Pastor Babij continues his look at the last of the Ten Commandments and its prohibition against covetousness. Pastor Babij warns how easy coveting is and how difficult it is to detect. Pastor Babij then explains several warning signs of a covetous heart along with several admonitions and remedies against covetousness.
We’re are still looking at the Ten Commandments. Maybe I have one more message after this before I conclude the Ten Commandments. We’re going to be looking at a lot of passages today. Let us together look them up so we can see what the Bible says.
Lord, thank You again this morning for Your tremendous mercy that You give us. We know, Lord, it’s the very mercy of God that motivates us to give ourselves over as living sacrifices, because Lord You had compassion on us and did not give us what we deserved. Lord, because of that, we want to worship You and we want to give our lives to You. We want to know more of who You are. I pray, Lord, that our desire to know more of You and what You have done and what You require would never wane, but it would always become stronger and more intense, even as we grow older and we’re moving closer to being in Your presence. So I pray, Lord, that You would take the Word of God now and stamp it upon our hearts, so we would not forget and always remember the things that are most important for our spiritual maturity. I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
We are looking again at the Tenth Commandment. I did the Commandment last week, and I ended with the passage of Scripture that talks about contentment. Of course, the more I looked at it, the more I realize that I need to say a little bit more about it. If you notice in Exodus 20:17, this was what it said there in the passage. It said, for you and I, in the Tenth Commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Again, Deuteronomy 5:21 says:
you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house.
Now, there’s a change there in Deuteronomy, because in Exodus 20 was given the straight Law. In Deuteronomy it was saying: okay, this is how the Law is going to flesh out in the priorities in your life. And of course the first came family and neighbor. That’s where you were not to desire what God says is not yours. And so we learned from the Tenth Commandment. The principal in the Tenth Commandment was that the responsibility for all of God’s people to be checking up on their inner longing for things and to be satisfied and to be content with what we have. So we learned that the Tenth Commandment uniquely reveals the nature of one’s own sinfulness.
We saw in Romans 7 from last week, how Paul was convicted because of covetousness rose up and and killed him. He thought he was keeping the Commandments until he got to the tenth one, where the tenth one has to do with desire, to crave something, to want something, especially something that God said is not yours. Most of us who sit here today know that what it means to grow up in the middle of a society of a country that is constantly being urge to accumulate stuff. We are tempted often to break this Commandment almost everyday.
Now, because of this definition and the meaning of the word covet, there were at least two positions that came up on how the term covet is to be understood in reference to the violation of the tenth Commandment. The first one was the Tenth Commandment is violated only when a person follows through and takes what he desires. A second position is the position that the Commandment is violated in the desire or the yearning without commission of any illicit act to obtain the desired object. Of course, it is the second one, I believe, that fits the Tenth Commandment, the second position. It best understands the sense of this Tenth Commandment, that the goal of coveting is the possession of what is coveted it, whether that possession is acquired or not.
Then the desire itself is the transgression of the law of God. The desire to carry out the wrong is itself wrong. What the Lord said in Genesis 6, that when He brought judgment upon the world, He said that every intent of the thoughts of his heart the only evil continually. So desire without actions constitute coveting, which is a violation of the Tenth Commandment. Thus, coveting means having thoughts of taking or acquiring someone else’s possessions, even if you never acquire those possessions. The evil desire is contrary to the will of God.
The interesting and unique thing about the Tenth Commandment was that the Tenth Commandment exposes sin where sin cannot be seen, because it is hidden in the human heart. So in other words, people can, to a certain extent, not perfectly, keep nine of the Commandments, because most of them are behavioral and outward. But the sin of coveting is inside your heart. And it’s hard to restrain that which you desire. It’s hard to restrain that. So God wants us to examine our desires. What are we craving for? What do we want?
