A Greedy Heart

Scripture: Exodus 20:17, 1 Kings 21:1-29, Hebrews 13:5
Date: 06/29/2013 
The tenth commandment forbids "coveting". You are not to have an illicit desire for someone else's possessions, position, or persons.
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Well happy Sabbath, friends. Again, I want to issue a special welcome to any visitors we may have here today. And if you have been coming lately, or if you're one of our regular members, you'll know that we're in the midst of a series where we have been talking about those laws of love - the Ten Commandments - and they're also laws of liberty. And there's really twelve parts to this presentation. We started with - I called it 'zero' because I didn't want it to confuse with another commandment - the introduction.

And then we've been going through the commandments. Today we're on the tenth commandment. We will conclude next Sabbath because it's really not fair for me to talk to you about the law and make this emphasis on the law without really talking about, 'now how do we obey? What does God expect? What's the relationship between the new and the old covenant?' And so how do we make these things practical in our lives? And so we'll dedicate our final presentation to that very important truth. But today we are dealing with the subject of the tenth commandment and I've entitled it 'a greedy heart' - it's the myth of more, you might say. How many of you have gone through the supermarket before, or it might be a department store of some sort and you've heard this scream and it's some toddler and their shopping cart is being pushed past the candy aisle or the toy section - sometimes they've been trailing along on the ground and they latch on to something they think they ought to have and you can hear the mother or The Father trying to get it out of their little fists and they won't let go and then they fall down on the floor and it looks like they're having a seizure and they thrash and they scream and they whine and the mother - grandmother - whoever is trying to find some dignified way to just leave them where they are and act like you really don't know them.

And the other shoppers are thinking all kinds of things about how the situation should be dealt with - remembering that there are video cameras in most of those stores. As we get older, we become more sophisticated in our tantrums. Children are uninhibited. They see something they want and if you don't understand it, they'll let you know 'I really wanted that and I won't be happy unless I get it.' And I know, with most of our kids, that sometimes we'd give in to those desires - not every time, but sometimes. Your kid says, 'oh really, if I had that matchbox car I would reach full bliss and eternal satisfaction - that state of well-being we all long for, called happiness.

If I just had that one thing.' And so you give in. You know, parents are loving - sometimes we indulge - and you buy it for them. How long does their happiness last? We don't always outgrow those emotions, we just cover them up a little better. A lot of us, in our hearts, are dissatisfied. Story of one such person in the Bible - you would think if you were king for a day you'd be happy, but sometimes even Kings aren't happy.

They don't have enough. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings, chapter 21 and we read there about a king by the name of ahab. Kings chapter 21, you start with the first verse, "and it came to pass after these things that naboth the jezreelite had a vineyard which was in jezreel, next to the palace of ahab king of samaria." - So adjacent to the palace, naboth, who was one of the citizens - he was - probably had a large family - an older gentleman - he had a field where he had a nice vineyard. Vineyards were the prize. That was the best thing, if you had a good vineyard.

And ahab, he looked over the wall and said, 'boy, naboth's a pretty good vinekeeper. Everything's so manicured and beautiful.' You know, people - just this week Karen and I went to a workers' meeting - had to drive through napa - some beautiful wine country. And while we don't drink wine, we do appreciate the manicured hills and the beautiful houses that they had there adjoining them and it's lovely to look upon. And so ahab's looking over his wall thinking, 'well, I might have a palace and I might have my own barns and vineyards, but I don't have that one. I'm just not going to be happy until I do have that one.

"So ahab spoke to naboth saying, "give me your vineyard that I might have it for a vegetable garden." - What a shame to pluck up vines that take forever to grow and put turnips in - "give me your vineyard that I might have it for a vegetable garden because it is near, next to my house;" - it'll be convenient - "and for it I will give you a vineyard better than it. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its worth in money." - What do you want? I need to have it. But there's a problem. According to the Jewish law, you're not to sell your family's inheritance from your tribe to a different tribe. "But naboth said to ahab, 'the Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!'" Well, who does he think he is? So ahab went to his house sullen" - he was depressed that means - "and displeased because of the word which naboth the jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, 'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.

