The Sin of Covetousness

Mar 01, 2018
J. Hampton Keathley, III

The Bible not only gives us portraits of God’s grace, as with the healing of Naaman, but it also gives us striking, clear, and up-front portraits of man’s sinfulness and perversion. It’s never a pretty picture, but it is a necessary one if we are to see our sickness and helplessness and turn in repentance to the grace of God. These portraits in Scripture serve as instructions and warnings to turn us to God and a life of godliness and away from a life of ungodliness (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11, 12).

This story of Gehazi is a sad story, but it is one which happens thousands of times every day, and in the lives of believers to one degree or another. It is a story that stands in strong contrast with the preceding passage where we saw Naaman healed of leprosy as he turned to God in simple faith. But here we see Gehazi struck with leprosy because he turned away from God to blur the truth of the free nature of salvation.

In one story, leprosy portrays sin in its universal scope as it falls upon all men. But in the story of Gehazi we see the specific sin of greed (covetousness and materialism) and the way it destroys the ministries of men and their capacity to serve the Lord.

In the story of Gehazi we see the process and consequences of greed or covetousness which always hinders godliness and godly service. It is the picture of religious hypocrisy, of failure to progress spiritually, of false values that destroy a man’s pursuit of righteousness, of human rationalization that seeks to find good reasons for a bad thing, of rebellion and insubordination to authority, of unfaithfulness or disloyalty, and of the process of regression or the downward spiral of sin (chain sinning).
Gehazi’s Sin of Covetousness

20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” 21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?”

The story is introduced with Gehazi being described as “the servant of Elisha, the man of God.” Here is one of the things that makes this story so sad, and at the same time a warning to each of us. He was not a man without opportunities. As a servant of Elisha, he was also a student of Elisha. He had the privilege of knowing this great man of God. He had the example of Elisha’s life and the message of his lips as a tremendous source of instruction, challenge, learning, and motivation for godliness and a life of service. Yet he failed to capitalize and grow through this privilege.

We can see several important principles of warning and instruction from this passage:

(1) Opportunity and privilege are no guarantee of success. We must take advantage of the opportunities God gives us or we loose the blessings and impact of those opportunities. Just being around the Word and godly examples never guarantee the communication of biblical truth, spiritual growth, and personal godliness. The disciples were with the Lord. They heard His words. They saw His works. Yet they often gained no insight from these events and their hearts became more and more hardened (cf. Mark 6:52). Likewise many sit in a Bible-teaching ministry; they hear the Word taught Sunday after Sunday, but because of their own self-centered desires and commitments, they never allow the Word to get in. They are like a barrel in the midst of the sea with both ends tightly sealed. There is plenty of water all around, but nothing gets in.

(2) Opportunity and privilege must be pursued diligently. (cf. 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet 2:2, “desire earnestly”; 2 Pet. 1:4-5; 1 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 12:14-17). Failure to be diligent will result in the forfeiture of blessings and opportunities. Many Christian have access to all they need for growth and fruitfulness–the Word, solid teaching ministries, the Holy Spirit, etc., but they fail to make use of those resources.

(3) The principle of our treasures. The question is, where is my treasure? Where and in what is my system of values? The Lord carefully warns us in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” i.e., your devotion, your pursuit, your preoccupation, your goals, and so also your commitment. John White remarks,

Jesus knew the tug of war in our hearts between heavenly and earthly homes. He knew our struggle between money, love and heavenly treasure. He told us we need ‘a single eye.’ He warned that without that single (or sound) eye, we would grope in terrible darkness (Matt 6:22, 23). Torn perpetually in two directions, we could never see clearly the issues confronting us. We would go through life confused and bewildered. Plagued with a sense of guilt and alienation and never sure where we were going.55

We might add, when our vision is double, we are unable to lay up treasurers in heaven. Our lives, like Gehazi’s, will be misdirected, disloyal, and a disaster from God’s viewpoint.

