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The Other Man’s Grass (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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November 30, 2021 3:00 am

The Other Man’s Grass (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 30, 2021 3:00 am

Weeds greedily invade a garden. If we don’t root them out, they’ll destroy the flowers or vegetables we carefully planted. Coveting can similarly consume our hearts and destroy relationships. Learn how to weed it out, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier
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John Munro
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Core Christianity
Adriel Sanchez and Bill Maier

When weeds invade a garden greedily devour the nutrients, they take over the space.

If we don't root them out, they'll destroy the flowers or the vegetables we planted. Coveting can similarly consume our hearts and destroy our relationships. And today on Truth for Life we're going to learn how to weed out covetousness. Alistair Begg is teaching from Exodus 20 with part 2 of a message titled, The Other Man's Grass. What ever happened to biblical contentment? What ever happened to satisfaction in the awareness of the fact that God has not pledged himself to baptize our materialistic urgencies into orthodox Christianity? There is nowhere in the whole Bible that assumes that we're going to be healthy, wealthy, and wise as a result of our commitment to Jesus Christ. And to teach it that way is an absolute violation of the Bible.

And yet we hear it all the time, day in and day out. I put Jesus first in my life, and I have scored more touchdowns now than I ever did. I put Jesus first in my life, and you ought to come and drive in my car.

I put Jesus first in my life, and my company has gone through the roof in its profits. What is the message? The message is Jesus is a guru on the way to materialistic happiness. It doesn't sound like the words of Jesus, does it? If anyone would like to follow me, let him take up his cross every day, die to himself who follow me. If any man would be my disciple, let him burn his bridges and go. Let him pull his boats up on the shore and follow me. Let him leave everything behind.

Loved ones, we've got it so upside down and living with it for so long that when somebody turns the Scriptures the right side up for us, it starts to sound like heresy to us. I came here in August 3, 1983. I started trying to get intelligent. Read the Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, October 12, 1983.

Here it is. Headline. Inside full-page advertisement in the Wall Street is headed, Demoralize Thy Neighbor.

Okay? Now, this is an Aston Martin, for those of you who are car aficionados. It's one thing to trundle by in a Bentley, Jaguar, Mercedes, or the like. Everyone in your neighborhood has one of those.

It's quite another thing to come in for a landing in your Lagonda. And if you get an Aston Martin, then all the poor clowns in your neighborhood that only drive Jaguar, Mercedes, and BMW, you're gonna make them go to bed feeling really bad. Now, doesn't that appeal to everyone that's good in us? Your sensible people think this stuff out. Is the Bible relevant to our day?

Of course it is. It's powerfully applicable to our day. It gets to the very heart of the issues. Now, if the evidence of coveting is plain for all to see, what about the effect of coveting? What effect does coveting have? Let me say four things that coveting will do. Simple things, obvious perhaps, but let me just underpin them.

Number one, coveting spoils relationships and lies behind many of our disagreements. You take a couple of youngsters who drank together through school. They were the best of friends. They spent overnights.

They did homework together. They were neck and neck all the way through. They graduated well. They went on to college well.

They were still neck and neck. But after college, one of them went orbital in terms of financial success, and the other one went on a slower track. The slower track fellow can't stand the success of this guy, and so when he calls, he's no longer as interested. Their friendship is no longer cemented. Their care for one another is no longer what it was.

Because this guy's gonna covet his heart, and he can't stand the success of another. That happens between brothers and sisters in a family. It happens in churches.

It happens between pastors. I spoke to a friend of mine on the phone a couple of weeks ago, and I asked him, I said, Have you spoken to X lately, who's another friend of ours, who's a pastor? No, he said, I haven't spoken to X since we were together in the summer. That is this guy and I to whom I'm speaking. I said, Well, I don't feel so bad about being at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean if you haven't even spoken to him and you only live twelve miles away from him. Oh, he said, You don't understand. X is in the big leagues now. Now, I don't know all that that means, but I know there's something of covetousness in that guy's heart.

There's something he's not dealing with, because there are no big leagues. Secondly, covetousness breaks the summary commandment of Jesus, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It's impossible to really love somebody and to be coveting their stuff when we should say, My, that is a very pretty color on you. Our covetous hearts say nothing, and we get in our car saying, I don't know why she got that. You can't have a covetous heart, I can't have a covetous heart and really love you. Thirdly, a covetous heart makes me essentially selfish, makes me always ask what's best for me. How will I do in this?

How am I going to come out of this? What will happen to me in this deal? And fourthly, a covetous heart, and perhaps worse of all, makes us think that life is all about material things. That the abundance of life is really what we've got. That he who dies with the most toys wins. That we buy the whole package. Nelson Rockefeller, interviewed by a newspaper reporter on one occasion, was asked, How much money does it take to be happy?

And Rockefeller replied, Just a little bit more. Think about it. Think about it when you're a child. Your father says you can have this much of an allowance. You're really thrilled. You're pleased. After all, you had nothing before he said it. Then he said it, then he gave you it.

