Luke 12:15
And He said to them, "Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
A Man's LifeH. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.Luke 12:15
A Man's LifeW. Clarkson Luke 12:15
A Warning Against CovetousnessW. Reeve, M. A.Luke 12:15
Avarice, a Fearful DiseasePercy.Luke 12:15
Business LifeJ. O. Dykes, D. D.Luke 12:15
Christ's Warning Against CovetousnessEssex RemembrancerLuke 12:15
CovetousnessJ. Burns, D. D.Luke 12:15
CovetousnessJ. Jessop, M. A.Luke 12:15
CovetousnessJ. R. Thomson, M. A.Luke 12:15
CovetousnessSunday School TimesLuke 12:15
CovetousnessLuke 12:15
Covetousness a TyrannyC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 12:15
Greed of AvariceT. Adams.Luke 12:15
Money Valued At More than Money's WorthW. Arnot.Luke 12:15
No Profit in PossessionsA. Farindon.Luke 12:15
On CovetousnessH. W. Beecher.Luke 12:15
On CovetousnessS. Lavington.Luke 12:15
Oriental CovetousnessSunday School TimesLuke 12:15
Our Lord's Warning Against CovetousnessW. Burkitt.Luke 12:15
Possessions Do not Constitute LifeR. Bickersteth, M. A.Luke 12:15
Riches Cannot Purchase SatisfactionAbp. Leighton.Luke 12:15
Sin Masked by WealthW. J. Butler, M. A.Luke 12:15
The Danger of CovetousnessHervey's Manual of RevivalsLuke 12:15
The Evil and Folly of CovetousnessBishop Abernethy.Luke 12:15
The Miser's MiseryLuke 12:15
The Nature and Evil of CovetousnessArchbishop Tillotson.Luke 12:15
The Terrible Evil of CovetousnessLuke 12:15
The True Standard of RichesH. W. Beecher.Luke 12:15
The Vice of CovetousnessHenry R. Burton.Luke 12:15
The Warning Against CovetousnessR. Newton, D. D.Luke 12:15
Warning Against CovetousnessHenry S. Kelsey.Luke 12:15
Wealth not Necessary to an Ideal LifeW. J. Butler, M. A.Luke 12:15
A Warning Against CovetousnessR.M. Edgar Luke 12:13-21

What is the worth of a man's life? Clearly that does not depend merely on duration. For while to the insect the term of seventy years would seem a most noble expanse, on the other hand, compared with the age of a mountain or the duration of a star, it is an insignificant span. The truth is that the value of human life depends on what is done within its boundaries. Here quality is of the chief account. To the insensible stone all the ages are as nothing; to the dormant animal time is of no measurable value. To a thinking, sensitive spirit, with a great capacity for joy and sorrow, one half-hour may hold an inestimable measure of blessedness or of woe. There are three things it may include; we take them in the order of value, beginning at the least.

I. HAVING WHAT IS GOOD. "The things which a man possesseth" are of value to him. "Money is a defense," and it is also an acquisition, for it stands for all those necessaries and comforts, all those physical, social and intellectual advantages which it will buy. But it is a miserable delusion - a delusion which has slain the peace and prospects of many a thousand souls - that the one way to secure the excellency of life is to gain amplitude of material resources.

1. Muchness of money does not even ensure human happiness. The wealth that lives in fine houses and sits down to sumptuous tables and moves in "good circles" is very often indeed carrying with it a heavy heart, a burdened spirit, an unsatisfied soul. This is not the imagination of envy; it is the confession of sorrowful experience, uttered by many voices, witnessed by many lives.

2. Muchness of money does not constitute the excellency of human life. In a country where "business" means as much as it does in England, we are under a strong temptation to think that to have grown very rich is, by so doing, to have succeeded. That is a part of some men's success; but it does not constitute success in any man's life. A man may be enormously rich, and yet he may be an utter and pitiable failure. "In every society, and especially in a country like our own, there are those who derive their chief characteristics from what they have; who are always spoken of in terms of revenue, and of whom you would not be likely to think much but for the large account that stands in the ledger in their name So completely do they paint the idea of their life on the imagination of all who knew them, that, when they die, it is the fate of the money, not of the man, of which we are apt to think. Having put vast prizes in the funds, but only unprofitable blanks in our affections, they leave behind nothing but their property, or, as it is expressly termed, their effects. Their human personality hangs as a mere label upon a mass of treasure" (Dr. Martineau). A man's life should rise higher than that.

II. DOING WHAT IS JUST AND KIND. Far better is it to do the just and kind action than to have that which is pleasant and desirable. Life rises into real worth when it is spent in honorable and fruitful action. In sustaining right and useful relationships in the great world of business, carrying out our work on principles of righteousness and equity; in ruling the home firmly and kindly; in espousing the cause of the weak, the ignorant, the perishing; in striking some blows for national integrity and advancement - in such a healthful, honorable, elevating action as this "a man's life" is found. But this, in its turn, must rest on -

III. BEING WHAT IS RIGHT. For "out of the heart are the issues of life." Men may do a large number of good things, and yet be "nothing "in the sight of heavenly wisdom (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The one true mainspring of a worthy human life is "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." To love God, and therefore to love all that is good; to love God, and therefore to interest ourselves in and try to help all those who are so nearly related to him; to love God, and therefore to be moving on and up in an ever-ascending line toward Divine wisdom and worth; - this is the one victorious and successful thing. Without this, "a man's life" is a defeat and a failure, hold what it may; with it, it has the beginnings of a true success - it is already, and will be more than it now is, eternal life. - C.

Take heed and beware of covetousness.
I shall try to keep in view the chief risk to the moral and religious nature which are incident to a business life, and my aim will be to show you where the best safeguard against it is to be sought.

I. THE CHIEF DANGERS, WHAT ARE THEY? It is a misfortune in the path of a commercial trader to be kept in perpetual contact with the purely material value of all possible substances. The public sentiment of great business centres is apt to reckon a man's worth by his business profits. It is always tempted to erect an ignoble or defective ideal of success in life. I do not speak of the vulgar dangers to honesty and truthfulness which indeed beset men in all professions and classes.


1. Cultivate to the utmost a youthful thirst for truth, and a youthful sympathy with what is ideal, unselfish, grand in conduct.

2. Cultivate a sympathizing contact with men and women in other than mere business relationships. These are safeguards of the secondary order.

3. The only primary and sufficient safeguard for any of us is the religion of Jesus Christ. See how the Christian man is guarded against settling down into a selfish worldling.(1) Religion opens the widest, freest outlook for the mind into the eternal truth, enlarging a man's range of spiritual sight, and enabling him to judge of all things in both worlds in their true proportion.(2) It supplies us for that reason with the only true and perfect standard by which to test the value of things, and so corrects the one-sided materialistic standard of business.(3) It transforms business itself from an ignoble to a noble calling, because it substitutes for the principle of mere profit the ideal of service.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

1. It is not wrong to amass wealth. It is not wrong to increase it if you have the beginnings of it. Neither is it wrong to make provision for its safety. There is no moral wrong in the ownership and administration, or in the increase of wealth. It is not wealth that ever is a mischief. It is what it does to you that makes it injurious or beneficial. It is what you do with it that makes it injurious or beneficial.

2. It is not wrong, either, to be richer than other men. The essential difference of power in different individuals settles the question as to the Divine economy in this regard. Men are made of different executive forces, of different acquiring powers. And in the fact that men are made relatively weak or strong, that they are in ranks and gradations of inferiority or superiority with respect to natural endowments, there is the most unequivocal evidence that human society was not meant to be one long, fiat prairie-level, but that it was meant to be full of hills and valleys and gradations of every kind. And there is no harm in that. I am not injured by a man that is superior to me, unless he employs his superiority to tread me down. I am benefited by him if he employs it to lift me up. Superiority is as powerful to draw the inferior up as to pull them down, and it is comprised in the Divine plan of beneficence. And the same is true of wealth.

