Contentment in Marriage and Materials (Hebrews Sermon 69 of 74)
June 24, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Giants in the Land
Just before Israel was to enter the Promised Land, Joshua is on the other side of the Jordan River and was thinking ahead to what faced them, what lay on the other side? There was the Jordan at flood stage. There was the walled citadel of Jericho. And beyond that lay all of their fears and concerns, the very things that had derailed them a generation before that, 40 years before that. And those people at that time, that generation before, were terrified of a specific race of men of warriors that waited for them on the other side, the Anakim, they're called. The descendants of the Rephaim, they were gigantic people, they were tall in stature, they were mighty warriors, and they were the object of terror and fear on the part of the Israelites. When they spys came back they said they looked like grasshoppers to them and they looked that way in their own eyes too. So think Goliath, think 9 feet tall, think throwing a spear that looked more like a small tree than a javelin, and they were terrified. These were the giants in the land.
Now this morning as I come to Hebrews 13:4-6, we are going to face two of the greatest giants that face us in the conquest of the spiritual Promised Land that still awaits us. The sanctification of our own hearts. The battleground there is not the soil of the Promised Land, it is our own hearts and these giants are idols. And we're going to face this morning in the text, the two greatest idols I think that tempt hearts away from faith in Christ, sex and money. We're going to look at these two through the eyes of the Gospel, and we're going to try to understand how God has provided for us in each of these areas and how God's promise is enough for us that he will never leave us, and he will never forsake us, that he is, as we've already sung this morning, more than enough for us. And that we can be content with God's provision in these areas and not yearn for more or go beyond the boundaries that God has set up.
I. The Battle for the Heart
So I say with confidence, the Lord is our helper. What have we to fear? We can face these two great giants in the land, sex and money, and we can conquer them by faith. John Piper speaking of the heart, the human heart, said,
"The heart is a desire factory. The human heart produces desires as fire produces heat. As surely as sparks fly upward, the heart pumps out desire after desire for a happier future. The condition of the heart is appraised by the kinds of desires that hold sway, or to put it another way, the state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires. If it is satisfied with mean and ugly things, it's a mean and ugly heart. If it is satisfied with God, then it is a Godly heart."
We were designed by God to be satisfied in him. God crafted our hearts to find all of our satisfaction and joy and pleasure ultimately in God. And so, Eric had us read Psalm 63, please listen again to Psalm 63:1-3, we were made for this. We were made for God, and this Psalm, I think, better than any other Psalm, any other portion of the Scripture captures this for me personally.
"O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you, my soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I've seen you in the sanctuary and I've beheld your power and your glory, because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." Just meditate on that. God's love is better than life. I'd rather have God's love than be alive. That's what the psalmist is saying. I can't imagine life without God's love. It would be meaningless to me, it would be empty. We were designed for that. Our hearts were made for God. We were made to find our deep rich, full satisfaction in God. But for all of that, there's a great battle going on, it's going on in our hearts right now. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are assaulting that ground, that battleground of our hearts, trying to get us to yearn for and desire and be satisfied in something other than God.
The Grave Danger of Idolatry
Here we come to the grave danger of idolatry. Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites wandered again and again into idolatry, the worship and service of false Gods. And frequently, they would shape and craft some kind of statute to represent their Gods and then they would fall down and worship them. So often, we in the 21st Century, we in the church see that act and say, "Well, we know that idolatry is not much of a problem anymore." Oh, don't fall into that trap. Idolatry is still alive and well. 1 John 5:21, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols." It's still there, whether we make statues or not. For me, the best verse in the Bible for describing what idolatry is Romans 1:25. "They exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things more than the Creator who is forever praised. Amen." Oh, there's so much in that one Verse. But fundamentally, when someone gives themselves over to a created thing and puts ultimate value on that thing and worships and serves it, they have become an idolater.
And it's in the face of the God, the eternal God, who they exchanged for that created thing that they do this, this God who should be praised for ever and ever, Amen. So, that's idolatry. So you don't have to make a physical idol to be an idolater. And in this text, I think we have two of the greatest idols that assault our hearts, the idol of sex and the idol of money or possessions. And both of them promise pleasure apart from God. Both of them burrow down to the root of our nature, like some kind of diseased worm, and they eat at the vitals of our spiritual walk with God, the vitals of our spiritual health, and they make us sick. The lusts of our lives primarily reside in these two, the yearning for sexual pleasure, and the yearning for material possessions.
