A Christianís approach to life situations part 16

Covetousness

 

Covetousness defined:

 

1. An envious eagerness to possess something

2. Extreme greed for material wealth

 

This is describing people who are greedy and never content because they always want more and more. Unfortunately, this is the attitude that our society encourages and it has done nothing, but cause hardship on families. It causes them to max out their credit cards and their credit lines until there is no way they will every pay off the debt they have because of their desire to posses material possession. This doesnít just affect people of the world this sin also grabs a hold of Christians sometimes as well.

 

In this lesson we will learn what the Bible says about covetousness and how the Christian can overcome this crippling sin. First let take a look a few examples of those who were guilty of covetousness and what happened to them.

 

Our first example comes from 1 Sam. 25. David had been on the run from King Saul because David refused to kill him since he had been chosen by God. David heard about a rich man named Nabal who had plenty of food to spare. He learned this information from his Nabalís shepherds. David showed these men kindness and did not kill them nor take anything from them. So, David sent 10 of his men to go and request that Nabal give his men some food for a feast.

 

However Nabal was an evil and greedy man and he would not share any of his food. This caused David to get angry and he was going to go kill Nabal and all of his sons, but Nabalís wife intervened and took some food to David while he on his way to kill Nabal. This appeased David and did not kill him after all. When Nabalís wife told her husband the next morning what she did and what she prevented, it made Nabal feel really bad, then 10 days later God struck him dead because of his covetousness. So, his greed cost him his life.

 

Another example comes from 2 Kings 5 when Elisha tells Naaman what to do to have his leprosy removed. When Naaman finally humbles himself by dipping in the Jordan river 7 times he comes backs to Elisha and tries to give him a reward, but Elisha would not receive it. However, Gehazi, who was Elishaís servant, was a greedy man. He could stand the thought of Naaman taking all that treasure with him so he devised a plan and ran after Naaman and lied to him telling him the Elisha wanted some treasure after all. So, Naaman gave it to him. Gehazi though he had got away with his covetousness, but when he gets back Elisha questions him about where he had gone and once again Gehazi lies. Next we find out what happens because of Gehaziís greed.

 

2 Kings 5:27 "Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever." And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. ††††

 

So Gehaziís greed caused him to lie and then be covered with leprosy for the rest of his life.

 

During the NT time, we know that Judas was a covetous man. John 12:6 lets us know that he didnít care about the poor, he only cared about dipping his hand in money box because he was a thief.

 

Matthew 26:14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests15 and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.

 

This manís greed caused him to betray Jesus and we all know what happened to Judas because of his greed. It caused him great grief and so he took his own life and the Bible says it would have been better for him if he had never been born.

 

Who can forget about the rich man in Luke 16 who would not share his food with poor Lazarus and because of his greed he lost soul to the devil or how about the rich man that came to Jesus in Mat. 19 and wanted to know what he must do to have eternal life? He was good man and had followed the Law of Moses, but Jesus told him if he wanted to be perfect, he needed to sell his goods and come follow Him. This saying became a hurtle that this rich man wasnít willing to jump because he loved his money more than what Jesus had to offer him. So his greed kept him from following Jesus.

 

Finally, we have Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 who tried to pretend to be givers because they gave part of what they sold to Peter, but they claimed it to be all that they sold. They wanted to look good to those around them, but at the same time hang on to some of their money. So their greed caused them to lie, which in turn caused them to be struck dead by God.

 

These examples I have given you so far show that nothing good comes from covetousness and as Christians we should avoid being greedy at all cost. But to drive my point home letís take a look at some more passages that show the danger of covetousness.

 

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

 

Paul is teaching us that the love of money and material things is the root of all evil. Now this is not saying that money or material things are evil, but the love of them are. If you find yourself always desiring material things or money then you guilty of covetousness and you are acting in an evil way. To desire riches over God is to love the world more than Him. In response to this Jesus says,

 

Matthew 16:26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

Our greed can cause us to lose our soul. Again Jesus points this out when some men come to Him with a problem in,

 

Luke 12:13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."14 But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?"15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."

 

Now we are not given all the details, but under OT law the first born male would get 2/3 of their father inheritance and apparently this was the younger brother that was asking Jesus to tell his brother to divide up the inheritance equally. This shows the greed that this younger brother had because he wanted what didnít belong to him. This seems to be the situation because Jesus teaches the people from this situation to beware of covetousness and he point out that a person life doesnít consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Then in the verse following, Jesus tells them parable of the rich farmer who only thought of himself and thought that he had made because of all of his possession, but that night his soul was required of him and all those things he owned became useless because you canít take it with you. So covetousness can cause you to be unprepared for the judgment day just like this rich farmer. †††††††

 

Mark 7:21 "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22 "thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.23 "All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

 

So, covetousness defiles a man.

 

Paul tells us this is an act of unrighteousness that will keep us out of the heavenly kingdom 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5 and he tells us to put this sin to death because it is idolatry Col. 3:5. Finally he tells us this,

 

Ephesians 5:3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;

 

You canít get any clear than this. Covetousness has no place in a Christianís life and it certainly should not be found in those who are elders. In fact 1 Tim. 3:3 says that in order to be an elder you cannot be a lover of money. As,

 

Proverbs 28:16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.

 

Since the elders are in charge of how the Lordís money is used its important that they are not greedy and they make wise decision on how it is used. However, if you have a greedy eldership, they will covet the money and hoard it or spend on things that satisfies their own personal needs. So, Christianís and especially an eldership should stay far away from covetousness.

 

Now that we have examined the sin of covetousness and how nothing good comes from it, letís see what the Bible teaches us about overcoming it.