3. All the roads which lead to wealth that are right to anybody are right to Christians. What a Christian has not a right to do nobody has a right to do. Moral obligations rest on grounds which are common to me and to you. If there is any distinction here, the Christian has rights which the infidel has not. As a son of God, and as one who is attempting to carry himself according to the commands of God, the Christian may be supposed to have rights of premium. Therefore, if it is right for you to sail a ship, it is right for me to sail a ship; if it is right for you to traffic, it is right for me to traffic; if it is right for you to loan money on interest, it is right for me to loan money on interest. The circumstance of a man's being a Christian does not change his relations in any whir, except this, that if possible it gives him higher authority than others have to do whatever it is right for any man to do. All things are yours because you are a son of God.

4. Nay, the gift of acquiring wealth, commercial sagacity, creative industry, financial ability — these are only so many ways by which one may bring his gifts to bear upon the great ends of life and serve God. Some men, who are capable mechanics, capable artists, capable business men, wish to do good, and they say, "Do you not think I had better preach?" I think you had. I think every man ought to preach. If you are a banker, behind the counter is your pulpit, and you can preach sermons there which no man in any other situation can. By practising Christian integrity in a business where others take permissions of selfishness, you can preach more effectually than in any other way. Every man must take his life, and serve God by it. If God has given a man literary capacity, genius for poetry, or the power of eloquence, it is to be consecrated and employed for the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men. He is to serve, not himself alone, but the cause of beneficence with it. If you have the skill of an artist, it is not given to you for your own selfish gratification and delight. These men that are made seers of truth through eyes of beauty are under the most fearful responsibilities and the most sacred obligations. If a man has given to him the skill of achieving results, the skill of conducting business, or pecuniary skill, he can serve God by that, if not as well, yet as really, as by any other consecrated power. Therefore a man is not forbidden either to have riches or to increase riches, or to employ any of the ordinary ways by which it is right to increase riches. If he have a gift in that direction, he is bound as a Christian man to develop it; and it is a talent for which God will hold him accountable.

5. It is the godlessness of selfishness, then, that is so wicked in wealth, in the methods of getting it, in the methods of keeping it, and in the methods of using it. It is selfishness that leads a man to undertake to procure wealth by means that disregard duty; it is selfishness that leads a man to set up wealth as the end of his life, for which he is willing to sacrifice all the sweet affections, all the finer tastes, all the sensibilities of conscience. The curse of wealth consists in the getting of it in a way which emasculates a man, and degrades his moral nature. The curse of wealth-getting is seen where a man amasses wealth only that it may shut him in from life, building himself round and round with his money, until at last he is encaverned with it, and dwells inside of it. Geologists sometimes find toads sealed up in rocks. They crept in during the for nation periods, and deposits closed the orifice through which they entered. There they remain, in long darkness and toad stupidity, till some chance blast or stroke sets them free. And there are many rich men sealed up in mountains of gold in the same way. If, in the midst of some convulsion in the community, one of these mountains is overturned, something crawls out into life which is called a man! This amassing of wealth as only a means of imprisonment in selfishness, is itself the thing that is wicked. The using of wealth only to make our own personal delights more rare, without regard to the welfare of others — this it is that is sinful. The Divine command is, "Beware lest ye be rich and lay up treasure to yourself, and are not rich toward God." If you have a surplus of one thousand dollars, this command is to you; if you have a surplus of ten thousand, it is to you; if you have a surplus of ten hundred thousand, it is not a what more to you. Now, my Christian brethren, are you rich toward God in the proportion in which you have been increasing your worldly wealth? I can tell you, unless your sympathies increase, unless your charities increase, unless your disposition to benefit your fellow-men increases, in the proportion in which your riches increase, you cannot walk the life you are walking without falling under the condemnation of this teaching of Christ. Your life is one of getting, getting, getting! and there is but one safety-valve to such a life; it is giving, giving, giving! If you are becoming less and less disposed to do good; if you are becoming less and less benevolent; if you are less and less compassionate toward the poor; if you say, "I have worked myself almost to death to get my property, and why can I not be allowed to enjoy it?" if you hug your gold, and say, "This is my money, and my business is to extract as much pleasure from it as I can" — then, my friend, you are in the jaws of destruction; you are sold to the devil; he has bought you! But if, with the increase of your wealth, you have a growing feeling of responsibility; if you have a real, practical consciousness of your stewardship in holding and using the abundance which God is bestowing upon you; if you feel that at the bar of God, and in the day of judgment, you must needs give an account of your wealth — then your money will not hurt you. Riches will not hurt a man that is benevolent, that loves to do good, and that uses his bounties for the glory of God and the welfare of men. But your temptations are in the other direction. I beseech of you, beware.

(H. W. Beecher.)


1. The great danger of this sin.

(1)How apt we are to fall into it.

(2)Of how pernicious a consequence it is to those in whom it reigns.

2. The great care men ought to use to preserve themselves from it.

II. THE MATTER OF THE CAUTION. The vice our Saviour warns His hearers against is covetousness.

1. The nature of this vice. The shortest description that I can give of it is this: that it is an inordinate desire and love of riches; but when this desire and love are inordinate, is not so easy to be determined. And, therefore, that we may the better understand what the sin of covetousness is, which our Saviour doth so earnestly caution against, it will be requisite to consider more particularly wherein the vice and fault of it doth consist; that, whilst we are speaking against covetousness, we may not under that general word condemn anything that is commendable or lawful. To the end, then, that we may the more clearly and distinctly understand wherein the nature of this vice doth consist, I shall — First, Endeavour to show what is not condemned under this name of covetousness, either in Scripture or according to right reason; and — Secondly, What is condemned by either of these, as a plain instance or branch of this sin.

I. WHAT THINGS ARE NOT CONDEMNED UNDER THE NAME OF COVETOUSNESS, either in Scripture or according to right reason, which yet have some appearance of it; namely, these three things:

1. Not a provident care about the things of this present life.

2. Not a regular industry and diligence for the obtaining of them; nor —

3. Every degree of love and affection to them. I mention these three, because they may all seem to be condemned by Scripture, as parts or degrees of this vice, but really are not.

II. I COME NOW TO SHOW WHAT IS CONDEMNED IN SCRIPTURE UNDER THE NAME OF COVETOUSNESS; and by this we shall best understand wherein the nature of this sin doth consist. Now covetousness is a word of a large signification, and comprehends in it most of the irregularities of men's minds, either in desiring, or getting, or in possessing, and using an estate.

2. The evil and unreasonableness of this sin.

(1)Because it takes men off from religion and the care of their souls.

(2)Because it tempts men to do many things which are inconsistent with religion and directly contrary to it.

(3)Because it is an endless and insatiable desire.

(4)Because the happiness of human life doth not consist in riches.

(5)Because fiches do very often contribute very much to the misery and infelicity of men.

III. I come now, in the last place, to make some application of this discourse to ourselves.

1. Let our Saviour's caution take place with us, let these words of His sink into our minds: "Take heed and beware of covetousness." Our Saviour doubles the caution, that we may double our care. It is a sin very apt to steal upon us, and slily to insinuate itself into us under the specious pretence of industry in our callings, and a provident care of our families: but however it may be coloured over, it is a great evil dangerous to ourselves, and mischievous to the world. Now to kill this vice in us, besides the considerations before mentioned taken from the evil and unreasonableness of it, I will urge these three more:

(1)That the things of this world are uncertain.

(2)That our lives are as uncertain as these things; and —

(3)That there is another life after this.

2. By way of remedy against this vice of covetousness, it is good for men to be contented with their condition.

3. By way of direction, I would persuade those who are rich to be charitable with what they have.

(Archbishop Tillotson.)

I. To EXPLAIN THE ARGUMENT BEFORE US, AND TO JUSTIFY IT, that is, to show the meaning of the assertion, "that a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of his possessions," and to show that it is strictly true.

1. That the being and preservation of life doth not consist in nor hath any dependence on these things, every one must be sensible. No man imagineth that riches contributed to his existence, or that they are essential to the human constitution; not one power of nature is either the more or the less perfect for our having or wanting them.

2. As the being and the preservation of a man's life do not consist in nor depend on the abundance of the things that he possesseth, so neither do the highest and best ends of it.