' And he lay down on his bed and he turned away his face and wouldn't eat any food.'" - That's called a full-grown tantrum. Now, I know that was peculiar with him, but not other adults do that when they can't get what they want. So jezebel comes home. She's wondering 'why is your spirit so depressed? What's wrong with you?' 'I spoke to naboth the jezreelite, and said to him, 'give me your vineyard for money; or else I'll trade you. And he won't give it to me.

' Then she said to him, 'you now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I'll get you the vineyard.'' He had a tantrum and his little wifey was going to help him get what he wanted. Well, what that meant was she proclaimed a feast and hired two false witnesses to say that naboth was guilty of cursing God and cursing the government and on both fronts - by the way, that's what they did with Jesus, they said that he wasn't obeying the laws of God or the laws of caesar. And then they immediately took him out before they could have much of a trial - out of the city - and they stoned naboth. This innocent man doesn't know what's going on. It's kind of like the mafia - you don't give them what they want, they have ways of getting what they want.

And jezebel, that's how she operated. So now ahab is finally going to be happy. Jezebel comes home and says, 'I've got good news. Go take possession. The vineyard is yours.

You're going to get what you want. Now you'll be happy.' So ahab doesn't want to ask any questions about how she worked that out. He suspects there was foul play, but as long as he gets what he wants - so while he's walking around and surveying naboth's vineyard and thinking, 'I'll cut that down here and I'll put the vegetables here and I'll have the fountain...' Guess who shows up and spoils his party? His old nemesis, Elijah the prophet. And Elijah came down - he said as soon as ahab sees him he said, 'oh, have you found me my enemy?' He said, 'I'm your enemy because you sold yourself to work wickedness and you killed an innocent man and took his vineyard. And he says, 'now because you've done this' - well let me read it to you out of the Bible.

It says here that - "behold" - verse 21 - this is 1 Kings chapter 21, verse 21, "behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of jeroboam The Son of nebat, and like the house of baasha The Son of ahijah,'" - they were wiped out - they were totally eliminated - "'because of the provocation with which you have provoked me to anger, and made Israel sin.'" It says there was no one like ahab, verse 25, "...who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because jezebel his wife stirred him up." - Verse 27 - "so when ahab heard those words," - of Elijah - "he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning." Notice, the chapter begins by him thinking, 'I'll never be happy unless I get naboth's vineyard.' - He was coveting another man's field - and when he found out he couldn't have it he thought, 'I'm going to take it by hook or crook. I've got to have it.' When he finally got it, now he's happy. Is he happy? Now he's more unhappy.

He tears his clothes and goes about mourning. When you covet what you should not covet, should you ever get it, the Lord will not bless and you will not have happiness. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses. We are bombarded in our day and age with materialism - hypermaterialism. It's not like we're just sniffing it, we're mainlining materialism.

There is no time in the history of the world - never before has there been a culture that has had to ingest so much advertising that is designed - the brightest and the best and the most powerful minds in the world on madison avenue invest billions of dollars - approximately 500 billion dollars every year is spent on Marketing in North America - encouraging you to be dissatisfied with what you have or the brand that you have or how much you have, or who you have. And you only think happiness will come from getting more or something different. You're being told over and over and over again 'the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.' Psalms 119, verses 36 and 37, "incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in your way." We may not throw ourselves on the ground and have a tantrum but, in our own way, many have greedy hearts and we're not satisfied. Now, the tenth commandment - I'm assuming that you know what the tenth commandment is, but let me read it to you.

And you'll find it not only in Exodus 20, verse 17, you'll find it again in Deuteronomy 5, verse 21 and in various and sundry places in the new testament and other parts of the Bible. And we read Exodus 20:17 - these words that God spoke - "you shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's." Now some people - I think I shared with you in an earlier presentation during this series - some churches divide the ten commandments differently than the way we have been presenting them. They want to eliminate the commandment on idolatry. And I actually showed you a photograph in front of a local catholic church where it goes from commandment 1 to commandment 2 about don't - taking the name of the Lord in vain - leaves out the commandment about idolatry - commandment 3 is the Sabbath. You go, 'wait a minute.

Something's going to be wrong with the math here. You're going to be short.' Well, what they do is they take the covetousness commandment and they divide it in two - as though coveting your neighbor's wife and coveting his house is, you know, different. The commandment's just on not coveting. Proof for that is Deuteronomy 5:21, when Moses repeats the commandment on coveting here, he mixes it up. So you can't divide it and say it's really two commandments, because Moses viewed it as one commandment.