Last time I had a question and the question was simply: how can you tell if you are heading down the road to committing the sin of coveting? There were two indications. One would be that when you desire something or someone that is not yours to have – it will never be yours. As I mentioned last week, that of wanting for ourselves what belongs to another. Coveting is longing for other people’s stuff to be your stuff. I want his car. I want his house. I wanted his 80 inch high definition TV. I want his money. I want her clothes, her jewelry; his tools, his job. I want her husband. I want his wife. See ,I must have it and I will start to figure out how to make it my property. That’s in the very desires of our heart.
No one can get away from the Tenth Commandment. No one. If you’re a human being and you’re born into this world, you cannot get away from coveting. The person coveting only thinks of what is good for them, what would make their situation better. They’re not concerned about others. They are not concerned about what God thinks. They are not thankful for what God has given them. They are more likely to think God has short-changed them, as I mentioned last time. They are thinking more about what money and possessions can do, what prestige and power can do, (that all go along with each other) than what God can do. They simply want the fleeting pleasures of the world system instead of the eternal lasting better things that God gives His children.
Then, a second thing is when our desires reflect and express discontentment. I ended last time asking you: what will the desires of your heart reveal, gold or God? Sinful greed or spiritual growth? Covetousness or contentment? My wants or God’s will? Which is it going to be? This morning, I want to elaborate on the second one, that of contentment. But to do that, I have to look again at covetousness.
Covetousness was known by the Puritans as being a mother sin. Actually, the Puritans called covetousness a mother sin. The reason for this designation was because they considered it a breach of all the Ten Commandments.
For example, if you look at each commandment in light of what they said as being a mother sin, then you’ll get a sense of what it means. If I just go back briefly and we look at them, the shortened version. You shall have no other gods before me. A covetous person has more gods than one. Money and possession is their God. It even said, the Word of God, that it’s an evil desire to want things out of greed because this amounts to idolatry.
Second Commandment: you shall not make for yourself a graven image or bow down to them. The covetous person bows down to the graven image of his coin and possessions. The Third Commandment: you shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain. The covetous person violates this Commandment because the name of God is dragged into all kinds of wrong and unlawful pursuits in order to get what he or she wants. Man created in the image of God, instead of acting like that, they act like the beasts of the field. They feed off the dung hill of the earth instead of the preciousness of God’s gifts.
Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Instead of the day being set aside as a special day to worship God, to rest, to do good works, it becomes just another day. The covetous person cannot keep the Lord’s day. Like the worldly person, he cannot bear losing a day of business and profits. He cannot bear to do that.
Now, I do want you to take your Bibles and look at an example in Nehemiah chapter 13. I want you to see what happened here in this situation. Remember, nehemiah’s going back. He wants to build the walls of Jerusalem. He wants to get Jerusalem back up and running again. He wants to get it secured. He wants to get its leadership established, the priesthood establish, everything establish. And he wants to make sure that any bad behavior that got into the system of worshipping God would be actually moved out. That’s what we have here in Nehemiah chapter 13. Look at verse 15. It says:
In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem. Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.” It came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates so that no load would enter on the sabbath day. Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside of Jerusalem. Then I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will use force against you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. And I commanded the levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day.
Now, saying all that says what? That on this day of worship, all kinds of business was being done, which violated the original intention of this Commandment that a person should honor God one day in seven and make sure that day is protected. This is not a day to do business. This is not a day to do things that you want to do. This is a day to worship God, to set aside your time to worship the Lord. So you can see, remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy is one thing that God wants to be kept. He wants that one day in seven, the Lord’s day, as we meet together to worship.
Commandment number five: honor your father and mother. The covetous person is not about other people. It’s all about themselves. So they cannot honor father and mother because they have used up all the funds they acquired on themselves, or have over-invested them, making them unavailable.
In fact, if you remember the story of Eli’s sons, what they did in 1 Samuel. The people would bring in their offering and they would take this pitchfork almost, throw it into the pot, and get as much meat as possible for themselves. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 8:3:
His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.
They could not honor their father because of their covetous heart.
You shall not kill – the sixth commandment. If that’s what it takes to obtain what the covetous person wants, then it is not out of the question. Remember King Ahab who had everything because he was a king. He could have everything because he was a king, but he killed Naboth to make his vineyard his vineyard. He hired worthless men to bear false witness against him and they stone him to death. Then his wife said to him: arise, Ahab, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth.
