And He said unto them, Take heed,
and beware of covetousness:
for a man's life consists not in the
abundance of the things which
he possesses. (Luke 12:15)
Do you love your "things? Do you, like most of us, have so many possessions that you're running out of room to keep them all? Or have so many things packed away that you've forgotten about, but still can't bear to get rid of? Don't worry – you aren't alone. Most of us are in the same boat. And yet, we always seem to want more, don't we? More, newer, bigger, better; those are the bywords of our lives. And when our friend buys a new car.... or boat.... or (fill in the blank) we often become a little envious, don't we? Suddenly we want one, too. Either we never had one, but now think we just have to have it, or, if we were happy with the one we have, we now want a better one. If we're honest, we've all been there..... It's human nature.
We really need to take care, however, because the Bible has a word for it: Covetousness. To "covet" simply means to want more, or to want what somebody else has. And while it may be human nature, it's a sin. It was important enough that one of the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses began with the words “Thou shalt not covet...” and then went on to a whole list of things.
Our human nature is sinful, that's all there is to it. That's why we must be born again, not of the flesh but of the Spirit! In fact, the Bible says covetousness is idolatry! (Col. 3:5)
In today's verse, Jesus is warning the crowd of the dangers of covetousness. Notice He didn't just say
take heed, or beware, but said both “take heed, and beware”. The first word, “Horao” in Greek, means to stare at, and by implication, to discern clearly. The second word, phulasso, means to watch, as in being on guard (literally or figuratively). Jesus knew that covetousness is such an integral part of our human nature that we have to exercise discernment to recognize it and then we must work to guard ourselves against it.
Jesus used a parable to show us the utter uselessness of having an abundance of possessions. Our happiness in life does NOT depend on the things we have. Most of the time, the opposite is true, if we're honest: the more we have, the less happy we are. The more we have, the more we worry about it being stolen, or being lost or ruined. And here's one thing for sure: No matter how much we have, we aren't going to take it with us when we die! Someone else is going to get it all!
But God said unto him, You fool, this night your soul
shall be required of you: then whose shall those things
be, which you have prepared? (Luke 12:20)
Our loving Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need – and it's not an over-abundance of earthly possessions than can never make us truly happy in the first place. It's not things that can be lost or stolen or ruined by time, and will eventually all go to someone else, anyway.
Jesus ended this parable about coveting with these instructions for us to live by:
But rather seek you the kingdom of God;
and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's
good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Sell what you have, and give alms; provide yourselves purses
which grow not old, a treasure in the heavens that fails not,
where no thief approaches, neither moth corrupts. For where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12: 31-34)