“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
This is an age old story that most of us have read. It is the story of temptation and sin. As I thought about it, I wondered if I could come up with a modern application in light of this time of the year; so I’d thought I try.
He was a middle aged man, who had an average job, but was in no way rich, He was just able to squeak out enough to pay his bills, maintain an average car which he purchased used. He hadn’t yet been able to purchase some of the neat new things out in the stores because he only made enough money to just get by.
Now on this one particular black Friday he decided to do the family Christmas shopping and he went into the part of the garden (I mean mall) that he had never been in before. In the middle of the mall was there was a big old store called Edenmart, that promised to have everything you ever wanted.
As he walked through the store he could not help but admire all the merchandise. As he stopped and was admiring a new 55” flat screen TV set an old salesman came up behind him and said, do you like it. You see he was craftier than any other salesperson in the store. And the man responded by saying, “Yes I do.” And he started to walk away. The old sales man spoke up saying, “I will give you this wonderful new TV for a deal you can’t refuse, Half Price today! Because of the picture quality, you will see and learn things that you could never see before on your old set. And If you acquire a store credit card with the discounts, you can leave today with this set.
The man turned around with a smile and nodded his head thinking that it was a deal that he could not refuse. On the way to apply for the credit card the crafty old salesman asked “Now that you have this nice TV set wouldn’t it be nice to have nice plush leather chair to lounge back in? Oh look at this wrap around sectional sofa, it’s made of really durable leather and will last for years, oh just try it. After a hard day’s work, don’t you think you deserve coming home to relax in a nice soft chair to enjoy your new TV?. And besides, because it’s black Friday you can also have this at half price today.” And before you know it the old crafty salesman led the man from one department to another, from the furniture department to the computers, from appliance to the clothing, showing him things that he thought he needed at such a deal.
Later on that evening surrounded by all his new stuff, he felt like a new man. He marveled at what he had acquired that day without having to pay a plum nickel. In his den, at his new desk, playing a new game on his new computer, he heard the front door open, and a woman’s voice saying, “What the? “
And then he heard his wife call out to him, “Adam, what have you done? Where are you hiding?”
Now you may be wondering, how can you even compare this story to what took place in the garden back with Adam and Eve?
I thought a lot about that original sin back in the garden, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there were different aspects to their sin and what Eve did.
First and foremost, we know that Eve was deceived and outright disobeyed God’s instructions. God specifically said don’t even touch or eat the fruit from that tree and she did.
2ndly Did you notice the crafty serpent’s sales pitch. Verse 4 says “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
Do you see what caught her attention and sold the sale as it were? He convinced her that she would not die, and he also promised her something she did not already have. He said, “Your eyes will be open. You will be like God and know good from evil.”
As she looked at the fruit and then touched it she noticed that it not only looked yummy, it also appeared desirable for gaining wisdom.
I personally think that part of the fall was not only an act of disobedience, she also got in big trouble because she wanted something she didn’t have or need. She lived in the Garden of Eden, paradise, a place with no sin or evil. She had a personal relationship with God, even walking with Him in the garden. What more did she really need? But at that moment what she had wasn’t enough, she wanted more.
And in my little story, the man for whatever reason did the same. He just couldn’t say no when tempted. He wasn’t satisfied with what he already had, and was convinced that he deserved more, and went for the gusto not clearly thinking about the future consequences. This time of the year, with all the end of the year sales and clearances it’s easy to get caught up in this trap of wanting more and more, especially things we don’t already have.
This morning I’d like to talk about what the Bible has to say about the accumulation of things. And how to be content with what we have. Now unfortunately we are not trained by our culture to be very content? Everything around us teaches us to believe in the need to accumulate just a little bit more. We therefore have an obsessive compulsion to possess more and more things, thinking they will bring satisfaction in our lives.
The old testament sums it up in the word Covet. An unquenchable desire for more. Galatians 5:20 calls it “selfish ambition.” The Greek word literally meant “to grasp for more and more.”
And that’s what we’re talking about this morning. A covetous drive for more and more which ironically brings about a lack of contentment. And God takes this all very seriously.
Now why is that? Why is God concerned with our drive to accumulate more and more? 1) One obvious reason is because it mixes up our priorities.
When we want something more than we want anything else, including God, that is a problem. Our priorities are out of whack and when our priorities get rearranged we fall into all kinds of traps. We run after the wrong things and stop pursuing what we should. Certain things become more important than they should. But Jesus told us you can’t serve both God and mammon
2) God is also concerned because that drive for more can damage relationships. James 4:1 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Do they not come from your own desires that battle within you? You want something, but don’t get it, so you kill and you covet. You can’t have what you want so you quarrel and fight.”
