Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Coveting and the Kingdom of God

Ephesians 5:3-5 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

John Calvin says the following:
As much is to be said of the word 'covetousness'. What shall be said of the covetousness? It carries a bad sound, and no man will acknowledge that he is tainted with covetousness. A man will rather make such excuses as these: I have responsibility for a wife and children, and why is it not lawful for me to seek bread for them? Again, should I not have a care for the future, that I may make good provision for them? Covetousness has such a store of excuses that it is as if it were varnished with them, and the term has such a gloss put on it that it is taken almost for a virtue. St. Paul did not mean that men should only forbear the use of the bare names, which might make the vices themselves abhorred and hated, but he would rather that whoredom should be named as an evil thing, and that men should understand that a whoremonger cuts himself off from the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, banishes himself from the kingdom of heaven, and is cursed before God and before his angels. Those are things that must be known. And again, a covetous person is an idolater and forsakes God; he is as a damned soul and a perverter of all right and equity. (Sermons on Ephesians, Eph. 5:3-5, pp.494-95).

Nothing is more prevalent in our American culture than sexuality and coveting. So often we think that because there is not a Baal temple down the street our culture is not idolatrous. Somehow we envision ourselves has having evolved beyond such naivety. Calvin writes, "But it is not without cause that covetousness is called idolatry, because it is certain that when a man once gives himself to it, he fixes his whole happiness in it" (p.503). We should be taking a long hard look into our hearts and asking: what idols still dwell there?

For some reason, the tenth commandment is probably one of the most relevant commandments to the second tablet and yet is also probably most neglected in terms of abuses, applications and ignorance. We may not have oxes, donkeys and servants but some how we excusing coveting technology, the Lexus and the fancy house... I mean those are things we need to make life better.

The excuses for idolatry in our day our similar to what Calvin notes. We live in a survival of the fittest economy, so why not pursue the good things in life. We even offer trade-offs to God: if I get more, I can give more and help others. Now certainly the Bible does not condemn money but the love of money. A person offered a promotion should seek God's call in their life. However we must ask ourselves: why am I pursuing these objects? Has my pursuit of things so captured my desires that I can no longer be content without them? If that is the case, your desire for 'stuff' has replaced your desire for God. We are to trust God for our daily bread not necessarily being promised a padded pension and 401(k) that we can pursue at all costs.

The reality is that unrestrained coveting and pursuits of worldly goods and pleasures is a mark of the unregenerate--the non-Christian. I fear that in our day we have people who claim to know God crying "Lord, Lord" but their earthly pursuits wrapped up in the gravest of coveting money and goods marks their life otherwise.

Jesus is quite clear that you cannot love both God and money. You cannot covet money and worldly goods at the same time you should be covenanting God. God will not tolerate his bride seeking such mistresses. Our pursuit must be of the kingdom of God. If our pursuit is for coveting, then we have forfeited our true inheritance--we give evidence that these true and noblest pursuits do not belong to us.

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