And they promise delight, they promise pleasure, they promise happiness, but apart from God and his righteous laws and his boundaries, they leave the idolater's worshipper of them crushed and spiritually dead, devastated and empty. And the shocking tragedy for us in the church is that we can so often imitate those that are spiritually dead because of idolatry. We can actually take in the concepts of the Gospel. We can take in the fact that we have been blessed in the spiritual realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ, and every good and perfect gift that's in our lives has come down to us directly from a heavenly Father who loves us and we can take all of that spiritual and material blessing, and we can turn away from it, unfulfilled to seek something else, to seek some idol. How tragic, how unnecessary is that to be dissatisfied with Christ and to go after an idol?
And so, this is the battle and the author to the Hebrews is concerned about this congregation of Jewish people who had made a profession of faith in Christ, who are being pressed by the hard treatment of the world, the persecution of the world, pressed by persecution to turn away from Jesus and go back to Old Covenant Judaism. But the real lure in the trap, the real bait is pleasure, earthly pleasure of which sex and material possession's a big part. And so, to be lured away from Christ into idols, idol worship, that's really the temptation and the pull. And the author to Hebrews is giving them this warning. And so, here in this text, we have provision from God, everything we need to fight these two idols. We have the gift of marriage that God's given us. The gift of marriage, that God ordained means for sexual fulfillment, and we have the gift of possessions and within that contentment in what God has given us. But fundamentally, even before that, after in the text, but primary before it is God's promise.
II. Central Promise: I Will Be With You!
So look ahead, we're going to kind of skip to the end of this section we're looking at. I'm going to look at Verse 5-6, and I want to bring out the Central Promise in this text that should feed us and strengthen us in our battle against idolatry. It says in Verse 5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.' And so, we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?" Fundamentally, idolatry is what we do when we're not satisfied with Christ. We run to sex and we run to possessions when we're not satisfied with Christ. Scripture's battle plan to the defeat idolatry is faith in the Lord Jesus as our all sufficient supplier and refuge and friend, that would satisfy the deepest parts of our soul.
And to give us that faith God gives us his word, the word feeds the faith, faith works on the word. The word of promise, specifically, and so, God gives us a promise. Faith rises as a gift from God, rises to meet that promise and fulfills us with confidence that you see right in the text. God's given us a promise. Faith rises to meet it. We are filled with confidence and we live a different kind of life, not an idolatrous life.
And so, what's the promise here? "I will be with you," that's the promise. I will be with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I am the satisfier of your soul. I will meet your deepest needs. I will protect you. I will uphold you with my sovereign right hand. I will feed you, I will love you, I will provide for you, I will filter all of the attacks, so that nothing will come on you accept what you are able to bear and in the middle of the battle, I will strengthen you and you will be victorious. I will be with you, trust in me, put your confidence fully in me. I will never leave you, I will never forsake you, no matter what you're going through, it could be a physical trial, it could be emotional, it could be a relational, it could be financial. Home base here is financial.
You could be facing significant financial trials and God is saying directly to you from this text, "Do not be afraid. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. Trust in me, I will be your helper. And no one will be able to fashion a weapon against you that will succeed. No weapon formed against you will prosper. What can man do to me?" That's what he's saying. Let me satisfy your soul, trust in this promise and don't run after the idols of the land, money, and sex, earthly, fleshly pleasures.
Now, the origin of this promise was something said to Joshua, right before he entered the Promised Land. He's just there, as I said, on the other side of Jordan, at flood stage about to face the conquest of Jericho, and he had probably one of the hardest ministries ever.
Just think about this one statement. I've often meditated on this in Joshua Chapter 1, "Moses, my servant is dead." Now then, you Joshua, take over. I mean, how would you like to follow Moses? This great figure, this incredible man who goes up a mountain of fire into the very presence of God and comes down with his face radiantly shining bright, how would like to follow him, be his successor? "Moses is dead, now then, you take over." It's terrifying. It would have been easy for Joshua looking ahead for his heart to quail and to fail, but God spoke this promise to him. Joshua 1:5-7, "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous." So Jesus is now speaking those words to you, O believer in Christ. He's speaking directly to you those same words. Be strong and courageous, because never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.
