Lucia's Blog: GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT VS THE PERILS OF COVETOUSNESS
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, April 28, 2017

GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT VS THE PERILS OF COVETOUSNESS


"But godliness with contentment is great gain: for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out; but having food and covering we shall be therewith content."
I Timothy 6:6-8


Discontent toward evil is good, but discontent toward the good things or blessings that God provides for us is evil, the evil of covetousness. Let us consider the true value of godliness that leads us to contentment.

I recently accompanied my husband to a Gospel meeting in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. While I was there, I noticed their poor physical circumstances and how humbly they lived.  They were content regardless of their circumstances.  They were content in their need.  I couldn't help but stop for a moment and reflect on how blessed we are to live in a nation with such abundance. Even so, we still lack true contentment.  We always want more and more.  In our desire for more, we fail to appreciate what we already have and the abundance of God's blessings toward us.  Many of these brethren barely have enough to survive but are happy with what God provides. They do not complain because they are content. They want to please the Lord and do what is right before Him. I asked them if they ever thought of crossing the border as illegals given their humble means.  To my surprise, they said they were not interested in coming as illegals, breaking the laws of our country, much less those of God because they were content with their circumstances. I greatly admire their faith and simplicity of heart, their great desire to please God even while in need. That is why I am compelled to write about it.  For me, this has been a tough lesson to learn, and it is one that each Christian must learn.  It reminds me of what Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13:  
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Paul was talking about his needs.  You see Paul had learned what many Christians have not yet learned: how to be content.  He could be content when he was hungry or full, abounding or in need physically.  Indeed, it is possible for every Christian.  But how can one learn to be content? Philippians 4:13 gives us the answer:  "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Paul acknowledges this truth and so must we if we are to be content with what our Lord wants us to have. Paul knew who was in control: God.  Our Lord Jesus is the One who strengthens us, making it possible for us to do what we must do as His servants.  Paul knew well that true joy, contentment, and strength can only be found in Christ.  He likewise acknowledged that joy and strength would motivate him to rise above his circumstances (sufferings, struggles, and the many uncertainties of our physical life).  Paul understood well that true contentment is found only in Christ and in our steadfast devotion or dedication (faithfulness) to God rather than in our earthly possessions.  God can strengthen us through His Word.  His Word is able to build us up, thus making us strong and secure.  Paul learned that what matters the most is living a faithful life and standing fast in the Lord.  It is indeed what brings joy and contentment in our life.  
"And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."  (Acts 20:32).

I.   THE POWER OF CONTENTMENT:

Can we learn to be content?  What is the secret to being content in life?

When the apostle Paul wrote his letter to Timothy (I Timothy 6:6), there were many Christians who used their faith as a means of financial success.  These Christians viewed godliness as a way of acquiring wealth.  Those who controlled the functioning of the temples (Judaism and idolatry) were wealthy people.  Timothy's ministry was in no way a ministry for obtaining wealth.  Instead, Paul urged Timothy to focus on godliness combined with contentment.  Indeed, both are complex subjects. One focuses on our attitude of heart toward God while the other focuses more toward our situation and circumstances.  Being a godly person is an involved commitment.  Being content is a choice we make. Contentment is an attitude that we must embrace in our hearts. Rage, anger, frustration, jealousy, envy and such are things we have to battle within our hearts. They rob us of our happiness, fulfillment and, most of all, contentment. 

Our culture focuses on externals as the primary source of happiness.  It values material possessions as a source of happiness. We think that a new house, a better car, a bigger flat screen television, a larger salary, a perfect body, more recognition.... are things that will bring us happiness.  But these are just superficial things.  And often, this leads us into the temptation of covetousness instead of trusting God with our humble circumstances.  True contentment and real happiness are not found in things.  True happiness is inseparable from contentment.  It starts with a mindset.  Contentment does not depend on our externals. Contentment produces inner peace.  A faithful Christian learns to always be happy because He is a child of God and is saved through Christ.  He knows that God is walking with him each step of his life.  He knows well that no matter what life throws at him, he has an eternal home awaiting him in heaven.  And no external thing or circumstance can take that away from him!  So he recognizes the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, (Phil. 4:7).  You see, contentment produces peace which opens the gate to true happiness. 