(4) The principle of regression. There is simply no standing still in the pursuit of godliness. Either we are pursuing godliness, drawing close to God, or we are regressing, going downhill. This is one of the most basic principles of the Christian life. Growth is progressive and we never arrive. If we stop the process, we will not simply stand still, we will reverse it and begin to regress. Regression is slow and subtle and deceptive. The signs are there, but we often don’t see them until it’s too late. A person can be a believer who regularly attends church, is around the Word, even involved in Christian service, but on a downhill slide into regression.

The word “discipline” which Paul uses in 1 Timothy 4:7 is the Greek gumnazw meaning “train, exercise, discipline.” It literally means to exercise or train stripped down or naked. The key note implied here is that it is a process which must be continued or we will lose ground. Anyone who has trained as an athlete knows that from experience.

Gumnazw occurs four times in the New Testament. Three are positive (1 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 5:14; 12:11), and one is negative (2 Peter 2:14). The 2 Peter 2:14 passage is very instructive to our study of Gehazi and the problem of greed. The NASB has “. . . having a heart trained in greed.” The point is, it is very possible to train ourselves in the wrong direction.

As Jerry Bridges points out,

There is a sense in which we are growing in our character every day. The question is in which direction are we growing? Are we growing toward godly character or ungodly character? Are we growing in love or selfishness; in harshness or patience; in greed or generosity; in honesty or dishonesty; in purity or impurity? Every day we train ourselves in one direction or another by the thoughts we think, the words we say, the actions we take, the deeds we do.56

“But Gehazi . . . thought, ‘Behold . . . ’” Literally, the Hebrew says “Gehazi . . . said,” but this expresses not what he said with his lips, but what was going on in his mind. Verse 26 shows us further what was really going on in his mind, as the prophet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit knew what he was thinking and planning. Gehazi deceived Naaman in order to satisfy his desire for gold and silver because of what he thought it would give–happiness, security, significance.

So we have here another principle which is important in understanding the defection and greed of Gehazi as a further instruction and warning to us.

(5) The principle of our thought patterns. Our thought patterns shape our character, and our character shapes our conduct. If you will notice, there is a definite relationship in these verses between thought patterns, personal character, and conduct. First, we see something of Gehazi’s thought patterns which had helped to move him into the realm of greed or covetousness. From verse 20, it appears he was thinking that because they did something for Naaman, he owed them. This kind of thinking is not only contrary to God’s grace, but has its roots in the attitudes of the world. Then, in verses 21-25 we see his conduct–deception and defection.

There is a very close relationship between our thoughts, our character, and our conduct. Repeated actions (conduct) reveal our inner character and the thought processes (mental attitude) that produced it. Radmacher writes:

“An attitude is a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related.” An attitude, therefore, is a state of mind toward a value. Consequently, it seems to me that any genuinely dynamic Christian life will be the outgrowth of a dynamic Christian attitude, shaped and locked into our thinking by the Word of God. And any faulty, unproductive Christian life will be the outgrowth of attitudes shaped and locked into our thinking by an unholy world system. This is the age-old relationship of cause and effect, root and fruit, a belief that behaves and an attitude which acts.57

Part of the dynamic behind the temptation that Gehazi faced stemmed from his attitude. Radmacher quotes D. G. Kehl who provides an excellent observation about temptation in “Sneaky Stimuli and How to Resist Them” (Christianity Today, January 31, 1975). He writes:

Many Christians have a simplistic concept of temptation that goes something like this: Satan, at a particular moment, flits to our side and whispers “Do it,” and we either do or do not, depending upon our spiritual strength at that moment. We might be more consistently victorious in not “doing it” if we realized that there is much more to temptation that the overt, momentary solicitation to evil and that our strength or weakness at that moment is based upon attitudes that have been forming for weeks, months, even years prior.