So you can see that covetousness is a sin that can lead to all kinds of other sins. You shall not commit adultery. A covetous person will, for money, set aside conscience and virtue for a proposition, even for a sale. It says in Deuteronomy 23:18:
You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the Lord…
You shall not steal. Of course, covetousness is at the root of theft. Achan stole the wedge of gold, which God put a ban on, saying that’s not yours; that’s mine. He took it anyway. A covetous person is impatient and can’t seem to wait on God because he does not trust God to supply his needs when he thinks his needs should be supplied. So he plans to take it himself. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right? Wrong! That’s a false way of thinking. In fact, the Bible puts thievery and covetousness in the same sentence in 1st Corinthians 6:9-10, where it says:
nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
You shall not bear false witness, the Ninth Commandment. A false oath is given by a covetous person for hope of some kind of reward or bribe. Isaiah 5:23:
Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the one who are in the right!
And then in the book of Acts, remember Felix? He was a ruler and he loved to listen to Paul. And of course Paul was in prison there for almost two years. The Bible says that he summoned him to listen to him. As soon as Paul started nailing him on the gospel, it says that he was frightened and sent him away. He says: I will summon you at another time. But the underlying motive of him wanting to talk to Paul, it says in Acts 24:26:
At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given to him by Paul.
So he never let Paul out. In fact, when the government switched and he was out, he left Paul in prison because he thought it would be good for those who came after him. In other words, Felix was blinded by greed, prestige, and power.
Then of course, you shall not covet. The covetous person wants his neighbor’s house and goods. He makes plans to get them into his own hands. When we look at it like that, covetousness is a sin that we need to be warned about as believers. We need to take great warning because we can so easily commit it. Now, the warning, first of all, is this: covetousness captivates the heart. You can take and look up these verses. I will mention them. It captivates the heart. Ezekiel 33:31 says:
They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain.
It captivates the heart, this sin. There’s not too many good things that can coexist with somebody who wants something and covets something and will do everything in their power to try to get it. That means covetousness leads to several things. First of all, it leads to injustice and oppression. Proverbs 28:20:
a faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.
Injustice and oppression go along with this sin. I already mentioned weeks ago that it’s foolish and it’s hurtful because it produces all kinds of lust that lead to the love of money and again to many hurts in a person’s own life and other people’s lives. And then in Proverbs 15:27, it leads to domestic affliction. Boy, this is one needed in marriage counseling and family counseling. Proverbs 15:27 says:
He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.
In other words, getting money in an unjust way is something that brings affliction to a family. It doesn’t help them, even though there may be more money available. It destroys in other ways because you’re trusting in what money can do. And then it leads to poverty. Proverbs 28:22:
A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.
People are always getting into get-rich-quick schemes. They never end well. They never end well. In fact, you put all this money into all these programs and you buy these books and you get these tapes and DVDs and you watch them. And what happens? They lay on your shelf. You’re none the richer. And somebody else’s wealthier because you bought their stuff. It happens all the time. There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme that works. You want wealth? The Bible says work. Work to supply your needs. That’s the Scriptural principle, and that has not changed since Genesis. It’s still the same for us today. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. So if you want a meal, work for it. That’s the Bible principle. That’s always the Bible principle.
The last thing it does is it leads to a departure from the faith. 1 Timothy 6:10 says:
For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith…
They’ve wandered away from the body of doctrine that will secure and save their souls and lay a path for them to live a mature life that pleases God. They wander from it because they long for what wealth can do. That’s what they long for. And it pierces them through with many griefs, the Bible says. In other words, God’s people should not be involved with this kind of stuff because it is really empty. And actually what the Scripture says – this is the passage I just read that: the love of money is the root of all evil. Then wandering away from the faith really pierces them through with many many griefs.
