Covetousness and discontentment go hand-in-hand with one another. Generally, we compare ourselves to someone else and we lack contentment toward the gifts that God has given us, desiring instead what our neighbor possesses. This is precisely what happened with Cain as he looked upon his brother Abel (Genesis 4). He saw that his own offering was rejected, while Abel’s, offered under a pure heart and in faith, was accepted. Bitterness, jealousy, and malice grew within Cain’s heart – and he murdered his brother in cold blood.
While we may think we are not capable of murder, scripture never separates hatred from legitimate murder (1 John 3:15). The condition of our heart reveals our true sins for what they are, and Christ never once rebuked a man solely upon his actions. Scripture always addresses our heart as the object of Christ’s affection, yet also the object that holds affection toward the things of this earth. However, scripture also declares that there is no room in our heart to have affection for both Christ and this world (James 4:4).
We have no choice but to surrender ourselves to the truths in scripture if we claim Christ; the man who loves this world has no love for Christ (1 John 2:15). The man who hates the brethren does not have the love of God within him. (1 John 4:20). If we neglect the powerful warning in these verses, we may very well prove ourselves deceived and forfeit salvation. We might simply be the soil upon which the seed fell, but the cares and worries of this world choked out any growth. If the Word is true and we believe it to be fully true, logically, we have to come to grips with what is being revealed about our hearts.
If our affection is turned to anything other than Christ, we are elevating the created thing into an idol rather than worshipping the Creator. We are exchanging the image of the incorruptible for that which is corruptible, and we run the risk of being given over to our own lusts; the end of which is death (Romans 1:27-29).
Yet the challenge is not so much in recognizing these things are true for some; the challenge comes in how this becomes practical. How do you bring your affections back to Christ, having begun exchanging them for the corruptible treasures of earth, which are subject to rot and rust?
Quite simply, we follow Paul’s logic in Philippians 4:4-9. We train our minds to think upon whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, and whatever is worthy; we give thanks in every prayer; we rejoice in the Lord always rather than in the sinful objects of our heart; we let ourselves overflow with gentleness; we curb anxiety by placing our trust in the Lord; we put in to practice what we have learned and heard from the faithful men and women in Christ who teach us. And then the God of peace will be with you. Note: there will be no promise of peace until we actually do these things. Paul does not say our hearts will be guarded if we neglect to act upon the truth of scripture. If our hearts are so hell-bent towards disobedience and producing bad fruit, surely, we ought to order our lives in such a way that the Lord can guard our heart.
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul addresses our carnality, or more simply, our ability to live in sinful ways rather than in God-pleasing and Christ-centered ways. He begins by urging the church to present themselves as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is a spiritual service of worship. He then goes on to say that they should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
Part of living sacrificially and in holiness involves being able to follow the commands of scripture. Thus, only by having our affections in only Christ will we be able to truthfully remain separate from this world. How do we do this – by being transformed by the renewing of our minds. How though do we then be renewed by transformed minds – through reading, applying, and loving the Word of God. This is not an overnight process, but our long-term faithfulness to this task directly affects this renewing process.
The truth of the matter though is that we need to learn contentment in what we have been given. How might one do this? Give thanks. There is no better remedy for covetousness and discontentment than giving thanks. It may sound too simple, but for the heart that covets and is discontent, this is not an easy task. If you want great gain though, truly great gain, scripture declares that godliness and contentment is the only way to achieve it. In other words, we must live a life that reflects the glory of the gospel and we must learn contentment in that same reflection. How else can you be content if you don’t give thanks to God for everything – the good and the bad?
Job provides an excellent example of this kind of godliness in the very first chapter of the book. He loses everything, and replies, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” The very next verse says, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
At the end of the day, if we lack contentment – we are blaming God for the circumstances of our lives and the wealth of our possessions. We might not say this or even think like this, but that is part of the heart issue. We are expressing through discontentment and covetousness, that what God has provided us for the current time is not good and sufficient for us. We need more. We need what they have. We need what we want. In all of this, we are showing contempt for the goodness and mercy of God simply in giving us new and fresh mercies this day.
The gospel does not guarantee more security, comfort, wealth, or worldly good. The gospel does however, promise hope, joy, peace, and salvation. Yet if the gospel is not our treasure, our heart will not see hope, joy, peace, or God’s wonderful salvation. I am not saying that if you are covetous or discontent currently, that you are not a Christian. What I am saying though, is that your affections have waned; you have lost your first love. This day, you have forgotten the gospel.
Come back, and delight yourself in Him, knowing that all this life is – is but an empty shell of what is to come. It cannot give you pleasure; it cannot bring you life; it cannot bring you salvation. All this world has to offer is but a reflection of the glory of God; yet do not think for a moment that this reflection is suitable or even close to sufficient in revealing the fullness of the majesty that God is and possesses. Come back to the path of suffering, pick up your cross, and endure the road that Christ calls us to follow Him on.