Attitude of Covetousness
In our previous devotion, we found in Numbers 11-16 that an attitude of complaining bugged God to the point of anger. Complaining is a sin and questions God’s sovereignty. As a result, the people of Israel spent the rest of their lives wandering in the wilderness. To keep us from allowing complaining to become a pattern of living we need to replace it with an attitude of thankfulness.
In today’s devotion, we want to consider another attitude that bugs God – the attitude of covetousness. We may say, okay, that’s not me, I’m not guilty of the sin of covetousness. Wait a minute! Not so fast!
What is covetousness? According to writer James MacDonald covetousness involves four things: “wanting wrong things, or wanting right things for the wrong reasons, or the wrong time, or in the wrong amount.” (Lord, Change my Attitude, p. 81)
In Numbers 11:4 we read, “And the mixed multitude that was among them fell to lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, ‘Who shall give us flesh to eat?’” (KJV) Other translations (NIV, NASB, NLT) describe the mixed multitude as “rabble.” When you get believers and unbelievers united in one company trouble is bound to occur. I cannot find in the bible where inter-racial marriages are forbidden. What I do find is that God condemns inter-faith marriages. The mixed multitude in Nu. 11:4 consisted of idol worshipers married to those who believed in one, true God.
The New Testament passage in 2 Cor. 6:14-15 commands believers “not to be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?”
Everyone has desires. They cannot be avoided. Is it wrong to think about wanting things? When does it become sin? When did covetousness become a sin for the mixed multitude? When did they step over the line? Here’s the answer: when they put the meat in their mouths. In other words, covetousness becomes a sin when we yield. When it became a sin of action. Read again Nu. 11:4, The mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense cravings.” (NKJV) They gave in to their desires.
James 1:14-15 and Romans 6:13 support the view that yielding to unholy desires causes us to commit the sin of covetousness.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (NASB)
“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” (NLT)
Seeing and desiring a piece of that scrumptious chocolate ice cream cake is not sin. But the moment I take a knife with the intent of cutting a bigger piece than I need and stuffing it in my mouth – I’ve yielded. (Forgive me, Lord, I was guilty of that last night on my birthday). I’m belaboring the issue, but the point is that desires are not sin. The sin of covetousness takes place when we yield to those desires. The root of covetousness is rejecting God’s sufficiency.
How do we get out of the wilderness of covetousness? By developing a pattern of contentment. When you are content, you are satisfied with God’s sufficient provision. To say, “I am content, means I have enough.”
The other day I was in the Bass Pro Warehouse and saw a beautiful graphite fly rod. The clerk said, “Isn’t that a great looking rod?” I replied, “Yes, it’s a beauty!” “Wouldn’t you like to have it,” he asked? I said, “Yes, but I have enough rods already.”
Paul gives us a great formula for contentment in 1Timothy 6:6-10:
Godliness + contentment = great gain.
As long as I am content, I have godliness as my partner. Godliness defines who I am; whereas contentment deals with what I have. Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”
How do you develop the pattern of contentment? BY PRACTICING IT!