That leads to this next one: it is wicked. Covetousness is characteristic of the wicked. Psalm 10:3-4 says:
For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
The bottom line is that: the wickedness that goes with covetousness is that people don’t really believe that God will take care of them, or ultimately that there’s a God at all. I’m on my own. I got to pull up my own boot strings. If I don’t do it, nobody will do it. If I don’t take care of it, no one will take care of it. That is not the thought of a person living under the dependence of God and hedging against the sin of covetousness.
Then of course, covetousness is a characteristic of the slothful. It says in proverbs 21:25-26:
The desire of the sluggard put him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.
It all gets back to the desire, the craving of the heart. What do you really crave today? All of us say: if I just had a million dollars. Well, you know what, if you had the million, you know what you would have said? If I just had two million. And then of course if you have two million, if I just had three million. The more we get, the more we spend, the more we have, the more we are responsible for. It just drags you down. Christians ought to live lightly. You ought to downsize. You ought to clean out your closets. So should I. I’m tired of moving things from one place to another that I haven’t used in ten years. Why do I need this? Convince me to me why I need this. I don’t need it. I haven’t used it.
And so that means that covetousness really drowns people. It drowns them. The covetous person is like a bee. They’re like a bee who gets himself into a barrel of honey and there drowns himself. It says in Scripture: make sure that your character is free from the love of money.
We all need money. Come on. We’re not saying money is evil. We need it to live. We need to pay our bills. But we need what God gives and supplies. We don’t need any more than that. If we desire more than what God supplies, it doesn’t mean that you’re not wise with your money. It doesn’t mean that you don’t save your money. It doesn’t mean that you don’t invest your money wisely. That’s not what it’s talking about. It’s talk about wanting more than you really do need, to the point where you’re coveting what other people have and say: how much do I need to make to get what they got.
See that’s this sin that just seems to creep in and into our thinking and then into our desires. Then before you know it, we’re making plans that are going to end up hurting us and destroying us and causing us grief, instead of just living each day, trusting God, going to work, paying your bills, and doing the regular things and just trusting the Lord for the rest of it.
Remember, we’re only passing through. We’re only sojourners in a foreign land. We’re not home. Our kingdom is in heaven, right? We have to have this kind of mindset to be able to hedge against this kind of sin. Take your Bibles and turn to 2 Peter 2:1. This sin will abound, the Bible says, in the last days. Are we in the last days? Yes, we’ve been in the last days. We’re in the latter days, right? The Lord can come anytime. It seems like the world is ripe. The things we couldn’t understand the past, we understand now. In the last days, this sin will be widespread in the fabric of societal and governmental thinking. It will be prevalent amongst the preaching of false teachers. The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel is very much alive and well in our country. The problem is that when we transport that message to another country, they get a very skewed view of what Christianity really is. But look what it says in 2 Peter 2:1-3:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
That is happening everyday on Youtube, on channels that people search out. A lot of times they are big; they seem like exciting ministries that have everything you could possibly want. And listen, if you want to really serve God, then these things are going to happen in your life. You’re going to come and you’re going to become wealthy. You’re going to have everything you want, your heart’s desire. That’s a clear violation of the Tenth Commandment. Ministries can actually produce a desire in Christian’s hearts that lead them down the road to destruction. If we read further in the passage of Scripture, we find in 2 Peter 2:14-15. It describes these false Christians and teachers as:
having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having follow the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
It all has to do with getting something, inflaming your desires and passions to get something that really will never and should never be yours. So that means that there’s an admonition that goes with this: that covetousness by believer should be hated by the saints. And by the saints, I mean the saints of God’s people in the God’s church. We’re all called saints. We should be hating that because it says in the Word of God Proverbs 28:16:
A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
We see that there is a lack of understanding for people who are pursuing these types of things, trying to get wealth and trying to get wealth from unsuspecting people.
Also, secondly, a Christian, a saint should avoid this sin. it tells us in Acts, where Paul said to the congregation: I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. He made sure that he let them know that. But if you notice in 1 Corinthians 5:11, it tells us in that passage:
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one.