Notice Deuteronomy 5:21, "you shall not covet your neighbor's wife;" - what came first here? Wife. In the other one, what came first? House. And some have tried to make a case saying, 'well, that's because they treated their wives just like property.' No, it's not at all like that. It's talking about the other sacred relationships, as well as their possessions. By the way, this commandment about covetousness can be summed up in 'you are not to have an illicit desire for your neighbor's possessions, positions, or persons' - and the wife is a person, not a possession.

They understood that in the Bible, that's why it said, 'honor your father and your mother' - wasn't property. Some people have tried to say, 'well, we can do away with the Ten Commandments because they just were, you know, treating wives like property.' That's not what that meant. It can also be said, 'thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's husband.' It doesn't mean that he's property. So, 'do not covet your neighbor's wife, do not covet your neighbor's' - I'm in Deuteronomy 5:21 - 'your neighbor's house or his field.' - You see, it mentions field here. It doesn't mention field in Exodus 20 - 'his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey' - that means the car in his garage or his rototiller - 'or anything that is your neighbor's.

' Yeah, I know, how many of you have an ox and a donkey? You see, let's just make it relevant for us today. In the new testament Paul makes it clear it's one commandment - Romans 7:7, "what shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, 'you shall not covet.'" You notice, he states it as one comprehensive complete commandment there. You cannot divide it in two. I think we all know that the church is trying to get rid of the commandment about idolatry - were working some hanky panky on the Bible there - it's not - that's not appropriate to do it that way.

So this is the tenth commandment: 'do not covet anything that you're not supposed to be desiring.' It is probably the most unique of the Ten Commandments and I say that for several reasons. First of all, most of the commandments have to do with outward behavior or conduct. The last commandment points back toward the source of all sin. It's something on the inside. It's something going on here.

You can be covetous. You can be just a rank, covetous person and outwardly you can look like the finest Christian. Jesus talked about people who prayed long prayers and they went to church but they devoured widows' houses. They were covetous. But they were very religious - because it's looking on the desires of the heart.

It'll eventually play out in the life. Exodus 18:21 - when they were to pick Judges - "moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers..." That was the criteria that they were to hate covetousness. They had greed for what others had - if they had that in their hearts they'll be very susceptible to bribes and twisting judgment. So the Lord wants us to have honest hearts. This commandment is really kept in the heart.

James 1:14 - it really represents a summary of the whole law, because if you get the tenth commandment right you'll get the rest right. And every commandment you could break could start with covetousness. Before you take your neighbor's wife, it begins with coveting your neighbor's wife. Before you steal your neighbor's orbital buffer - I mean, won't you just pick something - you've got to covet it. And so covetousness happens in the heart first before it is played out.

You know, there's something happening underground before you ever see the fruit. There's a germination that happens below the surface that you don't see. And something often happens in the heart - before someone's murdered, they're usually thinking homicidal thoughts in their heart. And so covetousness is talking about having a heart that's right. Before naboth was murdered what happened? Ahab wanted what he had.

So it started with covetousness. James 1:14, "but each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires" - it's on the inside - "and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived," - it sprouts - "it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." Virtually every other violation of God's law can be traced back, in some way, to starting with covetous feelings in the heart. Now, as we define covetousness, I want to make it clear that it is not wrong to desire something or someone. You would be homeless and single right now - all of you - if you didn't, at some point, desire or covet something or someone.

It is not wrong to want a house, it is not wrong to want a field, it is not wrong to want an ox or a donkey or a car or a spouse. Matter of fact, it is right to want those things. God placed those desires in your heart. The Bible even tells us there are some things we are commanded to covet. So it's not that coveting is wrong.

Sometimes you take half a commandment and you get things all mixed up. The commandment says, 'do not make unto the a likeness of anything in the heaven above, or the earth beneath, or the water under the earth' and people stop right there. They say, 'don't have a photograph - it's a likeness of something. Don't have a painting of flowers on your wall - it's a likeness of something. Don't have -' and people have no art, they have no photographs of their kids because it's idolatry.

