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Beware of Covetousness

Evidences of covetousness or greed are everywhere. Bank robberies, malversation of public funds, exploitation, gambling, bribery, sex scandals, etc. may be traceable to that insatiable desire for more of something we think we need in order to be satisfied. Don't you think that our mounting bills and piling garbage have something in common?

It was Mark Twain who defined civilization as “a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.” If our world today were suddenly destroyed by some holocaust, and a thousand years later archaeologists unearthed our civilization, what would they conclude? That we were materialistic and so possessed with things!

Jesus reiterates the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet” by warning Christians to “beware of covetousness.” There's danger of this worldly pollution invading the church and suffocating its spiritual life. Of individual members in such hot pursuit of speculative deals for instant money that they have little time or energy for building up “treasure in heaven.” Whether it be asking Jesus to settle an inheritance dispute or praying to Him to win a lotto jackpot, His message rings clear, “Beware of covetousness.” Jesus then tells a parable about the danger that lurks in a covetous heart.

God did not condemn the rich man for being rich, but for being a fool. The book Lessons from the Parables tells us that the man was a fool because of the important things he forgot. He forgot other people. The first and last thing he remembers is himself. Someone has noted that six times the pronoun “I” is used, and five times “my” is found in the text. Reminds us of Lucifer's five “l's” that transformed him into the devil. If the rich man did not have enough barns, there were places waiting to be filled – and these are, according to Ambrose, “the bosoms of the needy, the houses of the widows, the mouths of orphans and of infants.”

He forgot that a man is more than what he owns. It is a tragic fact that in this materialistic age, man is valued or respected according to what he possesses. Though the Bible teaches that we make a distinction between what a man has and what a man is, we ignore it until we are made painfully aware by the prospect of our own deaths. We are reminded that it is more important to be rich in good deeds than to be rich in goods.

He forgot what true happiness is. The rich fool thought having an easy life, eating, drinking, and merrymaking constitute happiness. He forgot that obesity, diabetes, and heart disease accompany such a lifestyle! King Solomon warns that happiness is not to be found in things. Money can buy a house, but not a home; a soft bed, but not sleep. Money can buy much, but not a sense of usefulness, a clear conscience, or contentment. Henry David Thoreau said, “That man is the richest whose pleasures are cheapest.”

He forgot God. This was the rich man's greatest mistake. He forgot to take God into account. His future plans all revolved around himself. When God finally required the rich man's life, he was found bankrupt in deeds. He forgot that deeds are the basis of God's judgment.

“Beware of covetousness.”

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