3. The enjoyment of life doth not consist in riches; and as this is the only end which they have any pretence or appearance of answering, if upon a fair inquiry it shall be found that they come short of it, then it must be owned they are what our Saviour calleth them, deceitful; and His assertion in the text is true, that life doth not in any sense consist in them, which therefore is a strong argument to the purpose He applieth it to, namely, against covetousness. It is necessary to observe here, what every man must be convinced of upon the least reflection, that riches are not the immediate object of any original desire in the human nature. If we examine our whole constitution, with all the primary affections which belong to it, we shall find that this hath no place among them. And yet it is certain that the love of riches is become a very powerful lust in the human nature, at least in some minds, and they are thought of great importance to the comfortable enjoyment of life. Whence doth this arise? How doth happiness consist in them? It is plain that the total amount of their usefulness to the purposes of enjoyment is only this, that when other circumstances concur to render a man capable, they afford the larger means of it in various kinds.

1. Of sensual gratifications.

2. The pleasures of the fancy or imagination.

3. Of doing good to his fellow-creatures, either his own near relations or others, as his disposition inclineth him.This is, I think, stating the case fairly, and allowing all to riches which can be demanded for them. Let us now consider each of these particulars, that we may see of what importance they are to happiness, so far, I mean, as they are supplied, and the opportunities of them enlarged by riches. And, first, the pleasures of sense are of the very lowest kind, which a man considering as common with us to the brutal species cannot but think far from the chief happiness of a reasonable nature, and that the advantage of furnishing us with great plenty and variety of them is not extremely to be valued or gloried in. Besides, there are certain bounds fixed by nature itself to the appetites, beyond which we cannot pass in the gratification of them without destroying enjoyment and turning it into uneasiness. Another sort of pleasures are those of the imagination, arising from the beauties of nature or art, of which we have an internal sense, yielding delight, as we have the sensations of colours, sounds, and tastes, from external material objects, by our bodily organs which convey them. These, it is certain, afford great entertainment to the human life, though in various degrees, according to the different measure of exquisiteness or perfection in the sense itself, which is improved in some beyond others by instruction, observation, and experience; and according to the knowledge men have of the objects. Yet we must remember that these pleasures are not appropriated to the rich, nor do depend on riches, which are only the means of acquiring the property of them, in which the true enjoyment doth not consist. The beauties of nature are unconfined, and every man who hath a true sense of them may find objects enough to entertain it. The last, and indeed the truest and highest, enjoyment of life, is in doing good, or being useful to mankind. And of this riches affords the largest means, which enjoyeth life in the best manner, maketh the best provision for his own comfort in this world. But as this is not the case of the covetous man, it is perfectly agreeable to the text, which declareth that life, that is, enjoyment, doth not consist in abundant possessions; not that it doth not consist in parting with those possessions for the uses of charity. To set this matter in a just light, let it be observed, that the moderate desire and pursuit of riches is not at all inconsistent with virtue; so far from it, industry is a virtue itself, as being really beneficial to society, as well as to the person who useth it, furnishing him with the conveniences of life, and especially with the means of being useful to his fellow-creatures. But when a man hath used honest industry, so far he hath discharged his duty, and laid a foundation for all the true enjoyment which can arise from riches; for that doth not depend on success, or the actual obtaining of large possessions, but principally on the inward dispositions of the mind.

III. Having thus explained our Saviour's assertion in the text, and showed the truth of it, let us next consider THE PURPOSE TO WHICH HE APPLIETH IT, NAMELY, AS A DISSUASIVE FROM COVETOUSNESS. All that covetousness aimeth at is, the obtaining of large worldly possessions. Now supposing them to be obtained, which yet is very uncertain, but supposing it, and it is the most favourable supposition for the covetous man, what is he the better? If neither the being and preservation of life, nor the ends, nor the enjoyment of it, dependeth on this.(Bishop Abernethy.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. Covetousness is an INNATE sin. It was a principal part of the first transgression. In this first preference of temporal good to spiritual obedience and the favour of God may be seen, as in a glass, all after covetousness. From that fatal hour to the present, mankind universally have, "by nature," "worshipped the creature more than the Creator," proving themselves to be influenced by an innate propensity to grasp at earthly things, and to follow them in the place of God.

II. Covetousness is a DECEPTIVE sin. The same may be said indeed of all sins; but of this more especially, because it is a decent sin. Other sins alarm, because of their interference with the passions and interests of our neighbours; and have, on that account, discredit and shame attached to them. Lying interrupts confidence, and weakens the bonds of society; murder lays its hand on the persons, and theft on the property of men; adultery invades the most sacred rights and breaks the dearest ties; even drunkenness, by its brutality and offensiveness to peace and order, is regarded with general disgust and odium. But where is the disgrace of covetousness? How regular a man may be, how sober, how industrious, how moral, and yet be the slave of this vice!

III. Covetousness is a MULTIPLYING sin. This also may be said of most other sins, but eminently so of covetousness. It leads to prevarication and falsehood. Then comes hardness of heart. He that sets his affections on money, will love it more than he will love his fellow-man. He will have little pity for the sufferings of the poor, or if he have a little he will stifle it, lest his pity should cost him something. Still less will he compassionate the spiritually wretched.

IV. Covetousness is an AGGRAVATED sin. It is not merely an omission of duty, or a transgression of law; but it is an abuse of much mercy. For who gives a man power to get wealth? whence come health, ability, and labour, skill, opportunity, success; — come they not from God? — could any man earn one shilling if God did not enable him? — and if any man have property, not of his own earning, could he have been possessed of it but for the kind providence of God? And we know that He bestows it that it may be employed in His service and for His glory. But covetousness refuses so to employ it.

V. Covetousness is a GREAT sin. It originates in mistrust of God, and unbelief in His word.

VI. Covetousness is a DESTRUCTIVE sin. Other sins slay their thousands, but this slays its ten thousands. Many other sins are confined to the openly ungodly, and have their victims exclusively from among those that are without; but this sin enters into the visible Church, and is the chief instrument in the hands of Satan of destroying .the souls of professors.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. COVETOUSNESS BREEDS DISCONTENT, ANXIETY, ENVY, JEALOUSY. And hence it comes about that covetousness takes all the sweetness and peace out of our life. It makes us dissatisfied with our homes and surroundings. It keeps us for ever anxious as to our relative position. It sets us continually on comparison. It underestimates the pleasures and joys of life, and overvalues and magnifies its troubles. It makes the poor man wretched in his poverty, and hardens his heart against the rich. It energizes the man of competence with new vigour to compass overflowing abundance, and pushes forward the wealthy in the struggle for pre-eminence and power. In the prosperous it naturally develops into greed or reckless extravagance; in the disappointed, into hawking envy or green-eyed jealousy. It invades and spoils our religious life. It embitters us during the week by thoughts of our inferiority. It frets continually at the ordering of Providence. It destroys sweet confidence in God's wise and loving care. It sees evidences of the Divine partiality in the inequalities of the human lot. The good graciously granted turns to ashes on the lips because another has it in greater abundance. It keeps many a one from the house of God. It follows many another to the sanctuary to spoil the worship, and, through the sight of the eyes, to gangrene the soul more perfectly, and send it home burning with a deeper envy.

II. COVETOUSNESS MISLEADS AND PERVERTS THE JUDGMENT. Covetousness is to the mind what a distorting or coloured medium is to the eye. Just as everything in a landscape seen through such a medium is out of proportion or falsely coloured, so everything in life seen through the medium of covetousness appears under fearful distortion or most deceptive colouring. It breaks up the white light of truth into prismatic hues of falsehood and deceit.

III. IT HARDENS THE HEART AND DESTROYS THE BENEVOLENT AFFECTIONS. A cherished covetousness gradually crystallizes into habit and principle. It narrows and pinches the entire being. It grows strong by indulgence. The more it has the mere it wants. The more it gets the tighter it grasps it. An avaricious millionaire will haggle for a halfpenny as quickly as a day labourer. No meaner or more metallic being can be found than he in whom covetousness has done its legitimate work. And hence comes much of the heart-ache of individuals, the misery of families, and the trouble of society. It leads men to deprive themselves of the comforts of life. It is deaf to the voice of natural affection.

