The New Life Mission

Sermons

Subject 22 : The Gospel According to LUKE

[Chapter 12-4] (Luke 12:13-21) Take Heed and Beware of Covetousness

(Luke 12:13-21)
“Then one from the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’ But He said to him, ‘Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?’ And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’ Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’”
 
 
Beware of All Greed
 
Warm greetings to you all!
In this age when the world is going through profound changes, it’s God’s blessing that your heart abides in the Lord, and that we have been able to carry on with our lives of faith. It is by the grace of the Lord that we have received the remission of sins and are now leading our lives of faith in God’s Church. We have been saved from God’s judgment and have received everlasting life. Moreover, by believing with the heart that Jesus Christ has saved us from the sins of the world through the gospel of the water, the blood, and the Spirit, we were able to reach God’s righteousness and avoid His judgment. Now, as we are abiding in the righteousness of God, we have become His own children and His cherished people. We are now no longer facing any condemnation from God, nor do we have any sin. As those who have received the remission of sins, we need to know how we ought to live, and do everything by the courage and wisdom of faith.
In today’s Scripture passage that we just read, someone asked Jesus to divide up his father’s inheritance. When siblings squabble and get estranged from each other, it’s usually over their parents’ inheritance. Although some siblings often find themselves squabbling with each other even when their parents are still alive, once the parents pass away, more often than not the younger siblings are neglected. So if you have kids, you need to plan your estate carefully. Conflicts arise all too often over inheritance. When parents die, some unscrupulous elder brothers take away the inheritance that’s meant for their younger siblings. The elder brothers take the whole inheritance, leaving nothing for their siblings. The younger siblings then confront the elder brothers trying to get their share of the inheritance. Such squabbling has continued to occur endlessly from the beginning of mankind to the present day. If you are a parent, you need to plan ahead carefully while you are still alive. However, my intention today is not to talk about how to divide up your inheritance properly, but I would like to focus on something else. So don’t misunderstand me.
If Jesus had answered the man’s request to divide up the inheritance and told his brother to share it, then the brother may have done so, but Jesus instead said, “That’s not why I came to this earth. Take heed and beware of covetousness.” It’s not for such things that the Lord came to us. He came to save us spiritually. It is by Him that we have been saved. Do you have any sin? No, you don’t have any. Is there condemnation for you? No, there is no condemnation, either. What then, is the biggest problem for us when it comes to leading our lives of faith?
 
