As I sat to write, two things I had read earlier in the day impressed themselves upon my mind. A newspaper article served to emphasise that which I had read first - a passage from the book of Job. The article concerned the payout by the National Lottery of £66 million to two winners. Such was the scramble for Lottery tickets, the website crashed. The odds of any particular person winning a fortune that day were said to be the same as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge having eleven children, each of whom grew up to be an Olympic gold medal winner! No, I couldn't see the connection either, but greed is not easily deterred.
It would have been so easy to go on a flight of fancy as to what I would have done with all that money, had it been mine, but any such thought was arrested by what I had read earlier. Speaking of wicked men, Job declared "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?" (Job 21.13-15). How clearly Job understood that material prosperity is, for the ungodly, and for the carnal believer, the enemy of their souls, totally opposed to the mind of God, the promoter of a rebellious spirit and the stifler of faith and acknowledgment of dependence on the Almighty God.
We should not be so complacent as to think that we, as believers, are immune from the promptings of avarice. The Adamic nature hopelessly strives to find fulfilment in what it does not possess, and that nature was neither removed nor improved when we were saved. It ceaselessly prompts us to indulge in what we politely call materialism, but the Bible calls covetousness. It is uncomfortable to note that covetousness is often included in lists of particularly gross sins such as those in Romans 1.29 and Ephesians 5.3. It is equated to idolatry in Colossians 3.5, and it is a specific sin that is so intuitive we must actively mortify its operation through our "members which are upon the earth". We do well to remember the words of the Lord Jesus "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Lk 12.15). The Greek word for covetousness in this verse simply means "to have more". It includes, but is not restricted to, the love of money that is mentioned specifically in Hebrews 13.5 (RV) "Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee". The desire of Agur was a wise example to us all - "give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Prov 30.8-9).
"In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble" (Prov 15.6). We need not envy the unrighteous, for the treasure of this world is all they have. But what about the treasure that God, in wisdom, has put into earthen vessels? Thus Paul described to the Corinthians the majestic character of the Gospel entrusted to us (2 Cor 4.7). Will the winners of £33m share their new fortune with others? Do we share the infinitely greater treasure of the Gospel as we should?
"A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good" (Lk 6.45). This month has the first of a quarterly series entitled 'Hewed Stone' in which one of the excellent charts designed by John Grant is reprinted. The product of diligent study and God-given ability, such ministry is of no value to the world but constitutes treasure to the child of God. Study it, enjoy it, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mt 6.21).