IV. IT TENDS TO AND ENDS IN CRIME. A strong desire to get confuses the judgment as to the proper means of getting, and gradually becomes unscrupulous in the use of means; ultimately all hesitation is overcome, all restraints broken through, all dangers braved. Get, it will at all hazards. Not that every covetous man becomes a criminal; but this is the tendency in every case. And when we remember that all overreaching, all petty deception and cheating, is in reality crime, it will go hard with the covetous man to clear his skirts. There is a vast amount of crime unseen by the law, but perfectly open to the view of heaven. "There's no shuffling there." But much of the known crime of the world — some of it the most atrocious and unnatural — springs directly from covetousness. Whence comes the reckless speculation, the stock-jobbing and gambling, which agitate the markets and unsettle trade? Whence the defalcations, breaches of trust, the forgeries which startle us by their frequency and enormity? Whence the highway robberies, burglaries, murders, which have affrighted every age, and still fill our sleeping hours with danger? The answer is plain: From a desire to get, cherished until it would not be denied. Such a desire in time becomes overmastering; it balks at nothing. Out of it spring crimes of every name and form, from the littlest to the most colossal, from the murder of a reputation to the murder of a nation, from the betrayal of a trust to the betrayal of the Son of God.

V. IT RUINS THE SOUL. In aiming to get the world, man loses himself. Every consideration heretofore urged tends to this. The real life is neglected; God and His claims are forgotten. In sensual enjoyment the soul is drowned, and suddenly the end comes.

(Henry S. Kelsey.)

"He became poor." My brethren, what a thought is this! The Lord of heaven, God the Almighty, the All-rich, the All-possessing, chose, when He came among His creatures, to come as a poor man. He who is in the form of God, "took upon Him the form of a servant." Earthly poverty, in the fullest sense of the word, He accepted as His own. Born more hardly than the very poorest peasant among us, even in a stable, cradled in a manger, brought up in a poor mechanic's cottage, His food rough barley loaves, His sleeping-place ever uncertain, His disciples poor men like Himself, hard-working fishermen — finally, stripped of His very garments, and left absolutely naked, to die! Surely, if riches and possessions were indeed the highest end of man's being, He who came to restore man to dignity and happiness would have come among us rich and great. So far as our human minds can fathom, the work of our salvation might have been accomplished by one who was rich in earthly things, as well as by One who was poor. The sacrifice might still have atoned. It is even possible to imagine an aspect under which the contrast of the sacrifice itself would have been heightened, had a rich man rather than a poor man died for his fellow-men. Yet, at a time when riches and the good things which riches procure abounded in the world, He chose, deliberately and willingly chose, the lot of the poor, and is among His own creatures "as He that serveth." All "the kingdoms of the earth, and the glory of them," He deliberately cast aside. And since, indeed, He, the typical Man, the Head of the new Creation, the "Firstborn of every creature," chose thus to be stripped, and bare, and poor, does He not, I pray you, teach this lesson, that the highest condition, the very perfection of man's nature is even such as this? Nay, more. I hesitate not to say that from the moment Christ came thus among us, poverty — yea, poverty — has its own special blessing.

(W. J. Butler, M. A.)


1. It does apt consist in a lawful care about the things of this life, or in a proper regard to the principles of prudence and frugality. But it consists in too eager a desire after the things of this life. Setting our hearts upon them.

2. It may be known by the tenacity with which we hold the things of this life. Treating them as our chief good.

3. The general causes of covetousness are principally these:

(1)A corrupt and perverted state of mind.

(2)Discontent with, and distrust of, the providence of God.

(3)Forgetfulness of the soul, and those things which are eternal.


1. Its effects personally. It is the source of many vices. "They who will be rich," &c. (1 Timothy 6:9). It tempts men to base and unjust means to get money. It hardens the heart, blunts the feedings, and renders the soul callous and sordid. It fills the mind with distraction, and prevents all true and solid enjoyment. It keeps out Christ and salvation.

2. Its effects on society. A covetous man is a misanthrope to his species.

3. Its effects in reference to God.

4. Its effects as exhibited in the examples revelation furnishes. Let us then notice the means necessary.


1. Serious consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of life. How madlike, inordinately to love what must so shortly be taken from us!

2. A reflection on our responsibility to God for all we possess. Stewards. Day of reckoning will arrive, God will judge us. All give an account, and receive according as our works shall be.

3. A renewal of our hearts by the grace and Spirit of God.

4. Imitation of Christ's blessed example.

5. Repeated and prayerful examination of our hearts before God.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

Covetousness is like a dangerous rock in the sea of life, over which we have to sail. Multitudes of wrecks are scattered all around it. The warning of our text is like a light-house, which G d has caused to be built upon this rock, to give us notice of the danger to be found here, in order that we may avoid it.



III. COVETOUSNESS WILL LESSEN, OR LOSE, OUR REWARD. Two Christian friends called on a wealthy farmer one day, to get some money for a charitable work in which they were engaged. He took them up to the cupola, on the top of his house, and showed them farm after farm, stretching far away, on the right hand, and on the left, and told them that all that land belonged to him. Then he took them to another cupola, and showed them great herds of horses, and sheep, and cattle, saying, as he did so — "Those are all mine too. I came out here a poor boy, and have earned all this property myself." One of his friends pointed up to heaven, and said — "And how much treasure have you laid up yonder?" After a pause, he said, as he heaved a sigh, "I'm afraid I haven't got anything there." "And isn't it a great mistake," said his friend, "that a man of your ability and judgment should spend all your days in laying up so much treasure on earth, and not laying up any in heaven?" The tears trickled down the farmer's cheeks as he said — "It does look foolish, don't it?" Soon after this, that farmer died. He left all his property for others to use, and went into the presence of God only to find that his love of money, and the wrong use he had made of it, had caused him to lose all the reward which he might have had in heaven. Some years ago, near Atlanta, in Georgia, there lived a man who was a member of the Church. He was a person of some influence in that neighbourhood. But he was a covetous man, very fond of money, and always unwilling to pay his debts. He had a little grand-daughter, about nine years old, who was living with him. She was a bright, intelligent young Christian. She had heard of her grandpa's love of money, and his unwillingness to pay his debts, spoken of, and it grieved her very much. One morning, as they were sitting at breakfast, she said — "Grandpa, I had a dream about you, last night." "Did you? Well, tell me what it was." "I dreamed that you died last night. I saw the angels come to take you to heaven. They took you in their arms, and began to go up till they were almost out of sight. Then they stopped, and flew round awhile, but without going any higher. Presently they came down with you, and laid you on the ground, when their leader said — 'My friend, you are too heavy for us. We can't carry you up to heaven. It's your debts that weigh you down. If you settle with those you owe, we will come for you again before long.'" The old gentleman was very much touched by this. He saw the danger he was in from his covetousness. He resolved to struggle against it. The first thing after breakfast, he went to his room, and in earnest prayer asked God to forgive his sin. and to help him to overcome it. Then he went out and paid all his debts; and after that was always prompt and punctual in paying what he owed. So he minded the warning of the text, and was kept from losing his reward.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

I. THE NATURE OF COVETOUSNESS. It is the love of money. A passion that grows upon men. We begin by loving it for the advantages it procures, and then we learn insensibly to love it for its own sake, or perhaps for some imaginary uses to which we flatter ourselves we shall apply it at some future time. We avoid certain extremes, and thus escape the imputation of covetousness, but we are not on that account the less influenced by the greediness of filthy lucre — we have given our hearts none the less to it on that account. And this passion grows in a most remarkable manner. Men encourage it in one another, and many a look seems, even without a word, to say, "Taste, and see how good money is." Thus, by degrees, the love of money manifests and extends itself, making of him who cherishes it, in the words of our Lord, "a servant of mammon." Verily He was wise who said, "Take head, and beware of covetousness." Further, this love of money takes different forms and changes its name among men, without however being in any respect changed in the sight of Him who kneweth the heart.

1. One man loves money to keep — this is the covetous man properly so called — the covetous man according to the true meaning of the word. He may possibly succeed in avoiding the odium of the title, but to separate him from his treasure would be to separate him from a part of his existence, and he could willingly say of money what God has said of blood, "Money, it is the life."

