Michael Douglas won an Oscar playing a fictional character called Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street. In the film, Gordon Gekko makes the following speech. “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A”
There are many people today who believe that desire for more isn’t so bad, that desire will help you get ahead in life. Christians may know this isn’t true in our heads, but we still struggle with coveting.
In 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 Paul wrote, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”.
It is obvious that God takes covetousness very seriously. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. If we covet we won’t inherit the kingdom of God. But what really is greed or covetousness?
Is it wrong to desire anything? I think most of us realize that some desires are good. We need to be able to determine between legitimate desires and desires that are covetous. Satan wants to take even the legitimate desires we have and tempt us to increase those desires to covetous proportions. For instance, he will tempt us to move beyond the legitimate desire to be a good steward and have a savings account to the illegitimate desire to hoard excess amounts of resources so we feel we no longer have to depend on God. He will tempt us to move beyond the legitimate desire for our spouse into an illegitimate desire for someone other than our spouse.
How do we determine the difference between legitimate desires and coveting? Does God want us to have desires? In 1 Corinthians 12:31 the Bible says, “But earnestly desire the best gifts”.
Legitimate desire will not sacrifice people for the thing desired. Covetous desire will not sacrifice the thing desired for people. Legitimate desire trusts God to provide in His time. Covetous desire is not content with God’s provision. A covetous desire will have no regard for people or relationships if they get in the way of what is desired.
In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul writes to the Philippians and says, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
When I was in school one of the popular songs of the day was “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. The lyrics said - I can't get no satisfaction - I can't get no satisfaction - Cause I try and I try and I try and I try - I can't get no, I can't get no I can't get no satisfaction.
I think that the sentiment of the song tells us a lot about what is wrong with the world. No one seems to be satisfied. John Rockefeller, the founder of the Standard oil company and the richest man in the world around the turn of the 1900’s, was once asked, "How much money is enough money?" He replied, "Just a little bit more."
I ran across a story recently that really got my attention. Sergio Hernandez was arrested and charged with stealing television sets and other electronics during the 1992 rioting in Los Angeles. The part of the story that really seemed strange was that Sergio had won 3 million dollars in the lottery less than 3 years earlier.
God wants his children to be at peace. He wants us to be content. He wants us to be satisfied.
A successful businessman and his friends were talking and laughing together and enjoying success. The businessman told of his childhood of poverty. Someone had given him a big silver dollar. To have a silver dollar was rare for children then, and his little sister begged to hold it. He laughed over the memory of all the chores he could get her to do for him just to get to hold the coin. He told of a day when she minded the cows all day for the privilege of holding the coin, only to have to give it up at the end of the day. All of the men laughed again at the childishness of the sister. Just then, one man reminded the businessman that all of his long hours and hard work was for the privilege of holding onto a few possessions. “The end of the day is coming, and you will have to give them up like your little sister did.”
That is exactly how it is with all of us. In Matthew 6:19,20 Jesus warned, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven “.
There are many today who are destroying their very life through covetousness. God wants us to be content. He doesn’t want us to say, I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus himself tells us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Now that is satisfaction!