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Is Covetousness Really Such a Big Deal?

July 05, 2011

Nothing is essential but God. Nothing material can ever take His place. Covetousness is allowing your heart to desire something as essential—and then expending your best energy getting it. Be careful God doesn’t give you what you covet and make your soul like a wilderness. When coveting rules the human heart, God sends leanness into the soul—in time you will come to the place where you hate the very thing that you had to have.

This is what happened to the children of Israel. God had freed them from slavery and poverty, but as they moved toward the promised land they missed the meat of Egypt, and their desire to have it began to consume them. First pleading then bitterly begging, they provoked God through their covetous hearts, “Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day…but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you” (Numbers 11:18-20).  Describing this devastating consequence of covetousness Psalm 106:15 says, “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” OUCH!

The North American Church has leanness in its soul. By world standards, the church in North America is incredibly wealthy in financial things, but weak and malnourished in the “joy and manifest presence of the Lord.” More than 80% of churches in North America are either in a plateau mode or in steady decline. Multiplied thousands of church leaders have rejected 2 Timothy 4:2 and its exhortation to “preach the word,” choosing instead to “heal the hurt of My people slightly, saying ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Everywhere people are lamenting the spiritual poverty of the church but failing to make the connection that coveting leads to leanness. Maybe God has given us what we had to have and now, as it streams out our nostrils, we are becoming aware of what we have lost. Covetousness may be observed in churches or nations, but the place it resides most insidiously is in a single human soul. The North American Church has leanness in its soul. I have leanness in MY soul. That’s where the work has to begin.

5 Important Questions:

  1. Is there anything you currently have or want to have that occupies primary space in your soul or upon which your happiness hinges?
  2. What can you point to that you would have, but do not have because you’ve chosen instead to give for the advance of the gospel?
  3. Is there a ceiling you have set on your lifestyle that you will not exceed, no matter what you have or may have in the future?
  4. Are you willing to agree that wanting anything in a way that damages your hunger for God is idolatry?
  5. Are you willing to repent?

Leave your comments, but not before repenting, as I must now do.

 

Read comments:

  • JoshuaJul.06.2011

    Pastor James,

    You say that a couple of different documents were involved in this post. What are these documents, can you post them as well, so that we can understand where you have gotten the justification for saying that more than 80% of churches are in decline?

    Also, you say that thousands of church leaders have rejected 2 Timothy 4:2 and its exhortation to “preach the word,”. Could it be that they are preaching the word, but not preaching in the same way or style that you seem correct to be?

    I have heard many pastors who preach the word and do it well. It’s a tough battle because their congregants live in a materialist world, and they might not be hungry for God, but it’s not necessarily the pastor’s fault.

    Can you provide some background or justification why you say what you say?

    Thanks,

    Josh

    James MacDonald Reply:

    Josh:
    The stat on 80% of churches in America are plateaued or in decline is well established and has been cited in countless places http://www.sbclife.org/Articles/2004/02/SLA4.asp and http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201001/201001_056_strategic_planning.cfm

    As for pastors using the condition of a congregation for defending their failure to preach God’s word . . . not acceptable right. We are to do what God has commanded us to regardless of the response. This is a blog for pastors and they know without question that many do not proclaim a message from the text of God’s word week by week. I have taught on this extensively. Reference my current series at jamesmacdonald.com called. Vertical Church. thanks for commenting.
    james

  • bruce crewsJul.07.2011

    I’m often surprised how easy covetousness or even idolatry can creep up in my life. It subtly grows from a thought all they way to an action if I am not consciously focused on confessing and keeping my heart on the narrow path the Lord is guiding me down. I’m leading my congregation through Proverbs during the month of July – so many nuggets being mined out through my own study, as well as others sharing what God’s laying on their hearts.

    Thanks for this poignant reminder James. It was timely for me and others for sure.

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