Sabbath School Lesson for February 25-March 3, 2023

Overview of Lesson 9, Beware of Covetousness

Memory Text: ” ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’ ” Luke 12:15 NKJV

This week we will explore these topics:

  • Sunday: When did coveting start?
  • Monday: What did Achan’s selfishness lead him to do?
  • Tuesday: How did Judas sin by coveting?
  • Wednesday: Why were Ananias and Sapphira punished so severely?
  • Thursday: How can we overcome our tendency to want things we don’t have?

To be covetous means to have an excessive desire for something we don’t have. It could be a longing for possessions, but might also include persons or another’s position, reputation, or fame.

While seemingly harmless in the beginning, covetousness can be deadly if ignored and allowed to grow. God recognized its harmful effects and warns us to beware of its deceptions and snares. He included a command not to covet in the Ten Commandments, and listed it often with other heinous crimes and sins that are much more obvious to us (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).

It’s impossible to be a faithful steward of God if we are harboring feelings of covetousness. Therefore we have been given numerous examples in the Bible to show us the consequences of this very subtle, but very destructive, sin.

We can overcome our fleshly desires, but only through prayer and by God’s merciful grace. We can manage so much better till He comes when we discover how to eliminate covetousness from our lives. Feelings of generosity and love will grow much faster without it.

Sunday: The Ultimate Original Sin?

The first example of covetousness we understand from the Bible was Lucifer’s inordinate desire to have glory equal to God’s (Isaiah 14:12-14). Pride is often the sin associated with his downfall. But before his pride led to any overt acts of rebellion, he simply had a desire to have something that wasn’t his. That covetous feeling grew beyond his control, and the universe has felt the effects of his pride and downfall ever since.

Adam and Eve experienced similar longings for something they had been denied. Eve saw the fruit of the forbidden tree as beautiful, delicious, and something that would make her as wise as the speaking serpent who had beguiled her (Genesis 3:6). Their fateful decision to disobey and eat of that fruit has been costly to the human race.

All of us struggle with longings, but seldom do we pause to see where our desires can lead us. The excruciatingly painful situation with David and Bathsheba demonstrates just how far our fleshly lusts can drive us from God. See 2 Samuel 11. We are easily drawn from breaking the tenth commandment against coveting to other serious offenses, such as stealing, adultery, lying, and even murder (Colossians 3:5).

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:5

  • Why is coveting said to be the same as idolatry?
  • What and how are we likely to break other commandments when we break the tenth one?

Romans 1:25

  • What is idolatry, according to this verse?
  • How is idolatry related to coveting?

1 Timothy 6:6, 7

  • How can contentment arm us against coveting?

Monday: An Accursed Thing in the Camp

During the harvest, the Jordan River was overflowing its banks (Joshua 3:15), but the children of Israel were seen by the heathen tribes, crossing it on dry ground (much the same as the Red Sea had allowed them to escape Pharaoh’s army). This miraculous crossing was meant to impress their pagan neighbors to the extent that attacking them would be seen as foolish (Joshua 5:1). Besides this protection, it was also meant as a means to draw them to the God of Israel, should they chose to follow Him instead of their pagan gods.

Everything commanded by God had purpose and required their strict obedience. God outlined just how they were to overcome their first obstacle, the heavily-walled city of Jericho, by marching around its perimeter a precise number of times. Achan, one of the Israelites, did not abide by the rules God had laid. The only pillage in Jericho allowed by God was some gold, silver, and bronze vessels that would be used for the treasury of the Lord’s house (Joshua 6:19, 24).

Achan, however, overcome with desire, could not resist taking a beautiful Babylonish garment and some gold and silver coins and hiding them in his tent (Joshua 7:21, 22). The Lord revealed his treacherous act when their next conquest failed. Achan paid dearly for his lust for money and clothing that led him to even greater sins against God and His people.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Joshua 7:21, 22

  • How did Achan’s coveting cause him to commit even more sin?
  • Why are clothes and money still tempting items that can make us forget God’s commandments?

Tuesday: The Heart of Judas

Despite Judas Iscariot’s privileged position as one of Jesus’ closest disciples, he struggled enormously with the sin of covetousness. According to John’s Gospel, he was the main one to complain about Mary’s costly gift of spikenard she used to anoint the feet of Jesus. And yet, we are told he himself was stealing from the disciples’ money box for his own personal use. See John 12:1-8.