 
Covetousness Arises out of the Heart
 
Did Jesus tell us to throw away everything of the world? No, that’s not the case. That’s not tenable. As I said yesterday during the worship service with young adults, God has saved us from the sins of the world once and for all. Through the baptism He received from John the Baptist, God bore all our sins, and by being condemned and shedding His blood on the Cross, He has saved us from all sins and all condemnation. We have been saved by believing in the righteousness of God. To put it in simpler terms, because God has already saved us, we have at least earned the passing mark. If we have indeed been saved by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then we have attained the passing mark before the Lord. Assuming that the passing mark is 60, this means that we have basically made this mark and passed the test. We have become God’s people.
The problem, however, starts from then on. Our mark should go up from 60, but we are apt to lose the points because there is covetousness in our hearts and there are too many things in this world that incite our greed. Isn’t this particularly true in this present age? People nowadays are not just trying to meet their basic needs of clothing, food, and housing, but they are trying to gratify all kinds of hedonistic desires. This present world tempts us with so many attractive things. There are too many things that make us covet. There are many temptations that stir up greed in our hearts. But the Bible says that we must reject such covetousness. Although we should enjoy the basic things that the Lord gives us after we are saved, it is wrong for us to get greedy over everything else that’s too worldly.
However, covetousness—greedy desires, that is—is too strong. We want to make everything ours. The Lord tells us to remove such covetousness. When it comes to living out our faith, the worst enemy is none other than our greed. If we have trouble in our lives of faith even though we have been saved from sin, nine times out of ten, it’s all because of our covetousness. When it comes to the necessary things that God has given us, we can take them all by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. By believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we can take the remission of sins as ours. The problem, however, is trying to take something that is not ours—that is, coveting something else other than what God and our parents have given us for our share. You know what covetousness means, right? For men and women alike, it is because of covetousness over the opposite sex, wealth, or fame that one’s life of faith goes astray. This is the biggest problem that everyone faces after being saved.
The Lord provides for our necessities more than enough without us getting greedy. The life that we lead after receiving the remission of sin by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit is not an accursed life. The remission of sins is God’s blessing. We are naturally bound to live a blessed life. It’s impossible for this not to happen. It is inevitable for all those who have received the remission of sins from God to be blessed in both body and spirit. This is the blessing that God gives to His people. That’s why it’s so precious to receive the remission of sins. Those who don’t receive the remission of sins are destined to live an accursed life; but those who have received it are unconditionally guaranteed to live a blessed life. However, if you and I, who have received the remission of sins, become covetous, and if because of this our lives of faith are troubled, then our faith doesn’t grow, and we are stuck at the same place all the time. Therefore, if our lives are not blessed lives even though we have been saved from sin, then it is all because there is covetousness in our hearts.
Let’s say that the perfect score is 100. Then when we were saved from sin, we earned at least 60. The remaining score to be earned is 40, and if we devote our hearts to God even slightly and gain just one more point, then our mark would be 61. It’s a passing grade, which means that our faith is at least okay. However, we need to strive to earn a higher score. If we let covetousness come into our hearts, then far from improving our score, we would actually end up doing worse. Our score might go down to 59, which means that we would be failing. In other words, our hearts would gravitate toward the world. We would be more interested in the world than in the blessings of salvation that the Lord has given us. We would then lust after the things of the world, and in turn, our score would go further down. This will happen in spite of the fact that what God has given us is more than enough for us.
When we want to take what God has permitted us to have, we should take it by faith without any hesitation. However, if our hearts turn greedy, and we try to take by force what’s not ours aside from what the Lord has permitted us, then our score would be 58. If we let it slide by, the score would get only worse to 57, 56, 55, 54, and eventually all the way down to 50. We would then lose all our basic score of faith, and the covetousness that’s come into our hearts would prevent us from leading our lives of faith properly. What will happen when we fail to meet the minimum requirement? We will come to say, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about how the Lord has saved us!” When someone talks about how he has received the remission of sins, we would end up saying, “Is that all you can say? I am tired of the story!” From then on, the gospel message becomes a tiring story for us. Put differently, we are no longer thankful for the remission of sins because we’ve lost all our basic points. It’s only in our heads that we think that we’ve received the remission of sins, while in our hearts, we aren’t really grateful for the remission of sins nor do we appreciate it.
What then makes us squander our passing mark—that is, what makes our faith regress? What prevents us from leading our lives of faith properly? It’s none other than covetousness. You and I have been saved, right? Jesus Christ bore all our sins through His baptism when He came to this earth, didn’t He? He shed His blood on the Cross in our place, correct? He was thereby judged in our place, right? Yes, we have indeed been saved by believing in this Truth.
 
 
Why Are We Unable to Thank God in Both Our Lives of Faith and Everyday Life?
 