Somebody who is always going after these types of things – they’ll come and get your stuff too, if they could, and everything you own.
And then of course, a saint should also mortified this particular sin. Colossians 3:5, I mentioned already:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
So are we dead to greed? If we are not, that is one thing that we need to pray about. We need to pray that God would show us in the desires of our heart where we are covetous, where we are desiring things that are really a fantasy of our mind. Yet the wickedness of our heart is to desire something that God is not giving us. It’s not ours to have. We need to pray against this as saints. A good passage of Scripture in Psalm 119, which we just got done reading in our morning worship. Verses 36 and 37 says this:
Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to dishonest gain.
Lord, move my heart to trust Your testimony before me, what You’ve done in the past in taking care of Your people. Don’t let my heart go towards dishonest game. Don’t let me live there in my heart everyday. It’s a bad place to live. And then verse 37, notice it says:
Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
Lord, let me see it your way. Let me see it from Your perspective. Let me live my life because I know You’re present everyday, watching everything I do. Do I please you in my thinking, in my desire, in my doing?
What are we to do to hedge against falling into this sin? The sin of covetousness, which really pulls people down to hell and exclude them from the kingdom of God. It tells us in the Word of God:
Or do you not know that unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. .. nor the covetous…will inherit the kingdom of God.
The temptation to commit this sin has a long, long, long history and is one of Satan’s oldest tricks. Through covetousness, the devil tempts people to be discontent with God. There is where we’re getting down to the very root of why it’s wicked for a believer. The devil tempt you to be discontent with God, to question God’s goodness. There it is.
In fact, the first temptation in the history of mankind was the temptation to be discontent. God had provided Adam and Eve far beyond all they needed. God says here’s the garden. It’s all yours, except this one tree. All of it is yours except this one tree. How is it that Satan got her to desire that one thing she shouldn’t have desired? He’s a master at that. He was thrown out of heaven because of covetousness. He wanted God’s position. He’s skilled at this temptation. In fact, just look at this passage here. It’s the one from Genesis. It says:
Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight.
That means everything Adam and Eve looked at was pleasing to them. It was pleasing in a good way. God gave it to them. It should cause you to desire. It’s a desire to have it because God gave it. That’s how God created it. It’s good for food. It tastes good. God gives us good food to taste, right? That’s goodness every time you eat something that you like. That’s God’s goodness to you. Remember that. When you chew it up and swallow it and says: man, that was good. You know why? Because God is good. See He didn’t just give us bland food. He gives us food that taste good. We can even make it taste better by our spices and all that kind of stuff.
All those things and the tree of life also are in the midst of the garden. Then it says in verse 9: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – this is the tree that God says: no, you can’t have this one. In other words, it was a test to Adam and Eve of their obedience to God’s word of instruction. Are they going to obey it? Are they going to desire something God said not to desire? So Satan used this one tree to tempt Eve by sowing seeds of discontentment in her heart. And the devil got her to question the goodness of God. He got her to question. Maybe God’s holding something back on me. I don’t really know good and evil. Maybe that’s a good thing to know. It got her to be discontent. That means that discontentment is one of the most satanic of all sins. To indulge in it is to rebel against God just as Satan did.
There are six remedies that I can offer you. They are simple ones to hedge against the sin of covetousness and also the sin of not trusting God, the sin of being discontent with God. The first one is pretty simple: trust God. Trust God. 1 John tells us:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.
So trusting God means to have faith in God. A person who trusts God believes God will indeed meet all his or her material needs. And I would say that He will meet their emotional needs. He will meet their spiritual needs. He will work in all their circumstances, for His good and their good. Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together…
For what? For the bad? For your destruction? No!