 

The number one way to overcome covetousness is to learn to be content. To be content, means to be satisfied with your life and what you have. When you are content, you will not desire to have more and therefore covetousness will no longer be a problem and you will be able to focus on what it important in life, which is living a righteous life.

 

Psalm 37:16 A little that a righteous man has Is better than the riches of many wicked

 

When you are content with what you have, you will have a merry heart and life will seem so much better. Even the uninspired understood the value of contentment.

 

        "He is richest who is content with the least." (Socrates)
        "He is well paid that is well satisfied." (William Shakespeare)
        "He who is content can never be ruined." (Chinese Proverb)
        "He who wants little always have enough." (Johann Georg Zimmerman)
        "If you are not satisfied with a little, you will not be satisfied with much." (Unknown)
        "The contented man is never poor, the discontented never rich." (George Eliot)
 
Paul would agree with all of these statement because he said,
 
1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
 
When we live our lives for God and we obey His blessed command and combine them with contentment it will cause us to have great gain. Being content, will all cause us to become better givers to God and to others, which it great blessing according Jesus. 
 
Acts 20:35 He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "
 
I want to share with you 2 more uninspired writers who learned how be content with what they had. 
 
1. Fanny Crosby, a blind songwriter wrote this:
††††††††††† O What a happy soul am I!
††††††††††† Although I cannot see,
††††††††††† I am resolved that in this world
††††††††††† Contented I will be;
††††††††††† How many blessings I enjoy
 †††††††††††That other people don't!
††††††††††† To weep and sigh because I'm blind,
††††††††††† I cannot, and I won't.
 
††††† 2. Helen Keller who was blind, deaf, and mute, wrote this:
††††††††††† They took away what should have been my eyes,
††††††††††† (But I remembered Milton's Paradise)
††††††††††† They took away what should have been my ears,
††††††††††† (Beethoven came and wiped away my tears)
††††††††††† They took away what should have been my tongue,
††††††††††† (But I talked with God when I was young)
††††††††††† He would not let them take away my soul,
††††††††††† Possessing that, I still possess the whole.
 
Think about these 2 ladies and how they were limited. Fanny only had the loss of her eyes, yet she wrote 19 of the songs that are in our new song books and we sing quite a few of them. Even though she was blind she learned to be content with her situation and was able to focus in on writing songs that praised God. 
 
Helen Keller is about as extreme as it gets because she could not see, hear or speak. If anyone would have the right not to be content with what they were dealt it would be her. But, she learned to be content and as her writing expressed, she acknowledges her limitations, but she realized that the most important thing was that her soul was intact and it belonged to God. Now I donít know what her religious background was, but I do know that she had the right thought and it is one that we should always keep in our minds. 
 
It doesnít matter what situation we are in or how bad of shape our bodies may be in we can be content knowing that our soul belongs to God and nothing can touch our soul. 
 

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

 

We are commanded to be content with what we have. The only way that we can learn to be content so that we can overcome covetousness is by trusting in Godís promises and His providential care. This is why Jesus taught us not to worry in,

 

Matthew 6:25 " Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?26 "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;29 "and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

 

God loves us and He will provide for us those things that are necessary to sustain our lives. We are not supposed be worrying about our material possession because that distracts us from serving God and leading people to Christ. Jesus makes it clear what our priority should be, which will cause us to be content.

 

33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. ††

 

So when we serve God first, then everything else will fall into place and our lives will be better for it.

 

Paul understood how to be content with whatever situation he found himself in because he trusted in God and knew that he could make through any situation with Godís help. With Godís help he made it through, shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment and hunger. Notice what he tells the Philippians in.

 

Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity.11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:12 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.13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

Every Christians can learn to be content just as Paul because we all the ability to draw strength from Jesus just as he did. Knowing this will help us to overcome covetousness or anything else the devil may throw our way.

 

Another thing that will help us to overcome covetousness is to realize what is temporary and what is necessary.

 

1 Timothy 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

†††††††††††††††††††††

When you get right down to it, there is very little that we need in this life that absolutely essential. We are used to having an abundance of things in America, but as Paul said we can take it with us. When is the last time you seen a U-haul attached to Hearse? I havenít ever seen that because that deceased person has no use for those material things and they cannot take them with them no matter how hard they try. Jesus says,

 

Matthew 6:19 " Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;20 "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Now Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with have retirement funds or things related to that. Again His main focus is on your attitude toward those things that you have. If you putting all your heart into the money and possessions that you have then you are guilty covetousness and your heart is in the wrong place. We must realize that those material things that we have are only temporary and they are expendable but a Christianís treasure should always be heaven because it will last for eternity. When Jesus comes back again, He will destroy the earth and every material possession on it 2 Pet. 3:10. 
 
Knowing this should help us overcome covetousness because we know that our true treasure is in heaven. 
 
Finally, we can learn from one of the richest men in the Bible that material possessions will never fully satisfy you no matter how many you have.
 
Ecclesiastes 5:10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

 

Solomon had it all, but it considered all vanity because he understood that it can never satisfy you, but He does offer some great advice on how you can be satisfied at the end of this book.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.

 

In this lesson I have shown you what covetousness is all about. We looked at several example of those who were greedy and we observed that nothing good ever comes from it. We learned that Christians should stay far from covetousness because it can cause you to lose your soul. Then found out that the number one way to overcome it is by learning to be content by trusting in Godís promises and His providential care. We learned that when we put God first in our lives that our treasure will be in heaven and we learned that when Jesus comes again all these temporary things on this earth will be destroyed. Finally, Solomon gave us some great advice.

 

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.

 

If we will do this, we can and will overcome the sin of covetousness.