In previous blogs, I have covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught. This can be seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’. Continuing now with Christ’s additional teachings. The next of which is ‘do not covet’.
I wish, I wish, I wish.. We may not feel like this particular teaching is for us. But to long for (or covet) something someone else has is a devious ploy from the enemy. If he can get us to wish for something another has then we will instantaneously become discontented with our lot. Coveting quickly turns to jealousy which is resentment against a rival (a person enjoying success or advantage, etc.). With this comes discontentment which brings with it ungratefulness. To covet at its extreme results in murder. Many have been murdered to take advantage of what they had. And God would have us avoid all such negative feelings in our hearts. The definition of covet is – to wish for, especially eagerly, to desire wrongfully or inordinately. Do not covet.
We must learn contentment
As well as wishing we had a better car (like theirs over there) or a better house (like theirs over there) or better family (like theirs over there). We may wish that our lives were different (like theirs over there). But the fact is that we must learn contentment and gratefulness with all that we have been given before God can do anything with our lives.
It was Paul who said ‘I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] Phil 4:11
God is faithful even in our faithlessness
Paul ‘learned’ contentment – it rarely comes naturally to any of us. But through experience we learn the richness of being grateful for what we have. There will always be millions in this world in a far worse state than ours. God is faithful even in our faithlessness to supply above and beyond all that we have need of. And in this is our inner peace – the peace that we all crave and need for good living.
God so strongly desires us to avoid covetousness that He made it one of the ten commandments. ‘You shall not covet [that is, desire and seek to acquire] your neighbour’s wife, nor desire your neighbour’s house, his field… or anything that belongs to your neighbour,’ Deut 5:21 – and – You shall burn the carved and sculpted images of their gods in the fire. You shall not covet the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, so that you will not be ensnared by it [in a deadly trap], for it is an abomination (repulsive) to the Lord your God, Deut 7:25.
Here it is well explained. To long for what another has ensnares us like a deadly trap from the enemy and is repulsive to the Lord our God.
Covetousness defiles us
Jesus speaks of covetousness as something that defiles us – For from within, [that is] out the heart of men, come base and malevolent thoughts and schemes, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, adulteries, acts of greed and covetousness, wickedness, deceit, unrestrained conduct, envy and jealousy, slander and profanity, arrogance and self-righteousness and foolishness (poor judgment). All these evil things [schemes and desires] come from within and defile and dishonour the man. Mark 7:21
How to counteract feelings of jealousy? – ‘The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and any other commandment are summed up in this statement: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Romans 13:9. When we reach the penultimate peak of loving others totally as ourselves there will be no more occasion in our hearts to sin.
Guard yourselves against every form of greed
A man had approached Jesus saying, ‘tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ Jesus went on to warn him, “Watch out and guard yourselves against every form of greed; for not even when one has an overflowing abundance does his life consist of nor is it derived from his possessions.” He then told them in a parable.
Henry says – It is believed that his brother was a son of violence, that took not only his own part of the estate, but his brother’s too, and forcibly detained it from him. Such brothers there are in this world, who have no sense of natural fairness or natural affection. They make a prey of those whom they ought to support and protect. Whoever have been so wronged in this way have God to go to, who will execute judgment and justice for those that are oppressed. Others believe that this man was seeking to have Christ alter the law to allow a fairer distribution of inheritance. But He takes the opportunity to warn against covetousness, ‘pleonexia’—a desire of having more, more than God in his providence has allotted us.
The rewards of Christ’s disciples are of another nature
This man may be a disciple of Christ and expect that in consideration of this Christ should give him his brother’s estate. But he is mistaken, for the rewards of Christ’s disciples are of another nature. It does not encourage challenges with our brothers, and our being rigorous and high in our demands. But rather, for peace’ sake, to recede from our right.
Take heed and beware of covetousness. “Observe yourselves, keep a jealous eye upon your own hearts, lest covetous feelings steal into them to rule and give scope to them”. Covetousness is a sin which we have need constantly to watch against, and therefore frequently to be warned against.
The reason to enforce this caution: “For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses”. “Our happiness and comfort do not depend on our having a great deal of the wealth of this world.” The life of the soul, undoubtedly, does not depend upon it, and the soul is the man. The things of the world will not suit the nature of a soul, nor supply its needs, nor satisfy its desires. Do not covet!
What good does their abundance do to them?