Contentment is an ironic concept in our culture.  Everyone is seeking for that one thing that would make them happy or content.  They think that a better job, a better family, a better home, a better car, a better entertainment plan, a better relationship, a perfect physical body, a better income and such things would make them happy.  And though not many want to appear to be greedy, how many of us want more than we already have?  In 1 Timothy 6:10 we read that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  The desire for more is a blade of destruction in our life.

Television, movies, commercials.... are full of empty and deceiving promises.  All of these sources and other cultural messages feed our weak, tender point of temptation–that of discontent. If only we had a better car, a bigger house, a better marriage partner, more godly children, a more exciting life, more love, someone who will love us better than those we have in our lives…. then we would be happier.

We must choose to see the goodness of God, to think beyond this life to eternity.   It is then that we will be able to learn contentment. Contentment is a matter of the heart. We must learn to hope only in God, to ask Him to teach our hearts to be content, to want to trust Him and to be grateful, and mostly to learn to be satisfied with what He provides for us. The danger in discontent is covetousness, coveting what we do not have. With this attitude in our hearts, we will never be at peace. We must learn this in matters of marriage, family, the church and the many possessions we have.

The Lord commands us to be content with what we have.  
"Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?'"  
God will never command what we cannot achieve.  But His commands require effort.  Being discontent is a sin and rebellion against God.  Having a strong desire for earthly things is greed (covetousness) which amounts to idolatry.  "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry."  (Col. 3:5). Discontentment reflects a lack of faith in God.  God has promised to provide for our needs, (Luke 12:22-32).  He owns and controls all, (Psalm 24, 50).  He can give to whom He chooses.  Jesus demands His followers to seek Him first and His righteousness and to trust in Him to provide for us. Our faith is tested according to our attitude of heart toward our circumstances, (James 1).  God is well aware of our circumstances and our needs, and He chooses when to change them.  We need to have the faith of Joseph when he said, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."  (Gen. 50:20). Indeed, our faith will be our primary motivator to trust in God's providential care in our lives, (Romans 8:28).  He will never forsake us because He has promised and we must believe in His promises.

Godliness is only achieved when one is content, (1 Tim. 6:6-11).  It is not dependent upon abundance.  Contentment does not arise from circumstances but rather from within the heart.  It is a learned attitude and behavior.  When the apostle Paul states that he had learned to be content, it was a process. "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:11-13). Contentment is like a muscle–the more you put it into practice, the stronger it gets. It is an attitude inside our hearts that whispers in our ears saying, "God, I want to learn to be content, so today, I am going to seek to be grateful to You, for what You have provided and for the eternal life I will share with You, where joys beyond my imagination will be real, will be fulfilled and will be provided by You, because You love me."  We need to choose to understand this contentment with humility and joy whatever our circumstances. This is of significant gain in our walk with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is this contentment, this character of heart in us, that will help us battle whatever our circumstances are and ultimately give us victory!

Therefore, discontent is an attitude and attitudes are not controlled by our circumstances.  Attitudes such as envy, jealousy, pride, etc. foster discontent.  Contentment trusts in God's love rather than in things. Discontent bears no good fruit and won't make life's rough patches any smoother, lighten our burdens, make our bitter cup any sweeter, dark place any lighter, sore sorrows or life's thorns any less painful.  Riches bring neither peace nor security.  Even the strongest economies collapse.  But God is reliable all the time.  Those who trust in God have both peace and security.  Earthly things and possessions are only temporary.  We came into this world naked and will leave this earth the same way.  Unfortunately, our culture does not want to wait for anything, not even marriage.  In our impatience, we rack up enormous credit card debt because we don't want to wait.  We want more and more.  It is a desire that is addictive and destructive, and we must flee from it!  (2 Tim. 2:22). Instead, we must pursue righteousness, seek eternal life with God.