They don't read the rest of the commandment that says, 'and bow down to them.' Right? Same thing with the covet commandment. It doesn't just say 'don't covet anything.' It says, 'don't covet things that you have no right to desire.' You see what I'm saying? So, what is covetousness? Oh, by the way, I was going to give you a verse. Corinthians 12:31 - what can you covet? He says, "but covet earnestly" - we're commanded to covet earnestly - "the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excEllent way." If you're going to covet something, the best thing to covet - to long after - to crave - is the Spiritual gifts - the best gifts - the gift of love is what he mentions. What is covetousness? It is a forbidden desire, an envious eagerness to possess what is not lawfully obtainable; excessively and culpably desirous of the possessions of another; inappropriate or inordinate desire for the possessions, positions, or persons that belong to someone else. Sometimes we covet a person's position.

Sometimes we're covetous by comparison. If you look in Matthew 20, verse 1 - remember the parable where a certain man had servants working in his field? Matter of fact, we better go ahead - why don't we go there? Matthew chapter 20, verse 1 and - "for the Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius" - a penny - what we would call - that was a fair day's wage - "a day, he sent them into his vineyard...and he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the Marketplace, and said to them, 'you also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hours, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour" - only one more hour of work - "he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'why have you been standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'because no one hired us.

' He said to them, 'you also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'" - 'I'll be fair with you.' So they trust him and they go. - "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius." - Now you got the picture here? All these men have been out working in this large vineyard this landowner has - he's recruiting people - he's got to get the harvest in. The weather's going to turn bad. And some start in the beginning of the day and they're working all day long through the heat of the day and they see other workers are joining them - the labor force increases through the day - and even one hour left in the day some new people show up to work and they're not even sweaty or burnt and they go work one hour. Now, whistle blows, they call everyone together, they line them all up and they say, 'okay, let's start with the ones who came last and we'll pay them.

' And so they go, 'one penny, one penny, one penny.' Now the ones who are at the end of the line are saying, 'wow! Hey, wait 'til he gets to us. He gave them a penny. We should be getting more.' And he goes to the ones who worked half the day, 'one penny, one penny, one penny.' Then one who worked, you know, three-quarters of the day, 'one penny, one penny.' And they go, 'what's with this?' And finally, it gets to the ones who worked all day long, 'one penny, one penny.' And they're mad. Would you be mad? Only if you've got a covetous heart. Are you getting what you were supposed to get? Are you getting what you agreed to? If you thought that the landowner was unfair you should have said, 'I'm working somewhere else.

' Now you're going to go join a union and picket, right? He called them all "and when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner." They would have been happy if no one else had received anything, but why are they unhappy? Because someone who worked less seemed to get the same as them. They didn't get more, they got the same. 'It's not fair.

' We've all seen it. Take the kids out for ice cream for a birthday party and because you've got a big gaggle of kids you buy each of them a single scoop and they're all delighted, they're each having a great time until some mom comes in with her kid about the same age and he gets a triple scoop. And they see him walk out of the store with three scoops stacked one on top of the other and all they got is their one little half-eaten scoop of vanilla - they're not happy anymore. Why? We've got greedy hearts. A millionaire is happy with his millions until he finds out there's billionaires out there somewhere.

They're not happy anymore. So sometimes we lose our happiness by comparison. You know, one reason that we own a lot that we own is because we look around us - you might even do it subconsciously - all the time, we see what everyone else is driving, what everyone else is wearing, what kind of house they're all living in and we don't want to be labeled as behind the times or archaic. And so, we say, 'I probably ought to go shopping.' Matter of fact, every now and then, the woman in my life will say, 'doug, you've been wearing that suit for ten years.' And, you know, there's a time when you need to go, but if you're not looking around you don't realize it. What I do is, I'll be watching a program that's twelve years old and I think, 'I've still got that same suit and tie.

' But it still fits - praise the Lord! And so I'd rather have that problem than any other one. So, but we are constantly under pressure by the changing styles and the fads and the designs and we're thinking we've got to buy, buy, buy to keep up. Because, by comparison, we think we're fine until somebody drives up - our neighbor pulls into his yard with a brand-new shiny car and ours suddenly looks old and we're not happy anymore. So we go kick a dent in his car and we feel better, right? Colossians 3:5, "therefore, put to death your members which are on earth:" - and he's talking about these fleshly, selfish desires - "fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Have you ever thought that covetousness is idolatry? You'd never bow down to an idol, but some of us bow to the idols of fashion. Someone said, I think it was a pastor, hadden r.

w. Robinson, "covetousness is simply craving more of what you already have enough of." Covetousness is simply craving more of what you already have enough of. But we're not happy. I'm not done with my verse in Colossians 3, "...covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon The Sons of disobedience.