This is the promise of the incarnation, isn't it? What was said concerning Mary, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him, Immanuel. What does that mean? It means God with us. And as Paul said in Romans 8, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things." And so here, I just want to speak to you, if you are outside of Christ, may this be your invitation to come in. Don't stand on the outside of this promise, this promise isn't for you if you're not a Christian. If you're not in Christ, God will be against you, he will condemn you to hell, but if you are in Christ, then God is for you. And what else matters than that? That's where it makes perfect sense. What can man do to me, if God is for me? How could Satan's accusations mean anything to me?
And so, if you have up to this moment been outside of the Gospel, outside of Christ, don't let it be that way any longer. Come to Christ, God sent his son, his only begotten Son into the world, who lived a sinless life, who died on the cross in the place of sinners like you and me, idolaters like you and me, who have made idols of sex and idols of money, and he died for idolaters like you and me. And all you have to do is put your faith in Jesus, and he will forgive you of all of your sins, and he'll transform you. So let that happen right now, so you can listen to the rest of the sermon as a Christian, how is that? And for those of you who years ago were justified, you're still battling idolatry, aren't you? And Jesus is promising, because I have cleansed you of all of the... Forgiven all your sins, I've given you a new nature. Stop acting like you don't have a new nature. You don't need these idols. So just... I plead with you don't leave this place unregenerate. You don't know how much longer you have to live. Come to Christ.
And wouldn't it be great if I were speaking to 100% nothing but regenerate people right now? Wouldn't that be awesome? You say, "Oh Pastor, then you wasted your talk." Not at all. Just you guys... You 100% regenerate people, you guys go take this same Gospel and go preach it in the workplaces and the neighborhoods, what do you say? Exact same thing. Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you. And so, this is the central joy of our lives, God with us. Psalm 16:11, "You have made known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand." So that's it, that promise, your faith in that promise is the dynamo that enables you to have the power to conquer these two great giants in the land, the idol of sex and the idol of money. By this promise, God is enough for me and he'll never leave me, you can defeat him. So now let's look at them.
III. Crushing the Idol of Sex by Purity in Marriage
First, crushing the idol of sex by purity and marriage. Look at Verse 4. "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." So we come now to the significance of marriage and when we come to marriage, we're coming to one of the truly vital issues in the Christian life. From the very beginning of redemptive history, marriage was at the center piece of what God intended to do with the human race. Other than personal conversion, there is no more important moment in someone's life than the moment they make that pledge saying "I do" in front of God. It's a vital, a vital moment. And therefore, because of its significance, it's hugely the focus of Satanic attack, hugely. The Godly healthy marriage can be an incredible pipeline of spiritual and material blessings. But a sinful un-Biblical disobedient marriage can be devastating for a lifetime.
And there is no healthy society without healthy marriages, and there is no healthy church without healthy marriages. This is vital, this is no overstatement. These comments in this Verse are especially poignant for us who live in the state of North Carolina, in that we recently had an opportunity to consider the public view of marriage. And if you look again at the verse, marriage should be held in honor by all. Okay, well, it seems like it's the church's job as the pillar and foundation of the truth to work toward that end, that marriage will be held in honor by all. And the more I've looked at that problem of gay marriage, so call it, so the more you look at that issue and try to understand it, the more I am convinced that apart from the Bible we can have no lasting definition of marriage. Frankly, the definitions of marriage will get weirder and weirder.
Can I marry myself? Can I marry my pet? I mean, why not? What's going to stop it? What ethic... What meant... What stops it? And so, we go back to the Scripture and say, God defines marriage, he did it from the beginning. And that's how we must argue. We must not be afraid to say, the Bible says. This is how marriage will be held in honor by all who listen to God. And so, we come to a positive view at the beginning of the Verse, marriage should be held in honor by all. The word honor here is related to the word frequently translated, precious or valuable, such as in 1 Corinthians 3:12, building with gold, silver, or costly stones, precious stones, same word. Or even better in 1 Peter 1, it talks about the precious blood of Christ that was shed for us, by which we are forgiven. So, marriage should be held in honor, it should be seen to be precious and valuable like the blood of Jesus is, should be esteem. So it has to do with an estimation. Held in honor, means how people think about it.
