Covetousness

Being greedy for gain is the work of the flesh and has nothing to do with godliness.  There are many verses throughout the Scriptures that warn against covetousness.  I would like to share those verses and exhort with God’s truth.

5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.  Hebrews 13:5-6 God’s word tells us to be content with the possessions that we have because as believers the Lord Jesus Christ has promised to be with us always and be our helper.  No matter what meager belongings we may have, being the beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ we truly have all that we need.  So the Lord exhorts us through Paul to be content and reject covetousness, which is the uncontrollable desire for material wealth and comfort.  There are many other verses in God’s Word which exhort us to turn from covetousness.

Starting in the Old Testament, God commands His children to not be covetous in the Ten Commandments.  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.  Exodus 20:17  Covetousness makes us peevish and unthankful, chafing at the providential care of God in our lives.  Covetousness is the opposite of love and makes us selfish, even ruthless. Covetousness can cut us off from life of God which is in Jesus Christ.    The rich young ruler missed out on eternal life because of his covetousness18And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19And Jesus said unto him, Why calls thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20Thou knows the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother. 21And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lacks thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.  Luke 18:18-27  Although the rich young ruler made a pretense of desiring eternal life, his life was bound up with his possessions on this earth and ultimately the trinkets he owned were of greater value than his own soul.  What a sad commentary on the sinful desires of the fallen nature.

Another time Jesus confronted covetousness and taught a very sobering parable as a warning against all forms of covetousness13And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.   14And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.16 And he spoke a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?21 So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. 22And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 27Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.28If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that ye have need of these things. 31But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Luke 12:13-32  On the surface, the request by one who was following Jesus seemed reasonable.  Why shouldn’t the Lord make his brother split the inheritance with him?  Of course, that would be the thinking of those around him.  However, the Lord rebuked him and told the crowd the parable warning against covetousness, no matter what form it takes.  Then Jesus taught them the true meaning of life, knowing the Father will provide for our needs while we seek His kingdom, knowing Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and living for Him.  The one who asked the Lord to have his brother split the inheritance with him should have asked Him for eternal life.  Despite his failure, at least the rich young ruler made a pretense of seeking for eternal life.  I wonder how many within the visible church today are pretentious about seeking the Lord when in reality they only want material possessions.  As Jesus Christ warned the crowd, our life does not consist in having an abundance of things but in knowing the living God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Truly the crux of covetousness is that we set ourselves up as god and command God in heaven to fulfill our greedy desires3But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints;4Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them.  Ephesians 5:3-7  This is why Paul calls covetousness idolatry, because we tell God how we should live and what we should possess.  We don’t bow humbly before our Father in heaven and gratefully receive from His hand His providential provision in our lives.  The desire for possessions will kill the love of Christ in our hearts and make us a slave of our things so that being about the Father’s business will not be the intent of our hearts.  Be aware that false teachers are well aware of the greedy bent of our natures, which is driven by a desire to be self-sufficient and important.  They are very adept at leading people astray and taking their money from them by promising them abundant riches if they will give to their ministries.  The only ones getting rich are the false teachers, but it is the greediness of the one deceived that allows them to be led astray and defrauded.  Those who are greedy and covetous show they do not belong to God and are under God’s wrath.  God’s word commands us to avoid such.

As believers we have very powerful weapons for overcoming the work of the flesh that produces greediness in our lives.    These powerful weapons are contentment, thankfulness and generosity and have been have been revealed in the quoted verses.  In Hebrews 13:5 we are told to be content and in Ephesians 5:4 Paul, through the Holy Spirit commands us to be thankful.  If we are grateful to God for His grace to us, then our material possessions will just be bonus and we won’t chafe against God’s providential care.  Having eternal life is far greater riches than great abundance of possessions.  We will share in Christ’s glory, isn’t that amazing grace!  Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Thessalonians 2:14  And finally we are commanded to be generous with what we have.  17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; 18That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.  1 Timothy 6:17-19  May we enjoy the abundance that God has given us and glorify His goodness to us.  Truly, many of us are rich in goods in comparison to others and have much that we can share.  Thankfulness, contentment, and generosity are evidences of the grace of God in the life of the believer in Christ, and turns away the ugliness of greediness.  Being generous gives us a good foundation throughout the ages of eternal life.  May God bless us as we trust in His provisions in our lives both spiritually and materially and may we be busy doing His will during our short stay here.  

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