The handling of material things is a challenge that every believer faces. We should not be lax in our responsibility to provide for ourselves and our families. The scriptures clearly teach the importance of working to meet our own needs, Eph. 4. 28, as well as taking care of those whom the Lord has entrusted to our care, 1 Tim. 5. 8. It may well be that God blesses a believer financially and they become ‘rich in this world’, 6. 17. However, material wealth does bring with it real dangers as well as tremendous responsibilities. We can so easily become covetous in relation to our wealth and possessions.
Two of the dangers that can come with material wealth are an increased sense of self-worth -‘highminded’, 6. 17 and a lack of dependence upon God. We begin to trust in the riches instead of in the living God, who provided them for us.
Once we lose our sense of dependence upon God, we start to be taken up with ourselves and our possessions. We become occupied with the material things of life and the things of God begin to take second place. In a world that is never satisfied, the Bible instructs us to ‘be content with such things as ye have’, Heb. 13. 5. Our priority in life should not be getting a nicer car, a bigger house, or a better job. Not that these things are sinful but, when they become the main priority in our lives, we risk becoming ensnared by our desires, 1 Tim. 6. 9, 10.
The scripture warns us against ‘covetousness, which is idolatry’, Col. 3. 5. Going in for the material things of life results in God being displaced from His rightful place in our lives. 1 Timothy chapter 6 verse 9 warns us about those whose lives are taken up with becoming rich and the dangers of this are spelled out in verse 10, ‘they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows’.
Being taken up with material things is not only a danger for those who are wealthy. Those who have limited resources can also become so anxious and troubled about meeting their daily needs that they lose their trust in God. The passages in Matthew chapter 6 and Luke chapter 12 give us the Lord’s teaching on the subject as He counsels the disciples to ‘take no [anxious] thought for your life, what ye shall eat, neither for the body, what ye shall put on’, Luke 12. 22. The word ‘thought’ has the idea of being ‘troubled with cares’, ‘anxious’ or even ‘to promote one’s interests’, J. H. Thayer. The Lord was aware of what deep poverty meant. However, rather than allowing such things to consume our thoughts and make us anxious and self-reliant, He bids us cast ourselves upon Him.
In dealing with this subject, I want to draw a few lessons from the passage in Luke chapter 12. Notice in verses 13 to 15 we have covetousness denounced by the Saviour. He had been teaching, in the earlier verses, about faithful servants in a coming day who could be called to pay the ultimate price and give their lives for Him. In response to this teaching, ‘one of the company’, v. 13, asks the Lord to intervene in his personal circumstances so that he might gain financially. What a contrast! Men willing to give all for Christ and a man who wanted to gain something for himself. Little wonder the Saviour says ‘take heed and beware of covetousness’ v. 15.
In verses 22 to 30, we have covetousness described, with important lessons for our daily needs, vv. 22-24, the duration of life, vv. 25, 26, and our dress, vv. 27, 28. The God who provides for the natural creation can be trusted to provide for our needs. There should be a distinction, vv. 29, 30, that separates us, as believers, from the world around us. The world seeks after and becomes consumed by the material and temporal, but we have a Father who knows our needs, v. 30. Our trust should be in Him to provide. Philippians chapter 4 verse 6 exhorts us to ‘be careful [anxious or troubled] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’.
The final section we want to look at is from verses 31 to 40 where we have covetousness defeated. How will we counter covetousness? Notice the question of our desires is dealt with in verse 31. Our priority should be the kingdom of God not the wealth of this world but to put God’s interests first. In verse 32, we have the matter of our destiny. No matter how much or how little we have in this world, our place in His affection and our future in His kingdom is assured. Considering our future destiny, we are exhorted to make a secure deposit, v. 33, into the bank of heaven. Our possessions are to be traded and invested wisely in an eternal fund ‘that faileth not’. This means a devotion, v. 34, for ‘things above’, Col. 3. 1. Our hearts will no longer be focused on things that are worldly and temporal but on that which is heavenly and lasting. Those whose hearts are fixed on heaven will be diligent, vv. 35-40, in their service, ready and waiting for the return of the Master.
What then are our priorities? Are we so taken up with our possessions that we have become self reliant and have lost our dependence upon God? Are we so focused upon our interests that the things of God have been given second place? Are we investing in the banks of earth or the bank of heaven? Let us heed the exhortation of Matthew chapter 6 verses 19 to 21, ‘lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’.
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