The Cost of Covetousness

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Devotional

GameStop and Reddit captured recently captured our attention with some craziness involving the stock market. At the beginning of this year—back in January—GameStop stock was selling for under 20 bucks a share. But then it started climbing. There was this whole dynamic of amateur investors battling it out against big-time Wall Street investors. And the price of this stock skyrocketed to the moon.  It was selling for hundreds of dollars a share. There were some huge wins and major payoffs. What’s the next quick way to strike it rich? Bitcoin is making a pretty good climb right now. And I wonder why this story was so captivating. Why was I regularly checking the price of GameStop stock for a few days when I didn’t even own any? Is there a part of you that wishes you would have bought a pile of GameStop stock or Bitcoin early on to benefit from the gains? Do you feel like your life would be so much better if you had a pile of money? Even if you don’t consider yourself a materialistic person, even if money isn’t something you normally think much about, how happy would you be if you saw your bank account or your investments skyrocket?

Jesus gave a fitting parable that offers needed perspective on our view of material gain.  There is a real temptation to seek security and satisfaction in wealth. And this is something the Christian is to be on guard against. We have a higher calling. A more secure security. A more satisfying satisfaction.

This parable is about a rich man with some good land that produced plenty of crops. The land was so productive, in fact, that he had a bit of a storage issue on his hands. This land was so productive, he wasn’t going to have enough room to store all the crops. So he hatches a plan. He’s going to demolish his barns so he can build bigger barns to store all this grain. And then, once he has that financial security, he can kick back. He’ll be able to relax, eat, drink, and be merry. Sounds like a good business plan. And what’s he looking to get out of the deal? Basically, retirement it sounds like. He’s going to earn enough—he’s already rich—but with this good crop he’s going to really be able to just enjoy life. What’s so bad about that?

It’s helpful to get the backstory on why Jesus chose to share this parable in the first place. Here it is in Luke 12:13–14:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

Some random guy from the crowd makes this request for Jesus to settle a dispute. This guy and his brother have a disagreement over the inheritance. Apparently, he thinks he’s getting the raw end of the deal. So he asks Jesus to help. Not really to help settle the matter of dispute, but just to give this guy the verdict he wants. It was common for people to ask rabbis to settle matters. But Jesus doesn’t settle the matter.
As Leon Morris summed it up so well: “He came to bring people to God, not to bring property to people” (230). And now, seizing this opportunity, Jesus warns his listeners.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

This is a parable against covetousness. Jesus is telling us not to have this strong desire to acquire more and more material possessions. It’s sinful to want more and more. Guard yourself against this sin because life isn’t about having lots of stuff. And that’s what this parable illustrates so well. This guy was all about making life all about stuff. It’s not wrong to make good decisions with your possessions. It’s not wrong to have money. Job was pretty wealthy if I remember right. God blessed King Solomon with all kinds of wealth. So what did this rich man in the parable get wrong? This becomes clear as we see what happens after this rich man makes his plans to build bigger barns and enjoy the good life.

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

The rich man had plans for a future that he would never see. He was about to die and all those things would be left to others. And Jesus ends by making this comparison. Laying up treasures for ourselves and not being rich towards God is to make the same mistake as the rich man in the story. It’s to be a fool. Greedy. And cheap towards God. This man doesn’t consider once how to use his resources to be a blessing. He doesn’t give anything to God. He totally leaves God out of the picture. He gathers for himself. He serves himself (371). So that tells us what Jesus wants us to do, doesn’t it? He wants us to be wise. A wise person is rich towards God. A wise person is generous towards God. And we have to be on our guard against this attitude of greed. That’s why Jesus says “Take care and be on your guard” (Luke 12:15).

The man was not a fool when it came to running his business. It’s wise to plan for your financial future. But this man was foolish for His reliance on things instead of God. His life was about things instead of God. And when you see the thirst we can have for things, it’s easy to see how these things can replace God. So the answer is to be rich towards God. Be a good steward of what God gives you and use it to serve Him. He’ll take care of you. He will give you a joyful existence better than anything you can buy.

Ask yourself how you can use your material resources for God’s glory. And ask yourself the large question of what your life is about. Is your purpose in life to work so you can take it easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself? Or do you want to serve Him with the life He has sovereignly given you? Life isn’t about filling proverbial barns on this earth. It’s about being generous towards a God who has been so generous towards us.

Photo by Michael Förtsch on Unsplash.

 

 

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Associate Pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.

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Brent Niedergall