We do not fall in a moment; the predisposition to yield to sin has been forming, building, germinating–but not necessarily consciously so. Sin has both a cumulative and a domino effect. Satan plants subtle stimuli, often subliminal ones; he influences an attitude; he wins a “minor” victory–always in preparation for the “big” fall, the iron-bound habit. The words of James support such a view: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin . . .” (James 1:14, 15). It is the time between “conceiving” and “bringing forth,” that shadowy interim between stimulus and response, that may be largely subliminal.58

(6) The principle of divided allegiance. In verse 20, Gehazi is described as “the servant of Elisha.” Further, he even refers to Elisha as “my master,” all of which is tremendously suggestive of one of the key issues in the sin and failure of Gehazi and in all of us today to some degree. Divided allegiance, failure to submit to authority in God’s chain of command, is often a sign of slavery to personal aspirations and desires that, if allowed to dominate and control, quickly take the place of God’s authority and His direction over us through the chains of command He has established in Scripture. This naturally leads to discontent with one’s lot in life, followed by actions of rebellion as seen here with Gehazi.

Divided allegiance quickly stifles submission to God for, “No one can serve two masters, . . . you cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). Let’s face it, if the treasure of my heart is money, or any of the other lusts patterns, then I will be serving myself and not God regardless of how I may appear on the outside. Judas is a classic case in point. He was as phony as a lead nickel, but he gave the appearance of being a disciple, even caring for the poor. But what are lusts patterns generally speaking? They are often nothing more than legitimate desires pursued to the point of idolatry; seeking from the things we desire what we ought to seek only from God.

If we are divided between God as our master and our reputation, our bank roll, our career, our hobbies, our plans, or our desires of any kind, we will end up in deception, acting out a lie. We will deceive ourselves and defect, selling the Lord short in some manner.

Divided allegiance is closely associated with our next principle.

(7) The principle of freedom and contentment. In what are we seeking our significance, security, satisfaction or contentment?

If you remember, the Lord gave us a double warning in Luke 12:15 regarding greed and discontent with whatever God brings into our lives by way of possessions or our place in society. He said “Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (emphasis mine)

Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of the godly person, because a godly person has his heart focused on good rather than on possessions or position or power. As William Hendriksen has observed so well, “The truly godly person is not interested in becoming rich. He possesses inner resources which furnish riches far beyond that which earth can offer.59

Gehazi became a slave to his lust patterns because he was not content with what God was doing in his life. He was no longer free to be devoted to God, so he became disloyal, unfaithful, and in general, a hindrance to the ministry of Elisha and the grace of God. “Freedom is an inner contentment with what you have. It means to covet only heavenly treasure.”60

What does such a commitment and mental attitude do for us? It frees us to make the right choices, it changes our vision of who we are as sojourners, of why we are here (servants), and it enables us to look at our life in a new way with biblical purposes. Freedom does not consist in doing what I want to do; but in doing what I ought to do and as I was designed to do it by the strength which God gives.

If we do not want our lives to end up like Gehazi’s, we must look at our treasures–those things to which we cling and which have us chained as slaves–and cast them off by making our great goal in life the glory of God and treasures in heaven. May we commit ourselves to God as sojourners on this earth, and citizens of heaven. Let’s release our grip on the detail of life and live for eternity while making the most of this life within the will of God, resting in his care. Then we can sing with John Wesley: “My chains fell off, My heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”

(8) The principle of rationalization. Rationalization is seen in Gehazi’s statement, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman . . .” Elisha had refused to receive anything from Naaman when he was healed for specific biblical and spiritual reasons. He was teaching Naaman the principle of grace and the freeness of God’s salvation. But Gehazi was blind to this and saw it as failing to take from this Gentile that which he thought he rightfully owed the Jews. After all he had raided and stolen from the Jews time and again. He felt it was only just that Elisha accept something. Shouldn’t he? And so goes the mind with its rationalizations when greed is controlling the mind.