Only as the society or the church esteems marriage properly, will husbands and wives understand their immense responsibilities to uphold it honorably, and primarily I think it's husbands and wives that need to esteem marriage properly, Amen. As we... As I as a husband esteem marriage properly, then I'll behave a certain way, as my wife esteems it, then it will be held in honor, that's how it is. But it doesn't mean that single people can't and shouldn't esteem marriage, they should. And why is marriage so honorable? Why is it so precious? Well, because the triune God has said so, how about that? God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. God the Father by creating marriage and being specifically involved in the first couple getting together, so pointedly involved, the Creator made them male and female. He crafted Adam out of the dust of the earth. He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he created him alone.
And for a time, he was alone to establish his headship in the relationship and Adam's headship over the whole human race. But though God said again and again, in terms of creation, it is good, it is good, it is good. The one time he says, it is not good is, it is not good for the man to be alone. I'll make a helper suitable for him. I tend to think putting the whole Biblical council together, it was not good for man to remain alone. It was clearly good for him to be alone for a little while, to establish headship and leadership, but it wasn't good for him to remain alone, because then he could not fill the Earth and subdue it and rule over it. He needed a wife. And so, God the Father was directly active in that. Animals were brought, helper suitable was not found, a deep sleep, God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, he took a rib portion of Adam's bottom and he fa... Body and he fashioned a woman out of the rib.
And out of that he brought her to the man. And I always think in terms of a distance travel, how God brought her to him, like she was made in a different place and they were brought together and Adam was delighted in her. This at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman for she was taken out of man. And then God the father made a statement about that saying, this is the norm forever, right there in Genesis 2. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife. And the two will become one flesh. So, marriage is to be held in honor, because God the Father does. Marriage is to be held in honor because God the Son does as well. Jesus was born in the context of a marriage. Joseph was betrothed to be married to Mary, and though Joseph was not his biological father, God was his father, yet he grew up in a home in which Joseph took Mary as his wife, and had other children by her after he was born, and Jesus was submissive to both of them because of honoring marriage.
Who is Joseph to Jesus, except his stepfather? I guess, an unusual relationship. But because of the significance of marriage, he honored him. And Joseph's genealogy given, I think they're in Matthew's Gospel. Secondly, by Jesus doing his first miracle at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, changing the water into high-quality wine, by doing that and by speaking of himself as the bridegroom. How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn when he is still with them? The time will come on the bridegroom will be taken from them. So, he honors marriage by using this language, and by his parables, the way he told parables, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to throw a wedding banquet for his son. And so, the consummation in Heaven is spoken to be like a wedding banquet and the king is God the Father and the Son is Jesus and the bride is the church.
And by Jesus' teaching on divorce in Matthew 19. "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" "Haven't you read, that at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female and said for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. What God therefore has joined together, let man not separate." Jesus honored marriage in all of these ways. And God the Holy Spirit honored marriage in so many ways, but through the teaching of the Prophets and the Apostles. In the Old Testament, the Prophets, speak as though Israel... God's people is God's bride. Marry to God. So Isaiah 62:5, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. There's this analogy between God and Israel of marriage.
So also with Hosea, when there was immorality, there was adultery, because of the idolatry. But God would restore in Hosea 2:16, "in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me my husband." Jeremiah 2, "I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown." And so, also through the Apostles. Paul's teaching on marriage in Ephesians Chapter 5. "For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I'm talking about Christ and the church. Revelation 21:9, the Holy Spirit speaks, "one of the seven angels said to me, 'come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the lamb.'" And so, in a very mysterious way, even the sexual union between a husband and wife is a picture of God's perfect spiritual union with his people. It's not something our minds can completely handle because we're corrupted, but we're still given this profound mystery as an analogy. And in heaven, when there will be no procreation, no physical union, no need for it, the consummation will be very much like the perfection of a marriage.
So God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have all set apart marriage and esteemed it as a high and holy thing. And this is true even if you are single, and even if you have the gift of singleness, 1 Corinthian 7 talks about the gift of singleness, where, there are going to be some brothers and sisters in Christ who have given... Been given this gift and they will never be married and they're set apart according of the Apostle Paul for the Gospel and for Jesus, and total focus on him. But even they should honor marriage and hold it in honor and esteem, that's what the Verse says. God has many purposes in marriage, procreation, because he desired Godly offspring, pleasure because he just loves us and wants us to enjoy things and marriage is pleasure. For purity, because this is the only way that we sexual beings can be sexual and not sin. Elizabeth Elliot was once asked to write a book, the title of which was "Sex And The Single Christian." She wrote back saying it's going to be a very short book. Really short. This is the only way we can be pure.