2. Another man loves money to spend it. This is the prodigal. A man may be at the same time covetous and prodigal. These two dispositions, instead of excluding one another, mutually encourage each other. Thus a Roman historian who knew human nature well, mentions this trait among others in the character of the notorious Cataline: "He was covetous of the wealth of ethers, lavish of his own."

3. A third man loves money for the sake of power. This is the ambitious man. It is not the desire of hoarding that rules him — it is not the love of spending which possesses him, but the delight of his eyes and the pride of his heart is to witness the influence which money gives him. Of these three forms of covetousness, miserly covetousness is especially the vice of old age; prodigal covetousness that of youth; and ambitious covetousness that of manhood. But covetousness belongs to all ages and conditions.

II. THE SIN OF COVETOUSNESS. I imagine we too generally underrate the judgment which God passes upon covetousness. We think that we are at full liberty to enrich ourselves as much as we can, and then to do what we please with the wealth that we have acquired. Thus we give ourselves up to covetousness. We should not act thus with respect to intemperance, to theft, but it seems that covetousness is quite another sort of sin. Whilst these vices disgrace those who are guilty of them — whilst they entail consequences injurious to the peace and tranquility of society, covetousness has something more plausible, more prudent, more respectable about it. It generally lays claim to honest worthy motives, and the world will dignify it by the name of natural ambition, useful industry, praiseworthy economy. I may even go a step further. A covetous man may be in a certain sense a religious man. He may be quite an example in his respectful attention to the worship and ordinances of God. In fact(the love of money is almost the only vice a man can entertain while he preserves the appearance of piety. And there is great reason to fear that of all sins, this one will ruin the greatest number of those who profess to serve God. Instances: Balaam, Achan, Gehazi, Judas, etc. In fact, a man cannot turn to the Lord but covetousness must perpetually oppose him, from the earliest preception of religious impressions, to the most advanced period of his faith. Has he only just been called by the Lord and bidden to the feast? Covetousness persuades two out of three to excuse themselves on the plea: "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and till it" — or, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must needs go and prove them." Has he begun to listen with interest to the truth and received the good seed in his heart? Covetousness plants thorns there also: "soon the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful." Has he advanced still further in the way, and gone some time in the paths of piety? Covetousness still despairs not of turning him out of them, and of including him amongst the number of those who, "having coveted money, have erred from the faith." Happy indeed is he, if, "taking the whole armour of God," he knows how to "withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand." Happy if he does not imitate those imprudent travellers, whom Bunyan describes as leaving, on the invitation of Demas, the way to the holy city to visit a silver mine in the hill Lucre. "Whether," says this truly spiritual writer, "they fell into the pit by looking over the brink thereof; or whether they went down to dig; or whether they were smothered in the bottom by the damps that commonly arise — of these things I am not certain; but this I observed, that they were never seen again in the way." Ah! dear brethren, "take heed, and beware of covetousness!"

III. We have now, however, to consider THE CONDEMNATION GOD RESERVES FOR COVETOUSNESS. And this condemnation and punishment begins in this life. There is no passion which renders its victims more truly miserable. Solomon tells us that the lover of money cannot satisfy himself with money. His cares increase with his wealth. Every one. enjoys it except himself.

(J. Jessop, M. A.)

The great point of instruction in this chapter is, dependence on God; that He is all-sufficient for the happiness of the soul, and that He will give what is needful for the body. The particular point of the text is, a warning against covetousness; and never was there a day in which the warning was more needed, when a most inordinate thirst of money-getting is abroad, when speculations of the most extensive kind are afloat, and when money-crimes of the most extravagant kind have shocked the public mind.

I. THE WARNING. Covetousness is like a fire, one of the four things which are never satisfied (Proverbs 30:15). You may heap fresh fuel upon it, but it only burns the higher, and its demands are greater. Let me ask, does your present prosperity lead you to regard the warning of the text more? to believe that there is danger in your present position? If your soul be in a healthy condition you will pay more attention to the text. But you may say, "Oh! my gains as yet are very slight, I have made but little money, I scarcely feel the warning can be applicable to me; when I have made a fortune, then I will consider." "Take heed, and beware of covetousness," saith the Lord. But suppose your success in business should continue, that you reach the very point at which you aim, would you then be more likely to accept our Lord's warning than now? Nay, less likely; for you would then be more confirmed in disregard of what He says than you are now; you would be less a believer in His Word than now. Take heed now.


1. Because money cannot save the soul, and therefore cannot secure happiness in the next life.

2. Because riches make to themselves wings and fly away, and a man may thus be deprived of what he builds on for happiness.

3. Because of the uncertainty of life. The parable which succeeds the text illustrates this. Although this rich man had ample provision for the body so long as it lasted, yet his goods could not ward off death; still less could they provide for the happiness of the soul when God required it in another state of existence. These considerations are enough to show us that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."You may ask, then, What does a man's life consist in?

1. In a heart at peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord; in pardon of sin; in acceptance with God; in the knowledge that this poor dying life is not all, but that there is a life beyond the grave, blessed and everlasting, purchased by the blood of Christ, and to which believers shall be kept by the power of God through faith.

2. In a well-founded hope of eternal life; in the knowledge of what Jesus Christ has done for sinners; in a spiritual understanding of the value of Christ's obedience unto death, His resurrection and ascension; in the assurance that all the promises of Scripture are "Yea and Amen in Christ," and will be fulfilled to all who trust Him.

3. In being contented with the station in which God has placed us, and the means which God has given us, feeling assured that if we could have served God better in another station there He would have placed us, and if we could have used more means rightly and for His glory, He would have given them to us; in a heart which recognizes God's hand in all dispensations, and which is able to say "Amen " to all He does in the way of submission, and "Alleuia" in the way of praise (Philippians 4:11, and Revelation 19:4).

4. In an earnest desire to serve God and our neighbour. There is no real happiness without a desire and endeavour to do good and to obey God's Word; and, as I have already said, our usefulness will ever be in proportion to our conformity to the image of the Son of God. This is true happiness: not exemption from trial and discipline, but the assurance of the sympathy of Christ under it, and the belief that "all things shall work together for good to them that love God" — the confidence that my Father, the Father who loves me, rules all. This will be the greatest safeguard against the love of money, and the crimes which spring out of it; this will keep a man humble, moderate, prayerful, holy, and happy, and enable him better to resist temptation in whatever shape it may present itself.

(W. Reeve, M. A.)


1. A corrupt and perverted judgment. We form a false opinion of the world, and think more highly of it than it merits.

2. Distrust of the providence of God.

3. Involving ourselves too much in the world.

4. Neglecting to look at things unseen and eternal.


1. It tempts men to unlawful ways of getting riches.

2. It tempts men to base and sinful ways of keeping what they have thus procured.

3. It fills the soul with disquietude and distraction.

4. It prevents all good, and is an inlet and encouragement to evil. Nothing so soon and so effectually stops the ear and shuts the heart against religious impressions.

5. It excludes from the kingdom of God.


1. Endeavour to be convinced of the vanity of all worldly possessions. They are insufficient and uncertain.

2. Seek Divine grace to enable you to set bounds to your desires.

3. Learn to order your affairs with discretion.

4. Cast all your cares upon God.

(S. Lavington.)

Here observe —

1. THE MANNER of our Lord's caution; He doubles it; not saying, "Take heed" alone, or "beware" only; but, "Take heed," and "beware" both. This argues, that there is a strong inclination in our natures to this sin; the great danger we are in of falling into it, and of what fatal consequence it is to them in whom this sin reigns.

2. THE MATTER of the caution, of the sin of which our Saviour warns his hearers against, and that is covetousness: "Take heed, and beware of covetousness"; where, under the name and notion of covetousness, our Saviour doth not condemn a provident care for the things of this life, nor a regular industry and diligence for obtaining of them, nor every degree of love and affection to them; but by covetousness is to be understood an eager and insatiable desire after the things of this life, or using unjust ways and means to get or increase an estate; seeking the things of this life, with the neglect of things infinitely better, and placing their chief happiness in riches.

3. THE REASON of this caution; "because a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Human life is sustained by a little; therefore abundance is not necessary, either to the support or comfort of it. It is not a great estate and vast possession that makes a man happy in this world; but a mind suited to our condition, whatever it be.