(9) The principle of religious hypocrisy. Gehazi’s statement, “As the Lord lives, I will run after him
. . .” is a classic illustration of mere external religiosity. He uses the right words, words he had often heard Elisha say, but their spiritual reality were far from his heart. There was no real fear of God in his heart as the Almighty who truly lived, the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God who knew his every thought, motive, and goal. The Lord later made this evident through Elisha in verse 26. If he really believed in the aliveness of God, he would have thought again about the motives and reasoning of his heart. Sure, he believed it intellectually, but practically speaking he was acting as though God was dead or at least unconcerned and uninvolved with his personal life.

But oh, how we can be just like this! We learn to use religious words–which too often become trite religious clichs. We bring God into our plans, and prayers, and act as though we are trusting him and following his guidance, which we completely ignore through our greedy rationalizations. And we reject the plain truth of Scripture with its principles and promises.

Let us earnestly pray with David, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart, . . .” Let us genuinely ask God to show us the truth about our hearts, our thinking, our values, and our priorities.
The Downward Spiral of Sin

22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags with two changes of clothes, and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him. 24 When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 But he went in and stood before his master. And Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? “

The downward trend is evident by the processes at work in verses 22-26. First, he sought to convince Naaman that Elisha had experienced an unexpected need (verse 22). By this guise of a sudden need, he managed to extract a generous gift from the grateful commander. Of course, knowing what he did was wrong, Gehazi subsequently concealed his treasure until he would have the opportunity to extract it. He then attempted to sneak back to Elisha’s house unnoticed–only to be confronted by the prophet himself. His master knew all that had transpired! Rather than confess his duplicity, Gehazi, in a continued downward spiral, lied which only worsened the situation.

Proverbs 28:13-14 He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. 14 How blessed is the man who fears always, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Sin is very serious business. Not only does it grieve and quench the Spirit of God (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19) but it hardens the soul (Heb. 3:7-13). Consequently, we are turned over to our own devices so that one thing leads to another; sin snowballs and we hurtle downward moving further and further away from the Lord and fellowship with Him. We become more and more callused and insensitive to God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Many times we attempt to play Gehazi’s game–we manage to put on a religious front. We say the right words and go through the right motions when in reality the destructive power of the leprosy of greed has us in its grip. Like the numbness experience by a leper, we become insensitive to sin’s grip and we become numb or hardened. Oh, the blindness and hardness that greed can bring on our hearts. We must recognize our sin and confess and renounce it .

Because of his greed, Gehazi became unfaithful to the Lord, to Elisha, and to the principles of God’s grace. Because of his greed, Gehazi wasted his life and the opportunities God gave him. He was an unfaithful steward of God’s grace and His word because, by his deception, he compromised the work of God as being free, without cost. Further, he was unfaithful to Elisha and to his ministry because he was critical of Elisha’s policy and had underminded his ministry to Naaman.

What is faithfulness? Faithfulness means “dependable, reliable, trustworthy, loyal.” But biblically speaking, a faithful person is one who can be counted upon to do what is right through thick and thin because that person is full of faith–faith in the values and priorities of Scripture. Gehazi was full of greed, not faith.

Regarding faithfulness there is such a thing as a fair-weather friend. This kind of person can only be counted on when there is no stress, or when their greed is being satisfied, i.e. their lust patterns for power, position, praise or whatever it is they lust for. But Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

There is also a blind, false kind of faithfulness or loyalty. Blind loyalty is actually unfaithfulness. It refuses to admit the mistakes or faults of a friend, a church, or a spouse, and so it refuses to take whatever action is necessary in the best interests of the people involved as well as for the Lord and others. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). Only the true and faithful friend–one full of faith in the precepts of Scripture–will care enough about truth, God’s glory, and what is best for all concerned to do what is right whether it is pleasant or not and whether it is understood by others or not.

Please note the contrast with Elisha in verses 25-27. By contrast Elisha was faithful to God–to truth–but also to Gehazi. To let Gehazi get by with this would be a disservice and a lack of true love and faithfulness. At least now Gehazi could see the nature of his sin and turn back to God in repentance. We are not told if this occurred, but I believe it did (cf. 6:15f with 8:4f).

