We often tend to minimize the seriousness of the sin of covetousness, but Scripture is clear that it is deadly to our souls. In this message, we look at the Nature, Gravity, and Cure for Covetousness.
Putting Covetousness To Death
All of us have experienced the strong pull of desiring something that we did not have – whether that was a car, or home, or job, or particular person, or certain achievement. Covetousness is a sin that affects all of us. It is a sin of the heart, so it is possible that no one else in this world will know you are covetous except for you and God.
We usually consider covetousness, “just a little sin.” However this “little sin” amazingly was included in the 10 Commandments. And it is the only sin listed there, that is an inward heart sin. All of the other 9 Commandments describe visible outward sins. The apostle Paul said that before he came to Christ, he was blameless as to the righteousness found in the Law. But in Romans 7 he said that the command “Thou shalt not covet” was the commandment that slew him. He could refrain from all of the other external sins, but he knew that inwardly he was guilty of coveting.
So, this morning as we conclude our series on Putting Sin To Death, we are going to consider Putting Covetousness to Death. None of us are immune from this sin, and all of us must learn to put it to death.
We are going to look at covetousness under three heads:
- The Nature of Covetousness
- The Gravity of Covetousness
- The Cure for Covetousness
1. The Nature of Covetousness
Exactly, what is covetousness?
Covetousness Is The Opposite Of Contentment. Take a look at Hebrews 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have.” The love of money is a way to describe covetousness. The way to be free from covetousness is to be content with what you have.
Also, look at 1 Timothy 6:8-10, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” After Paul tells Timothy he should be content with food and covering, he tells him what the opposite of that contentment is – it is wanting to get rich and the love of money. Covetousness and contentment are opposites. But then, notice verses 11 and 12, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” In essence Paul is saying, “Flee covetousness – fight the good fight of faith.” You see, contentment is a form of faith. Remember that faith is turning to God to find satisfaction in Him. Well, contentment is to find your satisfaction in God. However, it will be a fight! You will never experience contentment in God without a fight.
So, what kind of contentment are we talking about? Notice Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumst
ances I am. 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.” Contentment is not only a fight to be fought, but a secret to be learned. What secret did Paul learn about experiencing contentment? He tells us in verse 13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul states that he could be content with humble means and when he was hungry, just as much as he could when he was prosperous, and had an abundance of food. But how? Christ! Christ strengthened him. In other words, Paul discovered that the secret to contentment was to find his contentment in Christ Himself. It doesn’t really matter what we are going through in this life. If we have Christ, we can be content. We need to learn to derive our needs and our satisfaction from Him. If we don’t learn this secret, we will fall into covetousness over and over again.
Covetousness is a Form of Unbelief. Remember, that unbelief is turning away from God to find satisfaction in something else. Well, that is exactly what covetousness does. It craves something other than God, thinking that if just had that, it would be happy and satisfied. This is why the only way to successfully battle covetousness is by faith. You must fight to believe the truth of God.
Covetousness is Idolatry. Paul tells us very clearly in both Ephesians 5:5 and Colossians 3:5.
Ephesians 5:5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
Colossians 3:5, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”
Why is covetousness or greed idolatry? Because the contentment that we should be getting from God we are trying to get from something else. Whatever we are coveting, has taken the place of God. We want something so much that we lose our contentment in God. The 10 Commandments begins and ends with virtually the same commandment. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” is virtually the same as “Thou shalt not covet.”
So, the Scriptures boldly declare that covetousness is the opposite of contentment in God, a form of unbelief, and idolatry.
2. The Gravity of Covetousness
So, just how serious is the sin of covetousness? We tend to minimize it because no one sees it but us, but why should we treat covetousness as a very serious sin?
Jesus Warned Us To Beware Of It. In Luke 12:15 Jesus Christ said, “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.” Here is a sin that Jesus specifically tells us to beware of! In other words, “watch out for it!” “Be on the lookout for it!” “Be careful to notice it advancing upon you.” We might be tempted to think, “Oh, covetousness is no big deal! So what if I really, really, want that new boat, or gun, or motorcycle, or trip to Hawaii! Everyone else wants these things too!” Well, Jesus is telling you that it IS a big deal. And you neglect watching out for it at your own peril.
It Will Choke Out The Word In Your Life. In Mark 4:19, as Jesus explained the Parable of the Soils, He said, “but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Notice what chokes out the Word – the desires for other things. That’s what covetousness is. It is failing to find your contentment in God, and instead desiring other things. My friends, are you willing to allow covetousness to choke out the effect of God’s Word in your life?! We should all be on our guard that we don’t allow the work of the Word to be choked out in our lives. Every Sunday we should tremble that we not just go through the motions of listening to the sermon, but pray earnestly that it would have its full effect in our lives. But I’ll tell you something. If there is covetousness in your heart, it won’t make a powerful impact on you.