If our minds and hearts are set on those things that are lovely, pure and excellent, our hearts will be attracted to those things as well.  But when our minds treasure those things that are not pure or lovely, our hearts will be drawn to sinful things.  What we set our minds on will affect the direction of our lives.  Our thoughts will either lead us to Jesus or away from Him.  So, we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  Contentment is being satisfied in Christ.  Christ is our portion. Nothing in life will satisfy us like Christ.  We are whole in Christ.  We learn contentment because we have Christ and because God sustains us and gets us through our circumstances.  But contentment cannot be learned if we don't set our minds and hearts on the lovely, commendable and praiseworthy things of Christ our Lord.  When our eyes are on Christ, then we are satisfied and content.  I can live a humble, self-denying, self-sacrificing life because my mind and heart are set on lovely and pure things, Christ's things.  It is God's strength supplied to us through Christ that helps us to be content whatever our circumstances.  God has given us all that pertains to salvation and life in Him.  (2 Peter 1:3).  Thus, our minds must be set on the glory of Christ to learn contentment.  We must stop pursuing joy and contentment in the worldly and sinful things of this world!


THE PERILS OF COVETOUSNESS

Covetousness is like cancer growing rapidly in us and almost killing us without our even knowing it. It is condemned in both the Old Testament and New Testament.  "Thou shalt not covet... "  (Exodus 20:17).  "Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."  (I Cor. 6:10).  This has been a common sin since the beginning of time.  Yet few are willing to recognize it and are immune to warnings about it.  Many have a misconception of what this sin is all about.  If you were to ask someone what covetousness is, they would probably say, "To covet is to want something that belongs to someone else."  However, such a definition is inadequate.  It is crucial for us to grasp the right meaning of covetousness since it is a sly and cunning evil that slips up on us and captivates us before we know it.  That is why the Lord warns us to "take heed and beware of covetousness."  In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 we are told "to have no company with fornicators; 10 not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world: 11 but as it is, I wrote unto you not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no, not to eat."  Therefore, we must examine it and accept what this sin can do to us.

So what is the exact definition of covetousness?

The word "covetousness" comes from the Greek word which means "greediness," the desire to want more.  It is an insatiable love or craving for any number of things.  It will not be satisfied with what one already has, regardless of how much that may be.  Covetousness is selfishness personified.

Paul regards covetousness or greed as idolatry in Colossians 3:5.  Anything or any person that is exalted above God is idolatry since it is the chief principle of our devotion and affections.  It becomes a god to worship. It is a substitution for God when He alone must be the One to take first place in our hearts and minds.  It is important for us to grasp that covetousness does not always involve money or material possessions.  It is also any kind of false or unlawful desire for gain, control, power, position, and recognition.  In covetousness our desires go beyond what is normal, becoming excessive desires.  It is the laying up of money and things.  It is the love of money and the things that money can buy, and the Bible condemns it!

In 1 Timothy 6:9-10 we read, 
"But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
One who covets money, things, pleasure, ambition and power is all wrapped up in himself.  He makes such things little gods which he places above the true God. He replaces Him with a little false god.


