21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21–22, NKJV)
Wanting to follow Jesus is not the same as actually following Him. That may seem obvious, yet we easily convince ourselves we follow Him when the evidence says otherwise. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Doing the Father’s will begins in the heart and produces conduct consistent with the heart’s intention and devotion. This man had kept the commands of God from his youth (Mk. 10:19-20). But he lacked one thing. His heart was greedy and he trusted in riches more than God (Mk. 10:24). His love for personal possessions controlled his conduct toward others. His unwillingness to sell and give exposed his selfish heart. Why do we emphasize complete obedience to Jesus? Not because it earns us treasures in heaven, but because it expresses a heart that loves God “with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk. 12:30; Rom. 6:17-18). One thing prevented this man from having heavenly treasures. If even one thing is hindering your obedience from the heart, repent, and do what Jesus says (Lk. 6:46). Jesus knows our hearts just like He knew this man’s heart. Do we (2 Cor. 13:5)?
“It is good for nothing,” cries the buyer; But when he has gone his way, then he boasts. (Proverbs 20:14, NKJV)
Honesty and equity should define our financial transactions. We certainly recognize a difference between getting the best deal possible when purchasing an item, and greedily taking advantage of the seller. (The same can be said for the seller, who is tempted to use uneven scales to gain dishonest profit, Proverbs 11:1). Today’s verse suggests several of the pitfalls to avoid when transacting business from the buyer’s point of view. First, we must be honest in purchasing from others (Eph. 4:25). Whether it is giving an honest day’s work for the wage we receive, purchasing products, or paying for services rendered – we must be guided by honesty (even when others are not, Matt. 7:12). Secondly, we must guard against greed. Greed can easily enter the buyer’s (and the seller’s) mind. The desire to get more than a fair exchange for goods and services reflects a love for money (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The love of money is the root of dishonest transactions. Greed tempts people to pervert justice for the sake of material advancement (Deut. 16:19). Thirdly, today’s proverb warns us against pride. Boasting in getting away with an unjust transaction is particularly ugly. Honesty, contentment, and humility should inform and guide all our financial transactions, and are counterweights to the sins of dishonesty, greed, and pride.
13 Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. 14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:13–14, NKJV)
Jerusalem and Judah were headed for destruction in the days of Jeremiah. Covetous hearts – greedy for power and wealth – guided both prophet and priest to speak falsely to a population that loved to have it so. These religious charlatans “healed” the spiritual ailments of the people with superficial dressings. They proclaimed “peace, peace,” even though hostility toward God and men ruled the day. Even now, religious leaders, with many followers, preach messages that fail to heal men’s soul – even as those souls rush headlong toward eternal ruin. Messages of peace that tolerate immorality are proclaimed. “Peace” is advanced at the expense of divine truth. (Indeed, evil is called good, and good is called evil, Isaiah 5:20.) Jeremiah’s warning remains relevant, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16). No peace can exist where sin reigns. Changing its definitions and ignoring its reality reveals hearts that are greedy for selfish gains, not selfless hearts devoted to the Almighty.
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2–3, NKJV)
James continues to bring our focus to the driving motives behind conflicts and battles with others. Selfish cravings never satisfy one’s desire to be satisfied and fulfilled. Lust leads to fights and battles with those we believe are preventing us from acquiring our desire. Murder and greedy yearnings are never satisfied through hateful actions that deprive others of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When one’s motive is to “spend it on your pleasures,” others will be treated as disposable rather than with decency and respect. Asking God to help us achieve our goals when evil motives reside in our hearts is a hypocritical and futile approach toward God and toward life.
16 And this also is a severe evil— Just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? 17 All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger. (Ecclesiastes 5:16–17, NKJV)
Laboring for the wind. That is what Solomon said a person does who hoards wealth. He should know; he was extremely wealthy (Ecclesiastes 2:8). He observed that riches never satisfy the soul, yet they certainly increase problems (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12). Solomon observed how misfortune takes away the miser’s storehouse (5:13-14). Like Solomon, you will not take one bit of your earthly wealth with you when you die (5:15). Why then should you make the abundance of earthly riches your motive and aim in life? It is truly tragic to watch the money-driven person trying to catch the wind, deceived in the hope that by tearing down his barns and building bigger ones, his soul’s longing for contentment will be satisfied (Lk. 12:18-21). Genuine contentment comes from being “rich toward God,” regardless of the amount of money and things one possesses (Luke 12:21-23, 31; Hebrews 13:5). Be rich toward God. That perspective enables you to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew. 6:19-21). “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” (Proverbs 11:28).
22 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. 23 Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” (Luke 12:22–23, NKJV)
Jesus had just warned against covetousness, by saying that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). In contrast to materialism’s greed (which prevents being rich toward God, Luke 12:21), disciples of Christ avoid the distracting cares of this life. While we provide for ourselves and others, our faith rests in God, who supplies our material needs. We are tempted to confuse our wants with our needs. Jesus reminds us not to do so. By first seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, our faith rests in God, not in ourselves. By doing so, we are assured that our Father in heaven will provide what we need in this life (Matthew 6:33-34). Do not be deterred from your goal of heaven by putting the material things of life before doing the will of God. Since God cares for our lives and bodies, He will certainly provide our food and clothing. Keep your faith in God, and focus on heavenly things first.
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 5 “He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15:1, 5, NKJV)
The righteous person’s values are as unshakable as is his devotion to have fellowship with the Lord God. He is compassionate, not covetous, and he honors justice. Unlike the modern sense of exorbitant interest, usury here is simply interest; the sum of money charged for a loan. The law of Moses prohibited charging interest to a brother and the poor among them (Exo. 22:25; Deut. 23:19-20). The one who abides in God’s presence lends without expectation of return (cf. Lk. 14:11-14). Neither does he profit at the expense of justice for the innocent. And so, mercy and justice are among the values recognized by God as worthy of His presence. In a world driven by greedy ambition, be careful to “do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
25 The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. 26 He covets greedily all day long, but the righteous gives and does not spare. (Proverbs 21:25–26, NKJV)
The lazy person is not righteous. Laziness leads to unfulfilled desires culminating in death. Rather than labor to satisfy one’s daily needs, being lazy leads to the additional sins of covetousness and greed. Consumed by longing for that which he does not have (and will not work for), the lazy person remains unsatisfied. The righteous person, on the other hand, is industrious and supplies his needs. By diligent labor he has more than enough for himself. He shares with others instead of greedily hoarding his goods. Do not be lazy; it only leads to want, greedy desire and death. Instead, thank the Lord for the work you have to do. Do your work with gladness, serving the Lord and helping others (Col. 3:23).