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  • Randy Biggs

Enough is Never Enough! The Call to Resist Covetousness

As I prepare to share my thoughts concerning this month’s memory verse, I remember a statement I heard years ago. “How much money does a rich man need?” The answer is, “Just a little bit more.” Though this statement was intended as a joke, it is sad that it holds so much truth. The premise is that no matter how much wealth you attain, greed will see that your desire is never satisfied.

In our memory verse this month from Luke’s gospel, we find Jesus speaking to a large crowd. While addressing His audience, someone from the crowd shouts to Jesus. He says, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” In ancient times, the firstborn was guaranteed a double portion of the family inheritance. More than likely, this brother who addressed Jesus was not the firstborn and was asking for an equal share of the inheritance. Jesus answered him in a way that conveyed He (Jesus) was not there to arbitrate matters that did not directly pertain to His earthly work and ministry.

Then, in Luke 12:15, Jesus got to the heart of the matter: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus was warning this person, and all within earshot, that our lives are not to be about gathering wealth. Life is so much more than the “abundance of possessions.”

Nelson’s Bible Dictionary defines covetousness as “an intense desire to possess something (or someone) that belongs to another person.”[1] Covetousness springs from a greedy self-centeredness and arrogant disregard for God’s law. That is why Paul labels the sin of covetousness as idolatry in Colossians 3:5. Another example of covetousness is found in Matthew 26:14-15—Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

In 2004, my mother passed away and I was left with the task of being power of attorney over my father’s affairs. Prior to my mother’s passing, my parents had a trust drawn up listing each of their children’s inheritances. In preparation for the inevitable passing of my father, we decided to make sure all his affairs were in order. Unfortunately, to my surprise, the trust that was drawn up prior to my mother’s passing could not be found. So, my dad and I had to hire an attorney to draw up another will. To keep things simple, he named me alone as heir and trusted me to divide the inheritance equally. After my dad passed away in 2007, I made sure each of my older sisters received their fair share of our inheritance.

Money and possessions have a very strange and sometimes quite ugly effect on people. Families have even been destroyed because of greed. Thus, 1 Timothy 6:10 serves as a good reminder to us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” There has been some healing between me and my sisters, but there is some friction that remains.

Though you may never be involved in a dispute over an inheritance, there are many other forms of covetousness. As we take a second look at our memory verse (Luke 12:15), we see a small, three-letter word that covers a large area. “Take care, and be on your guard against ALL covetousness” (emphasis on all). Years ago, a phrase you would hear quite often was, “keeping up with the Joneses.” I haven’t heard that phrase in quite some time, but the phrase meant that whatever the Joneses had, you had to have—a new pool, a new car, a new boat, etc. It didn’t matter if you needed those items. What mattered was you and your family were not going to be outdone: a form of coveting. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a new car or boat. It is the motive of the heart behind the purchase God looks at. Is your motivation need or greed? Another path to covetousness is discontentment. To be discontent with God’s provisions for our lives in all circumstances can lead one to covetousness. Thus, we should consider the apostle Paul’s words from Philippians 4:11, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus finishes His admonishment concerning covetousness with a parable. We know it as the parable of the rich fool. The first point of the parable is that we should not devote our lives to the gathering and accumulation of wealth. In Matthew 16:26, Jesus asks the question, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

The second point of the parable is that we are not blessed by God to hoard our wealth for ourselves. “Thou Shalt not Covet.” It may be the 10th of the Ten Commandments but is of no lesser importance than the others. Covetousness can lead us to turn money into our god or use the money to buy things that become our god. Covetousness has led people into adultery. People have even lost their lives due to covetousness.

One more family story before I close with prayer. At one time, my mother had a refrigerator magnet that read, “One hundred years from now, no one will know what kind of house you lived in, what kind of car you drove, or how much money you made.” I don’t know what happened to that magnet, but I really liked it!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Please help each of us to be thankful for the blessings you have provided us and not be covetous of the blessings of others.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

[1] Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: New & Enhanced Edition, pg. 1429

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