We’re not living in the Garden of Eden where the tem-
perature is just right, delicious food waits on trees
to be picked when we’re hungry, and abundance is every-
where. We’re living in a world where the
- weather turns cold,
- people get sick,
- food becomes scarce....where you have
to pay for what you get...when sometimes you can’t
even find a job.
There are only two ways we can live in such a world as
- by covetousness,
- or by faith.
Our natural bent is to be covetous...to want to grab
everything we can and pile it up against the uncertain
future. But our calling - now that we have begun to
follow Jesus Christ - is to walk by faith.
The proof that you are saved, my friend, is not that you
raised your right hand and walked down to the front of
the church in tears, or that you say you love everybody,
that you say you have faith.
The proof that you are saved is that you have begun to
handle money, to deal with success and failure, to face
uncertainty, without letting anxiety and lust eat you
up. And without mooching off other people’s work and
calling it faith.
We may know all kinds of deep spiritual truth, and ex-
press it well, and develop impressive ministries.. But
if we haven’t learned to conquer our own covetousness,
our ministry in this world will be sterile and our situ-
ation in the next might be like the shock that come to
the rich man when he saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and
himself in flames.
Take heed and beware of all covetousness.
-Covetousness for mammon,
- money and things.
-Covetousness for status,
- for a reputation among the saints.
-Covetousness to build “a great work for the Lord.”
Covetousness starts, of course, with mammon, money and
things. And most of us are struggling to find the right
way to handle mammon. Some of us are prospering finan-
cially and we want to know what to do with this prosperity
so that it won’t destroy us as it has destroyed so many.
Some of us are on fixed incomes and having tight going,
and we look with longing for a little more financial lee-
way. As a congregation we want to make sure that the
offerings which pour in from people‘s hearts are offerings
to God...are never used to build our own little religious
There is also a covetousness which has nothing to do with
money. Some of us aren’t bothered by money at all... we
can get by with very little. We aren’t that excited about
fancy cars or sumptuous meals. We are covetous about our
image. We are lusting after a reputation for being
“totally committed.” And this lust compromises us as
much as any lust for money. .
As we wrestle with covetousness we are tempted to set up
some external standard. “Give 10% and you’ll be all
right. Or 20%, or 50%, or 100%.”
And those of us who are covetous for recognition try to
fight this tendency in ourselves by keeping our names out
of the news papers and the church bulletins and maintaining
a low profile.
But covetousness can never be cured by setting these ex-
ternal standards for ourselves.
- We can give away all we have to feed
- We can offer our bodies to be burned.
- We can bury our names fifty miles below
- and still be covetous.
Covetousness is an inner thing,
a disposition of the heart. If it is ever
to be cured there has to be a new disposition to replace
it. When our Lord
“...So is he who lays up treasure for himself
and is not rich toward God,”
- he is talking about two dispositions:
the disposition of covetousness,
and the disposition of being rich toward God.
Covetousness is that disposition within us which is
forever gathering to itself. It doesn’t make much
difference whether it is gathering money,
To be rich toward God is the disposition, which from the
heart, gathers whatever it gathers to God.
He said also to the man who had invited him,
“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not
invite your friends or your brothers or your
kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also in-
vite you in return, and you be repaid. But
when you give a feast, invite the poor, the
maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be
blessed, because they cannot repay you. You
will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
He’s not saying you shouldn’t invite your family over for
Thanksgiving, but He’s putting His finger on the tendency
to use every dinner for our own covetous ends. If you
invite your kinsmen and your rich neighbors you are
gathering to yourself, it’s going to pay off for you in
the end. But if you invite the poor and the maimed and
the lame and blind you’re gathering to God, for it won’t
pay off for you in this world. This is the disposition
Jesus bought for us with His blood and gives us in the
Holy Spirit. But we have to enter this disposition.
We enter into the disposition of being rich toward God by
deliberately gathering to God instead of ourselves in
1. We gather
people to God through intercession.
The foundation stone of a life which is rich toward God
praying for people.
Then he. .said to his disciples, “The harvest
is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to
send out laborers into his harvest.”
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all
prayer and supplication. To that end keep
alert with all perseverance, making suppli-
cation for all the saints... Ephesians 6:18
Intercession is the purest and mightiest labor of gather-
ing souls to God. Nobody sees you do it but God. Those
for whom you pray are drawn not to you, but to God.
ever other gathering to God we may engage in will only be,
as effective as our labor of intercession is real.