For partnership, because two are better than one. For progress, because it's a workshop of sanctification and how, talk about that another time. But we just keep learning and growing in Christ. Those of you who are about to get married, you're not marrying a perfect person, you know that, and you know who you are, but I think you know that. It's for sanctification, for progress and for proclamation, because it's an incredible platform for the Gospel. Both to our children, as they are raised in our home, and we can share the Gospel with them, and then to the outside world. That's six Ps. I usually don't alliterate, some day that might be actually in a wedding. Procreation, pleasure, purity, partnership, progress, and proclamation.
Satanic Attacks on Marriage
Alright, if marriage is so important, then you can see why Satan is going to come after it hard. Satan's been hammering on human sexuality, organized satanic attacks. I've counted many of them. I think seven, maybe. And on the way here, we came up with three more, organized satanic attacks against marriage.
Two in the text, fornication, pornos in the Greek and adultery. Fornication is sexual activity between unmarried people. Our world is filled with fornication these days, our culture is filled with it. It's just accepted a normal, it seems. Colleges are rife with it, it's just accepted and normal there. And then after college years it's just accepted to extend singleness as long as possible, because there's so much sexual immorality and there's no need. As one writer put it, "Why buy the cow when you can sneak in at night into the neighbor's pasture and steal his milk." You don't have to care for the cow or protect it. And so, single men and women are not making the sacrifice in the covenant of marriage, because they're getting whatever they want selfishly. And so also adultery. Adultery is sexual relating between two people when one or more of them are married to someone else.
Again, adultery is down played, but I think we see more of the damage that that does. It could be somebody very famous, maybe even an athlete, doing incredibly well in his career, commits multiple acts of adultery, and his life spirals out of control. He loses basically everything that he valued in this life and can't even perform well in his sport any longer. Now, you think I'm talking about such and such, and I may actually be talking about somebody else. It's happened again and again. And these two are mentioned in the text.
- Prostitution, Polygamy, Legalistic Celibacy, Divorce
But there are others, prostitution, polygamy, homosexuality, legalistic celibacy. Colossians 2, forbidding of marriage is a Satanic attack on marriage. Divorce and others, besides.
I want to say briefly two specific things from this list. There are some that trouble us more than others. First about homosexuality. It's not directly addressed here, but we need to know the signs of our times and we need to know that out there, this is a huge issue. And we, the church having the Gospel, have the only remedy that there is for homosexuals. The only remedy. And you know what the remedy is? Ephesians captures it better than... This one phrase, speaking the truth in love. That's the remedy. We need to be willing to speak the truth, both to homosexual people and to our culture. The President of the United States said that gay marriage is a civil rights issue. We need to speak the truth about that, it's not. Scripturally homosexuality threatens people's souls with eternal damnation, just as much as the sin I'm about to talk about does, covetousness. So our church needs to be as welcoming toward people who are being saved out of homosexuality as we are welcoming to we who are being saved out of covetousness. Amen.
Because they're all listed in those lists. And so, we need to speak the truth and not get swept along to the point, not just a tolerance, but of embracing and celebrating homosexuality. It cannot be. I cannot celebrate something that's going to destroy my neighbor. How could that be loving to the neighbor? I can't celebrate that. But what I can do is speak the truth and there has to be a demeanor, a tone of voice, a facial expression of love and sensitivity and humility and compassion that draws people into the discussion and helps them to see that at some point, like in 1 Corinthian 6, it can be said of homosexuals and such were some of you, but you were washed, you were redeemed, you were cleansed, you were saved by the blood of Jesus, so briefly.
And secondly, I want to talk briefly about pornography. The word pornos is right in the text, and this is something that is assaulting the soul of churches like ours. Even our church. Frankly, one of the biggest attacks on the sacredness of the marriage bed that... And that's... The text, marriage... The marriage bed, koite is what it is in the Greek, that marriage bed, the sexual relationship between the husband and wife held sacred, held in honor. This is an assault and it's really accelerated in our lifetime to the point where people can without sacrificing their dignity, basically go to the wrong side of town and get whatever they want on the Internet. Staggering. While Christi and I were students at Southern Seminary, there was someone that lived in our block of apartments, we didn't know them well. But it was a student there and he basically threw it all the way for Internet pornography, threw it all away, his marriage, his parenting, his seminary career, everything, so he could sit and look on a computer.
