Through the eye of a needle ...

Beware of Covetousness

Roger Hertzler        

Do you desire to own more a year from now than you do today?

Jesus commands in Luke 12:15, "Beware of covetousness."  What does He mean?

"Covetousness" has traditionally been interpreted to mean "a desire for something that belongs to somebody else."  Although that certainly is a dangerous desire, it is not exaclty what Jesus is warning us to beware.  Rather, the "covetousness" that Jesus is warning us against has simply the meaning of "a desire for more."

If this is true, then it is a serious warning to us who live in a country such as America.  Whereas the former definition of covetousness says, "Give me what is yours," the latter says, "You can keep what is yours, and I'll go get one of my own."  This latter form of covetousness can be gratified without breaking any laws or harming another person.  It is exactly what we are encouraged to do in our capitalistic society.

The true test for covetousness, therefore, is not the question, "Do I have a desire for something that belongs to someone else?" nor even "Do I have a desire to be rich?"  (Most Christians would answer "no" to both of these questions.)  The real question we should ask ourselves, rather, is "Do I have a desire to be richer than I am right now?"

Or, to put it another way, "Do I desire to own more possessions a year from now than what I do today?"

The opposite of covetousness is contentment.  Hebrews 13:5 tells us to be content "with such things as ye have."  1 Timothy 6:8 tells us to be content "with food and raiment."  Yet how many of us claim to be content with what we have, while at the same time we are struggling mightily to increase our level of wealth?

The twin commands of Jesus to "lay not up" (Matthew 6:19) and to "sell and give" (Luke 12:33) strike right at the heart of this deceptive sin of covetousness.  Whereas the first command forbids us to try to increase our possessions, the second one tells us we should actually make plans to own less in the future than what we do now.

And what if we choose to ignore these warnings?  Can we still consider ourselves to be part of the body of Christ?  Here is what the Scriptures say:

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not once be named among you (Eph. 5:3).

No whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5).

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:  for which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Col. 3:5-6).

I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater ... with such an one no not to eat (1 Cor. 5:11).

They that will be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faithy, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But thou, O man of God, flee these things (1 Tim. 6:9-11).


Excerpt from Through the Eye of a Needle by Roger Hertzler (2006) published by Scroll Publishing, Amberson, PA


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