What do you think is the reason? It’s all because of the covetousness that’s come into our hearts. It’s because of greed that we are unable to be grateful to God for the grace of salvation He has bestowed on us. Because of our covetousness, we can’t even thank God for not only giving us everlasting life but also blessing us to live prosperously on this earth and providing us with our basic needs. The Bible says that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and it is the greatest sin of all. The gravest sin for those who are leading a life of faith is greed. If you are greedy, your life of faith cannot succeed.
You have to know that it’s covetousness that prevents you from leading a proper life of faith. It’s because of greed that you and I have a hard time trying to live out our faith, and that’s why we aren’t grateful to God for what He has given us nor for what He will give us in the future.
Covetousness is also a sin, right? However, it’s easy for us to think in our minds that this is no big deal, since Jesus took away all such sins. But it is not a minor issue. The Bible says that we should take heed and beware of covetousness. 1 Peter 4:3 states, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.” Like this, it is because of covetousness that people fall into all sins. It is also because of this covetousness that we the born-again stumble. Like this, covetousness is one of the gravest sins. If you are having a hard time trying to live out your faith, then you need to realize that it’s because of your greed. If our brothers and sisters, who have all received the remission of sins, are struggling to lead their lives of faith, and nothing they do is going well, then it’s all because covetousness has come into their hearts. It’s greed that makes us yearn for something else other than what God has permitted us. Isn’t this true, my fellow believers? Of course it is. Do you know why our faith goes astray? It goes astray because we let covetousness come into our hearts.
Like this, although the born-again know that covetousness is a sin, sometimes even they think that this sin is not such a grave sin. However, my fellow believers, for the born-again, covetousness is the greatest sin of all the sins of the world. All of you must grasp this.
Let me explain this with an example. Here is a glass and we are trying to fill it up. The Lord has already filled the glass to 60 percent. In other words, the glass is already filled to 60 percent with the blessings of the Lord. The remaining 40 percent—that is, the things of the flesh—will also be given to us by the Lord shortly. However, because we are greedy, we end up losing what’s already in the glass to the things of the world. Once the Lord’s blessings in the glass are replaced by the things of the world, it’s impossible to lead a life of faith. Once the pure heart of faith is spoiled, we can’t receive His blessings anymore. It is written in the Bible, “Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). If your faith is unable to grow, and if you are unable to lead a happy life with a clear and clean heart, then this means that covetousness has come into your heart. It means that you are living in greed, knowingly or unknowingly.
Like this, whether we realize or not, right now many of us are living in so much greed. This is precisely what we must all realize. Some people live in poverty and struggle a lot even though they are actually rich. Even though they can live prosperously if they take good care of what God has already given them, they can’t do this. What God has permitted to us is more than enough for us to live a prosperous and comfortable life. However, because we are greedy and covetous, we end up losing even what we have.
For our saints also, if they are grateful for what God has given them, and if they take good care of it and put it to good use, they can live very happily with gratitude. They can live thanking the Lord in joy. Why then, do we struggle so much with hardship in our lives? It’s all because of covetousness. It’s because covetousness has come into our hearts, because we have let our hearts be greedy, that we face hardship.
I am convinced that the greatest problem facing our saints is none other than covetousness. Among the born-again, there are some people who try to make money in any way possible, thinking that this is not a sin. Of course, it’s true that we have no sin. Do you have any sin? No, you don’t. Anyone sitting here who thinks that he is still sinful doesn’t need to listen to my sermon. Such people should be gathered elsewhere. I should speak to them about the remission of sins first at a separate gathering. I should explain to them in detail about the sins of mankind. It’s those who have received the remission of sins who are gathered here to worship God. Anyway, that’s not the issue that I am addressing here, as you and I both have now become sinless. That’s because the Lord took upon all our sins. My point, however, is that as we have thus received the remission of sins and been cleansed, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be tainted by sin again because of greed.
What kind of greed should we throw away then? Am I saying that we should forsake everything God has given us? No, that’s not what I am saying. Whatever God has given us, we should rightfully take it all. What should we forsake then? We should throw away excessive greed—for instance, coveting some other woman beside one’s wife or trying to take what’s not one’s own. If there is something that God has given you as yours, then you should indeed take it by faith. However, the problem is trying to make something else yours by force. There are many people who try to usurp someone else’s possession either by force or through some conniving schemes. When siblings fight over inheritance, it’s usually the eldest that gets greedy. But you should realize that many blessed people in the Bible were not the eldest. David was the youngest son. The same goes for Abraham, as it is true for many others. Between Esau and Jacob, wasn’t it Jacob who was blessed even though he was not the firstborn? We are blessed by faith, not by anything else. There are many such instances recorded in the Bible.
My fellow believers, it is natural that we should indeed take and enjoy whatever God has given us. However, trying to amass something else other than what God has given us is nothing more than covetousness. That is what we must beware of. Whenever Satan tries to stir up such greed in our hearts, we must reject them. We must say no to him and defeat his schemes. It’s the Devil who tries to incite covetousness in our hearts. He stirs up greed in the hearts of the servants of God also. Spiritual greed may be necessary in some ways, but fleshly greed is all needless. It is a sin. You must reject it unequivocally. We must reject anything that tries to eat up our basic score of faith. For all our saints, all our servants of God, and all our brothers or sisters, young and old, such covetousness is all brought on by the Devil to our saints. We must beware of covetousness.
My fellow believers, we should never tolerate the greed that’s stirred up in our hearts. Although we may neglect it carelessly thinking that it’s no big deal since we’ve received the remission of sins, this is a huge mistake. We must reject any and all types of covetousness. In contrast, when it comes to what God has permitted us to have, we should take it all without any hesitation. However, trying to take what God has not permitted us to have—none other than this is sin and greed. God has already given us much, and so there is no need why we should lust after anything else.
 
