A Call to Thanks-Living

Isn’t it ironic that Thanksgiving is followed by Black Friday? Please do not misunderstand, I am all for incredible sales and great deals – they certainly help this time of year. However, think about that for which Black Friday is known: great sales, long lines, insane hours, and rude (even violent) shoppers. Yes, just a mere few hours after they gave thanks for all that they already have, these shoppers were out fighting tooth and nail for that hot item that they simply cannot live without, daring someone to stand in their way. News reports are filled with stories of fights that broke out in the middle of the aisles, with hundreds of people around who could potentially be hurt, all because of something that certain shoppers wanted.

Consider whether you think the following Bible passage and observations are appropriate as we enter the gift-giving season.

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.” So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6).

1. God desires holy hearts – not counterfeit Christianity. Your conduct, translated “conversation” (KJV), “life” (ESV), and “character” (NASB) is how you live. This is the deepest, most true part of yourself – who you really are. It is no surprise that God’s Word calls our attention to our true selves. The Bible is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). In fact, true Christianity starts in our hearts and manifests itself by our righteous actions and speech (cf. Phil. 1:27; Col. 3:1-2; Mat. 6:33; etc.). God does not want charades; He wants converted hearts, whole and living sacrifices (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). Which leads us to the particular point of character noted in this passage: covetousness.

2. A Christian’s conduct will be without covetousness. Covetousness is greed; a strong-willed determination to have what belongs to others. In his book Studies in Hebrews, Robert Taylor says that covetousness is “selfishness gone to seed” (p 236). Why are some Black Friday shoppers willing to inflict violence upon others in pursuit of their goods? Does it not stem from a covetous, greedy heart? Notice just two other passages dealing with covetousness:

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints … For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph. 5:3, 5).

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5).

Notice that, in these two passages, Paul says covetousness is idolatry. As much as many of us love this time of year – times with family, sharing meals together, decorations, and even giving gifts – we must all keep our hearts in check so that we do not bow before the god of materialism! In his commentary on Ephesians, Albert Barnes wrote the following about a man with a covetous heart:

[He is a] man who, in this insatiable pursuit, is regardless of justice, truth, charity, faith, prayer, peace, comfort, usefulness, conscience; and who shall say that there is any vice more debasing or degrading that this? (p 96)

Covetous thinking, though so much a part of our culture, has two major flaws. First, covetous people place entirely too much confidence in the power of the things in the world. The world, and all that is in it, will be burned up when the Lord comes again (2 Pet. 3:9-11). If we depart from this life in death before the second coming of Christ, then we must remember that we can take none of it with us (1 Tim. 6:7). Therefore, the Holy Spirit says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15-17).

The second flaw of covetous thought is that covetous people have a very low opinion of the willingness and ability of God to provide. When one finds security and happiness in things, then he or she is not looking to the One from Whom all blessings flow (cf. James 1:17). This promise follows the Hebrews writer’s exhortation: “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you'” (Heb. 13:5). God promises to provide all of our needs, we must simply place our trust and our faith in Him (Mat. 6:25-34).

3. We must learn the Christian virtue of contentment. It is not sinful to wish for things that we would like to have. Goals are healthy in our lives and meeting our goals enriches our lives. However, there is a difference in wanting and coveting, in desire and materialism. God’s Book tells us that we must “be content with such things as you have” (Heb. 13:6). Contentment is not necessarily something with which we are born. In fact, contentment must be learned, developed, and maintained. Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11). Elsewhere, he stated, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6), and “having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).

If we will train our hearts to learn and to practice contentment, then we will find ourselves relying more on God (cf. Phil. 4:11-13). Because he learned contentment, the Hebrews writer was able to trust in God’s promises and to boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).

It is not in titles, nor in rank;It is not in wealth like London Bank,To purchase peace and rest;If happiness have not her seatAnd center in the breast,We may be wise, or rich, or great,But never can be blest. (Author unknown)

May God help us – in this season and in every season – to be entirely holy and peacefully content.