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TEXT: Proverbs 15:27
SUBJECT: Proverbs #8: Covetousness
THE MEANING OF "COVETOUSNESS".
"Covetousness" and its equivalents are translated from several Hebrew words. They admit, of course, to slight nuances, but in the end amount to the same thing. Thus, "to covet" essentially means, "To strongly desire or crave".
It is occasionally employed in a good sense, to describe:
A longing after God, "With my soul, I have desired you in the night, Yes by my spirit within me I will seek you early".
A wholesome, romantic love, "And so the king shall greatly desire your beauty".
But normally, of course, it is used in a bad sense, to suggest "an evil craving, or a compulsive lust".
Its objects are wealth and its attending pleasures, comfortable homes, expensive cars, exotic vacations, private schools, luxuries, ease, dignity, influence, and the like.
Thus in brief, covetousness may be defined as "An inordinate desire for earthly things".
It must not therefore, be confused with the mere accumulation of wealth, financial interest, or general ambition.
It is a preoccupation with wealth or an excessive interest in temporal objects.
But it is easy to anticipate the objection. "Your excess is my moderation. Your luxury is my necessity. Your greed is my prudence. Your waste is my liberality." How then, may you determine the nature of your desire? Five tests are appropriate:
If you cannot distinguish between necessities and luxuries, then you are covetous.
"Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food". (23:3). The exposition is clear. Food is necessary to sustain life. But this man began to indulge "delicacies". Which, in turn, "deceived him", making him to think that "expensive, gourmet food was necessary".
The ultimate example of such lust is Israel in the Wilderness.
Many Christians are equally deluded. For they speak and behave as though they could not live without the latest device. televisions, VCR's, compact discs, micro-wave ovens, computers, electronic telephones, ad infinitum.
When you begin to think of such devices as necessary to your existence, then you are covetous.
If material concerns take precedence over spiritual matters, then you are covetous.
"Better is a little with righteounsess, than vast revenues without justice". (16:8)
Our Lord's teaching, as you might expect, is identical, e.g., John 6:27, Matthew 6:31ff.
If God is not your first financial concern, then you are covetous.
"Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase." (3:9)
We all have many financial obligations. We have mouths to feed, bodies to clothe, bills to pay, etc. Too often, Christians take such obligations as primary. Thereby neglecting God. But to do so is sinful in the extreme. For, if grocers, clothiers, doctors, and banks have a legitimate claim upon our monies, why--pray tell--does not the God who "Gives us our life and breath and being"?
If you cannot enjoy what you presently have, then you are covetous. Consider how God has already blessed you:
In matters temporal.
"A prudent wife is from the LORD". Her value is "Far above rubies". Yet very often, husbands disparage this great blessing, because some material lust remains ungratified. Dear friend, thousands of men would gladly exchange anything to have a good wife, and shall you count her as nothing?
"Children are a heritage of the LORD. Happy is that man who has his quiver full." There are millions of couples in this country who would happily pay any price to procure one. And shall you count them as nothing?
"The blessing of the LORD makes rich". Comparatively speaking, the poorest person here is well-off. If you do not believe me, then go anywhere in the Third World. Go to Mexico City. Kingston. Calcutta.
To Christians, in matters spiritual.
Your privileges. Access to Scripture. A full-gospel. A church.
Ephesians 1:3, II Peter 1:3a,4a.
If you can say, "Yes, I have Christ...but", you are covetous!
If you would sin to obtain "things", then you are covetous.
At this point, it is crucial to remind you of what sin is. For we have a tendency to confine it to atrocities.
Catechism Q14: "What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of, the Law of God". I John 3:4b.
If, therefore, you would "trangress" God's Law (i.e., Go beyond its bounds) to obtain things, then you are covetous. This includes, of course, theft, fraud, income tax evasion, etc.
But furthermore, if you would neglect necessary duties to procure worldly goods, then you are equally covetous. For example:
What are a man's chief domestic duties? "To love, noursih and cherish his wife". And to "Bring up his children in the fear and admontion of the LORD". If a man works 14 or 16 hours a day, can he comform to these duties? No. Therefore, he sins.
What are a woman's home responsibilities? Primarily to care for her children. If she leaves her children in "Day Care" for 10 hours a day, can she conform to her duty? No. Therefore, she sins.
Every Christian's responsibility is to regularly attend the public worship of God--Hebrews 10:25--. But, in our case, can a man who works every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night conform to this duty? No. Therefore, he sins.
If, therefore, your desire to obtain money requires you to neglect fundamental Christian duties, then you are covetous.
Thus in summary: Covetousness is that "Desire for worldly things which keeps us from 'the one thing needful'".
THE GRAVITY OF COVETOUSNESS.
In the world, a covetous man is admired. He is called "industrious, ambitious, goal-orieinted, shrewd" and so on. Thus the Tenth Psalm is true, "The wicked bless the covetous". This is quite understandable. But what is shocking is this fact. The Professed People of God entertain nearly the same view. Some admire the covetous, seeking to curry his favor. Others excuse him, as in the recent religious scandal. A minister diverted millions of dollars for his own personal use, thus "Greedy of Filthy Lucre". And yet may soon return to his office!!! Even the most conscientious Christians diminish its true seriousness. But I suggest to you that covetousness is one of the most heinous of all sins, and should be no more tolerated that murder, adultery, or theft. I will try to demonstrate this briefly.
Covetousness is a terrible sin. In I Corinthians 5, Paul commands the church to withdraw from the following evil characters. "Fornicators, idolators, extortioners, revilers, drunkards, and the covetous.
Covetousness is a pregnant sin. It is the "Root of all kinds of evil", such as:
Theft. What causes a man to steal but a desire to fulfil some lust?
Blasphemy. Israel in the Wilderness.
Covetousness is a destructive sin.
It destroys your relationship to God, your family, your neighbors, your church. Ultimately it destroys you.
Covetousness provokes the displeasure and brings down the wrath of God. Psalm 10:3, Colossians 3:5-6.
THE RESULTS OF COVETOUSNESS.
It will produce a life of anxiety, frustration, and, if brought to its logical conclusion, suicide.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life". But "He who covets silver, will not with silver be satisfied". Therefore, the covetous person will never have quite enough money to make himself happy. And thus, will never enjoy peace of mind. Thus Paul wrote truly, "they pierced themselves through with many sorrows".
If he could ever get enough money, he must needs worry about its loss. "For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle to heaven" (23:5). Solomon was the wealthiest and wisest manof his generation. Yet what galled him was this. He would soon die and leave hast great riches to someone else, who might be a fool.
As he did, for He bequeathed twelve tribes upon his son, Rehobam, who in turn forfeited ten of them.
The modern equivilent is Howard Hughes. He had two enemies. His family and the government. And when he died without a will, he left billions to both.
It will ruin your family, 15:27.
It will negate your religion. I John 3:16.
It will damn your soul. Ephesians 5:5.
THE CURE FOR COVETOUSNESS.
Consider the transient nature of money. 23:5.
Discipline yourself to generosity. 11:24
Remember the danger of unsanctified wealth. 30:7-9. "Eye of needle, Trust in uncertain riches", etc.
Remember that your wealth is a matter of Providence. "the blessing of the LORD makes rich".
God has given you the amount of money with which you can be trusted.
He has given you the income which is most glorifying to Him.
Your behavior with your pittance may be a means of extraordinary blessing to others, as in II Corinthians 8,9.
Adopt a Scriptural economic theory.
At the present, there are but two economic theories competing for preeminence, Capitalism and Socialism.
But neither is the Scriptural view, which is summarized in Psalm 24:1.
Remember Jesus Christ, Philippians 4.
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