" It's - it represents an unconverted heart when we're constantly dissatisfied. It's not only coveting position and possessions, it's persons. I'm not happy with who I have. The grass is often greener on the other side of the fence. Have you read the story about David and bathsheba? I don't think I need to read the whole sordid tale right now, I think most of us, unfortunately, know it.

David - how many wives does he have? Ten - before bathsheba - and numberless concubines, I think. He's got a number of concubines as well. He's got about a dozen concubines at this time. He walks on the roof of his house one day while the army's off fighting and spies bathsheba - sees this beautiful lady - we don't know how much she was participating in all that happened. She may have known David walked that time of day.

There's not much record about how she reacted to all of this, but he inquires from his servants - he said, 'you know that house around the corner that's got the big courtyard with the bath in the back and - who is that woman?' They said, 'oh, that's bathsheba, the wife, David, wife of uriah - your mighty man - that's bathsheba, uriah's wife.' David starts to think, 'I might have a half dozen wives - or a dozen wives, but I don't think any of them look like her.' The Bible says his wives were beautiful. One of them was the mother of absalom - beautiful son - the other one was abigail, the Bible says she was beautiful. But this one was just suddenly looking a little more beautiful and so he just couldn't stop thinking about it. He thought, 'you know, something's been missing in my life and I bet this is it. And I think - God probably designed that I should walk on my roof at that very time of the day.

' I mean, who knows what kind of crazy rationalization he was thinking, but I've heard people rationalize covetousness a thousand different ways and whatever - he thought, you know, 'I won't do anything but I would like to just - she's probably lonely - just talk to her a little bit. I'm lonely, she's lonely. Let's just visit. Bring her to the house.' You know - and once you open the door like that it's usually not going to end well. They said, 'we'll just be friends.

' Have you heard that before? By the way, ladies, it's not just men coveting women, it's women being dissatisfied with their husbands too - wanting a better one. You're watching soap operas all day long and those, you know, dashing characters that they've got acting in hollywood with their make-up on and they're always trim and fit and polite and loving and sensitive and all these things that your husband's not. And you're thinking, 'you know, there's this other guy I see at work and he just seems so nice and he's willing to listen and...' Your husband burps and he's just got these problems and - nothing like the guys on television in the middle of the day. "And I think I'm never going to be happy until I get that other man.' The devil's got a lot of ways of framing that, but let me ask you, did David get bathsheba? Was he happy or did that end very badly? It went from adultery to murdering a friend to having four of his sons die, losing the respect of his people. Coveting what you should not want never brings satisfaction.

And, you know, this is a very relevant message in our day and age because there is a whole branch - it's much bigger than any one denomination - there is a whole branch of Christianity in North America that's called 'prosperity preaching' - 'the prosperity gospel'. Have you heard about that? Last night Karen and I turned on 3abn and there's other Christian channels and so we were scrolling between, you know, as you channel surf between 3abn and hope channel, Amazing Facts and some of the other channels, you also encounter some various evangelical channels along the way and I stopped at this one and I told Karen, I said, 'that's a prosperity preacher there.' Just - I hadn't even heard anything yet. And sure enough, before ten minutes went by, he said the word prosperity and talked about money about half a dozen times or more. And he was saying we don't need to obey the commandments of God because that's the old covenant. 'God wants to bless you not because of your obedience, he just wants to bless you because you believe in him and he's going to make you prosper.