for the good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
If God feeds the birds and clothes the grass of the field and gives lilies their beauty, He will feed and take care of His children. That’s what He promised. He did not promise you a mansion. He promised you food to eat. He promised clothes on your back. He promised you a place to live within your means. Within the means He’s given you. That’s what He promised you. It says in Matthew 6:
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
See, when we don’t believe like that, we are not growing in our faith like we should. In the Old Testament, we find the story of the servant of Elisha, Gehazi. Gehazi did not trust his master Elisha nor in God’s supply. So what did Gehazi want more than anything? He wanted what Elisha could have had easily by just taking it, but he did not trust that his master would take care of him. Neither did he trust in God taking care of him. Therefore Gehazi obtained by deceit, by scheming, and by lying what was not his – the property of Naaman. Let’s take our Bibles really quickly and turned to 2 Kings 5:19. I want you to see this, because in this narrative, we see that he desire something. He makes a plan. He lies. He deceives. Then he makes believe that he doesn’t know anything. Look what it says in 2 Kings 5:19:
He said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him some distance. But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” He said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.'” Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him.
When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in his house, in the house and he sent men away, and they departed. But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turn from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence as a leper as white as snow.
There’s the end result of covetousness – wanting something that was never yours to have in the first place and then lying, manipulating, and getting what you want from the desire of your heart. And where does he end up? he didn’t plan on getting leprosy, nor that leprosy going from generation to generation.
See, faith is a remedy against covetousness. It overcomes the fear of the world. You know, our economy is based on fear. Every commercial out there, that’s a commercial about fear. They want to make you afraid. If you don’t have this, you’re going to die. If you don’t get this drug, you’re going to die. If you don’t buy this thing, this is not going to happen in your life. It’s all those things. It’s all about fear, but we don’t have to be afraid of those things. Faith will overcome the fear of the world and really stop one from loving it.
A second remedy would be that of understanding the warning. The warning comes from the Lord, that all money and possessions are far far below the worth of the soul. For the Lord tells us in Luke 12:
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.
In other words, here’s a warning of the extreme danger of being discontent with our possessions, always wanting more. The spiritual danger of loving things of this world is far more serious than one may first think. The apostle John wrote:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
In other words, he’s not a Christian. John makes it clear that a craving for possessions is being in love with the world. This wisdom was already found in the book of Ecclesiastes. It was already there, for it says there in Ecclesiastes 5:10:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.
It’s empty. It’s an empty pursuit. So don’t pursue it, in other words. That’s the warning.
Then, discern what you were created for. Pursuing contentment with what you have. What has been given to you by God is absolutely vital for our spiritual health. I read an interesting fact about the human eye, as compared to all other creatures. It was observed that other creatures have four muscles to their eyes, but humankind has a fifth muscle – that which is able to look upward to heaven. We were, as human beings, created in the image of God to look upward to heaven. In other words, our souls were created not just for this world, but for a higher end – to aspire after the enjoyment of the glory of God as citizens of heaven. That’s what we were created for.
The Bible says in Genesis 5:24 that Enoch walked with God, which means each day his eyes and affections turned toward the God of heaven. His heart was in heaven, where his treasure was. That’s where we ought to be – looking, in the busyness of our day, spending time looking towards heaven and knowing what we’re looking for.
Another one would be this: to practice coveting spiritual things. It is good to have desire. I love this passage of Scripture – Psalm 37:4. You know what that says. It says:
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
See, you can’t reverse that. If you delight first in God, then He knows your desires. He knows the good things you desire and want. Just wait on Him and they will come at the right time, at the right moment, in the right way, in the right amount, because He knows exactly what we need.
I don’t really remember talking to any saint who followed God, that if you ask them a question: did God ever deny you things that you really needed? They would say: I always have more than I need. The Lord always seems to let the water run over the top of the cup and gives us more than we actually need. And just to let us know that He’s going to take care of us.