Al Mohler, speaking about pornography said, basically, what you have, picture a single guy alone in his room and he doesn't have to look after his hygiene, he doesn't have to look after his bad breath, he doesn't have to look after his appearance or his weight, he doesn't have to build a relationship with a woman, he doesn't have to sacrifice or in any way be a Christ-like head to her. He can have an array a smorgasbord of beautiful women who will do whatever he wants them to do and then he can dismiss them. It's wickedness. And there's no place for it in the church, and we have to fight everything that we have.
Go back to the original promise with which I began. God is enough for you. He will never leave you, he'll never forsake you, that means he's with you always and it says right in our text, a serious warning. God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. If your right hand... If your right eye caused you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than your whole body to be thrown into hell, and if your right hand caused you to sin, then cut it off and throw it away. It's better for you to lose one part of your body than your whole body to be thrown into hell.
The Joys of Marriage
Finally, on marriage, be delighted in what God has provided for you. Be delighted in it. Have a lifetime of marriage together. Grow old together. If you're a husband, be a Christ-like head to your wife. Love her as Christ loved the church, sacrifice for her. Train her up, wash her with water through the word, sanctify her in that way. Love her, lay you down your life for her. And as it says in Proverbs 5, be satisfied with her sexually. Don't read it, I've got it here, but I don't have time, but just read it. Let her body, let herself satisfy you, and don't want any more, be content with her, and develop that. And wives submit to your husbands, and love them and follow them as Ephesians commands. This church will be as healthy, in part as healthy as our marriages.
IV. Crushing the Idol of Money by Contentment in God
The second great idol that we have in this text is that of money. And as I've looked at this, I'm... Sometimes I'm not sure which of the two is bigger. Verse 5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'" We come here to the struggle that we all have with covetousness, with greed, material possessions. And in the New Testament several times greed is called idolatry, it's directly connected. The author is laying open our sin and giving us the remedy and the remedy is contentment based on the promises of God.
What is Covetousness?
So what is covetousness? The word used here is literally money love or the love of silver. But money itself is just a means to an end. What does the money buy? What is it that the money buys? Very few people are just straight Ebenezer Scrooge misers that just collect money for its own sake. It's like, if I could just have a huge box of silver coins on a desert island, I would be just in 7th heaven. Nobody thinks like that. You can't eat the silver, and after a while you're like, what I wouldn't give for a steady supply of bread and water, just to stay alive.
So most people, I understand, it's not the money, it's what it can get for you. Well, what does it get for you? It gets you some kind of earthly pleasure. Whether by buying the clothes, the fancy suit, the fine house, the fast car, the lifestyle, it's the lifestyle of pleasure of self-seeking pleasure. That's what we're at here, earthly pleasure. And so, covetousness then is an over eager desire for the things of this world. It's a lusting after either what God has forbidden, that's just straight out sin or what God has not provided for you. I mean, do you really believe that everything you have has come to you as a gift from God? Well, that's what it says in James, right? Every gift has come to you from God, right? Well then, do you believe the corollary to that, that everything you don't have has come to you from God, or has not come to you because of God? God did not want you to have it up to that point. God is able to do anything. He can snap a finger and do anything for you.
If he has not chosen to make you filthy rich, it's because he doesn't want you to be filthy. And so, God is putting a boundary around you and in Psalm 16 David says, "the boundary lines in have fallen for me in pleasant places." And so, you just are happy within what God has provided. But a covetous heart is constantly looking at his neighbor's house, his neighbor's wife, his neighbor's man servants or maid servants and all that, and violating the 10th Commandment, wanting something that God hasn't provided.
Now, it's a requirement for elders that they not be covetous. 1 Timothy 3:3, not given to drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. Not a lover of money, same Greek. 1 Peter 5:2, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers, not because you must, but because you are willing as God wants you to be, not greedy for money, but eager to serve."
But it's also for all of us, that we would not be lovers of money. That you would keep your conversation, your daily life, the way you live your life free from consumption, free from idolatry, covetousness. And so, we have this warning to the rich, 1 Timothy 6:9-10 says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and into 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 away from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs." Now, you've probably heard a version of that before, right? Money is the root of all evil. You ever heard that? So, I want to correct two errors concerning that, alright?
