Saturday, May 29, 2010

Unsuspectedly Coveteous

Ephesians 5:5
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

This is one of those "not me" verses of Bible; the ones where we read them and think to ourselves "thank goodness that's not me".  We tend to gloss over those verses.  We know idolators and those practicing witchcraft and those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will find no entrance into Heaven and with assurance we confidently write off those tresspasses as sin we are in no danger of being convicted of.  Had I not been recently gripped by the writings of a fellow brother on Thanksgiving I would have probably let this verse go very quickly into my mind, process for a few moments, and back out of my thoughts and that would have been the end of it.  I'm not an idolater - I don't worship idols, bow to a Buddha, chant to figurines, etc.  I like to think I'm not immoral or impure and I regularly pray forgiveness over myself and protection over my thoughts and my mind.  I don't desire to take or possess what others have out from under them so I'm no Ebenezer Scrooge so I'm not coveteous.  I'm clear - next verse...

Definition from Strong's Concordance
greek word "pleonektes" = covetous - one eager to have more, to cling to a thing

In all honesty, what percentage of the American culture would NOT be defined by the above definition - eager to have more...clinging to things.  Every one of us would love to answer "not I". I certainly would.  "But being covetous is being evil and desiring to take from others..."  Not by the above definitions - not by the literal greek translations of the word.  "But I don't cling to anything!"  Really?  Give your car to the next person walking down the street.  Sell all of your televisions and unsubscribe to cable and use all of the money saved to help feed homeless people.  Writing this makes even myself cringe - and I know I have a long way to grow because I too am clinging.  

Covetousness is simply the non-stop never-ending desire for more and more and it is the culture of this country.  It is the epitome of the famous quote from multi-millionaire iron-magnate Rockefeller when asked how much money was enough?  "One dollar more".  It is you and I continually wishing for the latest, newest television, better computer, new appliance, replacement vehicle, better home, more clothes to replace the ones we don't wear.  It is the lurking unsuspecting desire to improve our quality of life, our station, our way of living, our material goods.   It's the job we want to replace the one we don't care for, it's the bigger home with the better lawn, it's the new couch or the new town.  It is the bill we've all been sold that we need to ever be seeking to improve ourselves, our standard of living, the quality of our homes.  We need to keep up with at least everyone else in the neighborhood, right?  It is rooted in discontentment.

We have reached the technological point in our society where something revolutionary is being invented every single day and due to the demands of successful marketing, it has to be projected to the consumer as something you simply cannot live without.  So we continue to fill our homes with with items we cannot live without, all the while ignoring a world that is dying without God.  What is truly alarming to me here is that the Bible makes no differentiation:  covetousness=idolatry.  When studying out the greek for the word idolatry, it is tied to covetousness and the worship of things above God, literally the worship of Mammon.  Our love of things is a worship just as our love of gods and idols of false religions is.  To Paul, and the New Testament believers, it was evident that these were one and the same.  "For this you know with certainty..."  Why don't we know this with certainty?  For me, I suspect it is because we are grown blind by our lack of thankfulness and contentment.

In writing to the Phillipians and their concern for him, Paul says:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 
Phillipians 4:11-13

Contentment is a foreign word to the American culture.  We are not a content people.  We do not know how, as Paul states above, to be content with whatever we have.  We are movers, we are shakers, we change the conditions, we change the circumstances.  We see a problem, we fix it.  We see an injustice, we correct it.  We are not patient.  We don't have time to be patient with so much to correct.  "God this need fixed.  God, did you hear us?  Fine, we'll take care of it!"  But until we learn to live in contentment, we will never be able to grasp thanksgiving.  Until we embrace these, we will always struggle with covetousness pulling at our hearts as we walk through this earth, ESPECIALLY since we live in the most materially affluent society in the history of this globe.  This is something that is critical for us as believers to grasp.  It is crucial or it will be a stumbling block to our growth.

I fully believe that if God so chooses, He can and will pour out tremendous blessing such that I cannot contain it upon me as stated in Malachi 3:10.  But the question is the condition and goals of my heart.  Does this immediately excite me because I begin to think of myself, or does it immediately excite me because I begin to think of the Kingdom.  Have I crucified myself (literally translated staked down my own flesh to the point of killing my desires) to the point that God's blessing upon me will generate His blessing towards others, or does He have to worry about what Mammon is going to do in my life?

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]
Hebrews 13:5 (Amplified)

Whether we have much or have little is of no consequence. The cure for covetousness is contentment and thanksgiving, and these are found very simply in the fact that we have Him and He is all we need.

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