The grace of God is another thing we ought to covet. Paul learned to covet the grace of God, where he finally said: Lord, I prayed for this messenger of Satan, this infirmity of my flesh to be taken away from me. Three times I asked You, Lord, to please take it away. And what did the Lord say to him? My grace is sufficient for you. My power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, he says, I am well content with weakness. Are you? Are we? Well content with weakness, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties? Now this is kind of odd here. It’s kind of moving us to another realm. Wait a minute. He says: I was content with not all the good things. But the things that everybody says is not good for me, I was content with. Could you be content with persecutions, with distresses, with insults, with weaknesses, with difficulties? We’re always trying to pray ourselves out of them. He says: for Christ’s sake, I do this. And when I am weak, I know He is strong. What would an oxymoron that is. We always want to be strong and mighty. We want to seize the day. But God says: no, when your weak, I’m strong. When you’re strong, I’m not there. Or you’re not depending on Me. See, God’s grace is God’s unmerited favor to us through Christ and God’s divine assistance to us through the holy Spirit.
And then, you know what we ought to do is covet heaven. Just read Revelation 22. Covet with the tree of life. Covet the mountain of spices, the river of pleasures, the honeycomb of God’s love dropping down upon His people, the joyful ripened fruit along the river of life, the pure air void of the infected air of sin and unrighteousness, the sun of righteousness that enlightens the whole landscape and horizon in the new heaven and a new earth. Look to the city of pearls in the paradise of God, where God dwells. Look there.
We need to practice coveting spiritual things, things that are in the Word of God, and then to develop a spiritual and heavenly mindset. We pray that the Holy Spirit will draw you upward and dig the dirt out of your heart that sparks the pride and sparks the envy and sparks the covetousness that rises from your mind and desire. The holy spirit will expose our sinful actings and our sinful coverings, the things that we cover and try to hide from God. And of course set your mind on the true value of life. Jesus teaches that eternal life is more valuable than all the world itself.
Solomon tells us that wisdom is the understanding and application of the moral principle of God. Wisdom is better than the profit of silver. Her gain is better than fine gold. It’s more precious than jewels. There’s nothing that compared to her that you should desire, the wisdom of God. David declares in Psalm 19 that the Word of God is:
more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
So therefore, we as believers, to develop this, we have to avoid selfish ambition. We must accept what God gives you and be thankful for that every single day. We must have humility toward God and contentment towards possessions. If you do so, then you don’t have to secretly feel that you deserve more. You won’t become envious and grumble, or question God’s wisdom, his generosity, or His right to do whatever He wants to do. He’s God. Then we must realize that I am where I am, not by chance or by the favor or disfavor of other people, but by decision of an all-wise, all-loving Father. That’s why I am where I am. That’s why I was born when I was born, and you were born when you were born. That’s why you are in the place you are, not by chance. There’s no such thing as chance. That is a worldly mindset. There’s only providence. And then I must realize that I do not deserve to be where I am. Nor do I deserve what I have. I don’t deserve anything that I have. Neither do you. But because of God’s goodness, He gives it to us.
So that all leads this last one: contentment. We have to, notice, learn contentment. I would like, this last passage, for you to turn to Philippians 4:10-12. I am so glad that Paul said this. Paul said here in verse 11:
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.
That’s it. I have to learn contentment. You and I have to learn contentment. We, God’s people, should concentrate on being content in all our circumstances and on living lives that are pleasing to God, because we live in a sin-cursed world. We learn that Christians are not immune from frustrating, irritating, and often overwhelming circumstances in this short life we live on earth. We are not exempt from that. So then we must see our circumstances as being under the providence of God.
Now the term providence basically means God’s care and control over the whole universe. That includes you and me. As it says in Psalm 33:
The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.
I want to finish the passage in Philippians while you’re still there. Verse 12 says:
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
In other words, Paul and you and I have to learn contentment. That’s going to be by the circumstances of our life. It’s the pendulum that swings when we have abundance, and then it swings the other side when we don’t have abundance. It swings to the place where it’s peaceful; it swings to the other place where it’s not peaceful. Whatever way it swings, it doesn’t change me.
Martin Lloyd Jones, pastor and preacher of God’s word, said this: from this passage Paul was not mastered by his circumstances. If it can’t be changed, don’t let it master you. Don’t let it bring you down. Don’t let it take control of you. Don’t let it determine your misery or your joy. Don’t let circumstances do that. He gives us a picture of how to have equilibrium in any situation that we’re in.