It Will Spawn Many Other Sins. 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil.” All kinds of evil things grow out of the root of covetousness. If you covet drugs, you may steal to get them, and then lie to cover up your theft. Some even commit murder because of covetousness. Listen to James 4:1-2, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.” All sorts of evil are spawned by covetousness: lying, stealing, fighting, quarreling, murder, just to name a few. If we kill covetousness, we will kill many other sins in our life.
It Makes A Person Incapable of Loving Others. Jesus Christ calls us to love one another as He loved us. Well, how did He love us? He loves us unconditionally and sacrificially. But as long as you are trying to love out of an empty heart, your love will not be unconditional or sacrificial. It won’t be unconditional, because you will be loving with strings attached. The only one who can love with no strings attached is the one who is already full. He has all he needs in God, and so he is able to love, expecting nothing in return. He won’t be able to love sacrificially, because his heart is filled with his own desires and he isn’t willing to put someone else’s desires above his own. Only the man who is truly content is free to really love others. Notice how Paul writes to the Philippians in 4:11-17, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 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. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” So, how was Paul able to seek after the spiritual profit of the Philippians instead of trying to use them to get his own needs met? It was because he was already content in God! My friends, if you want to be able to love like Christ, you need to be content in Christ.
It Will Exclude A Man From Leadership in the Church. 1 Timothy 3:3 says an Overseer must be “free from the love of money.” Titus 1:7 says an Elder must “not be fond of sordid gain.” Elders must have lives that are worthy of emulation by the church, and a covetous man gives a bad example to the rest of the church.
It Can Cause You To Be Excommunicated From the Local Church. In fact, if we know someone to be covetous, the Word of God commands us not even to associate with them. We are not to eat with them, or fellowship with them. Of course this assumes that they are unrepentant when it comes to their covetousness. Their covetousness must be obvious to the whole church. Perhaps they refuse to close their business so they can meet with God’s people on Sunday. Perhaps their whole life is consumed with becoming wealthy so they have no time or energy for God or His people. Listen to 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 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. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.”
Covetousness surely must be a very serious sin in the sight of God if He judges it worthy of being excommunicated from the church over. It ranks in the same category as sexual immorality, swindling, idolatry, reviling, or drunkenness.
It Will Fail You In The Hour Of Death. 1 Timothy 6:7 says, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either.” Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.” So, does it really make sense to pour your entire life into gaining more money and stuff?! The only place you can enjoy those things is your brief life on earth. They will mean nothing in eternity. If you have lived your entire life to build your little kingdom on earth, you will be utterly devastated when you come to die, because you will have nothing in the life to come. Jesus taught us not to lay up treasures on earth.
It Will Cause You To Forfeit Your Soul. Jesus taught in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world land forfeits his soul?” That is a description of the covetous man! Let’s see what the end of the covetous man is.
Ephesians 5:5, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
Colossians 3:5-6, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
The Word of God is clear. Those who are covetous won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Instead the wrath of God will come upon them. They will experience ruin and destruction, and will wander away from the faith.
Why will they perish? For the simple reason that they worshiped a false god. They looked to someone or something else for meaning and satisfaction in life instead of finding it in the true and living God.
3. The Cure For Covetousness
The cure for covetousness is really quite simple. You must esteem God better than anything else in the world. If you do, you won’t crave anyone or anything over God. You will look to Him for joy and satisfaction. Now, all who are truly born of God do understand that God is better than anything else. However, we too often have temporary bouts of insanity! We tell ourselves we would be happier if we pursued that person or thing and neglected God. So, we have to continually repent of straying in our heart from our glorious God and the lover of our soul.
Listen to the words of Hebrews 10:32-34, “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.”
Now, isn’t that interesting! If these Christians were gripped by covetousness they couldn’t joyfully accept the seizure of their property. Instead, they would be devastated by the seizure of their property, because that would have been their main pursuit. But, how could they do that? They knew that they had a better Possession and a lasting one! They joyfully accepted the seizure of their property, because they had a better Possession – Christ Himself. He is the lasting possession, and the greatest Treasure! You will never be able to stop desiring something through sheer willpower. The way for that desire to lose its power over you is to see something else far more desirable. And, in the new birth, God Himself shines His light into your heart so that you can see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ!
Hebrews 13:5-6, “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,” so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME ?” So, what argument does the author of Hebrews give his readers to turn loose of the love of money and be content with what they had? He gives them the promise that God would never desert them or ever forsake them! He gives them the promise that the Lord is their Helper! He says, “turn loose of the love of money and be content. Why? So that you can enjoy something so much better! You can enjoy God, the One who will never leave or forsake you.” Our money can sprout wings and fly away. It can be stolen, or can all be lost in an economic depression. But if we have God, we have an abiding eternal Treasure!!!
My friends, do you really know that God is better than a new home, a new car, a month long vacation, new clothes, or that person? He is better! And we can all have Him. As long as we have our eyes on the Treasure, we won’t be lured into covetousness. Keep your eye on the Treasure. Then say to the Lion of covetousness, “Be gone! I have great treasure when I rest content in God. He will be my Treasure to the end. Be gone!” Amen.
Heb.13:5; 10:34 – The Cure for Covetousness. A Superior Promise – God’s presence.
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