And he’s right. Too many people are killed because someone wants what others have and will do anything to get it.
In 1 Kings 21 we read of a king named Ahab who wanted a piece of land adjoining his property. He had this huge palace but he wanted this little garden plot that belonged to his neighbor Naboth. Ahab offered to buy the land but Naboth refused and 1 Kings 21:4 says that Ahab became depressed and angry. His wife Jezebel saw him like this and arranged for Naboth to be put to death. Once Naboth was dead, Ahab took the land he wanted.
That’s an extreme case, but the drive for more and more stuff can damage relationships. It’s the preoccupation with other people’s things that is at the root of much of the crime in our society. What happens when there is death in the family? Some family members fight over who’d going to get their stuff.
3) And God is also concerned with this unhealthy drive for more because it damages us financially. We buy more than we can afford because we want more. We aren’t simply satisfied with what we already have. How often do you hear about people who live beyond their means and buried themselves in debt? Now I’m not talking about necessary debt (like a business loan or a loan for a home or a car), rather I’m talking about senseless debt like buying too much of a home, or a crazy expensive car, expensive home furnishings, or grown up toys that one really can’t afford on their income.
And if you fall for the deception that things can bring happiness and give in to the temptation of easy access to credit, you can devastate your family budget. Someone once said that ‘Credit cards let you start at the bottom and then dig yourself a deep hole. ‘
Many people are in a hole simply because they are consumed with things. What they have isn’t good enough.
#4) It also damages personal happiness. When Ahab coveted Naboth’s land he was sad and frustrated. That constant desire of wanting more left him unfulfilled and depressed.
It may seem ironic to many, but studies show that those who have less and choose live a simpler life style are happier. For example, the Amish of Lancaster, Pennsylvania – a study showed a depression rate occurred at roughly one fifth the rate it occurred among the people of Baltimore, Maryland.
And in an attempt to explain why depression is so much more common today, that same study showed that people today are caught up in the middle of almost complete self-centered frenzy. They are so focused on getting what they don’t have they it can lead to unhappiness and un-fulfillment. 1 Timothy 6 tells us that the pursuit of things at all costs, causes much grief.
Well that leads us to another question, ‘What’s the cure?’ How do we become a more content people and put an end to this obsession for more? I want to point you in three directions.
1) And first and foremost we need to OPEN OUR EYES. We need to realize that stuff is not going to fulfill us. Happiness is not found in the accumulation of things; a bigger house, a bigger car, better stuff. In our heart we know that things can’t bring happiness so how come we still look for fulfillment in those areas?
We need to open our eyes to the fact that there is a master salesman out there doing his best to offer temptations that SEEM most appealing.
We need to wake up and realize that nothing in this world is going to fulfill all our desires. And so it is important to learn to enjoy and appreciate what we already have.
#2) And not only do we need to OPEN OUR EYES as to what we have, what really helps overcome coveting is to start SHARING more WITH OTHERS.
Some of us are so attached to our stuff sometimes the best way to wean us of this bad habit is to let go of some of it and share with others.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and sought to follow Him do you remember what Jesus told him to do? He told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor.
Want to know one of the by-products of giving some of your stuff away? We learn we can get by on less. It teaches us that we don’t need so much to be happy. And it feels good to help others. I think that is why Paul told Timothy “Command those who are rich to be generous and willing to share their money. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation and they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”(1 Tim. 6:17).
Paul says if people want to find true life, they must learn let go of some their stuff. Contentment comes when you are willing to give. And not just our hand me downs or left over junk.
#3) Finally, we need to PRIORITIZE. If you want to be content you need to start in the right place. You don’t have a material shaped hole on the inside, you have a God shaped hole that only He can fill.
The Apostle Paul tells us the secret to true contentment in Philippians 4:11. He wrote, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”
The Bible says the secret to contentment is to focus on Christ and to seek first the Kingdom of God, and everything else will take care of itself.
But I’ve got to tell you, that doesn’t happen without a conscious decision (sometimes daily). If you just drift along, there is enough pressure and influence from society, advertising, and inner greed, they will try to twist our priorities. We need to make a conscious decision that I’m not buying into that temptation anymore. I don’t need so many things to make me happy. Choose to focus on things that are more important.
I would like to close by reading you something the Hebrew writer wrote in his letter to Christians long ago, Heb. 13:5-6 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
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