For many live very contentedly and easily, and get through the world very comfortably, who have but a little of the wealth of it. On the other hand, many live very miserably who have a great deal of the things of this world; they possess abundance, and yet have no comfort from it. Many who have an abundance are discontented and fretful, so then what good does their abundance do to them?
The parable Jesus uses gives us the life and death of a rich man, and leaves us to judge whether he was a happy man. Here is an account of his worldly wealth and abundance (Luke 12:16). The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully in the country. He had a whole country to himself, a lordship of his own; he was a little prince. We are here told what he thought within himself, (Luke 12:17 ‘What shall I do, since I have no place [large enough in which] to store my crops?). The God of heaven knows and observes whatever we think within ourselves, and we are accountable to Him for it. He is both a discerner and judge of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The more men have, the more perplexity they have with it
Jesus speaks of him as one at a loss, and full of perplexity. What shall I do now? The more men have, the more perplexity they have with it, and the more concerned they are to keep what they have and to add to it. So that even the abundance of the rich will not allow them to sleep, for thinking what they shall do with what they have and how they shall dispose of it.
“This will I do, I will pull down my barns, for they are too little, and I will build greater, and there will I store all my fruits and my goods, and then I shall be at ease.” What we have is but lent us for our use, the property is still Gods. God’s unqualified projects are foolish projects, for our times are in God’s hand, and not in our own, and we do not so much as know what tomorrow will bring.
In an hour’s time it can all be burnt to the ground
“Then I will say to my soul, upon the credit of this security, (whether God say it or not), you have much goods laid up for many years in these barns; now take your ease, enjoy yourself, eat, drink, and be merry,” Luke 12:19. It was folly for him to be confident that his goods were laid up for many years, as if his bigger barns would be safer than those he had. In an hour’s time they might be burnt to the ground and all that was laid up in them, perhaps by lightning, against which there is no defence.
It was folly for him to think of making no other use of his plenty than to eat and drink, and to be merry. To indulge the flesh, and gratify the sensual appetite, without any thought of doing good to others, and being put thereby into a better capacity of serving God and his generation. It is the great absurdity which the children of this world are guilty of that they portion their souls in the wealth of the world and the pleasures of sense.
Here is God’s sentence ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee’, Luke 12:20. The sentence was passed upon him, a sentence of death. He thought he had goods that should be his for many years, but he must part from them this night.
A good man takes his heart off from this world
A good man, who has taken his heart off from this world, cheerfully resigns his soul at death, and gives it up. But a worldly man has it torn from him with violence. It is a terror to him to think of leaving this world. God shall require our souls and require that we give an account of it. As good angels receive gracious souls to carry them to their joy, so evil angels receive wicked souls to carry them to the place of torment. For guilty souls are required to be punished after death. The devil requires them for himself, for they do, in effect, give themselves to him in life.
Here is the application of this parable (Luke 12:21), ‘So is he a fool in God’s judgment, that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God’. The greatest error of all is that he is not rich towards God. He is not rich in the things of God, rich in faith, rich in good works, in the fruits of righteousness, rich in graces, and spiritual gifts. (1 Tim. 6:18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share [with others]). Many who have abundance of this world are wholly destitute of that which will enrich their souls, making them rich towards God and rich for eternity.
Pursue that which is for the soul and eternity
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who knows what the end of things will be, has here told us what the end of a worldly man will be. It is unspeakable foolishness to pursue the wealth of this world more than the wealth of the other world. That which is merely for the body and for time, more than that which is for the soul and eternity.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Therefore what good is it to covet another person’s goods or life? But godliness actually is a source of great gain when accompanied by contentment [that contentment which comes from a sense of inner confidence based on the sufficiency of God], 1 Timothy 6:6.
Home of Content Could I plan your journey, your way of life Your work and not count the cost? Can you not trust My supply Though all may appear lost? Can you not trust Me Right to the end? Am I not worth more to you Than any earthly friend? Do not allow your mind to wander On a succession of circular tours Live in My Kingdom and then The supply of the Kingdom is yours. I wish you to learn the Glory Of a God-protected life. So let there be no fruitless wishing here and there It can only occasion you strife. Storms may rage, difficulties press hard But you will know no harm. Love knows no fear, you will be protected and guided By My loving outstretched arm. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, My God, My King – thank You for Your blessed Word. Thank You that You guide and correct us. Forgive us for not being grateful for all that we have and for fruitless wishing for things we have not. May we live in Your Kingdom now and live solely for You. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.