(W. Burkitt.)

What could be more natural, they would ask, than that he should make arrangements for the accommodation of the vast increase of his wealth? Why should he not make the most of what he had? Why should he not spend time and thought on a matter of so great importance? Alas! this is exactly what our Lord calls "the deceitfulness of riches." "Some sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment." Every one admits their sinfulness. It is not so with riches. Neither the possessors of riches nor those about them perceive in them danger, or the possibility of sinning in their use. Often rich men actually know not that they are rich. There is a respectability in being rich which masks a hundred forms of evil. Most of the sins which are admitted to be sins are such as are injurious to society. But the habits which wealth brings are exactly those in which society most delights, and therefore no warning voice, no hand of chastisement, are lifted against the selfishness, unthankfulness, self-satisfaction, vanity, pride, which follow too often in the train of riches. Against drunkenness, dishonesty, falsehood, and the like, we all hold up our bands and eyes, but these may pass.

(W. J. Butler, M. A.)

A man's life consisteth not in the abundance.
I. WHAT A MAN'S LIFE IS NOT. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." It is a very common mistake to suppose that a true life is a successful life, a prosperous and wealthy man is said to have succeeded in life. But that is not the sort of life to which Jesus refers in the text. He shows us in one place the picture of a man who had been prosperous, one who wore purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day; one whom many had envied. Yet his life was not a success, and there are none of us who would care to change places with him. The gospel also shows us another example of a mistaken life. It shows us a young ruler who had great possessions, and many good qualities, yet his life was not a success: he went away from the true Life, he went away from Jesus. No, a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

II. WHAT A MAN'S LIFE IS. It matters not whether we are rich or poor, successful or unfortunate, clever or dull; the secret of a true life consists in trying to do our duty towards God and our neighbour in that station of life to which it has pleased God to call us. This is the only true life, the only life worth living, the only life which brings comfort here, and happiness hereafter, since "the path of duty is the way to glory." Some one has said very truly, "The word duty seems to me the biggest word in the world, and is uppermost in all my serious doings." When Lord Nelson lay dying, in the hour of his last great victory, at Trafalgar, his last words were, "Thank God, I have done my duty." Believe me, brethren, his is the only true life who can say at the last, feeling all his failures and mistakes, and humbly conscious of his weakness, "Thank God, I have tried to do my duty." There is only one path for us to tread in as Christian people, and that is the path of duty marked out for us by God.

1. This life, if truly carried out, will be an earnest life. To do work well, we must be in earnest. If a labourer is set to clear a field of weeds, and if he is in earnest, he takes two hands to his work. So if we are to get rid of the weeds of evil habits and besetting sins, if we are to sweep the house, and search diligently till we find the precious treasure which we have lost, we must put two hands to the work. Every man who wants to live a true life must have a definite object, and be in earnest in reaching it. Those who succeed are those who aim high. The schoolboy who is contented with the second place in his class will never be first. The man who is content to sleep in the valley will never reach the mountain-top of success. A true life is one of duty towards God and our neighbour, done earnestly and with our might; a life which aims at heaven, a life whose ruling principle is the will of God.

2. And again, the true life is not only an earnest life, but also an unselfish life. God will not only have us good ourselves, but will have us make others good. We all influence our fellow-men for good or evil, lust as we ourselves are good or evil. A bad man in a parish or community is like a plague-spot, he is not only bad himself, but he makes others bad. A good man in a similar place is like a sweet flower in a garden, beautiful in himself, and by shedding sweetness around him making the lives of others beautiful. Believe me, the best sermon is the example of a good life.

(H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

I. WHAT COVETOUSNESS IS. Mainly an inordinate respect and desire for earthly property. Its worst form is the desire for earthly goods at the expense of others.

II. WHERE COVETOUSNESS HAS ITS ROOTS. Love of creature more than Creator. A vice which degrades human nature; and a sin which dishonours God, and violates His law.

III. How COVETOUSNESS SHOWS ITSELF. A grasping habit. Dissatisfaction with present possessions. The covetous man's sole interest in life lies in his accumulations.



(J. R. Thomson, M. A.)

I. THE AILMENT; — THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF MEN, WHICH DRAWS DOWN THIS REPROOF FROM THE LORD. The precise point with which we are at present concerned is this: An erroneous estimate of wealth pervades this community. Money is valued at more than money's worth. This lies at the root of the evil. The high esteem in which money is held, gives impetus to the hard race with which it is chased. The aim follows the estimate. Whatever is in a community by common consent accounted most valuable, will be practically followed with the greatest eagerness. A false reckoning has been cast up as to where the chief good of a country lies, and the mass is moving on in a direction many points aside from the course of safety. They give away for it that which is far more precious than it. One of the oldest memories of my mind relates to a case entirely analogous. The event lies far back in childhood — I might even say infancy. The French prisoners in a Government depot (now the general prison at Perth), were allowed to hold a kind of fair, where they sold from within their railings a variety of curious articles of their own manufacture, to visitors whom curiosity had attracted to see the strangers. Thither I was taken one day, with all my money in my pocket, to see the Frenchmen. During a momentary absence of the person in charge, I set my heart upon a rude bit of wood daubed with gaudy colours, and called Napoleon. The man who possessed it, seeing me alone, accosted me, told me in broken English that nothing could be more suitable for me, and offered to sell it: at once I gave him all the money I possessed, and carried off my prize. Search was made for the man who had cheated me, but he had disappeared behind his comrades, and we never saw him more. I was obliged to return home with a sad heart, and an empty hand, destitute of sundry useful articles which I had been led to expect, and which my pence would have purchased, if they had rightly been laid out. I distinctly remember yet the deep melancholy that came over my spirit, as the reality came home to me that the money was gone, and that there was no remedy. It is lawful to obtain a lesson by comparing great things with small Men are like silly children in the market-place of life. They are taken by the glitter of a worthless toy. They buy it. They give their all for it. If you give your time, your hands, your skill, your heart for wealth, you are taken in. Even the wealth you have obtained cannot be kept. This habit of accounting money the principal thing, a habit caught up in childhood from the prevailing tone of society, and strengthened by the example of those whom the world honours — it is this that lays bare our defences, and makes us an easy prey to the destroyer. Those who have money usually plume themselves upon the possession of it, without reference to any other claim on the respect of mankind. Simply in virtue of their gold, they take a high place, assume an important air, and expect the homage of the multitude. A rich man will despise a poor man, though the poor man inherits a nobler genius and leads a better life. The claim made might expose the folly of a few; but the claim conceded fastens folly down as a general characteristic of the community. How few there are who will measure the man by his soul — who will neither fawn upon wealth, nor envy it — who on account of it will neither set its possessor up nor down — who, in judging of his character, will ignore altogether the accident of his wealth, and award the honour which is due to the man, according as he fears God and does good to his brethren I In the practical estimation of this community, riches cover a multitude of sins. Oh, if men would learn to weigh it in the balance of the sanctuary, to see it in the light of eternity; if we could get now impressed on our minds the estimate of money which we will all have soon, it would not be allowed to exercise so much effect in our lives.

II. THE WARNING WHICH SUCH A MORAL CONDITION DREW FORTH FROM THE LORD, AND THE REASON BY WHICH IT IS ENFORCED: "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." The best method of applying the caution will be to expound the specific ground on which it is here made to rest. There are three different senses in which "a man's life" may be understood, all of them obvious, and each charged with a distinct practical lesson.

1. Life in its literal and natural sense — the life of the body — does not consist in the "abundance" of the things which one may possess. The life is in no degree dependent on the "surplus " over and above the supply of nature's wants. A very small portion of the fruit of the earth suffices to supply a man's necessities. The main elements are, a little food to appease hunger, and some clothing to ward off the cold. In this matter, God has brought the rich and the poor very near to each other in life, and at death the slight difference that did exist will be altogether done away. As a general rule, it may be safely affirmed that the life of the rich is as much endangered by the luxuries of their abundance, as that of the poor by the meanness of their food. The air and exercise connected with his labour go as far to preserve his health as the shelter and ease which the rich man enjoys. Looking simply to life — mere animal being and wellbeing — we are justified in affirming that abundance, or overplus of goods, is no advantage to it. This is a wise arrangement of our Father in heaven. He is kind to the poor. He has protected them by laws that men cannot touch — laws imbedded in the very constitution of the universe. In this view of the case, it is not consonant with right reason to make the acquisition of wealth the main object of desire and effort.

