Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.—Hebrews 13:5–6
As fallen human beings, we are naturally covetous. Yet while contentment has never been easy, I doubt it has ever been more difficult. Our society is consumed with consumption. Even if your own heart should ever run out of things to want, there are advertisers even now exercising all their considerable ingenuity in an attempt to convince you that you still don’t have enough.
This poses a problem. The covetousness that drives every aspect of our society is repeatedly condemned in Scripture. Our conversation, our lifestyle, is to be one in which covetousness plays no role whatsoever. We are not to be driven by the pursuit of the “American Dream.” We are not to live for the money that we can accumulate or the things that we can spend it on. We are not to try to “keep up with the Jones.” We are instead to be content with what God has actually given us.
There is more to this than a call to live “simple lives.” You do not need to be a believer in Christ to realize the “conspicuous consumption,” that characterizes our society is a half-way bridge to nowhere. We are not simply called to abandon covetousness—we are called to replace it with trust in the promises of God. He has promised never to leave us, never to forsake us. It is this confidence in His provision that alone can give us the boldness to live lives of contentment in a world full of “needs”.
Contentment, however, is not an end in and of itself. We are not exhorted to contentment for the sake of contentment. We are exhorted to contentment so that we can have the confidence to obey the faithful God we are trusting in. Covetousness is the enemy of more than contentment. There is no limit to the disobedience and destruction that covetousness can and does produce.
Going back to the beginning of Hebrews 13, we find an exhortation to brotherly love. We are to care for those in need, even if they are strangers to us. Covetousness destroys the practice of brotherly love even when our egos keep the profession of it in place. We cannot care for the needs of others if we are perpetually inventing new “needs” for ourselves. Covetousness leaves the undefiled marriage bed for the empty immorality that God has promised to judge without exception.
The solution is not to want less but rather to want more. The only reason that any believer would try to find their satisfaction in the pathetic trinkets that this world has to offer is because they have forgotten that the Lord is their Helper, forgotten that they have already been given a treasure greater than any that could ever be laid up here on earth. Delighting in the reality that God Himself has promised never to forsake us is the antidote to covetousness. Why forsake the promise of an absolutely trustworthy God for the airbrushed enticements of a consumeristic culture?