DIRECTIONS AGAINST COVETOUSNESS, OR LOVE OF RICHES, AND AGAINST WORLDLY CARES

Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, Part 1, Chapter IV, Part VI – (Abridged)

 

I. Understand well the nature and malignity of this sin, both what it is, and why it is so great and perilous.

A. What love of riches is lawful: All love of the creature, the world, or riches is not sin.

1. The works of God are all good as such, and all goodness is agreeable. As they are related to God, and his power, and his wisdom, and goodness are imprinted on them, so we must love them, even for his sake.

2. All the impressions of the attributes of God appearing on his works makes them a looking glass in which at this distance we must see the Creator, and their sweetness is a drop from him by which his goodness and love are tasted. And so they were all made to lead us up to God, and help our minds to converse with him, and kindle the love of God in our hearts as a love-token from our dearest friend; and thus, as the means of our communion with God, the love of them is a duty and not a sin.

3. They are naturally the means of sustaining our bodies and preserving life, health, and readiness, and as such, our senses have a love for them as every beast has to its food, and this love in itself is not a moral kind, and is neither a virtue nor a vice, till it either be used in obedience to our reason (and so it is good), or in disobedience to it (and so it is evil).

4. The creatures are necessary means to support our bodies while we are doing God the service which we owe him in the world; and so they must be loved, as a means to service; though we cannot say properly that riches are ordinarily necessary.

5. The creatures are necessary to sustain our bodies in our journey to heaven, while we are preparing for eternity, and thus they must be loved as remote helps to our salvation. And in these two last respects we call it in our prayers “our daily bread.”

6. Riches may enable us to relieve our needy brethren, and to promote good works for church and state. And thus also they may be loved; so far as we must be thankful for them, so far we may love them; for we must be thankful for nothing but what is good.

B. What it is that is un-lawful, and in what this sin of covetousness or worldliness consists? Worldliness, or sinful love of riches is:

1. When riches are loved and desired and sought more for the flesh than for God or our salvation….in order that the flesh may lack nothing to please it and satisfy its desires.

2. When we therefore desire them in that proportion which we think most agreeable to these carnal ends and we are not content with our daily bread and the proportion which may sustain us as passengers to heaven and tend most to the securing of our souls and to the service of God.

So that is the end by which a sinful love of riches is principally to be discerned; when they are loved for pride and flesh-pleasing as they are the matter of a worldly, physical happiness and not principally for God and his service, and servants, and our salvation.

C. The malignity or greatness of this sin consists in these points:

1. The love of the world, or of riches, is a sin of deliberation, and not of mere impudence or sudden passion: worldlings engineer and scheme the attaining of their ends.

2. It is a sin of interest, love, and choice, set up against our chief interest, the setting up of a false end and seeking that:

  • It is idolatry, or a denying of God, and deposing him in our hearts and setting up his creatures instead of Him, in the measure that it prevails….
  • It is contempt of heaven….
  • It shows that unbelief prevails at the heart so far as worldliness prevails….
  • It is a debasing of the soul of man and using it like the brutes, while it is principally set upon serving the flesh and on temporal happiness, and neglects its eternal happiness and concernments.
  • It is a perverting of the very drift of a man’s life, as employed in seeking a wrong end….
  • It is a perverting of God’s creatures to an end and use contrary to that which they were made and given for, and an abusing God by his own gifts by which he should be served and honored and a destroying our souls with those mercies which were given us for their help and benefit…

D. The Signs of Covetousness are:

1. Not preferring God and our everlasting happiness before the prosperity and pleasure of the flesh, but valuing and loving fleshly prosperity above its worth.

2. Esteeming and loving the creatures of God as provision for the flesh and not to further us in the service of God.

3. Desiring more than is needful or useful to further us in our duty.

4. An inordinate eagerness in our desires after earthly things.

5. Distrustfulness and worrisome desires, scheming unduly for time to come.

6. Discontent, troubling, and a repining at a poor condition when we have no more than our daily bread.

7. When the world takes up our thoughts inordinately; when our thoughts will easier run out upon the world than upon better things, and when our thoughts of worldly plenty are more pleasant and sweet to us that our thoughts of Christ and grace and heaven….