Another contrast to be observed is the change seen in Naaman.

What a contrast can be seen in the meeting between Naaman and Gehazi! Naaman’s descent from his chariot to meet Elisha’s servant was a mark of his being a changed man. No longer a proud, arrogant person, the grateful, reverent, and humble Aramean came down from his honored place to meet a prophet’s servant. He who had been a fallen, hopeless sinner displayed the true believer’s grace. Contrariwise Gehazi, who had enjoyed all the privileges of his master’s grace, was about to abuse them and fall from that favor.61

Our souls are held by what they hold;
Slaves still are slaves in chains of gold;
To what ever we may cling,
We make it a Soul chaining thing;
Whether it be a life, or land,
And dear as our right eye or hand.62
Gehazi’s Judgment

“Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cleave to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

Accordingly, Elisha announced Gehazi’s punishment: Since Gehazi had compromised the truth of the free nature of God’s grace, Naaman’s leprosy would become Gehazi’s judgment or discipline undoubtedly designed to bring about his repentance. Perhaps it did, because we still see him referred to as “Gehazi, the servant of the man of God” in 2 Kings 8:4-5. This understudy to Elisha who had known such privileged opportunities was banished in disgrace, for he had abused his favored opportunities in an attempt to acquire the details of life for himself.

The story of Gehazi is a sad one, but in keeping with the honesty of the Word, it gives us all an illustration to teach us a much-needed lesson–that the ministry has no place for those who would make merchandise of it. Indeed, this is a truth that should apply to all of life since all our so-called secular work should be viewed as opportunities to minister to people. The Christian businessman has to make a profit to stay in business, but he should never use his business as a vehicle to merchandise people.

The moral and spiritual flaws in his character that one senses in the previous record have surfaced. His basic spiritual insensitivity had betrayed him in the time of testing so that rather than his character being refined, his work was refused.63
Thoughts On Covetousness

The story of Gehazi is one which deals with the sin of covetousness or greed. As such it might be helpful to briefly look at this specific sin.

(1) Covetousness is one of the most devastating sins man commits, one which is the root of most of our sins.

(2) Covetousness is at the core of most of the misery that exists in the human race.

(3) Covetousness is a sin which touches every one of us to some degree. Not one of us can say we escape this sin.

(4) It rears its ugly head in many ways and has many effects.

(5) In fact, it was the first sin. Eve saw what she couldn’t have. She wanted it and took it.

(6) Paul teaches us in Romans 7:7-8 that it was the Old Testament commandment, “Thou shall not covet,” which made him aware of his own sinfulness. Surely what was true of Paul is true of us all.

One day Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street with two small boys who were both crying loudly. A neighbor passing by inquired, “What’s the matter, Abe? Why all the fuss?” Lincoln responded, “The trouble with these lads is what’s wrong with the world; one has a nut and the other wants it!”

This is an old story and a little humorous, but it humorously illustrates a big problem and the oldest one known to man–greed.
Definition of Covetousness

Covetousness is a discontent with what we have and an intense desire for something else, something we believe will make us happy or satisfied. As lust, it is often a legitimate desire carried to the point of idolatry which worships the thing lusted for. This is why covetousness or greed is defined by Paul as idolatry twice in his epistles.

Colossians 5:5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

Ephesians 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Covetousness is not simple appreciation of people or things. Nor is it the desire for something you do not have. Basic and legitimate desires become covetousness when they are uncontrolled and cause us to do the following:

(1) To neglect biblical priorities, ignore the Lord and His will, His leading and His provision, or to ignore the responsibility of pursuing heavenly treasures and biblical priorities, goals, commands, and principles.

(2) When we become unhappy, miserable, angry, bitter, envious, jealous, or critical of others who have what I want.

(3) When it cause us to go to unreasonable or unscriptural limits and extremes to get it such as stealing, adultery, murder, rape, going in debt beyond our financial ability to pay, or so we cannot use our resources effectively as good stewards of God’s gifts (cf. Luke 3:8-14).

