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TEXT: I Timothy 6:10
SUBJECT: Baxter on Covetousness #1
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll start a new Puritan study. The author you know pretty well by now, Richard Baxter. The topic, though, is a new one: covetousness or the love of money.
To say this is a big problem is to understate the case very badly. Covetousness is a universal problem; it's a perennial problem; it's a dangerous problem; and, for the most part, it is an unrecognized problem.
Here's the worst part: when it comes to loving money, the Church is only marginally better than the world! If you put your checkbook or credit card account alongside your unsaved neighbor's, how different would they be? Not very, I suspect.
This is not pleasant to think about. If the world loves money and if our spending is the same as theirs, what can we say for ourselves? We can plead innocence, but our paper trail indicates guilt. Words lie, but money doesn't "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also".
It's time to stop loving money! Richard Baxter, I think, can help us. Let's see what he has to say about the love of money, and insofar as it agrees with the Word of God, let's put it into practice. Starting now.
WHAT THE LOVE OF MONEY IS NOT
Baxter begins with a helpful disclaimer. "All love of riches is not sin". In other words, it's not wrong to earn money, to save money, to spend money, or to think about money.
In fact, he gives five reasons why money should be thought about and loved.
1.It is the gift of God.
2.It points beyond itself to the One who gave it and the Treasure He has for us in glory.
3.It keeps alive and healthy the body God created and loves.
4.It helps us on our way to heaven. (For example, money bought your Bible and gave you enough food that you can concentrate on reading it).
5.Money may be used to help others.
If you think about money in these ways, you're not covetous; you're not a lover of money. Don't let people say you are; don't be manipulated by guilt. Money is not sinful; poverty is not holy. It's not how much you have, but how you think about it.
WHAT THE LOVE OF MONEY IS
Richard Baxter says you are covetous if
"Riches are loved [for the sake of your] pride or the pleasing of your flesh or for securing happiness in this world, and not principally for God and His service, servants, and your salvation".
Baxter has packed this sentence with meaning. He tells us what money is chiefly for: the service of God, the welfare of His people, and your salvation. If you want money to further these ends, you're not covetous.
But if you want it to foster your pride, to satisfy carnal desires, or to buy happiness in this life, you are a lover of money.
These desires--Baxter says--"are sensual and should be hated".
THE GREATNESS OF THIS SIN
In his third heading, Baxter tells us how evil and dangerous it is to love money.
1.It is a premeditated sin.
"The love of riches is a sin of deliberation and not of weakness or sudden passion, Worldly men plan the attaining of their ends".
Some sins are fallen into. The kindest person will say an angry word now and then. And that's wrong. But it's mostly the result of weakness or a temptation catching him off-guard. But the love of money's not like this at all. It is planned and carried out with knowledge and consent. It's not fallen into, but lived in.
2.It is idolatry.
"It denies God and [dethrones] Him in our hearts and sets up a created thing in His place...insofar as it prevails, you give the love and trust to it which belong to God alone; you delight in it instead of God; you seek it more than God; and find your happiness in it more than in Him".
Paul Tillich defined god as "the ultimate concern". Whatever you love, seek, trust and delight in most is your god. That's why "Covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5) and why "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).
3.It is unbelief.
"It shows that unbelief prevails in the heart. For if men believed the heavenly glory and the promise thereof, they would be carried above these worldly things".
Do you think anyone in heaven grubs for money? No, of course not. Why? Because heaven is so much better than money! But what is faith but taking possession of God's promise now? If we had any, we couldn't love or serve or idolize money.
4.It is debasing.
"It is a debasing of the soul of man and [living] like the animals which live only for the flesh and the present and not for eternal happiness".
This is very thoughtful. Animals were created for the here and now. They find their happiness in a full belly or a soft bed. And properly so, for God made them that way. But He didn't make us that way. He made us for heaven, for eternity, and for Himself! When we live for money, we fall short of our reason for being.
5.It perverts the gifts of God.
"God's gifts should be used to serve and honor Him, not to destroy our own souls with those mercies that were given for our help and benefit".
Money is a gift of God which ought to be used for His glory and our good. But it rarely is. It is used to grieve Him, to trash His world, and to deform and damn the souls made in His image.
What a terrible sin is to love money! Baxter says,
"Fornication, drunkenness, murder, stealing, lying, and perjury are very heinous sins. But a single act of one of these, committed rashly in passion or temptation speaks not such malignant turning away of the heart from God, as to say a man is covetous or lives for worldly things".
What an indictment! If Baxter's half-right, we have much to repent of. Loving money, he says, is worse than fornication; preferring the world to heaven is worse than murder!
Is he right? He is. "Covetousness is idolatry"; "The Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil"; And, if you "love the world or thing things therein, the love of the Father is not in you".
These verses are in the Bible. We've got to either change it. Or change ourselves.
Do you love money? It's easy to say, "No I don't". But Baxter describes the person who does. If the words fit your desires and life, then you can be sure that you are covetous.
Being a good Puritan, he has twenty-one points, only a few of which I can touch on tonight.
1."You love money if you prefer prosperity and pleasure to God and everlasting happiness".
Do you? It's not so hard to know. How do you spend your disposable income? How do you spend your spare time? These indicate your preferences pretty clearly.
2."You love money if you have an inordinate desire for earthly things"--you love money.
The key word here is "inordinate" or "excessive". It's not wrong to want things. Even things you don't really need. But when this desire becomes immoderate, then you've got a problem. How do you know your desire is excessive? That's easy; ask yourself two questions: (1) What do you think about? and (2) What do you talk about?
3."You love money if you're not content or thankful for what you have".
There's nothing wrong with wanting a better job or higher pay. As long as you're thankful for the job you have and the salary it affords you.
There's a striking example of this love for money in the Book of Esther, 5:11-13.
4."You love money if you will sin to get it, such as lying, deceiving, overreaching, flattering, or going against conscience".
This speaks for itself. What sins are you willing to commit to keep your job? Or, to get a house? Or, to stay in college? If any, you value these things more than God or a good conscience.
Let me tell you about I family I knew very well. The kids were the worst behaved children I've ever seen--by far! The mother was not up to the challenge. What they needed most was a father at home. This was possible. But not if they were to own a house. To get one, the family moved 100 miles from the man's job. They preferred home ownership to the welfare of their kids. That is the covetousness.
5."You are covetous if you spend all your money on yourself and little on God and His servants".
How much of your income do you give to God, His Church, and missions? Most believers don't even tithe. Some give zero!
Is it because they're poorer than anyone else? No, the poor are often the most generous, cf. II Corinthians 8:1-2. The fault lies not in their paychecks, but in their souls!
Baxter closes the chapter with the words, "these are the signs of a worldly, covetous wretch".
Are you covetous? If you are, I've got to tell you: You cannot be covetous and saved at the same time! The holiest believer is far from perfect, but he does not love or serve money!
If you do, I urge you to "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near".
If you're not mastered by the love of money--but are harassed by it, let me urge you to call the sin what it is. To think about its wickedness. And to find forgiveness and renewal in Christ.
The need is great. So is the opportunity. Our world is awash in materialism. The bumper sticker is crude, but basically true, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins". That's how most people think and live.
We have a chance to show them there's more to life than what money can buy! There is a Treasure to be had that can't be bought, but can be had by anyone who wants Him more than anything else. Let's show them the joy and satisfaction that we have in Christ.
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