“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 (Hebrews 13:5).’”
Matthew and Maria Colonna-Emanuel had thought that an old rusty scrap of metal in their backyard was a portion of a utility box. It had been visible for years behind some trees. But when those trees were damaged they got a better view and decided to dig it up and were shocked by what they found – it was a safe with more than $52,000 in jewelry, diamonds, and cash were inside. (1) Besides the loot there was also a piece of paper inside a plastic bag with an address on it that they recognized as belonging to one of their neighbors. Matthew went over and asked if they had ever been robbed and they said they were. Matthew and Maria returned the valuables to their rightful owners who had long since figured on never seeing their goods again. Most people would have kept the spoils for themselves, after all, they found it on their own property. But Matthew explained, “It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.” How much better would this world be if we could all keep that thought in mind and if we could remain satisfied only with what was ours?
It was the greediness of desiring more that drove Ahab to crave a prime piece of real estate belonging to his next-door neighbor (1 Kings 21:1-14) for which a cruel conspiracy was hatched to wrest it away from Naboth. The same covetousness corrupted David’s heart and led him to destroy another man’s life and family. Having at least six wives already (2 Samuel 3:2-5) David cast longing eyes out his own back yard on his neighbor’s wife (2 Samuel 11:2-4) and took her for himself. When confronting David’s sin God reminded him of how much he had already been given and reasoned with the king, “If all this had been too little, I also would have given you much more (2 Samuel 12:8)!” The key principle being that God is the giver of all that we have (Acts 17:25, James 1:17) therefore if we believe we are truly lacking we are to approach Him and not to take what He has already given to our neighbors. In the ten commandments is this prohibition, “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 (Exodus 20:17).”
When considering these biblical examples, we may errantly believe that we aren’t vulnerable to such covetousness. The truth is that we all have appetites for more that must be controlled. Covetousness, desiring what belongs to others for ourselves, has been mankind’s peril from beginning. Adam and Eve were given EVERYTHING (Genesis 1:29) but the devil succeeded in directing Eve’s attention to the ONLY thing that God had prohibited (Genesis 3:1). Notice how her appetite for more was stirred when she fixed her eyes on that which was not hers and reasoned that it was good for food (couldn’t any of the hundreds of other foods satisfy her appetite?), that it was pleasant to look on, and could position her in God’s place (Genesis 3:6). It is giving in to this determination to fulfill the lust of the flesh, eyes, and our own pride of life (1 John 2:19) that demonstrates we are not satisfied with God’s provision. John Piper has written, “sin is what we do when we are not satisfied with God.” (2)
Jesus presented many teachings to demonstrate that our lives are merely stewardships in which we care for the things of God. Everything is His (Psalm 24:1, 50:10) and what we seem to have is merely temporarily given into our charge. In the parable of the talents these servants were called upon to give an account of their stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30). It was demanded of the unjust steward to submit to an audit of how he had managed his master’s goods (Luke 16:1-2). Likewise, the Lord wants each of us to know that whatever we have is ours only for a while (Acts 5:4) but in the end all that remains is whether or not we were fruitful with them towards God (Matthew 25:26-30). My car? My home? My job? My family? My very life? How differently would we live if we fully comprehended this truth – IT WASN’T OURS.
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:20).”
- John Piper, Future Grace, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO., 2012, p.1