Day after day we keep lifting up names before the Throne;
and as we
- streams are opened up in the deserts of
- angels are dispatched to attend to their need,
- demons are driven from their minds,
- chains are broken from their very bodies.
And in a mystery the power of the blood of the Lamb begins
to work upon them.
2. We gather people to God by doing mercy.
“If you love those who love you, what credit
is that to you? For even sinners love those
who love them. And if you do good to those
who do good to you, what credit is that to
you? For even sinners do the same. And if
you lend to those from whom you hope to re-
ceive, what credit is that to you? Even
sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much
again. But love your enemies, and do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return; and
your reward will be great, and you will be
sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the
ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful,
even as your Father is merciful.”
Mercy... loving-kindness... shown to those who are crying
out for it, and who often have nothing to give us in
return, is a manifestation of God - whether
a listening ear,
a letter to cheer them,
a word of encouragement,
or a little hospitality...this pleasant surprise will
be a clear sign of God’s love.
When we get all tangled up in religious covetousness,
trying to gather people into our church, or bring people
over to our point of view, it gets complicated and
wearying. Sometimes it’s hard to find likely prospects.
But when we‘re gathering people simply to God by touching
them with His kindness, it’s so easy to find people to
touch. They’re everywhere. There is no end to things
we can do for them and share with them.
And when our motives are right, when we‘re not worrying
about our image but just gathering people to God, it’s
easy to know when to say “no” to a free loader his third
time around, or speak a word of rebuke to someone who
wants to take five pieces of chicken before the folks at
the end of the line have had one. And if people are un-
grateful it doesn’t bother us in the least. We aren’t
building a clientele of admirers, we’re gathering people
3. We gather people to God by sharing in the sufferings
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in
Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body,
that is, the church, of which I became a
minister according to the divine office which
was given to me for
you, to make the word of
God fully known... Colossians 1:24,25
It was clearly understood by the apostles that when they
suffered in any way, as a result of their obedience to
Jesus, this suffering was redemptive. It was an extension
of Jesus’ cross. This suffering in a mystery conveyed
divine life to the world around them.
Watchman Nee spent the last twenty-five years of his life
in a prison, sick,
cut off from his wife and his friends. But
his suffering, along with that of countless unknown saints
will one day be seen as a sacramental means by which the
living Word breaks forth in the midst of the very regime
that imprisoned them.
Others carry crosses no one sees but God. They look serene
and happy and without problems, but God sees their pain
and uses it. Our suffering may be mild by comparison with
others elsewhere on earth - at least for now - but what-
ever it is, this pain,
this inner anguish,
this cross you carry, is being used by the
Lord to gather men and women to Calvary.
4. We gather people to God by binding and loosing.
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on
earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say to you, if two of you agree on
earth about anything they ask, it will be
done for them by my Father in heaven.
There is a tendency among some believers these days to
skip over all the other ministries and grab hold of this
one. Without the labor of intercession or the down-to-
earth discipline of showing mercy, or the pain of redemp-
tive suffering they want to be the healers and the exor-
cists. They start playing with spiritual fire and are
burned. Binding and loosing...bringing the power of
heaven to bear on the needs of earth-bound men is safe
only in the hand of those who are gathering to God in all
the other ways.
Nevertheless, the need to be able to bind and loose is
urgent. How else can these captive
minds and bodies rise
into fellowship with God? How can they be gathered to
Him unless we can in fact free them from the power that
Who of us hasn’t been alcoholic, mentally oppressed,
an addict, or one who is obsessed
with middle class success. Just as surely as we’ve been
set free we’ve been sent to free the captives.
And he said to them, “Take heed, and beware
of all covetousness; for a man’s life does
not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
There are only two ways we are going to live in this
world: - by covetousness,
- or by faith.
May God help us to free our lives of all covetousness and
live by the disposition which gathers to Him alone, never
May the Spirit help us to live lives in this uncertain
world which are rich toward God.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s
good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell
your possessions, and give alms; provide your-
selves with purses that do not grow old, with
a treasure in the heavens that does not fail,
where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is,. there will your
heart be also.”