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The Proper Use of Money

(Luke 16:1-13)

Lesson 9 -- first quarter 2001
January 28, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications

Am I covetous?

I suppose few of us would admit to covetousness. It sounds bad and it is bad. But I wonder how well we know the meaning and significance of covetousness. For example, we say, "I would like to have a car like she has," and believe we pass the covetousness test because we haven't sighed, "I would like to have her car." Playing with words like that do not get us off the covetousness hook.

Covetousness is not limited to simply desiring what belongs to another. The scope of covetousness can encompass as much as the self-indulgent desire for more or better. This does not mean that any desire for improvement is covetousness. Key concepts that help us understand covetousness are motivators like greed, selfishness, discontentment and wants (as opposed to needs).

I would like more RAM (memory) for this computer. It would make certain applications run faster, allowing me to do certain tasks in less time (five seconds instead of thirty, for instance). So what do you think -- does more RAM qualify as a need or an "otherwise" for me in this instance? Personally, I put it in the "otherwise" category, which means if more RAM becomes one of my desires, I am guilty of covetousness. I don't like the sound of that.

And neither do you.

Most of us resist such a narrow, practical understanding of covetousness. We aren't comfortable with it. We may even resent those who would dare define it so pointedly. We might even call them radical, impractical, reactionary, silly, hypersensitive, unrealistic, pseudo-spiritual, or unnaturally idealistic.

So what Biblical reasons can we give for a broader definition?

Then what do you do with the extra money!

OK. So I shouldn't spend those $40 on that additional RAM for this machine. And obviously I shouldn't use that money to treat myself and a couple of friends at that neat restaurant. And I probably shouldn't put it toward a set of high-powered off-road lights for my vehicle.

Suddenly I have $40 I don't know what to do with! Tragic, isn't it? Especially when Christian Aid Ministries could use it to send quite a few seeds to needy Christians overseas. Especially when it could subsidize Bible prices in Mexico where the daily wage for the average worker is around $5. Especially when it could buy the fuel for the deacon's monthly trip to the mission church in the next state. Especially when it would pay a certain poor family's overdue phone bill.

How amazing (and tragic, of course) that we have such a hard time knowing what to do with our extra money if we don't spend it on ourselves!

Is poverty the answer?

If poverty were the answer to covetousness, God would have said so clearly. Furthermore, if poverty eliminated covetousness, then the poor would not covet.

I challenge you to find the Biblical antidotes to covetousness. I'll get you going with several verses. "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness" (Psalm 119:36). "He coveteth greedily all the day long: but the righteous giveth and spareth not" (Proverbs 21:26). "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5).

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