First and less significant is the exact phraseology. It is not money is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all sorts or categories types of evil. That's the lesser error. The greater error is that it's not a problem for you, that you don't actually struggle with covetousness. It's not really a problem, it's for those other people, that's the greater error, and the more dangerous of the two. For you to say, "I have no love of money, it's not a problem for me, I'm completely free from that, I'm not a materialist. I don't live for possessions." Do not say that. But rather take seriously these warnings.
Some time ago, I was in the house of a church leader, not our church, it was somebody that we had met and it was a very, very, very, nice home. And I was looking at through a stack of magazines and I came across one I had never seen before, Connoisseur Magazine. So I was interested in Connoisseur Magazine. Maybe some of you have a subscription, please don't come and tell me you have a subscription to Connoisseur Magazine. What is it? It's the best of the best of all the stuff there is in any category there is. So there were articles in this particular magazine, there were articles on kitchen cutlery. I mean, there was like an $825 knife, kitchen knife. I'm thinking, "Oh my goodness." First of all, I'm kind of used to a dull knife, anyway. I'd probably cut right through my hand with the first swipe. I'm holding a tomato and it's going on, swish, right through. It was made in Japan with the highest quality Japanese Samurai steel or something like that, $800 and whatever it was. I thought, "Oh my goodness." Then I flipped the pages, and there was article on Italian shoes, men shoes, or English bespoke suits that are of the best quality, the best vacation packages.
Now, if you'd been in the home of a church leader and seen a Playboy, would it have bothered you? I would hope so. Should that magazines being there, bother me? Even worse, why was I so interested in it? Why was it so alluring to read it. I was interested in every article, all of them. There was an article on fine red sports cars. Captured my attention for a while. The fact of the matter is, this is a blind spot for the American church, it's dangerous. The ground of a certain man produced a rich harvest, because the harvest was too big for his existing barns, he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do. Oh, I have an idea, I'll tear down my barns and I'll build even bigger barns and then I'll have stuff for years to come, and I'll say to my soul, soul, you have stuff laid up for years to come." Then the Word comes down from Heaven, "you fool, this very night your soul will be required of you. Now, who's going to get all the stuff you've laid up for yourself?”
what I have... The idea I have here, is not build bigger barns or build bigger vats, let's build bigger diameter pipes and let the stuff flow right through us. There's nothing wrong with earning lots of money, there's something wrong with it accumulating all in one place, does that make sense? And so, let's keep our lives free from the love of money and let's be content with what we have. Jeremiah Burroughs said that contentment is a sweet, quiet, settled inward disposition of the soul that rests in God's providence for the soul. It's a heart work, contentment is, and you're saying what God has given to me as the song says, is more than enough for me. I have enough, I have plenty, I don't need any more. And so, if you have enough to eat, and enough to wear and basic provisions and that plus contentment, you are rich, according to Scripture.
Contentment's way better than money, isn't it? I mean, it travels easily, right? I mean, no one can steal it from you, it's secure. And so, therefore, we could just go right over into the statement. Because I'm content in Jesus and in the promises of God, "the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, what can man do to me?" Well, frankly, man can do a lot to me. I mean, really, he can. He can insult me, he can persecute me, he can take my possessions, he can beat my body, he can imprison me and take away my freedom and then he can kill me. So that's actually a lot. Do you think the author of Hebrews is not aware of all the things that man could do? Oh, he knew very well what man could do. What is he saying? He's saying, compared to the riches we have stored up in heaven, of forgiveness in Christ and rich abundance stored up treasure in Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves cannot break in and steal, what can man do to take away my peace with God? What can man do to take away my justification and my forgiveness?
What can man do to take away the indwelling Holy Spirit and what can man do to take away my contentment in the promises of God? If that's taken away, man didn't take it from me, I gave it away. And so, the Scripture just stands and defeats these two great idols, sex and money. How stands it with your soul? Are you battling these idols? Are you in Christ? And are you going to the promises of God and getting the strength you need to fight these battles and not live for sex and live for money? And be freed up to a whole radical different kind of lifestyle, where you are open to anything God calls you to do and serve him in radical ways. Like going on a mission trip. We're going to have a chance in a few moments to commission a mission trip. Just be free, open-handed with your money, be pure in your mind, be healthy in your marriage and be open-handed with your money. That's what the text is saying to us today. Close with me in prayer.