 
We Often End up Tolerating Covetousness, Thinking That It Is Never a Sin
 
That’s how many of us think. But tolerating covetousness is a huge problem in God’s sight. Because we don’t take such greed seriously enough, our faith suffers a great deal, and as a result, we may even be ruined because of this greed. Let’s give some serious thought to this. What is it that prevents us from growing our faith, and because of what do we struggle to carry on with our lives of faith? Isn’t it all because of greed? Don’t you agree? Indeed, it all boils down to greed. God’s servants also struggle because of greed. When it comes to some other sins—for instance, murdering someone, committing fraud, or hurting someone physically—we think that these are grave sins, but we don’t take it seriously when it comes to the covetousness that’s come into our hearts. Not taking greed seriously enough is the problem. But Jesus said that covetousness is the greatest sin. It is the sin of idolatry that offends His Word, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).
The greatest problem for the born-again is this greed. For me also, my greatest stumbling block is covetousness. The same goes for you as well. If we can just throw away this greed, we will be problem-free. Every born-again person can live happily if only he would forsake his greed. How happily can we live within the confines that God has permitted to us? Once greed is forsaken, we will be able to see new things. There will be things that we can ask God by faith, and we will also have the faith to believe that God will answer us for sure. Do you have faith? Of course you do. What’s important is that you should throw away your greed.
There is no one who has no greed. If you dig deep into your heart, you will see that you have the desire to make someone else’s possessions yours, to enjoy everything, and to make all the things of the world yours. Isn’t this true? But are the things of the world made yours just because you covet them? No, that is not the case. You may then say that it’s no sin to have greed just in your heart, but Jesus made clear that it is indeed a sin. It’s precisely this greed that prevents us from living out our faith. In our hearts we desire to have everything, even though we know that this is not permitted. We then ask why this desire itself is a sin. But you should keep in mind that Jesus said clearly that it is a sin. Just having greedy desires constitutes a sin.
Jesus told us to beware of covetousness. Confucianism teaches that the body falls ill unless greed is rejected. They perceive this issue just in a realistic perspective, but fundamentally speaking, we must not have any greed for the welfare of our souls. We must realize why the Lord warned us not to follow after covetousness. We must grasp that this constitutes a sin. Although I have many things that I would like to say about this issue to you today at this hour, in particular, I would like to make clear to you that covetousness is a sin, and that you must beware of it. The longer we believe in God, the more watchful we must be of covetousness. This is the greatest problem for us. It is particularly more problematic for the servants of God. Because the Lord has remitted away all our sins, all the sins of our hearts have disappeared. But some of us take this to mean that we can somehow swallow every greed that comes into the heart. Not knowing that this is wrong itself is a sin. This is the biggest problem. When our brothers and sisters receive the remission of sins, at first they are careful to make sure that what they are doing is not a sin. But when a lot of time goes by, some of them become careless and say, “What sin? Why is this a sin?” In other words, they don’t realize it even when they commit sin. This is why covetousness is so dangerous, and why we must beware of it. Once we get used to greed, you and I both can turn numb like this and rationalize ourselves.
 
