Jesus warned “beware of covetousness” (Luke 12:13-21). Covetousness (pleonexia) is “a strong or inordinate desire of obtaining and possessing some supposed good; usually in a bad sense, and applied to an inordinate desire of wealth or avarice” (Websters, 1828). Strong defines it as “avarice, i.e., (by implication) fraudulency, extortion.” It is translated “greediness” in Eph. 4:19 and Paul equated it with idolatry (Col. 3:5). It also carries with it the idea of being a lover of money (philarguros). As if to stress how sinful it is, the Holy Spirit often associates it with what we would consider some of the worst sins, like fornication, adultery, uncleanness, thievery and wickedness (e.g., Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3; Mark 7:22).
Covetousness is one of those many sins which can creep up on a person unawares, at first. Thus, Jesus warns special precautions need to be taken to fight against it. “Take heed,” He says, “and beware.” Not being content with what we have may lead to covetousness (Heb. 13:5). Achan committed this sin even though he was warned against it because of his greed (Josh. 7:21). If we incline our hearts unto the Testimonies of the Lord, we may avert covetousness (Psalm 119:36). If our hearts are in the wrong place, however, we can easily be defiled by the sin of covetousness (Mark 7:22).
Covetousness has been the source of many family problems. The incident that precipitated Jesus’ teaching regarding covetousness was incubated in the bosom of a family. “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Similarly, a rift developed between Jacob and Esau because Jacob wanted the birthright and the blessing (Gen. 25:31; 27:36). Jesus’ own disciples were troubled by this kind of selfish attitude. The mother of James and John wanted Jesus to grant them the positions at Jesus’ right and left hand in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20,21). This caused the other disciples to be displeased with these two brothers (Matt. 20:24).
It is important to understand that Jesus never condemns being rich. There were many rich people who followed God and God made them all rich (e.g., Job – 42:10,12; Abraham – Gen. 13:2). The Bible does not say that being wealthy is a sin. What is condemned is the love of money (I Tim. 6:9,10). It seems, however, that, like a horseleach (Prov. 30:15,16), the more some people have, the more they want and the more they worry about keeping it. This rich man wanted bigger and better barns to store his increased substance (Luke 12:18).
The biggest problem with the rich man was that he looked upon these things as his (“my goods”), not gifts from God (James 1:17). He was confident in himself, and in his material wealth. Paul, did not condemn riches per se, but condemned trusting in those riches. “Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not highminded nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us all things freely to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). The rich man erred when he trusted in himself and not God.
But man has but very little control over his life or world. We do not know when our end will be (James 4:13-17). That very night, when the man waxed confident in his possessions, the Lord required his soul (Luke 12:20). He did not know the day of his demise and may not have even expected it. “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). What good will all those riches do for us when we face the tomb? “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7).
God does want us to be rich–spiritually. He wants us to store up treasures for ourselves, only He wants those treasures to be spiritual and not material. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:19,20). Those who do lay up for themselves spiritual treasures will lay up a different and unwanted kind of “treasure” (Rom. 2:5).
Such is the fool and his money
Eric L. Padgett