I.   BIBLE EXAMPLES OF COVETOUSNESS:
  • In the Garden of Eden:
God provided Adam and Eve with everything they needed abundantly.  It was literally the most beautiful and extraordinary paradise in all of  God's creation.  God warned them not to eat of the forbidden fruit.  But Eve was enticed to eat of the forbidden fruit.  She wanted it at any cost!  She thought it would make her wise as God.  Her biggest problem was not being satisfied with what God had bountifully given her.  She wanted more and more.  She wanted more than she had or needed. She was not content with God's abundant blessings, so she coveted what was forbidden.
  • King Saul:
He looked upon the spoils of the Amalekites and said, "I want that."  Even though God had explicitly ordered him not to take any of the spoils.  "But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.  Samuel Rebukes Saul 10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 'I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.'"  (1 Samuel 15:9-11). You see, Saul was ordered to "kill and destroy" the Amalekites.  But he didn't because he saw the great plunder (booty) and could not resist coveting it for it would give him more than he already had. The amazing thing is that he was already a rich man and had everything he needed!  As a terrible consequence of his disobedience and covetousness, he paid a great price.
  • Judas Iscariot:
He is another one who turned against Jesus because of his greed.  He was disappointed perhaps because he was expecting a material kingdom.  The Jews turned against Jesus because they were waiting for an earthly kingdom to be established.  Judas betrayed his leader, Jesus, for thirty pieces of silver to compensate for his poor lifestyle.  But he found out, that he didn't want it after all.  It did not bring him the satisfaction or contentment he thought it would.  It was stained with the blood of Christ.  And though he took it back, it was too late for him!
  • Demas:
Though at one time he was a faithful Christian, very valuable and one of Paul's co-workers, he loved the world and deserted Paul.  He coveted the pleasures of this world and followed his own desires.  He said, "I want that."  (2 Timothy 4:10).  He deceived himself when he thought he was gaining something.  Many today walk in his footsteps, following this world (the desires of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, 1 John 2:16) to their own destruction.  The apostle John warns us saying, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him."  (1 John 2:15).


II.   OVERCOMING COVETOUSNESS:

Covetousness has always been a dominant sin among God's people.  Jeremiah speaks of Israel as being greedy for unjust gain.  It also applies to the people of our day, even Christians.  "For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely."  (Jeremiah 6:13).  I don't think that Israel had the prosperity we have today.  And yet, I believe this sin is more predominant today than it was back then. One of the biggest problems of covetousness is wanting what belongs to others at any cost, the loss of our soul or the souls of others.  One excellent example of this is Ahab who coveted, wanted, Naboth's vineyard no matter what.  He wanted it so much that he agonized over it.  He sulked and pouted like a little child throwing a tantrum when Naboth refused to give it to him.  His wife Jezebel stepped in and set up a conspiracy to condemn Naboth to death so that the king could seize his vineyard.  He did not have any remorse whatsoever.  Ahab freely and gladly took it regardless of the consequences.  And though this might be an extreme case of covetousness, we can still be guilty of covetousness the same way.  Why?  Because it seems like we are never satisfied with what we have.  We want a better car, house, better spouse, better furniture, better clothing, entertainment, etc.  Will our pride prevail?  Will our covetousness win?  Or will our common sense prevail?  Must I always have the best?  Do I really need it or I am coveting it?

The point I am trying to make is that we often spend unwisely and not as good stewards of God's money.  Are we diverting God's money from the church and the spreading of the gospel?  Or are we helping others who really need our help?  Often we find ourselves in deep debt because of our covetousness.  A covetousness that demands more and more money out of our paychecks which ultimately results in less giving for the furthering of the gospel and to help those saints in need.   Remember it is God's money, and we must manage it well.  We will give an account to God of this. Think about it!

A man may covet another man's wife.  Take for example David who saw Bathsheeba, a beautiful woman and thought "I want that woman."  He wanted her so much that he committed adultery with her.  She got pregnant and then David plotted to have her husband killed.  This is covetousness is its worse form!

Members of the Lord's church may covet the authority God has given to the elders instead of submitting to them.  "Remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith."   (Hebrews 13:7).  And though some might appear to be too righteous to usurp authority outwardly, they can still undermine the work of the eldership to gain their goals.  It may be done in subtle ways: malicious gossip, slander, threats to get their way.  Sometimes they do it to move the elders in line with their personal wishes.

Hoarding up money is also covetousness.  It is an excessive accumulation of money or material things.  They love it for its own sake.  But Jesus warns us saying, "Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."  (Luke 12:15).  After Jesus had made this statement, He told the parable of the rich fool who was caught up hoarding.  Jesus then concludes by saying, "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."  (Luke 12:21).