 
I’ve Learned from My Life of Faith That the Greatest Problem Is Greed
 
After having carefully observed our brothers and sisters as well as myself, I’ve reached the conclusion that our greatest stumbling block is none other than greed. It’s because of greed that some of us are having a hard time trying to live out our faith. My fellow believers, would anyone who has received the remission of sins have any unclean sin and be troubled by this? No, that is not true, since he is clearly sinless. What troubles the born-again saints then? They are troubled because of greed. It’s because of covetousness that they can’t come out to the Lord with a joyful heart; it’s because of covetousness that their hearts are gloomy; and it’s because of their covetousness that they end up leaving Jesus. It is also because of greed that they depart from the Church. In reality, God has already given us many things even without us being greedy. All covetousness does is just incite our hearts to be greedy without actually delivering us anything at all. If you let yourself be filled with greed, you will only be destroyed with all this greed; there is nothing that’s achieved by being greedy. Everything that’s achieved is only because God permits it. Isn’t this true? When your heart turns greedy, does this help you in any shape or form? Does it enable you to accomplish anything? No, absolutely not! Is it then right for you to keep storing this covetousness in your heart as though it were some precious treasure?
My fellow believers, I admonish you all to throw away covetousness and its temptation resolutely. I’ve seen many people who can’t throw away their greed even though they realize that it is completely useless, and that they will be ruined if they remain trapped in their greed for the rest of their lives. Yet because they are all weak humans, they think that they need all these superfluous things to make a living and find some security. We must cast aside such thoughts. We must throw away covetousness resolutely.
In today’s Scripture passage, someone said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me,” but Jesus said to him, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” He then explained what He meant in detail by using a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
My fellow believers, no matter how much greed we may have piled up in our hearts, we cannot do anything unless we love the riches of God. No matter how greedy and wealthy anyone may be, he can’t spend his riches for anything unless God allows him. In today’s Scripture passage, the Lord said that no matter how greedy we may be, and how hard we may try to satisfy our greed, we can never attain anything unless God permits us. In other words, the Lord is saying that He will provide for all our basic needs and give us everything we need for both our bodies and souls even if we are not covetous.
Anyone can become rich. Everyone can fill up his heart. The question is what it is that we want to fill our hearts with. We must fill our hearts with the things of God. There are two kinds of richness: Richness toward God and carnal richness. But the Bible tells us to be rich toward God. It is those who are rich toward God that can also take the things of the world under God’s permission. It is someone who is rich toward God that can also take many things of the world. Do you believe in this? Those who are poor toward God, on the other hand, are also poor when it comes to the things of the world. Indeed, unless you have faith in God and follow Him by faith, then you cannot have the things of the world either. You can’t have what you want no matter how greedy you are and how hard you try. However, if you have faith in the Word of God, you have obtained the remission of sins, and you are following God properly, then you can also have many things of the world. My fellow believers, if we really live a spiritually upright life, if we really live by the right faith in God, then the Lord will permit us many things of the world also.
You need to realize clearly that we cannot make the things of the world ours with a greedy heart, so there is no need for us to live with a covetous heart. Far from it, we should reject greed. If we could have everything we desire just by being greedy, then we should be greedy, but nothing is made ours just by coveting it. As such, we must reject our greed and instead have faith in God. The Lord is saying to us that it is when we have this kind of faith that we can also take the things of the world. Gandhi of India advocated non-violence and practiced self-denial and honest poverty. But this is not what it really means to have no possessions. On the contrary, the true Christian faith calls us to take and enjoy with thanksgiving everything God has given us, to glorify Him in our lives, and to prosper and flourish in the will of the Lord. This is not what Buddhism teaches. Buddhism also teaches that one should forsake everything one has. To reach Nirvana, one must forsake all including his ego.
But this is not what Christianity teaches. It teaches us to eat, drink, and enjoy everything God has permitted to us. It also calls us to prosper. This is one of the big differences that distinguish Christianity from Buddhism. Our Lord is saying that those who are rich toward God are rich in the world also and can receive many things from God. But for those who are poor toward God, no matter how greedy and wealthy they may be, they will ultimately lose everything and not be able to use any of their possessions. God said to His servants and you, “Throw away the covetousness that’s in your heart. Have faith in Me instead, and I will give you many things.” Do you grasp this?
You need to have a clear understanding of this covetousness. You must not let greed take up too much space in your heart. I told you a while ago that those who have been saved have at least earned the basic mark of 60. So your grade now is 60, but from then on you need to raise your mark gradually to 70 and 80. When we thus make good grades before the Lord, ultimately, we will also be able to take the things of the world according to our improved grades. Abraham’s faith was unwaveringly strong. The faithful in the Bible prospered according to God’s blessings. Abraham and Isaac were some of the wealthiest people in their generation.
My fellow believers, if your faith is really strong, then you can also receive abundant riches of the world and live in prosperity. You will absolutely not live in poverty. When those who have not been born again misbelieve in Jesus, they will end up penniless. They will lose all their possessions and fall into abject poverty. However, those who have been truly born again, those who believe in the Word of God faithfully, those who follow the Word by faith, and those who are with God’s Church—these people will prosper. I can swear this before God. This will come about without fail. You will never struggle in poverty, as it is written, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). Even if your children or their descendants stumble because of their sins and fall into poverty, God will remember your faith and raise them up again. The riches of faith are none other than the riches of the world. Therefore, we must drive out worldly greed from our hearts and fill them only with faith in God. Do you understand this?
My fellow believers, let us take whatever God has permitted to us. Let us not lose it. The problem, however, is that there are some people who, in their covetousness, want to take what God has not permitted them to have. You should not be such a person. Instead, you should throw away your heart’s greed. It is extremely important for you to beware of covetousness and empty your heart. What should be emptied from our hearts, from the hearts of the servants of God and of the born-again saints? Covetousness must be expelled.
My fellow believers, it is covetousness that prevents you from living out your faith well. That’s what shakes your faith. It’s not because of anything else that you have trouble trying to lead a proper life of faith. It’s neither because you have not been saved nor because your faith in the Lord is shaken. You have faith, and you have also been completely saved.
Why then do you find it so hard to live out your faith? It’s because of greed. It’s because you have allowed covetousness to come into your heart. That’s why you are having such a hard time in leading your life of faith. Let us all therefore reject covetousness. There probably are other things in your heart that should be rejected also. Let us then throw away all such things, reject greed, and live by our faith in the Lord.
May God bless you all!