2. "A man's life" may be considered as the proper exercise and enjoyment of a rational, spiritual, immortal being — that use of life which the all-wise Creator manifestly contemplated when He arranged the complex constitution of man. Hitherto we have been speaking of animal life merely, common to us with the lower orders of creatures; now we speak of such a life as becomes a creature made in the image of God, and capable of enjoying Him for ever. To this life, how very little is contributed by the surplus of possessions over and above what nature needs! Indeed, that surplus more frequently hinders than helps the highest enjoyment of man's life. The parable which immediately follows the text bears, and was intended to bear, directly on this subject. Besides the folly of the rich man, in view of death and eternity, he made a capital mistake even in regard to his life in this world, when he said to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." The increase of riches does not increase a soul's enjoyment. In proportion as a rich man is indifferent to his wealth, his enjoyment of life does not spring from it, but from other sources. In proportion as his heart is given to his wealth, his enjoyment of life decreases. It is a law — a law of God which misers feel — that, if a man loves money, then the more money he gets, the less he enjoys it.

3. Life in the highest sense, the life of the soul, obviously does not depend in any degree on the abundance of earthly possessions. The whole world gained cannot prevent the loss of the soul. Consider the first object, a man's life. It is the life of the dead in sin, the life by regeneration, the life quickened by the Spirit and sustained in Christ, the life which, being hid with Christ in God, shall never die. This is a great thing for a man. Hear the word of the Lord — that abundance is not your life. It is not so needful as your life. If you take it too near your heart, it will quench your life. Ye cannot serve two masters. Expressly, ye cannot serve these two, God and Mammon. Money, like fire, is a good servant, but a bad master. It is this surplus, this superabundance, that is the dangerous thing. When it is sought as if it were life to a soul, it becomes to that soul death. When a man falls into deep water, he could easily preserve his life if he would permit his whole body to lie beneath the surface, except so much of his mouth and nostrils as is necessary for the admission of air. It is the instinctive, but unwise, effort to raise portions of the body above the water, that sinks the whole beneath it. It is the weight of that portion which has been, by a convulsive effort, unnecessarily raised, that presses down the body, and drowns the man. It is by a similar law in the province of morals that avarice destroys the life of the soul. The whole amount of money that a man obtains for the purpose of using, and actually does legitimately use, does no harm to the interests of his soul. It may be great, or it may be small, while it is kept beneath the surface, so to speak — kept as a servant, and used as an instrument for legitimate objects — it is as to spiritual matters indifferent. So far as money is concerned, the man is in equilibrium, and his spiritual character will depend on other influences. But when some portion is raised above the line — when it is taken from a servant's place, and raised to that of a master — when a surplus is sought, not for use but for its own sake — when the love of money begins — when it is set up by the man above himself, as an object of his affection — then that surplus, whether great or small, presses down the soul, and the man sinks in spiritual death. It is this lust that "drowns men in perdition" (1 Timothy 6:11).

(W. Arnot.)

There was once a nobleman living in Scotland who was very rich. But his covetousness, or love of money, was very great. Whenever he received any money, he turned it into gold and silver, and stowed it away in a great chest which he kept in a strong vault, that had been built for this purpose down in the cellar. One day a farmer, who was one of his tenants, came to pay his rent. But when he had counted out the money, he found that it was just one farthing short; yet this rich lord was such a miser that he refused the farmer a receipt for the money, until the other farthing was paid. His home was five miles distant, lie went there, and came back with the farthing. He settled his bill, and got his receipt. Then he said, "My lord, I'll give you a shilling if you'll let me go down into your vault and look at your money." His lordship consented, thinking that was an easy way to make a shilling. So he led the farmer down into the cellar and opened his big chest, and showed him the great piles of gold and silver that were there. The farmer gazed at them for awhile, and then said: "Now, my lord, I am as well off as you are." "How can that be?" asked his lordship. "Why, sir," said the farmer, "you never use any of this money. All that you do with it, is to look at it. I have looked at it too, and so I'm just as rich as you are." That was true. The love of that selfish lord for his money, made him think of it day and night, and the fear lest some robber should steal it, took away all his comfort and happiness, and made him perfectly miserable.

Three men, who were once travelling together, found a large sum of money on the road. To avoid being seen, they went into the woods near by, to count out the money, and divide it among themselves. They were not far from a village, and as they had eaten up all their food, they concluded to send one of their number, the youngest in the company, into the village to buy some more food, while they would wait there till he came back. He started on his journey. While walking to the village, he talked to himself in this way: "How rich my share of this money has made me! But how much richer I should be if I only had it all! And why can't I have it? It is easy enough to get rid of those other two men. I can get some poison in the village, and put it into their food. On my return I can say that I had my dinner in the village, and don't want to eat any more. Then they will eat the food, and die, and so I shall have all this money instead of only having one-third of it." But while he was talking to himself in this way, his two companions were making a different arrangement. They said to each other: "It is not necessary that this young man should be connected with us. If he was out of the way, we could each have the half of this money instead of only a third. Let us kill him as soon as he comes back." So they got their daggers ready, and as soon as the young man came back they plunged their daggers into him and killed him. They then buried his dead body, and sat down to eat their dinner of the poisoned food which had been brought to them. They had hardly finished their dinner before they were both seized with dreadful pains, which soon ended in their death. And here we see how the happiness and the lives of those three men were destroyed by the love of money.

Sunday School Times.
Two students had been competing at a university for the same prize, and one gained it by a few marks. The defeated candidate had set his heart on the prize, and was bitterly disappointed. In his room that evening, along with two friends, he began to speak of his defeat, and as he spoke such a look of anger and greed came into his face that one of his friends said in an undertone to the other, "See! the wolf! the wolf!" This exclamation did not hit far from the truth. Covetousness brings a man to the level of the beasts. That a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things he has is well brought out in the classic fable of King Midas, who found from bitter experience how fatal a gift was the touch that converted all things into gold. There is an Arabian story which tells how, at the sack of a city, one of the rulers was shut up in his treasure-chambers, and starved to death among bars of gold and sparkling gems. True as this is of the physical nature, it is more true of the spiritual. The man with the muck-rake in Bunyan saw nothing of the golden crown that was offered him. Many a man, intent on gathering his grain into his barns, forgets therewith to lay hold of the better bread of life!

(Sunday School Times.)

Sunday School Times.
To beware of covetousness is a lesson that has always been specially needed in the East. The grasping for more is fearful. It is usually considered the only worthy object in life. The ordinary Oriental simply cannot comprehend how a European can travel for pleasure, or spend money for archaeological investigation, or in any of the pursuits we think higher than that of money. Yet, on the other hand, the declaration that "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" is one that is taught the great mass of the Orientals by a hard experience. Abundance they cannot know. Conceding that "the things which he possesseth" are necessary for his life in this world, whether higher or lower, the life is not in their superfluity. An Oriental is rich who is not in danger of immediate want, who knows where he can get all his meals for to-morrow. Though the Greek of this clause seems difficult to many, it seems to the writer difficult only in its capability of rendering into English; especially because one who wishes to turn it into good English must choose at the start which of two allowable idiomatic forms he must choose. But Oriental conditions throw upon it a beautiful light: "For not in their superfluity to any one is his life (does his life come) from his possessions"; or, not in having superfluity does a man have his life out of his goods. It may be admitted that the grammatical government of one word is not altogether certain; but there are many cases, nearly or quite parallel, in classic Greek, where the author, for greater piquancy, has purposely left the construction of a word thus in suspense, to be governed by either of two others; the canon of the iron-bound grammarians, that every word in a given sentence has a fixed construction, to the contrary notwithstanding.

(Sunday School Times.)