' And, frankly, it was a doctrine of devils. But there's a whole cadre of pastors and even denominations out there that have bought into this idea that you follow Jesus, you take up a golden cross and you follow Jesus and he wants you to be healthy, wealthy and wise and if you're not healthy, wealthy, and wise, and if you're not blessed in every way, then you're doing something wrong. But is that what Jesus told us? It says in Luke 5:11 - Christ called them to follow him, "and when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed him." How can you Market a gospel like that in such a materialistic culture? Forsake everything and follow Jesus, when we're being programmed to be dissatisfied? And one more, Paul said, in 1 Timothy 6:9 and 10, "but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation" - what ends up happening if we nurture - if we feed this desire to be rich? You know, in the investment world, every now and then you hear about some ponzi scheme where all these dear people put their retirement into some fund - we all heard about madoff and others like him - there's a lot of them around - and they'll go around and meet with people and they'll talk about, 'look, if you invest with this new corporation that we've formed, we're going to give you double your money in two years. No interest - anything like that.' And they create this scenario and they sell it and they've got the paperwork and it sounds so authentic and they show these stories - they've got testimonials and these dear, sincere people, who know in their heart of hearts, 'boy, you know, you get rich that quick and something can't be right.' But their reason is smothered and suffocated by their greed and even good people have invested their life savings and their retirement in these schemes and then one day they find out - they say, 'look, I need to make a withdrawal.' And they don't hear any more from their investor and he skips town and you find out he skips town with all the money of all these other people that have lost everything. Or they go to jail - they're prosecuted - but they spent it all and the government says, 'we're so sorry.

There's nothing we can do. We're going to put them in jail but your money's gone.' And you know what usually was at the foundation of that? They wanted to get too much too fast and they "pierced themselves through with many sorrows." I had an investment advisor tell me one time - I said, 'oh, I heard about this investment over here and, boy, you can get, you know, twelve percent.' And she said, 'hogs get slaughtered.' Hogs get slaughtered. People that want to make too much too fast, it doesn't end well. And that's also true in the Christian realm. This idea that 'I'm going to come to Jesus because the preacher tells me if I accept Jesus and if I make this big donation, all of a sudden windows in heaven are going to open and I'm going to have all this prosperity and I 'm going to be driving' - and a lot of preachers have turned into positive thinking motivational speakers that tell people about how much you're going to get if you follow Jesus in the world.

If that's your reason for following Jesus then you signed up for the wrong group because you've got to follow Jesus because you love him and you want your sins forgiven and you want to be with him forever. God can bless people, don't misunderstand. But please get the percentages right. Here's the percentage: 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.' Can it be done? Yeah, is it the rule or the exception? Jesus said it's the exception. It is hard for a rich man to be saved.

Those are the words of Jesus. Take that up with him. That's not what these pastors are teaching people. They're teaching people that Jesus wants you all to be rich. Why would he say it's so hard for you to be saved if you're rich and tell everybody he wants them to be rich? That could be why the gospel is spreading the fastest in the poorest countries and it could be why, spiritually, we're so Lukewarm in the prosperous countries - where there's so much materialism it becomes a God.

Prosperity preaching. The children of Israel's crossing into the promised land was inhibited by covetousness. How many of you remember when Joshua crossed over and they conquered Jericho and he said, 'don't touch anything in Jericho, it's all consecrated to the Lord. You'll be cursed if you touch it. God'll bless you - you've got plenty.

Don't reach out for that forbidden cursed thing. But aiken, The Son of carmi, when he was with the soldiers and they were going from room to room in Jericho and conquering the city, he found this one house where he saw the wardrobe had just some beautiful, very expensive Babylonian clothes. He thought, 'what a shame to burn up that robe.' And he also found, in a drawer somewhere, there was some silver and a bar of gold. And he knew he wasn't supposed to do it, but, well, let me give it to you in his own words. Finally, when they cast lots and they found out what he had done, they had lost the battle with ai and about 32 people were killed because God could not bless them in their future battles because of aiken's covetousness.

Your covetousness will not only affect you, your covetousness will affect the army. So if you think whether or not your covetousness is just between you and God, it affects the battles the church wins, according to the Bible. All of Israel lost a battle because of the covetousness in one man's tent - which started in his heart. And, finally, aiken answered Joshua and said, 'indeed, I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel and this is what I've done: when I saw among the spoils of Jericho a beautiful Babylonian garment and 200 shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and I took them. There they are hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent with the silver under it.

' Covetousness can be fatal. What happened to aiken? He was stoned and then burned. What happened to his family? They all knew about dad's secret stash. They became accessories - they were stoned and they were killed too. Your covetousness will play itself out and your kids will typically prioritize the way you do.

If you give and you're generous, they'll often see you model that - they'll do that. If you're grasping and if you think every time you're depressed the answer is to go shopping, they'll think that too - that happiness comes, somehow, through materialism. And it perpetuates itself. We know the story of gehazi. You find this in 2 Kings chapter 5.