You're thrilled. Till you walk outside and you say to your friend, Hey, my dad gave me an allowance, gave me a dollar. Your friend says, My dad gave me two. Now you're going to find out what kind of covetous heart you've got. You can't be content with the dollar in your pocket for worrying about the fact that the guy next to you has got two bucks and his. That's what happens in churches. It's what happens in companies. It's what happens in families.

Well, then the question is obvious. If the problem is as endemic as that, if it is as deep rooted as that, if it is as crucial as that, how in the world are we going to root it out? What are we going to do?

Well, the answer is that we need to bring an eternal perspective to bear upon the effects of time. And in order to do that, I want you to turn with me to a story that is recorded for us in Luke chapter 12, and we'll make this our concluding illustration. Luke chapter 12 and verse 13, Someone in the crowd said to him, Teacher, this is to Jesus, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. All attorneys tell me they've never seen as many squabbles in their life as when they have to do with wills and the reading of wills. You know, perfect friends become total enemies forever after they come in and say, the last will and testament of Reginald Bozanket is flawless, and the person who thinks they're going to make a bundle gets nothing.

It goes to the jogger humane society to spay cats or something. And people get really ticked off over that stuff, I believe. And justifiably so, especially as it relates to cats, but that's another question altogether. The fact of the matter is there was a problem between these characters. Presumably one had it all and didn't want to give it up and one didn't have it and wanted to get it. So there you've got the perfect recipe for it. The guy's got it and won't give it up, a guy hasn't got it and must get it. That's it right there.

And it's right here. So he says, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. Jesus says, hey, look, I'm not in the business of dividing inheritances up.

That's not why I can. There are people who can take care of that. He said, but since you're so concerned about stuff, as you clearly are, and since you're so concerned about having an inheritance, let me tell you a story about a guy who was so sure that he had a good inheritance. And then he goes on to bring this eternal perspective to bear upon the circumstances of possessions. Let me try and summarize it for us, if I may.

First of all, he says to the individual, watch out, verse 15, or be alert. Don't just go with the flow. Don't just accept when people say everybody wants to be number one. Be alert. Let your antenna go up for that and say, hey, wait a minute. If everybody wants to be number one and can be number one, we've got a problem with everybody else who's two, three, four, five, and six.

And since I've spent most of my life being a good seven or an eight or a nine or a ten, there's not much chance of me being number one. Be alert, he says. Think these things out. Secondly, beware. Be on your guard, he says, against all kinds of greed.

All kinds of greed. The comprehensive nature of greed is addressed here by Jesus. He says, make sure that you appoint sentries at the doors of your life, at the avenues of your existence, that guard against the inroads of greed. You know, he says, the things that create that response within you.

Make sure that you set it up in such a way that you are not only alert to its advances, but you are ready for the advances. And thirdly, be clear, he says. Be clear about this. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Now, I ask you, loved ones, is that a revolutionary statement or what? Because today in our culture, prestige and power and recognition and influence are almost exclusively tied to possessions.

Think it up. In an earlier generation, perhaps—although we didn't live there, and we can't say with authority—in an earlier generation, it would appear, at least, that certain things were valued above possessions. For example, the schoolteacher with a caring heart that instructed Anne of Green Gables, okay? The doctor who was prepared in all days and times and conditions to go out for the delivery of the baby and everything else.

The pastor who was prepared to bring spiritual comfort and care to the dying and to the bereaved and to the wayward and to the lost. Those things may have been valued in earlier generations. But by and large, in our contemporary culture, the substance of a man's existence and his prestige is directly related to external, superficial, nonlasting stuff. Now, loved ones, if we don't believe that, we've got to ask ourselves the question why it is we're spending so much time to get that stuff, and why we attach such significance to the stuff when we get it. It is because we have bought into the mindset of our generation.

Now, all of us are tainted with it. None of us, whether we've got a lot or a wee drop, can say we're not into it. It's not a problem of the haves. It's a problem of the have-nots as well as the haves. Indeed, many of us who have not have maybe got a more covetous heart than many of the people who have.

And one of the indications of our covetous heart is that we like to badmouth the people who have just because we haven't. A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. The word there for life is the word zoe, which means the essence of a man's life.

There is another word in Greek for life, which is bios, from which we get biology, which is the way of life. Jesus doesn't say that the way of a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. He says the essence of a man's life doesn't consist in the abundance of his possessions. See, my good friend in Scotland, who died on Thursday from cancer, had a lot of possessions. He had a Rolls-Royce. He had the largest Ford dealership in Scotland. He had power.

He had influence. But he's also the guy who, when he took the Ford dealership, only had two thousand pounds to his name that his dad had left him. When the Ford dealer came to him and said, Mr. Cordner, you going to open a garage up here in Aberdeen?

Yes, I am. So he said, well, let me show you the prospectus of how you do it. This is how Ford wants the places opened up. He said, this is the opening times. Stephen looked at the opening times. He said, I got a problem with this. He says, I'm not going to open on a Sunday. The guy said, what do you mean you're not going to open on a Sunday? He said, well, I'm not going to open on a Sunday.

