In our study with covetousness, we have been talking about all the places in Scripture that tell us not to covet. Exodus 20:17 commands us, “Thou shalt not covet.” However, today’s passage commands us to “covet earnestly the best gifts.” To covet or not to covet? That is the question!
Often, we hear a command from God’s word and fail to fully investigate its meaning. This passage in Corinthians is telling us 2 things:
· Number 1 – we are to covet. This is an inspired command from the Lord through the Apostle Paul.
· Number 2 – we are to covet earnestly. The word earnestly means to hurry up, to get after it, to covet vigorously.
Not only is covetousness sin in the Bible, but it is also the root of many other sins. As I have taught over the last few weeks, it causes one to steal, kill, lie, and commit adultery. Habakkuk 2:9 declares, “woe to him that coveteth”. Colossians 3:5 says to mortify, or murder, covetousness in our lives. Hebrews 13:5 instructs us to be without covetousness. In Psalm 119:36 the Psalmist prays “incline not mine heart to covetousness.” Luke 12:15 informs us to “beware of covetousness.” Isaiah 57:17 teaches us about the iniquity of covetousness. I’m not refuting the fact today that the Bible tells us not to covet, but to declare that it does tell us to covet one thing, and we are to do it earnestly and vigorously.
The Bible commands us to covet those spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians. Why would God want us to covet these? Because they are not to be used on us, but rather these gifts of the Spirit are to be used for others. God did not give them to us for us, but he gave them to us for others. What the Bible is telling us to do is to covet something for somebody else. God says in his word very plainly that we should not covet anything for ourselves, but He is giving us a pathway to covet earnestly. This is so we can receive in order to give to somebody else out of a charitable heart. These gifts are not given to me, but rather through me. I am to deliver them for God, and not for me. So when you look at this passage and it tells us to covet, it’s not asking me to break all the other commands in the Bible to not covet. What it is telling me is to covet something for somebody else.
In previous weeks, we have studied this thing of covetousness, and we have talked about how we get something so we can have a good time, so we can get a promotion, so we can have what we want to have, be what we want to be, and do what we want to do. But in this passage, the Bible is telling us that we want to covet something so that we can give it away. So I can give it to somebody who needs the Lord and His goodness.
I remember years ago when my oldest son Josh came to me and wanted some money to buy his mother a gift for Mother’s Day. Did Josh want that money for himself? No. Josh coveted that money so that he could get something to give to his mother. God wants me to covet for others. God has given us gifts and talents, and it is for us to be of a charitable heart. We should go to God in prayer and seek His face help, so that we can receive in order to give to others.
The test of true love is what you covet. Let me say that again. The test of true love is what you covet. The Holy Spirit of God is the One Who gives us His graces. He gives us His fruit. The Holy Spirit of God is the One Who gives us those gifts that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. We need to realize that both the fruit and the gift were not given for us but through us. The fruit was given to me to help me properly treat others, and gifts from the Holy Spirit are given to me to help me properly serve others. The Holy Spirit comforts me that He may comfort through me. We always see Him as a Comforter for us, and praise God He is, but he wants to give to us both gifts and fruits that we may comfort others in this world in which we live. May God help us to get out of the attitude of “what’s in this for me”. May we be careful not to judge another man’s motives, but may we be prayerfully considerate that we should earnestly covet the best gifts, that He may give them to us, in order to give them through us. God did not primarily give the gift of love for me, but rather to go through me. He did not primarily give the gift of joy for me, but for others. Fruits and gifts were given for us to be conduits to serve others.
This ministry of Reformers Unanimous is a ministry where you give, and give, and give, and give…if your heart is right with the Lord. All ministry is this way. Just today someone sent me a quote from Hudson Taylor, “Envied by some, despised by many, hated by others, often blamed for things I never heard of or had nothing to do with… often sick in body as well as perplexed in mind and embarrassed by circumstances. Had not the Lord been specially gracious to me, had not my mind been sustained by the conviction that the work is His, I must have fainted or broken down. But the battles is the Lord’s, and He will conquer. We may fail, do fail continually, but He never fails.” If we’re not careful we’ll get so focused in this life on “what’s in it for me?”, that we will miss the best gifts. It’s not for me, it’s for others. God said, “Thou shalt not covet anything for yourself, but the best gifts for others.” I guess when you look at this passage in the right context you see that if we’re going to covet anything it is just so we can be a delivery boy, realizing God is going to give me these things not for self enjoyment and self pleasure, but for others. Can I ask you this morning, how is your covetousness? In regards to the things that God has already given you: time, money, spiritual gifts, fruit of the Spirit, are you desiring to use those in order to brighten someone else’s day? Or did you wake up hoping someone would brighten your day? Did you wake up looking to get something for you? Or did you wake up and spend time with God to find out who you can give to today? I think this is a better definition of what coveting is all about. Coveting is not a bad thing, it’s a spiritual thing, but it becomes bad when it is selfish and we consume it on our own lusts. May God help us to purge out covetousness.