Judas’ excessive lust for the things of this world did not end with his thefts, however. It ultimately led to his betrayal of Jesus, selling Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver, about four months income–compared to Mary’s gift which cost almost a year’s wages.

It went quickly downward for Judas after his treacherous act. Not only was his hanging a pitiful outcome, but Jesus predicted his fate would be far worse in the Judgment  Tragically, Judas never fully surrendered his heart to the Lord, and Jesus confirmed that he would be lost (John 17:12, Matthew 26:24).

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

John 12:1-8

  • Why would it have been hard to detect the excessive amount of covetousness in Judas’ heart?
  • Why do you think Jesus  allowed Judas a place in His inner circle of friends, knowing that He would eventually betray Him?
  • How does Judas’ story help us see the harmful effects of our covetousness? Is it actually a betrayal of Christ, or does it just lead to that betrayal? Explain your answer.

Wednesday: Ananias and Sapphira

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was just the beginning of an exciting time in church history. The persecution of the early church inspired an increased spirit of generosity, as church members gave up their own lands and money to support fellow believers (Acts 4:32-35).

Ananias and Sapphira were one such couple who felt the need to contribute in this way. However, they changed their minds about their vow to God, and not only kept back a portion of the land sale for themselves, but refused to admit their deed when asked about their gift.

God demonstrated His displeasure and the danger of such deceptive actions by allowing their immediate deaths. Word spread quickly to the rest of the church how serious God was about their need to stay pure and untainted as they took their gospel mission to the world beyond.

Earlier in church history, swift action was needed to address Achan’s unwise decision to yield to his covetousness. God was also preparing His people back then for a mission of spreading the gospel in the heathen lands they were about to occupy. In a similar way, Ananias and Sapphira were dealt with severely, in order to impress upon the minds of the early church the need to stay away from covetous behavior.

Surely in the last days, a heightened consciousness of this offense will be needed for God’s people to accomplish their gospel mission of preparing the world for Christ’s Second Coming.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Acts 5:1-11

  • In what ways did Ananias and Sapphira sin against God?
  • What was the purpose of their immediate deaths?
  • How did this experience affect those who heard about it? Was it fear they felt, as in being afraid, or fear, as in having more respect for God?

Thursday: Overcoming Covetousness

Covetousness often goes undetected because, unlike more overt behaviors such as lying, stealing, and adultery, it remains a troublesome part of our thought processes. It is therefore, many times, not recognized as a problem, even for the person struggling with it.

Like every other temptation we encounter, however, God has a sensible plan for not yielding to the sin that follows. We are protected from the effects of our covetous thinking when we…

  • Make the decision to follow God, no matter what. (“Choose you this day whom you will serve…” Joshua 24:15)
  • Pray for God to deliver us from the effects of this sin. (“Lead us not into temptation…” Matthew 6:13)
  • Study our Bible for needed guidance. (“Your word have I hid in my heart…” Psalm 119:11)

These steps will be our path to successful stewardship. They will be our way of escape, promised by God in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Bible Verses for Thought and Discussion:

Joshua 24:15

  • What are some of the other “gods” we may find ourselves worshiping, when we covet the things of the world?
  • In what way is covetousness a form of idolatry?

Matthew 6:13

  • Why is acknowledging God’s power necessary for our deliverance from sin and temptation?

Psalm 119:13 and Matthew 4:4, 7, 10

  • How do we hide God’s word in our heart, and how does this help us when we are tempted?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Satan began steering mankind into sin from the beginning. In the Garden of Eden, he appealed to their senses and planted seeds of longing that quickly bore fruit.

In the last days, God’s enemy uses similar tactics to lure us away from fulfilling God’s mission. It says in 2 Timothy 3:1, 2 that we will become lovers, not of God, but of ourselves and of money. Selfishness and greed are abundantly prevalent in today’s world. Jude 1:18 describes how we will walk according to our own “ungodly lusts”, a result of our coveting those things that have been forbidden.

But God has an antidote for this disease of the heart. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.” (Hebrews 13:5). Such feelings of contentment can take the place of our covetousness when we “continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15).

Next Week: Giving Back

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