8. When our speech is freer and sweeter about prosperity in the world than about the concernments of God and our souls.

9. When the world bears sway in our families and conversation and shuts out all serious endeavors in the service of God and or our own and other’s souls: or at least does cut short religious duties, and is preferred before them and thrusts them into a corner and makes us slightly huddle them over.

10. When we are dejected overmuch and impatient under losses and crosses, and worldly injuries from men.

11. When worldly matters seem sufficient to engage us in contentions and to make us break peace….

12. When in our trouble and distress we fetch our comfort more from the thoughts of our provisions in the world, or our hopes of supply, than from our trust in God, and our hopes of heaven.

13. When we are more thankful to God or man for outward riches, or any gift for the provision of the flesh, than for hopes or helps in order to salvation….

14. When we are quiet and pleased if we do not prosper and have plenty in the world though the soul be miserable, unsanctified, and unpardoned.

15. When we are more careful to provide a worldly than a heavenly portion for children and friends, and rejoice more in their bodily than their spiritual prosperity, and are troubled more for their poverty than their ungodliness or sin.

16. When we can see our brother have need, and shut up the bowels of our compassion, or can part with no more than mere superfluities for his relief; when we cannot spare that which makes but for our better being, when it is necessary to preserve his being itself; or when we give unwillingly or sparingly.

17. When we will venture upon sinful means for gain as lying, overreaching, deceiving, flattering, or going against consciences, or the commands of God.

18. When we expect too much in liberality from others, and think that all we buy from should sell cheaper to us than they can afford, and consider not their loss or want, so that we have the gain; not contented if they be never so bountiful to others if they be not so to us.

19. When we make too much ado in the world for riches, taking too much upon us or striving for preferment, and flattering great ones and envying that they are preferred before us, or get that which we expected.

20. When we hold our money faster than our consciences and cannot part with it for the sake of Christ when he requires it, but will stretch our consciences and sin against him, or forsake his cause to save our estates, or will not part with it for service of his church or our country when we are called to it.

21. When the riches we have are used but for the pampering of our flesh and superfluous provision for our posterity and nothing but some inconsiderable crumbs or driblets are employed for God and his servants, nor used to further us in his service, and towards the laying up of a treasure in heaven.

E. The Counterfeits of Liberality or Freedom from Covetousness which deceive the worldling:

1. He thinks he is not covetous because he has a necessity of doing what he does for more. Either he is in debt or poor and the poor think that no one is covetous but the rich….

2. He thinks he is not “worldly” because if he could have his necessities, food and clothing, and conveniences for himself and his family, he would be content, and it is not riches or great matters that he desires….

3. He thinks he is not covetous because he does not covet anything that is his neighbors….but if you love the world, and worldly plenty exceedingly, and covet more, you are covetous worldlings though you are not covetous of another particular person. It is a worldly mind and love of wealth that is the sin at the root: the ways of getting it are but the branches.

4. He thinks he is not worldly because he uses no unlawful, illegal means, but the labor of his calling to grow rich….

5. He thinks he is not worldly because he is content with what he has and covets no more. But if you over love the world and delight more in it than God, you are worldly though you desire no more. Luke 12:19-20. To over-love what you have is worldliness as well as to desire more.

6. He thinks he is not worldly because he gives God thanks for what he has and asked of God in prayer. But if you are a lover of the world…it is but an aggravation of your sin to desire God to be a servant of your fleshly lusts. Your prayers and thanks are profane and carnal: They were not for service to God but to your flesh.

