And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
The famous American novelist John Steinbeck wrote a letter capturing our uneasy relationship with material wealth:
Do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy, who loves all living things, a dwarf, a peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, “Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?”
Then there is the other kind of Christmas with presents piled-high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says, “Is that all?” It seems to me that America is like that second kind of Christmas…If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and I would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick.
For the first child, the gift is precious, undeserved, and a source of joy. For the second child, the gifts are obligatory and unsatisfying. An abundance of possessions does not guarantee an abundance of happiness. Material and financial affluence cannot bring us shalom.
Think about the best meal you’ve ever experienced. Your tastebuds danced for joy with every bite. You’ve likely eaten meals since then. If the best meal was so good and filling, why do you continue to eat meals? Because your body craves more. As good as the meal was, its effects were only temporary.
Like food, money can’t make you full. It tastes good and may even appease your appetite for a season, but you will wake up ready for more. We all think the next plate of money will be enough, but our hearts have an insatiable appetite for more. We don’t know what it is like to have hearts that say, “I have enough.”
Money and possessions cannot give us lasting joy; only God can. We were made to enjoy everything God has given us, but instead find ourselves asking, “Is that all?” You can love money all you want, but know that money will never love you back.
There are two ends of the spectrum. On one end, there are those who believe joy can only be found through ridding themselves of all their money and material possessions. On the other end, people seek joy through accumulating more money and material possessions. Both are wrong. Being a minimalist or a materialist does not address the real issue of the heart.
Jesus reminds us that the “refreshed” life comes through being thankful for all God has given us and the joyful stewardship of it.
As Steinbeck observed, material wealth often has the effect of making us sick, not better. God offers to heal us and make us whole by trusting in Him. Money is not a giver of joy; God is. If we take Jesus at His word, our material possessions do not define us. We are not the better for having more, and we are not the worse for giving our wealth away.
- Complete this sentence: God, help me to trust in You instead of ________.
- Jesus commands us to be on guard against covetousness. What part of your life would you ask Him to help you guard against covetousness? Complete this sentence: God, please help me guard against covetousness when it comes to ___________. I am weak and need Your power to not be overcome by my own desires. Help me to believe there is more satisfaction in trusting in You than trusting in it.
Jesus, we thank You for Your warnings, protecting us from ourselves and from the devil. Help us to seek first Your kingdom and put nothing ahead of it. Show us where our guard is weak, and be our strength. Enable us to experience the abundant life You offer us. We pray for the faith to believe Your words and for the power of Your Spirit to walk in the light of them.