“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
Materialism is the dependence upon and stockpiling of stuff. Consumerism (materialism) has powerful sway of us. We remain ignorant of the warning Jesus gives in Luke 12.15. Materialism is a problem in the human heart. It is not so much the stuff around us as it is the stuff within us.
Coveting is desire stuff too much or desiring too much stuff. Stuff can be a tremendous resource for God’s purposes. However, covetousness is a form of idol worship (Eph 5.5; Col 3.5; Lk 16.13). It’s not that we have stuff; it’s that our stuff has us. The availability of stuff ignites covetousness. We must battle this at the level of our desires.
God’s remedy for sin stands before us in the Person of Jesus Christ. Covetousness is powerful but no match for a benevolent Savior.
“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So 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.” (Luke 12:16–21)
The rich man, inspired by he own genius, comforts his soul. But the only audit that truly matters is God’s. His new name in eternity is fool. He is completely impoverished. Every object you see is confined to this world. You cannot take it with you.
Four Chains Binding Us to Stuff
- My stuff makes me happy (Lk 12.19). But stuff stokes desire and doesn’t satisfy. Discontentment forges chains which binds us. Purchasing becomes a very elusive pursuit to happiness.
- My stuff makes me important (the ‘I wills’ in Lk 12.16-21). Pride and covetousness are intertwined. This is inevitable and destructive. We obtain our desire and then feel superior. Our purchase is a sacrifice of worship we offer to ourselves.
- My stuff makes me secure (Lk 12.16). The prosperity in our lives is a test of trust. 95% of believers who face the test of persecution pass it; 95% of believers who face the test of prosperity fail it. Prosperity moves us away from depending upon God. It fosters false security. But where we fail, Jesus succeeds. When we are tested, we can go to our Savior.
- My stuff makes me rich (Lk 12.16). But you can measure wealth by what fits in your barns. We accumulate more than we need to become blind and bloated by our prosperity. Don’t make decisions that protect yourself or keep the best for you. The stuff we own can soon own us. We are not rich but impoverished.
A man finally gets what he wants only for it to become the source of his destruction. Don’t allow covetousness to chain your heart to that which is passing away. The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist the seductiveness of riches found in this fallen world. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
Jesus is the King of the Kingdom. We must hunger for God more than stuff. The Gospel is the key to seeking that which never passes away. How do we cherish Gospel freedom by being on guard against the bondage of covetousness?
We must post a guard of gracious resolve:
- Consider the true riches you possess in Christ (2 Cor 12.9).
- Confess covetousness and repent (1 Jn 1.9; James 5.16).
- Express specific gratitude (1 Thess 5.16, 18). Gratitude subverts greed. It is not a feeling or based upon circumstances; it is a recognition of our dependence upon God. God is always good and right in His dealings with us.
- De-materialize your life (1 Tim 6.18-19). It is painful. Take stock of your real needs and give away the stuff you don’t need. Grace doesn’t make things easy, but it does make hard things easy.
- Give generously (Lk 16.10).
- Guard and guide your children. Dig covetousness out when it appears in your children. Don’t accommodate children to bring peace. Defend children when it comes to branding and advertising. Teach children to share. “Let Johnny have it first and enjoy the act of sharing.”
Is your happiness so closely tied up with what you own? Is Jesus Christ enough? Perhaps he will put you in a place where you have nothing and no one and find out that He indeed is. Jesus is not merely enough; He is abundantly more than we could ask for and think of. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:3–4)