7. He thinks he is not worldly because he has some thoughts of heaven and is unwilling to be damned…The question is not whether you think of heaven and do something for it, but whether it is heaven or earth that you seek first, and make the end of all things. Every worldling knows he must die and would have heaven at last for a reserve, rather than hell. But where is it that you are laying up your treasure and that you place all your happiness and hopes? Where are your hearts, on earth or in heaven, Col. 3:1-3, Mat. 6:20-21? The question is not whether you give now and then to deceive your consciences, and part with as much as you can spare, as a pig will do when he can eat no more, but whether all that you have be devoted to the will of God and made to stoop to his service and the saving of your souls, and can be forsaken rather than Christ be forsaken, Luke 14:33.

8. He thinks he is not covetous because it is but for his children that he provides, 1 Tim. 5:8. But the text speaks only of providing necessaries for our families and kindred rather than cast them on the church to be maintained. If you so overvalue the world that you think it the happiness of your children to be rich, you are worldlings and covetous both for yourselves and them….

9. He thinks he is not a worldling because he can speak tough about covetous people. But many a person reviles others for being covetous that is covetous himself; yes, covetous men are most apt to accuse others of covetousness and of selling too dear and buying too cheap and giving too little because they would get the more themselves. And many preachers by their reading and knowledge may make a vehement sermon against worldliness and yet go to hell at last for being worldly. Words are cheap.

10. He thinks he is not worldly because he plans to leave much to charity when he is dead. That much is well; I wish that more would do so. But he can spare it when he sees that he must lie down in the grave. If they could carry their riches with them and enjoy them after death, they would do it no doubt: to leave it when you cannot keep it any longer is not worthy of praise and thanksgiving. Do you serve God or the flesh with your riches when you have them? Do not deceive yourselves, God is not mocked, Gal. 6:7.

F. Many are falsely accused of covetousness upon such grounds as following:

1. Because they possess much and are rich, the poor take the rich for worldlings….

2. Because they satisfy not the covetous desires of those they deal with or that expect much from them, and because they do not give it where it is not their duty to do so. Thus the buyer says the seller is covetous, and the seller says the buyer is covetous. A lazy beggar will accuse you of being uncharitable because you do not maintain him in his sinful idleness. No man who has anything will escape being called covetous by others as long as there is anyone in the world that covets what he has; selfishness looks to no rules but their own desires.

3. Because they give not that which they have not to give. Those that do not know another’s estate will speculate and pass judgment on them. And if their fine clothes or bearing or fame causes men to think them richer than they are, they are considered as covetous.

4. Because they are laborious in their callings and thrifty and saving, not willing that anything be lost. But all of this is their duty: if they were Lords or Princes idleness and wastefulness would be their sin. God would have all men labor in their callings that are able to do so….The question is how they use that which they labor for so hard and save so sparingly. If they use it for God and charitable uses, there is no man that takes a more right course. He is the best servant for God that will be laborious and sparing that he may also be able to do good.

5. Because to avoid hypocrisy, they give in secret and keep their works of charity from the knowledge of men. They shall have their reward from God and His wrath shall be the reward of their presumptuous censures.

6. Because they lawfully and peaceably seek their right, and do not let the unjust and covetous wrong them at their pleasure. It is true that we must let go of our right whenever recovering it will do more hurt to others than it will do us good. But yet the laws are not made in vain, nor must we encourage men in covetousness, thievery, and deceit by letting them do what they want, nor must we be careless of our Master’s talents if he entrusts them to us. We must not let every one take them from us to serve his lusts with.

II. Seriously consider your everlasting state and how much greater things than riches you have to mind.

III. Remember how short a time you must keep and enjoy wealth which you have gotten.

IV. Labor to feel your greatest needs which worldly wealth will not supply.

V. Be often with those that are sick and dying and mark what all their riches will do for them and what esteem they have then of the world and mark how it uses all at last.

VI. Remember that riches do make it much harder for a man to be saved and the love of this world is the commonest cause of men’s damnation.

VII. Remember that the more you have the more you have to account for.

VIII. Remember how dear it costs men thus to hinder their salvation and greaten their danger and accounts.

Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church

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Covington, Georgia 30016
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Please note - We do not have an evening service on the first Sunday of the month. On the first Sunday of the month we have a Church Dinner following the morning service and enjoy our fellowship that afternoon.

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