I never thought of covetousness as not wanting to let go of something. The definition I embraced was wanting something someone else has (our neighbor’s house, spouse, servant, ox, donkey…Exodus 20:17). But apparently the word has the concept of grasping, which could be reaching out to grab hold or grasping onto something and not wanting to let go.
Reading this definition gave me a new perspective on the rich young ruler’s problem. (Matthew 19:16-22/Mark 10:17-22/Luke 18:18-23) He asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him: “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Rather than scrambling to complete the instructions the man was disheartened and went away sorrowful. Why? He had great possessions. Giving ALL to the poor would drastically change his life. It was not what he envisioned.
“This man didn’t simply want to know how to enter heaven, he wanted to “gain inheritance rewards there,” writes Tony Evans. But his love for money kept him from loving his neighbor.1 Remember the second greatest commandment? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
Following the encounter with the rich young man, Jesus astonishes his disciples by telling them how difficult it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:23) “An unhealthy dependence on worldly riches will obscure focus on kingdom values and eternal spiritual riches,” explains Evans.
Covetousness was the man’s problem. Who knew? He certainly didn’t recognize it. It is something I would never lay claim to either, at least until I gained knowledge of this grasping concept. This past year I have been working diligently on the steps required for book publishing. Grasping after a book contract, a writing platform that reflects an audience interested in my message, and placement in writing contests to confirm I write well.
This morning I woke with the conviction that the first thing I think about each morning are my writing goals and alas it is usually what I am thinking about as I fall asleep. My thoughts are not of God but writing. I am grasping after success as a writer. Christian writing programs give you the right perspective: you are writing the message God placed on your heart; you are His hands and feet; you are writing for His glory. But the steps given to get this message out are like an avalanche. Often, I feel buried, gasping for air. There are blog posts to write, an email service to navigate, a nurturing sequence of emails to send out, and presence on social media to attain. Ten-thousand followers are required if you want to get your message out via a traditional publishing contract, but great writing and a great message count as well. The last two come with research, research, research, and edits, edits, edits… And then you are consumed, grasping after, falling asleep with article leads, blog ideas, and writing goals dancing in your head.
As we begin a new year, consider what you are grasping after that may ultimately keep you from Christ. Perhaps you are pouring all you have into raising your children. You find your life filled with all the activities the world promises will make whole and happy children whether organized sports, music lessons, planned family outings, or educational opportunities. Your thoughts are consumed with schedules and plans. Perhaps you are grasping after one of those HGTV homes and you see paint colors, walls moved, and new kitchen cabinets. Or you are thinking about all the places you will travel once you are retired and so you focus on 401K plans, saving accounts, budgets and future adventure.
What we think about as we lay our head on our pillow at night and as we prepare our coffee the next morning will reveal our heart.
Putting the Lord first is not simply seeking the Lord early in the morning through Bible reading and prayer or regular attendance at church and Bible study. It is trusting Christ enough not to be driven, grasping after anything other than our Lord.
Contemplate Your Ways:
1-The next few days note your thoughts as you begin to go to sleep and when you awaken. Are you grasping after anything other than Jesus?
2-Share any insights you have on how to make sure Jesus is your first priority.
1-The Tony Evans Bible Commentary, Advancing God’s Kingdom Agenda, published by Holman Reference. Mark 10: 17-25 analysis page 941.