We all know about naaman, the leper who was healed, right? And after he's healed he's so thankful - he's cleansed from his leprosy in the Jordan river and he just wants to go back and he wants to bless the Lord. He said, 'oh, God's given me so much.' You know, he took millions of dollars' worth of gold and silver and clothes to pay for his prophet - the prophet healing him - and when he comes to Elisha and says, 'take a blessing. Thank you so much for healing me.' Elisha says, 'no, this is on the house.' 'Oh no, no, no, no!' Now gehazi, the servant of Elisha's standing there and he's thinking, 'are you out of your mind? This guy - look at all he's got! Look at what - we could have a better house. We could have a better chariot, we could have a better everything. We could have servants - if you'd just take half of what he's offering.

You're sending him away?' He doesn't say that, but he's thinking it in his heart. Elisha knew that you couldn't charge naaman because he's going back to syria - he wanted him to know that the gifts of God are free - that you don't pay for the healings that God and the miracles that God - did anyone ever pay Jesus for a miracle? And Elisha was a type of Christ. It was so important not to take naaman's money - and that he took that message back to his people. And after naaman rode away with all of his money, the Bible says gehazi said within his heart, 'I'm going after him.' And as he ran to head him off on the road, he formulated and concocted some story and he said, 'you know, right after you left some poor prophets came to visit us and they're sons of prophets and they have nothing and Elisha sent me he said, you know, 'if you do have a little bit of clothes and gold or silver we can give them, that'd be great.' Naaman said, 'sure!' - He's happy. He's got a life.

He was dying of leprosy. He says, 'I'll give whatever you want. Here, take two.' Which also shows that when you have salvation you're generous. You want to give. And so gehazi, he takes this stuff and I don't even know how he carried it all.

He slinks back to Elisha's house. He squirrels it away in barns somewhere and comes in to see Elisha and - can you hide anything from a prophet? And Elisha says, 'gehazi, where were you?' 'Oh, I wasn't anywhere.' 'Oh' - he said, - 'did not my heart go out after you when you followed after the man and he came down from his chariot to meet you?' He said, 'is it a time to get all of yards and vineyards and maidservants and manservants?' He - Elisha - began to recite exactly the things that gehazi was thinking he was going to buy with that money. He said, 'now, because you've done this thing, the leprosy of naaman will cling to you and your seed forever.' And he went out of Elisha's presence a leper white as snow. Did he still have the gold and silver? Yeah. Was he happy? No.

Didn't end well, did it? A man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses. What shall I more say? Isaiah 57:17, "for the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him;" what was balaam's problem? He was a religious leader - prophet - coveted. He was willing to curse God's people if you paid him right. And there are still pastors out there that will preach what people are itching to hear if they make an offering to his personal account. What about delilah? She had the strongest, best looking man in the world, but she was willing to sell him for silver, wasn't she? Because she coveted the money.

Hebrews 13, verse 5, "let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For he himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" You know, the essence of the message about covetousness is: be content. Unbiblical or, when I say 'unbiblical', coveting things that are forbidden is really dissatisfaction. And there are so many people that are not happy and they think that getting something or someone else is going to solve their problems. If they get that promotion - that position, those possessions, that person - everything's going to be better.

What brought sin into our world? The devil said to eve, 'oh, you're not as smart as you could be. You think everything's okay, but if you eat this fruit you would be much better off. You'll be like God.' He planted the seed of discontent in her heart and when she was discontent she then coveted the forbidden fruit. Isn't that what happened? 1 Timothy 6, verse 6, "now Godliness with contentment is great gain." That's a good verse for us to remember. "Godliness with contentment is great gain.

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." What did job say? 'Naked I came into this world, naked I'm going out.' "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content." If you have the basics then be satisfied because if you're not satisfied with the basics... Someone was asking - was it nelson rockefeller - very wealthy family the rockefeller family. How much money does it take for a person to be content? He said, 'a little more.' It's always a little more. People are never satisfied. Philippians 4:11, "not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.

" It's okay, you know, God's blessed you and you're content, great. If you don't have much and you learn to be content. "I know how to be full and how to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You know, I think that's the key right here is learning to be content. I heard this story one time - let's see if I can get it right - it wasn't in my notes so I'm - it's just coming back to me.