And how does he do that? Well, right from the passage, this is what he does. He says: listen, I know how to get along with humble means without a sense of grudging, complaint, or questioning God’s goodness. I know how to live going hungry and not having enough without a bitter bitter spirit. I know what it means to suffer need without being worried or anxious, without losing faith. That’s what he did. There’s the conclusion: that is, right there, contentment. That’s what we learn. So if we’re complaining, if we’re questioning, if we’re grumbling, if we have a bitter spirit, it all means you’re not content. You want more than what God has given you now. That’s where the sin of covetousness lies. That’s where you going to say: well if God’s not doing it, I’m going to make it happen myself. And that’s where many people get into trouble.
I see young people getting into trouble all the time. Sometimes they’re not satisfied with their work. They see another job come along with way more money if they get the job. Finally they get there, and they find out it’s not what it was. It’s not what they thought it was. And it ends up bring them to a place where they shouldn’t have it. Not because God could not give someone another job, but they worked it out themselves. They did not wait on the Lord.
Then we have the next thing that Paul says: I also know how to live in prosperity without feeling independent of God. Prosperity can say: hey, I got everything I need; I don’t need God now. I learn the secret of being filled but without being manipulated by wealth. I’m glad I have the wealth now, but the wealth hasn’t gotten my heart. If God decides to take it away tomorrow, I’m fine. I’ll have to do other things in the Lord. Obviously, the Lord is going to lead me to what that is.
See, this is completely opposite the mindset of the world. That’s exactly how you have peace in your heart. That’s exactly how you trust God and learn that trust in God is the only way to live. That’s how you learn to have contentment. He says that of both having abundance also, but without forgetting God. So the circumstances of my life, Paul learned the lesson to live without allowing circumstances to affect his inner peace and joy.
Sometimes when you ask yourself: hey, how is your peace in your heart? Are you filled with anxiety? Are you anxious? What about your joy? Are you joyful? If you don’t have those things going on in your heart, look for discontentment and covetousness. Obviously, you’re thinking in your mind without saying it, that somehow God’s not taking care of me that way I think he should. See, to live contented upon God in the deficiencies of our outward comforts is an art which the flesh and blood has not revealed. But the Spirit of God has.
Let me just mention this one quote. It’s a really good one. I can’t remember where I got it from though. I think it’s one of the Puritans I was reading many years ago. Look at what it says about providence, it says: “Let a Christian often think with themself: who is place me here? Whether I am in a high sphere or a lower, not chance or fortune as the heathen imagines. No, it is the wise God who has by providence fixed me in this orb. God has set us in our situation and has done it in wisdom.”
That’s a great quote. I like that quote. The believer, in other words, should be satisfied with what God sovereignly has given him or her. The apostle Paul told the young pastor Timothy, as I mentioned last time, he says:
For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
And then of course he did say in verse 6:
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
And then the last one would be:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
See, that’s the promise that God gives us. So when give our circumstances and situations, we must always believe that God will never desert you. He will never forsake you. He knows exactly what you need when you need it. So you need to trust Him.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank you again for the Word of God. It is, again, a liberator of our soul. It’s a changer of our mind. It is a governor upon our will. Thank you, Lord, that You teach the Word of God and give us the Word of God in a way that we can understand it and make it very practical in our lives. And Lord, it also exposes our heart. Lord, now we know the difference between what it means to be discontent and what it means to be content. We know, Lord, that the sin of covetousness is ever at our door. So I pray, Lord, that we would always be examining ourselves in a way that we would be thankful for what You have given us. And that, Lord, You would not let our desires to go to the place that You have not allowed us to go, and places in which those things would never be ours. But we would learn to bring our desires before You in prayer and that we would delight ourselves in You. And then You would give us the desires of our heart. I know, Lord, the desires You give us will be in line with Your will, in line with what is good for us, and in line with bringing You the greatest glory on this side of eternity in our life.
And so we thank you again, Lord, for the precious truths found in the Word of God, that is always for our benefit. And I pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.