The Rev. R. Gray tells of a certain duke that has a passion for costly diamonds; and what is the consequence? His house resembles a castle rather than a mansion, and is surrounded with a lofty wall, one which no one can climb without giving alarm. His treasure is kept in a safe let in the wall of his bedroom, so that it cannot be reached without first waking or murdering the owner; the safe is so constructed that it cannot be forced without discharging four guns, and setting an alarm-bell a-ringing in every room. His bedroom, like a prisoner's cell, has but one small window, and the bolt and lock of the massive door are of the stoutest iron. In addition to these precautions, a case, containing twelve loaded revolvers, stands by the side of his bed. Might we not inscribe over it, "Diamonds are my portion; therefore do I fear"?

Does a man's life consist in "the abundance of the things which he possesses?" Does amplitude of possession necessarily confer happiness? and is it such happiness as is sure to last? Nay; try abundance of possessions by this test, and you will find that it miserably fails. Wealth, or large possessions, may bring happiness — this we do not deny; it may confer splendour, of which men are proud; power, which they delight to exercise; comforts, which they cannot but cherish; and luxuries, which they undoubtedly enjoy. But are all these things so necessarily and uniformly the results of affluence, as that they always follow from it? — or, rather, does not splendour sometimes become overpoweringly irksome, and do not men sometimes shrink from the responsibilities of power as a burden almost intolerable? And may there not be other concomitants of wealth or of ample possessions, which tend to make the comforts or the luxuries which affluence confers but a very poor compensation for counter trials to which it exposes? Riches will not ward off pain or disease; the owner of immense property may be racked with pain, or he may languish in sickness, alike with the humblest menial or the poorest peasant. Let us, however, suppose a different case; let there be nothing to disturb the enjoyment of those pleasures which result from affluence; nay, I will even imagine, that, in addition to those already mentioned, the owner of vast possessions has other blessings poured into his lap, such as money alone will not purchase. God has given to him wealth freely to enjoy, and he has around him the costlier and more precious possessions-children by whom he is revered and loved — the esteem and respect of his fellows — and, what no man can afford to despise, the good-will and affection of the humblest and the poorest who live in his neighbourhood. And had we the power of sketching vividly such a case as this — could we delineate to you the owner of some ample property, whom, nevertheless, ancestral honours have not made proud, but who demeans himself alike to all with the gentle courtesy and condescension, which are the true elements of real nobility; who employs what God hath given him, not merely for his own selfish gratification, but finds happiness in diffusing around him what may minister to the comfort of others — could we picture to you that man, around whom his children and his children's children delight to cluster, with feelings of veneration and affection; or who, when he walks abroad, receives the unbought benediction of the poor, because they respect him for his virtues, and love him for his charities — even in a case like this, there would be no contradiction to the truth that "his life" — his real life — "consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." And supposing Christianity to have exerted its influence on this man's heart, and brought him as a penitent suppliant to sue for mercy at the feet of the Redeemer, and led him to rejoice in the hope which is laid up for a believer, oh! he will be the very last to deem that his real life could consist in the abundance of his possessions, He might lawfully thank God, who had conferred upon him means of scattering so many blessings around him, and sources of so much comfort to himself; but, above all, he would rather thank God for having taught him to "use this world without abusing it" — to regard himself as no more than the tenant at will, with but a passing interest in the possession confided to his trust; to recollect, and to act upon the recollection, of a coming period, when every earthly possession, be it howsoever costly or large, will have to be forsaken and thus he would be foremost to confess, that "a man's life consisteth not in the things which he possesseth." Alas! he might well say, for those who act as though it doth; a thousand causes may arise to embitter the enjoyment which springs from possession; or, if these in God's providence are warded off, then the more unsullied the temporal happiness, the more confounding is the thought that death will interrupt it. And surely this is enough to vindicate the accuracy of what is declared in our text.

(R. Bickersteth, M. A.)

The muscles of the arm if you never exert them except in one fashion, will become set, so that you cannot move them, like the Indian Fakir, who held his arm aloft so long that he could not take it down again. Man, continuing in sin, becomes fixed in its habit. Only the other day we read of a great millionaire in New York, who once was weak enough to resolve to give a beggar a penny. He had grown old in covetousness, and he recollected himself just as he was about to bestow the gift, and said, "I should like to give you the penny, but you see I should have to lose the interest of it for ever, and I could not afford that." Habit grows upon a man. Everybody knows that when he has been making money, if he indulges the propensity to acquire, it will become a perfectly tyrannical master, ruling his own being.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is a vice that increases in those who harbour it, making them miserable and utterly mean. A very wealthy French banker, worth many hundred thousand francs, would not purchase for himself a little meat when he was almost dying for want of the nourishment. A Russian miser used to go about his house at night barking like a dog, to prevent robbers coming to get any of his great wealth, and because he would not be at the expense of keeping a dog. Are not covetous people punished as the dog in the fable was, which, in snatching at the shadow in the water, lost the meat he had in his mouth? or as Tantalus was, of whom the ancients said he was up to the neck and surrounded with all good things, but he could never get or enjoy one of them? Covetous persons are also like the old man of whom Bunyan tells, who spent his life in raking together dirt, straw, and worthless things; whilst he never heeded the immortal crown an angel offered him. Rowland Hill said, "Covetous persons should be hung up by their heels, that all their money might fall from their pockets, for it would do them good to lose it, and others good to get it."

(Henry R. Burton.)

Hervey's Manual of Revivals.
A shepherd boy, of small experience, was one day leading his little flock near the entrance of a mountain cavern. He had been told that precious stones had often been discovered in such places. He was, therefore, tempted to leave his charge, and turn aside to explore the dark recesses of the cavern. He began to crawl in, but as he proceeded his face took on a veil of cobwebs, and his hands mittens of mud. He had not gone far when he saw two gems of a ruby glow lying near each other. He put forth his eager fingers to seize them, when a serpent bit him. In pain and fear he crawled quickly back to the light of day, and ran home to the chief shepherd to obtain some remedy for the bite. The good man, who was also his elder brother, sucked the poison from the wound, and applied to it a healing balm. Never afterwards did that shepherd covet the treasures which may lie concealed behind mountain rocks.

(Hervey's Manual of Revivals.)

What is Alexander now the greater for his power? What is Caesar the higher for his honour? What is Aristotle the wiser for his knowledge? What delight hath Jezebel in her paint? Or Ahab in his vineyard? What is a delicious banquet to Dives in hell? Or, what satisfaction can the remembrance of these transitory delights bring? All the beauty, honour, riches, and knowledge in the world will not purchase one moment's ease. All the rivers of pleasure, which are now run out and dry, and only flow in our remembrance, will not cool a tongue (Colossians 2:22).

(A. Farindon.)

Think you that great and rich persons live more content? Believe it not. If they will deal freely, they can but tell you the contrary; that there is nothing but a show in them, and that great estates and places have great grief and cares attending them, as shadows are proportioned to their bodies (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

(Abp. Leighton.)

No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Cortes was asked by various Mexican States, what commodites or drugs he wanted, and was promised an abundant supply. He and his Spaniards, he answered, had a disease at their hearts, which nothing but gold could cure; and he had received intelligence that Mexico abounded with it. Under the pretence of a friendly conference, he made Montezuma his prisoner, and ordered him to pay tribute to Charles V. Immense sums were paid; but the demand was boundless. Tumults ensued. Cortes displayed amazing generalship; and some millions of the natives were sacrificed to the disease of his heart.


We see the most rich worldlings live the most miserably, slaved to that wealth whereof they keep the key under their girdles. Esuriunt in popina, as we say, "they starve in a cook's shop." A man would think that, if wealth could do any good, it could surely do this good, keep the owner from want, hunger, sorrow, care. No, even these evils riches do not avoid, but rather force on him. Whereof is a man covetous but of riches? When these riches come, you think he is cured of his covetousness: no, he is more covetous; though the desires of his mind be granted, yet this precludes not the access of new desires to the mind. So a man might strive to extinguish the lamp by putting oil into it; but this makes it burn more. And as it is with some that thirstily drink harsh and ill-brewed drinks, have not their heat allayed, but inflamed; so this worldling's hot eagerness of riches is not cooled, but fired, by his abundance.

(T. Adams.)

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