Guarding against covetousness

He told the people, “Be careful to guard yourselves from every kind of greed. Life is not about having a lot of material possessions.”

Luke 12:15

Yeshua cautions us to be mindful that we are not overcome with covetousness. The roots of some of the words used here mean to desire to “superabound” with “numerically more” material things.

Contextually, this admonition is sandwiched being questioned by a man wanting Yeshua to act as an arbiter in determining the distribution of an inheritance between brothers, and the parable of the rich man who stores up excessive grain for the future only to die that night.

A desire to have an abundance of wealth or material possessions is, for most people, a desire for security in life. Whether it’s financial savings plans, 401K retirement plans, or winning the lottery, we desire to have an assured future. If we know we have more than enough for the moment, then our ongoing provision is accounted for. Yeshua provides the reasoning behind why this should not be our primary focus in life.

First of all, we may work hard to save for our future, only to have our life end prematurely (from our perspective), and who would then be the recipient of everything we had worked so hard to attain? Was all that work and time spent collecting all of that wealth really the best use of our resources while we lived?

Additionally, it does not allow us to be rich towards God. If God blesses us, we should be faithful in using those material blessings to bless others, as he has done with us. This is how the child honors the Father and demonstrates their true spiritual lineage; by becoming like him.

Further, the apostle Paul provides a stern warning regarding covetousness to the believers in Colosse:

Put to death, therefore, whatever is worldly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Colossians 3:5

Greed, the desire for more and more material things for personal security and satisfaction, is idolatry. This must be put to death, a term of finality; there is no middle ground. We need to be vigilant in removing all unrighteous practices from our lives, and idolatry is the primary indicator of rebellion against God. When we seek to trust our provision (which we can see) more than our Provider (whom we cannot see), then we have fallen prey to idolatry.

God promises to meet our needs, not our wants, but in so doing, we should demonstrate generosity with others out of respect for his care for us. If you really desire to have an abundance, then rather than being an idolater, be an abundant giver.

Give, and you will receive. A large quantity, pressed together, shaken down, and running over will be put into your pocket. The standards you use for others will be applied to you.”

Luke 6:38

Vigilance over temptation

And he [Yeshua] came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:40-41

Yeshua was speaking this to Peter for the specific purpose of admonishing him to stay alert with him while he was praying in Gethsemane. However, this has become a type of universal admonition, and not without good reason.

Praying to avoid temptation was a key teaching within Yeshua’s template for prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Based on the original word definitions, this can be expanded and paraphrased as “May we not be lead into adversity and hard testing; nevertheless, rescue us from anguish, harm, and all evil.”

Praying in this manner is a demonstration of vigilance. When praying to avoid temptation, 1) there is an awareness of the possibility of impending challenges and 2) there is a recognition of God’s ability to provide assistance or escape.

The act of praying focuses the mind on the essential needs of the moment. This is necessary because vigilance also involves alertness and overcoming the distractions and limitations of fleshly influence. While our spirit may be willing, many times we become spiritually disoriented as worldly impulses (whether internal or external) overwhelm us.

Remaining steadfast in prayer to God keeps us focused and in communication with the One who is more than able to provide us the necessary strength to overcome.

Know Your Teachers

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Matthew 7:15-20

Beware of deceitful religious impostors. You will recognize them for what they truly are by looking closely at the results of their words and actions.

Vigilance involves being on guard against all manner of deception to avoid following a false way. In this current day and age, we have become inundated with information overload; we must carefully pick and choose the sources of our teaching to ensure we are remaining on the narrow path laid out for us.

This admonition was of utmost importance to his first-century flock, as the nation was full of those who would try to gain a hearing, and a living, from the ignorant and willing among them.

Mark 13:22 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
Luke 6:26 – “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The apostle Peter had no shortage of words for these deceivers:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3

Yeshua provides a touch-stone, a type of verification of identity, of false teaching and those who promote it: “You will recognize them by their fruits.” Peter vividly expanded on describing some of those fruits as secrecy, denying Yeshua as Messiah, sensuality, blasphemy, greed, false words.

What are the fruits of those who would seek to gain audience with you today? Are they constantly asking for money to assist in their “ministry”? Are they promising a secret message “just for you” or for only a limited few? Is Yeshua not central to their doctrine? Are they promoting any type of sensuality as acceptable (trappings of wealth, or men or women as objects of desire, “spiritual” music and worship designed to “bring you into God’s presence”)?

Yeshua declares their end as being “cut down and thrown into the fire.” While they may look good on the surface, they will not survive their worldly aspirations designed only to better themselves.

Be vigilant, and get to know your sources of teaching.

Share Truth Responsibly

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Matthew 7:6

Don’t share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. 

While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles. This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:

“An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.”

Proverbs 29:27

“The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it ​– ​that its works are evil.”

John 7:7

Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

John 3:19-20

We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

Yeshua cautions us to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive for our own safety and well-being. He reminds us our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.

Don’t be reckless with the truth.

The Constant Pursuit

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8

Always keep asking, knocking, and seeking in order to receive, have doors opened to you, and to find what you’re searching for.

Vigilance can be defined as concentrated focus over long periods of time during which one is searching for any indication of a target objective. It is in this sense that Yeshua is explaining how continued and prolonged effort is required in pursuing the things of God. Many will pray and then do nothing more; true believers are expected to keep praying, to keep searching, and to keep interacting with others in hopeful anticipation of sensing God’s direction and purpose.

It is this process of constant pursuit that branches into new possibilities. These can then open up into unforeseen (by us) directions of God’s will, thereby achieving his purpose. Remaining static and hoping that God’s will drops into our lap is not the biblical way. It is only as we remain consistently searching and moving that we can then be drawn and directed into the areas of growth that God has for us according to his will.

The Difficult Path

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Matthew 7:13-14

There is a constricted entryway into life which has many obstacles standing about it. Labor fervently to stay on the difficult path that leads through the cramped passage to life along with the few others who also perceive its value and find it.

Believers have chosen a difficult option when it comes to a life path. One cannot just fall into the Kingdom of God by accidentally stumbling into it; it requires grit, intentionality, and determination to pursue the things of God. Many times there is only the slenderest thread of hope to continue, and yet holding on to that one thread, regardless of the storm raging around, becomes the single objective; it will not break.

Testing happens at every corner, but testing is for the purpose of strengthening, and strengthening provides stability of footing and the ability to grasp the hands of others and help them on the way.

Vigilance

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

All stumbling-blocks to righteousness must be removed from your life with extreme diligence. If you desire to be righteous and holy in God’s sight, then you must be relentlessly severe in removing those things from your life that stand between you and him. There are no other options. It is a matter of life or death, not just a self-improvement program. You MUST die to yourself and your own selfish ways if you are to live for him.