The fight for faith

1 Timothy 6:6-11 says, But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

John Piper, in a sermon, “Battling the Unbelief of Covetousness”

In the end covetousness destroys the soul in hell. The reason I am sure that this destruction is not some temporary financial fiasco but final destruction in hell is that Paul says in verse 12 that covetousness is to be resisted with the fight of faith; and then he adds, “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession.” What’s at stake in fleeing covetousness and fighting the fight of faith is eternal life. (See 6:19.)

So verse 9 isn’t saying that greed can mess up your marriage or your business (which it certainly can!), but it’s saying covetousness can mess up your eternity with ruin and destruction. Or as verse 10 says at the end, “it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (Literally: “impaled themselves with many pains.”)

God has gone the extra mile in the Bible to warn us mercifully that the idolatry of covetousness is a no win situation. It’s a dead end street in the worst sense of the word. It’s a trick and a trap. So my word to you is the word of 1 Timothy 6:11: Flee from it. When you see it coming (in a TV ad, or a Christmas catalog, or a neighbor’s purchase), run from it the way you would run from a roaring lion escaped from the zoo and starving.

But Where Do You Run?

cutlassYou run to the arsenal of faith, and quickly take the mantle of prayer from Psalm 119:36 and throw it around yourself: “O Lord, incline my heart to your testimonies and not to worldly gain.” And then quickly you take down two cutlasses, a short one and a long one, specially made by the Holy Spirit to slay covetousness. And you stand your ground at the door. When he shows his deadly face you show him the shorter cutlass:

1 Timothy 6:6 “There is great gain in godliness with contentment.” GREAT GAIN! GREAT GAIN! Stay where you are, Lion of Covetousness. I have great gain in God. This is my faith!

Then, before he has time to attack, you take the longer cutlass (Hebrews 13:5–6), “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for [God] has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?'” And drive it home. Do exactly what Paul says to do in Colossians 3:5, “Put covetousness to death.”

Brothers and sisters, all covetousness is unbelief. Learn with me, O learn with me, how to use the sword of the Spirit to fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life!

Read or listen to the rest of this sermon