This wealthy businessman went down to Mexico to go on a fishing trip. He had saved up for a while and he brought some buddies and they went down to baja California and they went out and he was talking to the man he rented the fishing boat from - one of the local villagers - and he's taken off fishing and he said, 'you know, this boat's okay, but you can get a lot better boat, you know, if you'd go out more than once a day - you could take out more customers - you could double your income. You could get a bigger boat. Eventually, you could even have other people that were working for you - you could retire - they could go out and do the fishing and you could then get another boat and you could own the fleet of boats.' And he said, 'let me tell you about business principles so that you could grow this industry. Day after day you've been doing this' he said.

And the mexican fisherman said to him, he said, 'okay. That's very smart.' He said, 'let me ask you, what am I supposed to do when I have all that money and all these people working for me?' He said, 'you can do whatever you want.' He said, 'well, I'll probably take a little boat and go out with friends fishing.' He said, 'I'm doing what I want now.' Just a little more. Luke chapter 12, you know the parable of the rich fool. Luke 12:13, "then one from the crowd said, 'teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.'" Boy, you know, I've - families that have got along together for years - somebody dies and there's a dispute over a will or property and folks you never thought would be ugly can get very ugly. And you know what's at the heart of it? They'll say, 'it's the principle.

It's not the money, it's the principle.' Usually when people say that, it's the money. Not always, but usually. "'Tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But Jesus said, "man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?'" - He said, 'I didn't come into the world to help settle these financial disputes.' - And then he told them, 'take heed'" - these are the words of Jesus - "'and beware of covetousness'" - what does 'beware' mean? It's like he said, 'remember lot's wife.' He said, 'sit up. Pay attention. I'm waving a flag here.

Beware.' Because it's everywhere. "'For one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.' Then he spoke a parable to them, saying: 'the ground of a certain rich man'" - he's already rich - "'yielded plentifully.'" - And, you know a rich person - has a little more - he said, 'if I had a little more then I'd give more.' That's typically not true. You know, percentage-wise poor people give a higher percentage of their income than rich people do. The idea of 'lord, if you just bless me with riches I'll be more generous.' That, statistically, is not proven true. It seems like the more people have, the smaller the percent of what they give - with a few exceptions.

There are some very generous wealthy people out there, but by and large - this rich man had a great bumper crop "and he thought within himself saying, 'what shall I do since I have no room to store my crops?' - It never even occurred to him, 'maybe I should give half of it away since I don't have room.' No, he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him, 'fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.'" And being rich toward God here does not mean just making good offerings. Being rich toward God means giving your life to God - not spending your life just for yourself, but spending your life for God. Was he happy in the end? A lot of people come to the end of their lives and they've got lots of things and lots of stuff and if they don't have the Lord and if they've not been generous and sharing with others of their time and their means, they end up empty and unsatisfied. Wrapping it up here, Ephesians 5, verse 1, "therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting the saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man," - he mentions it twice there - "who is an idolater," - there it is with idolatry again. You make an idol out of your neighbor's house or his car or his spouse, it's a form of idolatry. - "Has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.

" Well, this is a tough commandment, you know, because I can probably sit on my hands all day long and say, 'I'm not working on the Sabbath, I'm keeping the Sabbath - I'm not working.' We'd be twitching - but how do you keep the commandment about covetousness? It's really a change of heart. It's really saying, 'lord, change my attitudes. Help me to be satisfied with Jesus and what he's done for us, amen. It boils down, in loving your neighbor, loving the Lord. Romans 13:8, "owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

For the commandments, 'you shall not commit adultery,' 'you shall not murder,' 'you shall not steal,' 'you shall not bear false witness,' 'you shall not covet'" - he ends with that and he says, "if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" When you realize how poisonous covetousness can be, we need to be on our guard all the time because it's really a change of attitude - mind of heart. Not being jealous for what someone else has and just asking the Lord to bless others, being thankful for what we have, praying God will give us satisfaction, asking God to help us be content and remembering that it was covetousness that put Jesus on the cross. Judas coveted silver and he was willing to sell the Savior. He coveted a higher position in the Kingdom. That whole spirit of not being satisfied - was he happy in the end or did he throw it all down? He went out and hung himself.

Satisfaction, happiness, will never come from these things. It's going to come from a love relationship with Jesus. Godliness with contentment is great gain. You believe that, friends? And would you like to, by God's grace, practice that in your lives?

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