One of the multitude said to him, “Teacher,

         bid my brother divide the inheritance with

         me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me

         a judge or divider over you?” And he said

         to them, “Take heed, and beware of all

         covetousness; for a man’s life does not con-

         sist in the abundance of his possessions.”

         And he told them a parable saying, “The land

         of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and

         he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for

         I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he

         said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my

         barns and build larger ones; and there I will

         store all my grain and my goods. And I will

         say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods

         laid up for many years; take your ease, eat,

         drink, be merry.’ 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 he who lays up treasure for him-

         self, and is not rich toward God.”

                                Luke 12:13-21

         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 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,

                              or 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 the poor.

              -    We can offer our bodies to be burned.

              -    We can bury our names fifty miles below the

                                                     ocean floor,

                      - 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 says,


             “...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,



                                         or influence.


         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.”

                                        Luke 14:12-14


         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

          specific ways.


         1. We gather people to God through intercession.


           The foundation stone of a life which is rich toward God

           is 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.”

                                        Matthew 9:37,38

               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. What-

           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 do,


                 - streams are opened up in the deserts of

                   their hearts,

                 - 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.”       

                                        Luke 6:32-36


         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

                                    - it’s food,


                                           some money,

                                           a listening ear,

                                           a letter to cheer them,

                                           a card,

                                           a visit,

                                           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

         to God.


         3. We gather people to God by sharing in the sufferings

            of Jesus.


               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.

                                          Matthew 18:18,19


         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

         oppress them?


         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.”

                                        Luke 12:15


         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

         to itself.


         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.”          Luke 12:32-34





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