Though man ought to be devoted to his profession, any man who sacrifices his convictions to advance himself in his profession to keep his job, has already made an idol of his work or profession. You see covetousness is the root of many other things:  wars, gambling, defrauding, stealing, lying, envy, jealousy, adultery, murder, selfishness and much more.


CONCLUSION:

So, how can one overcome covetousness?  By learning to be content, (Hebrews 13:5).  Adopting Paul's attitude of heart, (Philippians 3:8).  Trusting in God with all of our hearts and minds that He will provide for our needs.  Acknowledging that He supplies us with rich and abundant spiritual blessings.  Keeping in mind that covetousness will never satisfy us the way God does.  "He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance, with increase: this also is vanity."  (Eccl. 5:10).  Rather we must seek for "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you."  (1 Peter 1:4).

The key to contentment is our attitude of heart.  God gives us the necessary strength to overcome whatever our circumstances are.  Through His Word and our hope in Him, we can gain strength and courage. We must learn to wait on Him, "Wait on the LORD, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait I say, on the LORD." (Psalm 27:14).  "Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord." (Psalm 31:24).  Let us trust Him with patience and joy, abiding in His word, fervent in prayer and thanksgiving. Remember most of all, our God will never leave us nor will He forsake us, "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid..."  (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Paul learned to be content in his weaknesses, (2 Cor. 12:7-10).  He knew that Christ's power is perfected in our weaknesses.  Thus Paul said, "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Our minds must be set on the glory of Christ if we are to learn contentment.  Setting our minds and hearts on worldly things, external things, and wrong things will not give us any contentment or joy. Our satisfaction and happiness can only be found in Christ.  So stop pursuing someone else that's not Jesus and His kingdom of righteousness.  Not money, not the "new" man or woman, nor the new job, a new car or anything else that is earthly will ever give us joy and satisfaction.  No divorce or extra-marital affairs will give us joy and happiness.  No new job promotions will make us complete and satisfied.  God made life this way for us to see the only true joy and satisfaction which is in Christ alone.  So why not start to seek Him for that joy and happiness that only He can give?  

When one has contentment or joy, he can enjoy the success of others; he can be grateful because he knows he has more than what he deserves or needs; he will be more compassionate; he will have more peace and contentment of heart.  All these can only be accomplished by surrendering and entrusting our lives to God alone.  For He cares for us.  (Philippians 4:10-19).

A meaningful and full life is not in being rich, being popular, being honored, being highly educated, having the best, or being perfect. It is about being truthful, being faithful, being loyal, being humble, being strong, being merciful, being kind, being loving, and being able to share ourselves and touch the lives of others through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in contentment that we find happiness and fullness of life filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. As the apostle Paul said: "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." (Philippians 4:11-12). Contentment is something that we must learn and be able to accept with humility while in the process of learning it.

Our culture today seeks and strives tirelessly for happiness in all the wrong places because they don't seek it in Jesus and His kingdom of righteousness.  They deceive themselves, thinking that by changing jobs, moving away, pursuing intimate relationships, and changing all other external factors in their life will give them happiness or joy.  Guess what?  They are still not content and are unhappy. They spend their God-given time adding positive externals to their life while their internals are still remarkably negative.  They don't realize and accept that God's Word has all the positive answers to all their problems or dissatisfactions.  This is the only lasting formula for lasting joy!  But one must empty one's self of pride, self-sufficiency and submit to God completely.  Without God we are destitute.

So what is the state of your mind today?  Remember, it is not in what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that will make you happy or unhappy.  It is what you think and how you think about it.  Joy and contentment is a state of mind.  There is so much truth to that!

Be honest and ask yourself, am I content?  If not, why not?  God has the power to help you find real contentment and joy.  But this demands that we live for Him and that we submit to Him alone.  This will help you understand how insignificant our physical needs are in comparison to the overall scheme of eternity.

May our Lord help us to be content in whatever state we are. May He use us to heal and bless others even during our trying and difficult times for His glory. May we also find JOY, become better Christians and bear good fruit to His glory.

Luci