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PERIL # 2: “MEN SHALL BE . . . COVETOUS”
by Philip Owen

It is quite instructive to read the Word of God; time after time, we find that what is true as revealed in Scripture differs strikingly from our view of things.  And since it is God’s view that is accurate and will prevail, we must submit our opinions to those revealed in His Word.  There is a fairly general sense that we are living in dangerous times.  And while that may be true for multiple reasons, the Word of God reveals the true dangers against which we must guard ourselves.  We will examine the second of those warnings found in II Timothy.

 

2)  “Men shall be . . . covetous” (3:1).   The Greek reads with more picturesque directness that “men shall be lovers of silver [or, “money”].”  It is instructive that immediately following the first peril—“Men shall be lovers of self”—we find the peril involving loving money.  One of the most frequent manifestations and expressions of self-love or self-interest is covetousness.

 

Few things are so destructive as single-minded covetousness.  The Scripture warns against few things so frequently and forcefully as against this sin.  Paul deals extensively with this vice in his first epistle to the young minister, Timothy.  Many people regard the centerpiece of his warning to be that oft-quoted caveat that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Tim. 6:10).  The Greek reads more carefully:  “a root of every sort of evil.”  That statement is both factual and forceful.  Every sin and crime imaginable has at one time or another had its source in covetousness.  For it is the nature of this sin first to enslave and engulf and then  slowly to consume him in multiple other sins.

 

It has long been part of the American psyche to indulge in dreams about what might be possible given sufficient wherewithal.  Any number of marketing schemes attempt to motivate both would-be sellers and would-be buyers to consider what they would do with x-numbers of dollars.  Such views may drive the American economy, but they have no place in the economy of God.  The Christian value is this:  “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Tim. 6:6).  Money and what it can purchase may represent temporal gain, but Godlike character and contentment with God’s will is “great gain” and should be the sole ambition of the believer.  Paul even goes so far as to tell us how much is necessary in order for us to be content:  “having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (v. 8).  How many of us truly recognize that any departure from this standard is a transgression into covetousness that imperils our souls?  Now few of us will be left so destitute; nevertheless, we are to be satisfied if God provides sufficient for our basic survival.  And what does it say of our “Christian” lifestyles that we find such a concept totally alien to us?  Note that Paul does not tell us to live monastic lives; nor does he  suggest that self-denial imparts merit.  His point is simply that we are to be content, even if God provides little, for our life does not consist of what we eat or what we wear (see:  Matt. 6:25-34).

 

But Paul’ admonition does not end there.  In the strongest language imaginable, he warns that “they that will be rich [i.e., “those who want to get rich”] fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition [“ruin”]” (v. 9).  Space does not permit an exposition of this verse.  But we must observe from Paul’s description how absolutely devastating—contrary to natural inclination and opinion—is the course of covetousness.  We desire gain (are covetous) because it appears to offer comfort, joy, goodness, and blessings of every sort, but in reality it destroys.  Paul explains that some who have longed for money and what it would buy “have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (v. 10).  The Scriptures are unequivocally clear:  covetousness results in some of the most damaging results that are possible as a consequence of any sin.  Thus the admonition:  “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (v. 11).  Clearly, Paul is telling us that there is an adversarial relationship between covetousness and righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness.  May we take Paul’s warning to heart and never cherish money or the things it can buy and always be wary of the peril of covetousness.

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