Beware of the costs of coveting

I often have the radio on when I’m driving. My listening typically ranges from passive to not at all, but every now and then something either said or sung slips through and gets my attention. Some time ago, a line from Sarah McLachlan’s “World on Fire” did just that. The lyric said “The more you take the less you become.” The words impacted me and reminded me of the dangers of covetousness.

The potential for discontent, jealousy and consequent covetousness can be very powerful. For example, billionaire Ted Turner, (founder of TBS and CNN), commenting on this topic said, “It is all relative. I say I’ve only got 10 billion and Bill Gates has 100 billion; I feel like I’m a complete failure in life….”

It may interest you to know that the Bible has more to say about possessions, money and covetousness, than heaven and hell combined! Jesus’ summary statement on the matter tells us why. He said, in His clear and profound way, “Your heart will always be where your treasure is” (Mathew 6:21). In other words what you covet and hold has a very strong propensity to hold and control you.

Jesus included covetousness right in the middle of other destructive inward tendencies that defile us. He taught, “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, covetousness, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God” (Mark 7:20 – 23).

Later the apostle Paul taught that there should not be even a hint of covetousness in a true believer and that it should be considered foreign to the Christian life (Ephesians 5:3).

Even the world of nature indicates that coveting can have serious repercussions. A gardener laid granules of poison around a hill of stinging ants. Later he checked to see if his plan was working. Hundreds of ants, mistaking the poison for food, were carrying the granules into their hill and distributing it throughout the colony. However, to his surprise, some of the poison was moving in the opposite direction; away from the hill! Some smaller, non-stinging ants had also found the poison. Having coveted what they considered to be someone else’s, they began stealing it from their neighbors. Thinking they were getting the other ants’ food, they unwittingly poisoned themselves.

“Charity gives itself rich; covetousness hoards itself poor” – German Proverb

— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church