ACT III: The Consequences of Covetousness (Numbers 11:31—35)
Let’s return to the children of Israel in the wilderness:
Numbers 11:31: “Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.”
God said, “You want meat? You can have it! I’m going to make it very easy for you.”
Numbers 11:32: “All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp.” Not much of a hunt!
Ten homers” is sixty bushels of birds. The guy who gathered the least—the lazy guy— gathered sixty bushels, and many people had much more than that!
One of the consequences of covetousness is that it destroys the capacity to discern sufficiency. It distorts our thinking to the point where enough is never enough!
When we allow covetousness to consume our thinking, we lose the capacity to discern sufficiency. Enough is never enough, and the more you get, the more you want.
Now I’m not saying that money or possessions equal sin. There is no direct correlation between wealth and covetousness. The most covetous person you know may also be the one with the least. It has everything to do with your attitude.
Do I love people or do I love things? Am I all about people I can impact for Christ or things I can acquire for myself? Am I a covetous person? Is enough ever enough?
Notice what the text says in Numbers 33 and 34:
“But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.”
“While the meat was still between their teeth” means that before the meat was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and he struck the people with a severe plague.“
Those who choose covetousness as a lifestyle will spend their lifetime in the wilderness. Life in the wilderness is a dry, dead, dusty, cheerless, grief-filled, unhappy existence. The wilderness leads to an unhappy life and it’s a real tragedy to die there.
It’s your choice, of course. But I’m telling you, life in the wilderness is where you’re headed if you want God plus something else.
May we say like the psalmist in Psalm 62:1: “My soul finds rest in God alone . . .”
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-10: ”But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Here are several thoughts from this passage of Scripture:
♦Having money is not wrong.
Paul said that it is, “ . . . the love of money” that “is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The phrase, “the love of money” literally means, “affection for silver.”
In this verse, Paul is condemning the love of money and not money itself. Money can be used for good or evil. Thus, the issue is not money, but one’s attitude toward it. First Samuel 2:7 says, “The Lord makes poor and rich.” (See also 1 Chronicles 29:12.)
If money is a gift of God, it cannot in itself be wrong. The Bible doesn’t say that being wealthy is a sin. Abraham, Job, David, and Solomon were some of the greatest men of the Old Testament, and they had great wealth.
Solomon summed it up well:
Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.”
Loving money focuses on the temporal
Paul told Timothy that we bring nothing into the world at birth, and we cannot take anything out of it when we die (1 Timothy 6:7). The point is that we started with nothing and we will end with nothing. So what’s the big deal about what you have in between? Job said it this way:
Job 1:21: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.”
Solomon made this observation in Ecclesiastes 5:15,16: “Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand. This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind?”
Jesus himself warned of the foolishness of seeking earthly riches in Matthew 6:19 and 20: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
We should be content with food and clothing.
Paul said that if we have enough to eat and clothing to cover our bodies, we should be content (1 Timothy 6:8). His point is that we should be content with the basic necessities of life. He is not condemning possessions that God graciously provides. On the other hand, he does not require a vow of poverty.
Jesus taught his disciples to live the simple life: Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
There are consequences to loving money and Paul lists several of them:
• Loving money is a source of temptation (1Timothy 6:9). Greedy people are continually tempted to buy more, have more, and get more.
• Loving money is a trap (1 Timothy 6:9). Greedy people are continually trapped by their consuming desire for more (Deuteronomy 7:25) and that desire for material things controls their lives.
• Loving money can ruin and destroy men (1 Timothy 6:9)
Paul said that the pursuit of riches will “plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). The Greek word buthizomeans “plunge” and “to drag to the bottom.” Simply put, the love of money will drag you down and destroy the body (1Thessalonians 5:3). We all know people who spend their health to gain wealth, then try to spend their wealth to buy back their health.
The Greek word apoleiais translated “destruction” and refers to the eternal ruin of the soul (Romans 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Hebrews 10:39; Revelation 17:8).
So the words “ruin” and “destruction” refer to the total devastation of both body and soul. Scripture records many examples of men ruined by a love of money:
Achan in Joshua 7:1-26
Judas in Matthew 27:3-5
Simon in Acts 8:20-23
Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10
• Loving money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
• Loving money can destroy your faith (1 Timothy 6:10). History records numerous stories of people ruined by choosing material things over serving God. For these people, gold replaced God.
• Loving money can be a source of grief (1 Timothy 6:10). People that love money have pierced their own souls and brought themselves consuming grief (Psalm 32:10).
So what’s the solution? Contentment.
Contentment is being satisfied with God’s provision.
Contentment means satisfaction with what God has lovingly provided. Paul said in Philippians 4:11,12, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
Contentment is linked to “godliness.”
Contentment has a partner. Like salt and pepper, like Dallas and Fort Worth, like my wife and me—some things are meant to be together. Contentment’s partner is “Godliness” which means “reverence” or “likeness to God.” Godliness deals with who I am, while “contentment” deals with what I have. So we should never be content with who we are, only with what we have.
True godliness produces contentment and spiritual riches. A godly person is motivated not by the love of money but by the love of God.
It is time to look inside our hearts and ask three soul-searching questions:
1. Am I a covetous person?
♦Do I spend more time thinking about how I can impact people’s lives or on things to accumulate?
♦As I think about the future and my happiness, am I thinking I’m really going to be happy? Or do I think, “If only _____ would happen, I could finally be content.”
♦As I think about a happy future for my family and myself, do I imagine us with more things or more impact in the lives of people?
2. Am I reaping the consequences of covetousness in my relationship with God?
Perhaps the idea of reading God’s Word or attending a small group is tiresome or tedious. Maybe the last time you went to church you found yourself thinking, “When is he ever going to shut-up?”
Do you know why? Because your life is a wilderness.
Do you know why? Because God puts people in a wilderness existence when they want things other than him.
3. Am I willing to repent?
If the word repentis not in your vocabulary, here are two questions conveying the same concept:
♦ Am I willing to change my mind and attitude about covetousness in my life?
♦ Am I willing to say, “I have been living for things, for relationships, and for stuff other than God?”
Repentance is the key action step. It may seem difficult, but a consistent attitude of contentment brings lasting joy and leads you out of the wilderness.
Here is a prayer for contentment:
“Lord, in this moment, I want to say thank You for dealing with my heart about covetousness! Lord, my life is racing by so fast; please forgive me for wanting things other than you. Forgive me for longing for stuff and for believing that I can be satisfied apart from you. I repent of covetous attitudes this day, and pray that you would cleanse my heart.
Teach me what it means to love you above all else. Help me recognize the futility of begging you for non-essential things. Continue to remind me that things will never fill the longing in my heart that’s made for loving you. May you become all to me and may things always be in their rightful place.
I look forward with joy to your continued work in me, and I delight to move on to replacing a covetous attitude with what you will supply. Amen.”