Beware of Covetousness -- Trusting God in Hard Times

Beware of Covetousness

Human nature has not changed at all since Genesis. Greed is the excessive desire for wealth and possessions, and it has reduced good and fine people to ogres and villains. It was the 10th commandment, but not because it was the least important.

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:17, repeated in Deuteronomy 5:21)

In Joshua chapter 7, covetousness got the best of Achan. “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.” (Joshua 7:21)

Achan's greed caused the death of 36 Israelites, brought about his own execution, and, tragically, also caused the deaths of his entire family. Many years later, Solomon wrote in Proverbs, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners. He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house.” (1:19 and 15:27)

Trusting God in hard times means having confidence in God's promise to meet every need. This doesn't include ones greed. God feeds the birds, as Jesus taught, and therefore believers shouldn't worry about their daily needs. When God gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness, they were to collect only what they needed for their family for each day. When people got greedy and gathered too much, it bred worms and smelled terrible. (Exodus 16) God was trying to teach His people to learn to trust one day at a time.

Martin Luther, a German theologian, university professor and the Father of the Protestant Reformation, said, “It was with good reason that God commanded through Moses that the vineyard and harvest were not to be gleaned to the last grape or grain; but something to be left for the poor. For covetousness is never to be satisfied; the more it has, the more it wants. Such insatiable ones injure themselves, and transform God's blessings into evil.”

King Solomon wrote, “Whoever loves money will never have enough money; Whoever loves wealth will not be satisfied with it. This is also useless. The more wealth people have, the more friends they have to help spend it. So what do people really gain? They gain nothing except to look at their riches. Those who work hard sleep in peace; it is not important if they eat little or much. But rich people worry about their wealth and cannot sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12 New Century Version)

In hard times, it is good stewardship to plan more carefully, to not be wasteful, and to save with purpose, but not to greedily hoard, as if God has gone out of business. History is filled with wealthy people whose lives were cursed with ill health, or marital wreckage and family maliciousness. Almost invariably, the lives of lottery winners are utterly ruined by instant wealth. Studies have revealed people recklessly spending it all and ending up in debt, with friends and families embittered, others becoming drug addicts and even imprisoned.

Robert Burton, sixteenth-century English writer, philosopher and humorist said, “Covetous men are fools, miserable wretches, buzzards, madmen who live by themselves, in perpetual slavery, fear, suspicion, sorrow, discontent, with more of gall than honey in their enjoyments; who are rather possessed by their money than possessors of it.” Solomon wrote, “Even wise people are fools if they let money change their thinking.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7 NCV)

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, observed Moses trying to counsel countless people day after day in the wilderness. He wisely advised Moses to choose out of the tribes of Israel capable men to help him in supervision. “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus 18:21)

Even thousands of years ago, one of the most important qualifications for spiritual leadership was the absence of greed. In the New Testament epistles addressed to leadership, “not greedy for money” continues to be a critical prerequisite. (1 Timothy 3:3, 8, Titus 1:7) It is in 1 Timothy 6:10 where the often quoted (and misquoted) warning is found, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Many times it takes a crisis to get people to realize what and who is truly valuable. Most things can be replaced, but people can't be. It's good to be reminded, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Written by: Pete Miller