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The Sin of Covetousness

(Luke 12:13-21)

Lesson 6 -- first quarter 1999
January 10, 1999

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

The rich man practiced good stewardship. His crop production increased significantly. He didn't let his gains go to waste out in the open. He made sure to plan for the future. He took care of himself and he took care of what he owned. The rich man was also a wise man.

Wrong?! Well, then, what ails the above assessment?

The rich man practiced ungodly stewardship. He failed to acknowledge God in his bumper crops. He did not use his gains for God and His Kingdom. He kept God out of his plans for the future. He cared mostly (only?) about his material well-being and took only selfish care of what he owned. The rich man was also a rich fool.

Right! Then how are we living?

Jesus warns us to beware of covetousness because "life consisteth not in the abundance of things." In other words, life's meaning and purpose are not defined, limited nor measured by having more than enough stuff. In fact, meaningful life isn't materially-oriented in any way at all. Because life is spiritual and eternal. To make temporal things the measure of fulfillment, security, contentment, peace, joy and life itself is to deny God. That is sin. Because the sum and fullness of man is to fear God and keep His commandments. Because God's Kingdom and righteousness come first. Thus, life is for God, not for stuff.

That makes good doctrine, theology and philosophy. But do we live any differently than did the rich fool? I suspect we just naturally cloak covetousness with stewardship. Perhaps even like this: "I'm earning more, so I'm able to put more away in my savings account and certificates of deposit." Or like this: "I have opted for comprehensive insurance coverage to protect my investment better." Or like this: "A newer, more sophisticated machine (computer, tractor, sewing machine, vehicle, kitchen device) makes stewardship sense in the long haul because it will allow me to save time, money and effort." And on and on.

Somehow we must get beyond the ungodly notion that God-pleasing stewardship amounts mostly (if not totally) to thrifty investment and conscientious care of the wood, hay and stubble we possess! Yes, God wants us to take care of what He has entrusted to us. But God also intends to burn it all up someday! "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11)? Indeed!!

Good stewardship, then, is making sure that we and what we have are to the glory of God. Good stewardship is seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Covetousness sees stuff for me. Stewardship sees stuff for God and for others. Covetousness clenches things in a selfish grip. Stewardship holds it all in an outstretched, open hand. Thus "covetous stewardship" is an oxymoron.

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