Monday, 4 July 2011

Covetousness and the Promises of God

In Colossians 3:5 Paul describes covetousness as idolatory. It is idolatory because covetousness looks somewhere other than God for the contentment that only He can give.

This means that our covetousness stems from unbelief. The reason we covet is because we fail to believe the promises of God. When we desire deeply that new car, clothes or the latest gadget it is because we are looking to them for contentment instead of trusting in the promises of God, which alone brings contentment. We are refusing to believe that Jesus alone (in whom all of God's promises find their 'yes' - 2 Corinthians 1:20) can meet every need and satisfy every longing.

If covetousness flows from a refusal to believe the promises of God, this means that we cannot battle this sin by simply telling ourselves to "stop coveting". We cannot battle the compulsion to keep ordering books, CD's or DVD's through the internet by simply saying "that's the last one". We cannot put to death the enslaving desire to constantly be buying the latest clothes, even though our wardrobe is full, by saying "that's enough". If this is our strategy we will fail. We will either fall back into the same sin, or find ourselves exchanging it for a new sin. This is because our hearts long for contentment, and they will always be seeking somewhere for it.

Therefore, if we are to put the idol of coveoutness to death, we must do so by believing the promises of God. We must remind ourselves of the promises of God and preach them to ourselves. We must seek our contentment in the promises of God, which find their fulfillment in Jesus.

Here are two promises in particular that have reference to covetousness:
  • 1 Timothy 6:6 - "...there is great gain in godliness with contentment." God promises us that great gain is not found in a bulging bank account, a racy sports car, a bursting wardrobe or stacked shelves. No, great gain is found in godliness with contentment. If we truly believe this then we would be investing more time in growing in godliness and being content in Jesus alone, than browsing amazon or playing the stock markets.
  • Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us; and if we have Him, we have everything. He is the source of all things and the one who sustains all things (Hebrews 1:2-3). Therefore, if we have Him, how foolish is it to run after other things. If we truly believed this we would spend more time delighting in Him and praising Him for all that we have in Him (Ephesians 1:3), instead of spending all our time thinking about our bank accounts or trying to justify buying that new DVD box set.
Covetousness is idolatory. It looks somewhere other than God for the contentment that only God can give. Therefore, we start to run after all the things we don't have, claiming that we 'need' them. The only way we will smash this idol is by looking in the right place for contentment. It is only when we believe the promises of God that we will find ourselves moving from covetousness to true contentment.