Notes from a sermon preached on November 2, 2003
Paul W. Martin
Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon…”
If you try to do so, you will hate one and love the other. You will deride one and be devoted to the other. You will despise one and cling to the other. Your heart is a one-armed man that can only hold on to one thing at a time.
Our Error: We try to love both God and our “stuff” (that is what mammon means, both money and possessions…). That is like suggesting you can be a soldier in both the Iraqi and US armies at the same time! It is impossible. Allegiance to one excludes the other. And that is why covetousness is such a serious sin… it is a form of God-hating.
In other words, to be yearning for and striving for more stuff, more money, in order to find your happiness is actually despising God.
“Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.”
Essence of Coveting:
Feeling that if you could just get / buy ___________: you will be happy/content.
YOU CANNOT DELIGHT IN GOD IF YOU DELIGHT IN MONEY.
But, how do you know if you are coveting?
How can you protect against it?
How can you root it out of your heart and life!?
Suggest (3) principles:
1. You must KNOW and TRUST IN the true nature of God.
2. You must SEEK your CONTENTMENT in CHRIST alone.
3. You must ENJOY your PROSPERITY with an OPEN HAND.
I. You must Know and Trust in the True Nature of God
God is sovereign
Eph 1:11 “who works all things after the counsel of His will”
God owns everything
Psalm 50:10 “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
A. Whatever I have is a loan from Him – I don’t really “own” anything!
Job 1:20 “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 2: 3 “And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” 4 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. 5 But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” 6 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
B. Whatever I don’t have is according to His sovereign purposes.
Ecclesiastes 7:13 Consider the work of God:
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
14 In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
3. It is His nature to be generous to His people
Luke 12: 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
What I have or do not have is determined by Almighty God since it all belongs to Him anyway. PROV 10:22 “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich…” JESUS: “The poor you will always have with you…”
I am a steward, not an owner.
What He gives me is for my good and His glory – He will not shirk on me as it is His nature to be trusted for all things.
a healthy de-tachment from THINGS
2 Peter 2:10-13 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
II. Seek Your Contentment in Christ
Coveting creates worry, anxiety, striving, stress… looking for peace and security in stuff!
- don’t look for peace in your possessions
- don’t seek comfort in your stuff
- don’t search for life in your wealth
A. Asceticism is not the opposite of covetousness.
One error repeated many times in church history is the abandonment of all wealth in the name of Christ. The NUNNERY and MONKERY.
Ascetic: one who denies himself legitimate things in order to gain righteousness in God’s eyes
Colossians 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
the reason asceticism is not the opposite of covetousness, is because it has the same root
ïƒ self-fulfillment or independence from God
the ascetic does not really need God because he is finding life in NOT letting himself have certain things
the coveter does not really need God because he is finding life in things
TRANS: Not the answer!
B. Contentment is the opposite of covetousness
“to be content” - happiness with one's situation in life / to appease the desires of
contentment: a state of mind in which one's desires are met
1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. [in the ministry for the money] 6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
discontentment ïƒ desire, love, crave…
whatever this contentment is, it has nothing to do with the amount of money I have or do not have…
Philippians 4:10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
There is a secret to living with PLENTY AND ABUNDANCE
There is a secret to living with HUNGER AND NEED.
The SECRET does not involve getting MORE or LESS!!
What is the key to this? ïƒ 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
At one level then, contentment means finding life in Jesus and seeing all the wealth or lack thereof as mere circumstances in which to live finding life in Jesus.
there is no contentment in owning what we want since there is no end to our wants!
ïƒ it is never saying or believing, “If I only had __________ I would be happy.”
James 4:1-4 “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
C. Contentment is Being Satisfied With Your Rations
a soldier may not eat steak every night, but he can expect to get his due…
At the very least, we may expect that the Lord will provide His people with food and clothing:
1 Timothy 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Luke 12: 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
A Christian is right to expect from His God both food and clothing to come to the Christian as he diligently exercises the means appointed by God for these things… whether that be work, the gifts of the church or private prayer.
Note that there is no promise as to the amount of food or the quality of clothing!
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
ïƒ We can depend on Him to give what we need – our rations in due time!
I. Know and Trust True Nature of God
II. Seek Contentment in Christ Alone
III. Enjoy Your Prosperity With an Open Hand
Once our quota of food and clothing is received, we then move into the realm of overflow. It is here that the real test of contentment can begin.
A. Stuff Is Given to Be Enjoyed
The KEY: If we use mammon to find our joy – it is sin (and futility!)
If we joyfully use the mammon God provides – it is a means to delighting in Him.
A Brief Tour of Ecclesiastes:
1:1 - 2:26 - Enjoying good things in life (money, pleasure, food, sex, etc) is a gift of God and can lead to delight in God
Ecc 2:24 “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”
3:1 - 5:20 - If you do not understand and submit to the sovereignty of God in giving and taking away wealth, you will live a life of futility and frustration. (a “windchaser”)
Ecc 5:10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.
13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.
18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. 19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
6:1 - 8:15 - Stop comparing yourself to what God has sovereignly given others and worry about obeying God, enjoying what He gives you and remain willing to have Him take it ALL away at a moment’s notice.
Ecc 7:7 Go, eat your bread in joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
It is not a sin to enjoy the good things in life – it is sin to NOT enjoy them.
However, it is sin to find life in the good things – to seek our happiness in anything other than the Lord.
You can only truly enjoy things once you have learned to be satisfied in God alone.
Therefore, all things are to be received with thankfulness…
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
B. Delight in the Giver NOT the Gift
This means learning not to trust in your stuff to get you through or to find life. 1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy… Proverb 18:11 A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.
You cannot admire a beautiful diamond if clenched in your fist… This means learning to be willing to let go of whatever it is you already have. 1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.The third key is to be in the habit of giving until it hurts.
This means learning to delight in sharing everything you own – especially with those who do not have as much as you… Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
This means learning to give away what hurts – give to God that which costs you! Mark 12:41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
in the eyes of God, a gift of $4.00 in the basket may be of much more value than the wealthy person’s $800 since it represents 90% of the poor giver’s total net worth! The wealthy man only gave out of his excess…
2 Cor 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Samuel 24:23 All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “The Lord your God accept you.” 24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
The means learning to delight in true riches.
Romans 2:4 “…the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”
Ephesians 1:17 “…the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”
1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
2 Cor 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
This means learning to ponder the fact your wealth won’t do a thing for you in the Judgment – King Tut’s Rule! Mark 4:18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Revelation 3:14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Proverb 11:4 “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”
What you treasure the most in your heart is what you love the most.
If you treasure your money more than God – guess what you really love?
Money-loving, by its very nature, is God-despising.
WHAT TO DO:
I: Take a look at all that you own…
a) Tell Lord, “You are better / more valuable than ____________!”
b) Tell the Lord you are willing to part with it if it might
benefit someone in need
release me from some idolatry
bring Him glory in ways I do not yet understand
II: Joyfully eat and drink, Christian!
All things have been given to you by God to enjoy as a means to increasing your joy in Him.
An inability to freely and joyfully delight in God as you consume the things He has given you is a sign that you are not fully trusting in Him.
Yet, make it your one great aim to be a faithful steward!
III: Should the Lord ask, have your heart prepared to part with whatever!
On 7 May 1915 when the mighty Lusitania was sunk by one submarine torpedo… many died not from the blast, the ensuing fires, the rush to lifeboats or the lack of a life preserver… they died from their greed, as they rushed back below decks to their cabins to gather up jewels, monies and wealth and were swallowed alive by the frigid ocean.
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
“Life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions.”
“You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.