Interestingly, the Greek words for covetousness or greed come from pleon, “more” plus ecw, “to have.” It refers to one desirous of having more.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.

Most people labor in order to have more and more for themselves, and in their pursuit for the so-called good life they not only ignore their responsibilities to be good stewards of God’s grace, but often step on others in their scramble up the ladder of success. Especially in a consumer-oriented society, we don’t tend to labor according to our need, but according to our greed. We constantly seek to raise our standard of living rather than our capacity to give and serve the Lord.
The Root of Covetousness

Covetousness has its root in discontent, i.e. seeking our happiness, peace, and well being in the details of life (money, position, power, possessions). But this is mirage which can never be fulfilled and which always escapes us, for only God can give us true happiness and meaning in life. This does not mean the things we grasp won’t give some degree of temporary joy or security or meaning to life. But God tells us in Scripture that if we have food, raiment and shelter, we are to be content (1 Tim. 6:8; Prov. 30:7-9).

The ultimate or root cause of covetousness, therefore, is our failure to pursue godliness and the Lord as our secret source of joy, meaning, stability for life and security (Phil 3:7f; 4:10-13; Matt 6:33; 1 Tim 6:6-12).
Forms of Covetousness

Two key passages stress this as a warning to us:

Luke 12:15 And He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

Romans 7:7-8 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

The subtlety of this is seen in the false motives that can drive a person in ministry. We can labor in Christian service out of a spirit of covetousness for things such as: applause (how do I do?), appearance (how do I look?), status (how important am I?), reputation, power, recognition, as well as for money and possessions and pleasure.
Negative Effects of Covetousness

Scripture warns us about the devastating consequences of covetousness in 1 Timothy 6:6-12 and 17-19. The love of money refers to the sin of covetousness. As such, covetousness becomes the root–the source of all sorts of evil. Furthermore, covetousness blinds. Not only does it deceive us, but it will harden us against the Lord if we do not deal with it. Compare Ephesians 4:22 (lusts of deceit) with 17-19 (note the words “excluded,” “callous,” and “given over to sensuality”) and Heb. 3:13, “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

In the deluded belief that things can give security, satisfaction, and significance, it also hardens the soul. Consequently, a further product, as seen with Gehazi and Judas, is unfaithfulness, rationalization, criticism of others, and religiosity. It causes men to lie, steal, defraud, murder, commit adultery or fornication, and all kinds of evil, especially the neglect of spiritual values and priorities.

The rich fool was not a fool for harvesting abundant crops. He was a fool for letting his crops fill his horizon and determine his lifestyle. He was a slave to barns and grain, and seems to have had no interest in God. When God’s awful voice awakened him from his dreams saying, “Fool, this night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” he had to leave his barns and enter the Presence naked. Had he sent anything on in advance? Jesus didn’t say. Presumably he had forwarded nothing. His heart was back among his mountains of grain.

But notice the conclusions we have reached. The thrust of Jesus’ teaching does not deal with the virtues of poverty or the sin of riches. Rather he seeks to show us first the greater value of heavenly treasure and the folly of seeking earthly. Then he warns us of the seductive power of riches, the love which draws our hearts away from him and renders us incapable of serving him. Finally he upbraids us with the unbelief which underlies our anxiety about our material needs.64

There is not only a great delusion about the things we covet, but a subtle futility that is a part of Satan’s delusion that the things we covet will meet our need and make us happy. Surely, this is part of the message of Solomon in Ecclesiastes with his “futility of futilities.” This futility carries with it a stroke of serious irony. Why? Because it is full of surprises. Think about it for a moment. The things we value or treasure consistently prove false; efforts that should succeed in giving us whatever–happiness, security, satisfaction–come to failure; the pleasures we think will satisfy ironically just increase our thirst. How ironic! What futile irony! Is this not the fabric of life when it is lived independently of God?

Additional Reading