A local newspaper arrived one early-December day full of sales flyers and a miniature toy catalog, and our then-five-year-old son went crazy looking at all the toys, many of which he never knew existed.
“Daddy, I need this one for Christmas,” he said. “And this one. And this one.”
And before I knew it, he needed pretty much every toy on the page. The next page was full of girls’ toys, so he didn’t need any of those, but then there were other pages.
We’re still relatively new at this parenting thing, my wife and I, as our eldest child is now only 10, but we already know teaching our children not to covet will be one of our hardest tasks. We know this mainly because at our ages we still struggle with coveting, and perhaps at times more so than our son. It doesn’t take long for our desires to become artificial “needs”.
The Apostle Paul in Hebrews 13:5 says, “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.”
“Well, if I had more money, I would be more content,” we may think. “After all, if I had money I wouldn’t need to covet, because I would just buy the things I want, and then I would be content.”
But it is unwise to think this way. Not only is that still covetousness, but it is also unrealistic in at least a couple of ways. For starters, a coveteous heart is never satisfied. So no amount of money or possessions will do.
Secondly, it is a misunderstanding of God’s character to think I am supposed to spend all of “my resources” on me. God certainly doesn’t allow rich people to be rich just so they can spend the money on themselves. If you hear socialist alarm bells ringing, keep reading.
This is what the Apostle Paul told his student Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
If rich people want God’s eternal rewards, they, too, must be careful not to covet the material things they might purchase with the money God has allowed them to have. Is all of that money really meant just for them? Probably not, according to what we read in that last Bible passage.
These days, we hear a lot about social class envy and about “spreading the wealth”. Poor people are often jealous of rich people and want them to share. Rich people may look down on poor people and think them lazy and irresponsible. In both cases, there may be misunderstandings of God’s will and purpose.
It’s never right to take what is not ours, and indeed, we need to be content with what we do have, because God owes us nothing. So no matter how poor we may be, we should never look directly to other people as being our source of material provision. We must trust God for that and be willing to work hard, both of which are honoring to Him.
Also, we need to be good stewards of whatever God has given us, whether we are rich or poor, so that we may earn eternal rewards. What good will a rich man’s money do him once he dies? A lot of good, actually, if he used it wisely while he was still alive. In other words, if God put it on the rich man’s heart to bless others materially, and if he obeyed that calling, the Bible says there will be rewards for that obedience.
Certainly, if a person trusts in his own wealth instead of trusting in God, there is now the problem of idolatry. Anything that gets in the way of our worship of God as our only source of life, provision and eternal salvation amounts to idolatry.
Rich or poor, we mustn’t covet what we don’t have, and we must be grateful for the good things we do have.
The really wonderful thing is that those eternal rewards for obeying God will far outshine the glitziest gadgets we can possess in this life.
Someone once said, “You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead of you.”
I’ll leave you with Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 2:9. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”