allowed to speak to us and guide us? For example, will the Lord be sovereign enough to indicate to us that His will for us is to take the second course of action rather than the first? And when we are clear about the Lord s will for us, will we act on it and trust Him with peace of mind for the outcome?
The Tenth Commandment
God recorded the 10th Commandment for us in Exodus 20:17: You shall not covet your neighbor s house; you shall not covet your neighbor s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbors
It gets to the heart of the matter of sin. It looks at our motivations, showing how God wants us to think. In modern terms, objects of covetousness often include our neighbor s cars, electronic gadgets, money, prestige, position, etc. Christ made clear in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout His teachings that God s law involves more than just our actions. Really obeying the Ten Commandments involves our thoughts and attitudes and approaches. Even before Christ expanded on the laws, this tenth Commandment added depth to all the commandments by drawing attention to our hearts and motives. Coveting, and indeed all sins, begin in our hearts.
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man (Matthew 15:18-20)
Covetousness and Idolatry
God ties the tenth Commandment about covetousness to the Second Commandment against idolatry. When we put our greed and selfishness ahead of God, it can become idol worship. The apostle Paul wrote: Therefore put to death your members which are on earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience (Colossians 3:5-6). Paul also made this comparison in his letter to the church in Ephesus: For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).
Idolatry refers to what man worships, venerates or exalts above God. In our principal text, Jesus Christ told a parable about the rich fool who had a great harvest. He viewed it as deserving results of his self-effort and saw no reason ascribing the glory to God. He went on in his selfishness and greed to pull down his barn for a bigger one. He was rich to himself only. God and his neighbors were out of the equation. God decided to cut his life short. Worshipping wealth vitiates our sense of true worship. You cannot serve God and mammon(Matthew 6:24). For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also(Matthew 6:19-21). If your heart lies in amassing wealth to yourself and not for the purpose of serving God, your heart will be ensnared and entrapped by the wealth but when whatever we have is placed at God s feet, our heart will be with Him.
Examples in the Bible
a) Jacob coveted Esau s birthright: Genesis 25:31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day your birthright. Jacob took advantage of his brother s carelessness and weakness. He must have been craving for the position of the firstborn. He bought the firstborn position with a plate of porridge. The covetous man always think that the pasture is greener at the other end. He cannot appreciate what he has. Jacob did not have to rob his brother of his birthright to be blessed and made great. God had blessed him right from the womb.
b) Achan stole treasures: Joshua 7:21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the middle of my tent, and the silver under it
Achan perished not alone in his sin. They lose their own, who grasp at more than their own. His sons and daughters were put to death with him. It is probable that they helped to hide the things; they must have known of them. What fatal consequences follow, even in this world, to the sinner himself, and to all belonging to him! One sinner destroys much good.
c) David coveted Bathsheba: 2 Samuel 11:1-3 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance Kings were in the battlefield but David was lounging in his house. He saw Bathseba bathing and lusted after her. His inordinate desire to have her at all cost took many things away from David.
d) Ahab snatched Naboth s vineyard. 1 Kings 21:2-16 And Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near to my house: and I will give you for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to you, I will give you the worth of it in money. Naboth refused to give the piece of land, his family heritage, to Ahab. The refusal cost him his life. As Ahab was planning to take possession, the word of the Lord went out to him concerning his greed. God pronounced on Ahab the same type of death he put Naboth to. Dogs would lick his blood. Dogs would eat up the flesh of Jezebel his wife who incited him to do evil. Ahab repented but God still visited his descendants with vengeance.
e) Annanias and Saphira. In Acts 5, we were told the church was in one accord and all enjoyed commonwealth. People would send their properties and put in the common purse but Ananias and wife did otherwise. They sold their land and put half of the money away out of greed and selfishness. Their greed could only earn them sudden death.
f) Gehazi became afflicted with leprosy. 2 Kings 5:20-27 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD lives, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. He met his waterloo in desiring what was rejected by his master. Naaman s leprosy was transferred to him. His destiny was aborted. He could have become another fiery Prophet in Israel.
Several other stories abound in the Bible on covetousness. Few men like Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah defied the lure. Christ warned the young man in our text, who wanted him to tell his brother to share inheritance with him to beware of covetousness. Amongst those listening was Judas Iscariot. He did not take heed. He took the admonition with levity. The same way, He warns us today to steer clear of greed and desire to selfishly keep acquiring wealth. The fool gathers wealth without knowing who will take them. Jesus further warned that the life of a man does not consist in the abundance of what he has.
Antidotes to covetousness
When we covet, we give in to a toxic, selfish mindset that leads to sin and death. Thankfully, the Bible identifies the cure to the disease. The antidotes to covetousness include:
Contentment. Paul said I have learned how to be content with whatever I have (Philippians 4:11, New Living Translation). He wrote, I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (verses 12-13, New King James Version). Contentment is not how much you have, but in whose you are, you belong to God. You are not born again into the family of lack. Abraham described his God (our God) as the possessor of heaven and earth. Learn to look upward. Envy causes one to look horizontally at what others have so we are never satisfied. Looking at His direction creates contentment while contentment is the secret of inward peace. It recalls the bare truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. Life is a journey from one moment of vulnerability to another. So we should travel light and live simple. Contentment is a process that will take more than a quick prayer or reading a book or listening to a sermon. It will require a dependence and satisfaction in God. Continually and consistently.
� Generosity. If we learn to be �rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,� we will be storing up treasure �for the time to come, that [we] may lay hold on eternal life� (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
� Faith. We can trust in �the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy� (1 Timothy 6:17). We can know that God has a glorious inheritance for those who have faith in Him. �But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him� (Hebrews 11:6). We must live by faith and walk by faith. We must live still live with loose ends. Faith is putting all our eggs in one basket and trusting God for the outcome.
� Renewed Mind. Keep working on your heart. Keep subjecting it to God s scrutiny and perfect will. In no time, you will get used to letting go and letting God. Romans 12:2 says ���.be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.� We should soak our minds in the word of God throughout the day.
� Love. The Ten Commandments were compressed to two by Jesus Christ. Love for God and love for neighbors, Luke 10:27. Jesus further added the golden rule. �Do to others as you would have them do to you.� Luke 6:31.
� Thankfulness. 1Thess 5:18 �Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God s will for you.� When we show gratitude for whatever we have, our attitude will change. We won�t be striving after vanity. God dwells in heaven above and in grateful hearts. You cannot be grateful and be bitter at the same time.
�Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also� (Matthew 6:19-21). Since we have risen with Christ, let us take seriously the counsel in Colossians 3:5 - mortifying our members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. We must keep putting them under subjection. My prayer is that the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory in Christ, after we might have suffered a little while, will himself restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast in Jesus Name. Amen (1Pet 5:10)