"I coveted them."
Joshua 7: 21
"Trap #2: I Coveted"
"The soul of the covetous is far removed from God, as far as (her) memory, understand and will are concerned. (She) forgets God as though He was not (her) God, owing to the fact that (she) has fashioned for (herself) a god of Mammon and of temporal possessions."
John of the Cross
Have I ever coveted something or someone and found myself so consumed by my desire for _______ that I could not even focus on my relationship with God?
"Covetousness is a self-destructive passion, a craving which is never satisfied, even when what has been craved is now possessed."
"Take heed, and beware of covetousness."
Luke 12: 15
King James Version
His name was Hugh Latimer. He was born into a family of farmers in Thurcaston, Leicestershire. After studying at Cambridge he became a clergyman and in 1535 was appointed Bishop of Worcester.
During the reign of Edward VI, this bold and brave man of God, preaching before the royal ruler, proclaimed:
"Take heed and beware of covetousness
Take heed and beware of covetousness
Take heed and beware of covetousness
What if I should say nothing else for three or four hours?"
While King Edward VI accepted his words of warning, when Edward's sister Queen Mary I came to the throne, Bishop Latimer was imprisoned and finally burned at the stake. History tells us he was executed by the side of Nicholas Ridley and was heard to say:
"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley… we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
Today, if you were to go to Cambridge at Clare College, the Latimer room is named after this candle-lighting man of God.
As I reflected on the life of one so fearless and undaunting, I smiled to think that today, nearly 500 years later, God's daughters around the world, in a special place we call Transformation Garden, are keeping the candle lit, too, as we study a message so boldly presented by Hugh Latimer to the King of England.
Latimer's words, first spoken by Jesus, didn't just carry a message to Jesus' listeners or to King Edward VI. These words are blown through the trumpet of truth down through the ages, to us today. For as we live in one of the most greedy times in history – Jesus' call to, beware of covetousness, couldn't be more relevant.
Since Jesus' words are so critical today, I think it wise to look at the context in which He made this timeless declaration.
People had gathered to listen to Jesus speak. In Luke 12, we find that Jesus began His teaching with this warning: "Be on your guard against the leaven (ferment) of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
In other words, Jesus told the people, "Beware of phonies." I want to underscore the fact that this chapter is all about contentment and greed. Evidently, the fine living Pharisees and their gospel of prosperity, which said that if you were rich it was because you were favored of God and if you were poor you were under the damnation of God, was rejected as a phony and false gospel by Jesus. Jesus told those who had come to Him for the truth to, watch out for ministers who said God one way, while they lived their own lives a different way.
This isn't all! Jesus said what some people hide in their lives will eventually be revealed. Hypocrites have a way of showing their true colors. Time has a way of revealing truth.
But there's more! Jesus goes on to say in Luke 12: 6, the most gentle, compassionate and kind words, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And yet not one of them is forgotten or uncared for in the presence of God,"(Amplified Bible). Jesus assured the people that He knew the number of the hairs on their heads and He promised that if we declare Him to others, He declares we are His! WOW!
Let's get this straight! Jesus, in His teaching, warned against puffed-up phonies that dazzled with their flashy message. Then He reminded everyone that even a poor little common sparrow received the tender care of our Father in heaven.
Following this heart-warming message, Luke 12: 13-15 (Amplified Bible) says, "someone from the crowd said to Him, 'Master, order my brother to divide the inheritance and share it with me.' But He told him, 'Man, who has appointed Me a judge or umpire and divider over you?' And He said to them, "Guard yourselves and keep free from all covetousness, the immoderate desire for wealth, the greedy longing to have more; for a (woman's) life does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above (her) needs."
After pointing out that God even watches sparrows, someone in the audience wanted Jesus to settle a family dispute over their inheritance and in essence Jesus said, "Don't ask Me to be a family referee. You missed the point completely. You shouldn't be worrying about anything because I'll take care of what you absolutely need."
This is where covetousness rears its ugly head. As Carrie Jacobs-Bond so aptly penned: "No one has the right to hoard things which (she) cannot use." And Jesus understood that as Isidore wrote: "The desire for possessions (or I might add, certain people) is dangerous and terrible, knowing no satiety, it drives the soul which it controls to the heights of evil." Jesus' words, "Beware of covetousness," or as the Greek translation so clearly states, "Isolate yourself, be on guard and avoid" covetousness is portrayed so glaringly in the life of Achan. Covetousness creeps upon us unexpectedly and before we know it, our hearts and souls are bound by chains which are difficult to break. Achan saw and coveted. His eyes fell on something he didn't need; that wasn't his; but he wanted it. He coveted it. He couldn't get the longing for it out of his mind.
The wealthy Samuel Johnson, being shown around a castle and its grounds, made the statement; "These are things that make it difficult to die."
May you and I never find ourselves so covetous of possessions or people that are not ours, that we allow our fixation to attach us to what we possess rather than the God we adore. In the words of one of my favorite preachers, Charles Spurgeon, "If you have anything that you prize very highly, hold it very loosely, for you may easily lose it."
Unlike Achan who said, "I coveted," may we follow Jesus' words and be on guard against covetousness, the unsatisfied longing for more. Especially, when we all have a Father, who has promised to meet every need in our lives!
"It is easier to renounce worldly possessions than it is to renounce the love of them."
"O God, make us more thankful for what we have received, more content with what we have, and more mindful of other people in need: we ask it for his sake who lived for us in poverty, Jesus Christ our Lord."
Simon H. Baynes
"He that is down needs fear no fall,
He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave;
Because thou savest such."