Lucifer was once an honored angel, a cherub. He was perfect in beauty, full of wisdom, and was admitted to the holy mountain of God, where he walked in the midst of the stones of fire. He was in Eden, the garden of God, of which the one on earth was evidently a copy. His ways were perfect, and God gave him the work of "covering," and also anointed him.
But Lucifer was not satisfied. He was envious of God, he became lifted up because of his beauty; he corrupted his wisdom because of his brightness, and decided upon a course which he hoped would make him equal to God. He went so far that he said, "I am a God, I sit in the seat of God."
The Pharisees made a great show of their religion. For pretense they made long prayers, and were willing to compass sea and land to make one proselyte. They loved the uppermost seats at the feasts, and were very punctilious about ceremonial observances. At the same time they devoured widow's houses, omitted the weightier matters of the law, and "within" were "full of extortion and excess." Matthew 23:25. It was to them especially that these words were addressed: "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other Ye cannot serve God and mammon. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16:13-15.
The Pharisees heard these things and derided the Master. Were they not serving God! The whole nation could testify to that fact. They were very religious. Some of them fasted twice in the week, all of them made long prayers, and they were careful about their Temple attendance. The fact that they did these things to be seen of men did not seem to disturb them. They might take some advantage of widows, but when Christ said that they were full of extortion and excess, He was going too far. And when He added that "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God," they could but deride Him. They felt that they were not only highly esteemed among men but also highly esteemed of God, that it was Christ who needed to revise His estimate of values, not they.
Thus is covetousness deceitful. The Pharisees were not wicked men in the ordinary sense. They were highly religious, and probably not bad morally. They attended church, and did many commendable things. But when Christ saw the covetousness which possessed them He could not fail to warn them that this one trait nullified all the good they could otherwise do. It was as poison that contaminated every otherwise worthy endeavor.
It is not money or wealth only that men covet. Many are willing to sell their souls for position, for plaudit, for power. It is the overweening ambition of men that is causing so much evil and oppression in the world today. Nations have been plunged into war, millions have been killed, billions in property have been destroyed to feed the ambition of a few men. And the end is not yet.
This lust for power and place has invaded the church. Men and armies have fought to uphold one or the other side in a religious controversy. Men have vied with one another for the highest spiritual honors till we find those who are willing to be worshiped, who even sit in the temple of God, showing themselves that they are God. Strife for the high place was common among the disciples of Christ's day. He rebuked them for this. He does the same today.
Covetousness among individuals is not confined to misers and Pharisees. Many others are affected by it in a smaller or larger degree. Few are willing to admit that they have any responsibility beyond their immediate relatives or neighborhood. To be self-centered, to think mostly or only of self, is a common human trait. Of this we are to beware.
Covetousness leads to stealing, to dishonesty of all kinds, to defalcations, to marital difficulties. There are few fields, indeed, into which covetousness does not enter. It is a sin that affects church members and worldlings alike. And as it is one of the "respectable" sin, it is the more dangerous. It contributed much to Lucifer's fall. It is still a vital factor in many other falls.
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