2. The second test is similar, suggesting that we fall into covetousness when the possession of money or status (or academic accomplishment) becomes the key to happiness and contentment. Do we look to these things to make life worthwhile, and are we miserable and out-of-sorts if there is no prospect of getting them? If so, we are obviously controlled by covetousness, because true believers seek their happiness and contentment in Christ and his service and people, and, of course, in their families, not in material things. It is true that an element of legitimate pleasure may be derived from the things we possess, and a degree of fulfilment may come from high responsibilities, but when we depend upon such earthly sources for our happiness and joy, we have fallen into covetousness.
Can we tell if this has happened to us? Simple questions reveal the truth. If we are depressed do we go out and buy something? Do we seek uplift by day-dreaming about things we hope to have? Do we plan colour schemes, home extensions, new cars, or things of that kind? Do we fantasise about promotion or higher status in life? When these things become our chief means of escape from heaviness of spirit and our only route to an improved mood, then we are in the grip of covetousness. When substance and status are craved as the only effective solution to life’s problems and situations, we are in trouble.
If we are in normal mental health there is no temptation or need which the Lord cannot lift us from, or strengthen us to get through; and no situation that he cannot enable us to bear, or deliver us from, if that is his will. God may use material resources to deliver us from difficult situations, but we must look to him, not to those earthly resources. Earthly things and status must never become our hope, and our key to satisfaction, for the Word says, ‘Trust in him at all times; ye people.’
3. The third test defines covetousness as the sin into which we fall when possessions, position or promotion or academic achievement engage our energies at the expense of the Lord’s service. If the earning of money, attention to business affairs, or additional studies for promotion, take us regularly and long term from service of the Lord, we have probably become covetous. Obviously, this would not apply to defined periods for further or vocational training, or to ‘emergency’ seasons when exceptional demands are imposed on us, but if pursuit of advancement takes us from the fellowship of God’s people, from worship, or from being chiefly concerned with his cause in a repeated, or never-ending manner, it is likely that covetousness is ruling over right Christian priorities.
To amplify the exception just mentioned, it would surely be acceptable to pursue a set period of study or training for a limited span of years, with a definite objective and termination. It may equally happen that a Christian has to go through a difficult passage in his business or professional life, but it is not going to last. Abnormal hours may have to be worked for a phase in the ‘career structure’, or to establish something in a business of our own. It is for a limited time only, and then a fuller commitment to the service of the Lord will be resumed. But when our normal lives (by our own choice) become so committed to the things of this world that we, as Christians, are constantly and willingly stolen from the Lord and his service, we are probably in the grip of covetousness. We must fear the possibility of being swallowed up by self-consideration and covetousness, never forgetting that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. It so easily justifies earthly aspirations . . . to be continued