He said, I go to church on Sundays, I worship the Lord on Sunday, and I believe that Sunday is the Lord's day. The guy says, you can't have a Ford franchise if you don't open on Sunday. The guy says, well, then I don't have a Ford franchise. But I'll tell you what, he said, you trust me with a Ford franchise, and I'll sell more cars for you in Scotland in six days than anyone else will sell in seven. The guy says, well, it's against the rules. It's against the protocol. But we'll do it.

And I want to tell you something. The people who will attend that funeral service for Stephen Cordner will not be there because he had a Rolls-Royce. Most people don't even know he's got it. They will not be there because of the abundance of his possessions.

They will be there because that clarity of his Christian testimony so pervaded everything about that man's life that it was impossible to know him without knowing that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of what he possesses. Some of us, whether with much or with little, whether teenagers or kids, have never crossed that bridge. We know it theoretically. We do not believe it experientially. And we live crippled by a covetous heart, because we'll never, ever have enough according to our perspective. Once that becomes a drug, the heroin addict cannot shoot up enough, nor can the materialist.

You talk to anyone who's in retailing around the malls of the city, and they will tell you that there are people who are not only on the lists who get the little card that says, Come for our sale, but they're on the special list, the high-priority list, which says, The minute a new shipment of anything arrives, call me. Because I cannot stand the possibility that my neighbor comes down the street with it first. We're talking about intravenous materialism at that point.

We're talking about shooting up big time. And Jesus says it's absolutely bogus. And so he illustrates it. He says the guy decided that he would keep for himself what he might have given away to others. He stored up for a future that never came. He says to himself in verse 19, I'll say to myself, You've got plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.

You've got plenty of time. He had plenty of stuff and no time. He was foolish enough to presume that he would have forever to enjoy what he'd made, and he was wrong. I've got to preach this to some of you men as well—and I know you misunderstand me, but I'm going to preach it to you anyway—I have buried more men than I can tell you who refused to stop working. It was not because they didn't have enough money. It was because they were consumed with their annuities and their investments.

The one thing they were not going to do was touch principle. And if I can just work a little bit longer, I get a little fatter, that will mean we will live off the interest always, and the nest egg will be big. And the wife used to say, Honey, why don't we take a day off? I mean, why don't we go for a little trip? Why don't we sail on a boat? Why don't we take a train? Why don't we…?

Oh, no, no, no, no, wait a minute. Just let me go for another week while, and when I finish, you're going to see you'll never have been on a vacation like we were going on. We'll just go round and round and round the globe, as many times as you want, and we'll never have to touch the principle.

That's what I love. We'll never touch the principle. We'll never touch the squat of it, because he's dead. And I sit with his wife, and she's got fat wads of money, and she's lonely, and she's empty, and she was always going to have the vacations that never, ever came, because he stored for a future that he couldn't bank on. Now, what's the lesson from that? That you don't plan for the future?

No, that would be silly. The lesson is carpe diem. Seize the day. You want to take your wife a walk? Take her a walk this afternoon, because if you plan it for next Thursday, you may not be here. You want to buy your children an ice cream?

Buy it now. You want to snuggle them in their beds? Snuggle them tonight. Don't snuggle them when you become smart enough to take four days off a week.

You may never live long enough. Snuggle them tonight, because it's the only night you've got. Love your wife today. It's the only day you have. Use your resources this afternoon, because it's the only time that you may use them and know the benefit of generosity. You'll never have the fun of giving stuff away when you're dead. Who cares that your attorney gets the chance to dish it out to everybody?

You're not going to have a lot of fun in that. Well, our time is gone. The lesson is clear. A covetous heart can only be driven out by the expulsive power of a new affection.

The expulsive power of a new affection. The psalmist's statement is as challenging as any I can ever read. When he says, whom have I in heaven but you?

That's good. We can all say that. I mean, whom have we in heaven but God? The answer is no one but God. And then he says, And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Psalm 73, verse 25. I'm not there yet. I don't know if you are. But I'm not.

But I want to be. I want to find out what that means. I know for sure it doesn't mean stripping yourself naked and lying in a cave somewhere.

I know that's not it. Jesus never taught that. I know it's not about going in a monastery. I know it's not about communism. I know it's about the fact that some of us are going to be given more than others, and whatever we're given, we've got to make sure that we use it to the glory of God, and we don't covet what other people have, and we don't look down our long noses on others, because they never were blessed in the same way as we. But it's a hard one. And I wonder, when's the last time you ever heard a sermon on the sin of coveting?

I bet you can't remember one. Because nobody wants to preach on coveting. Because there's a whole lot of coveting going on. And nobody can avoid these bullets. I know I can't.

Don't try. We don't have to be poor to covet. Anyone can covet.

It's not just about possessions. You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg with part two of a message titled, The Other Man's Grass. Well, today is an important day at Truth for Life. This is Giving Tuesday, a day designed to support the nonprofit organizations that are making a difference throughout the year. As you know, Truth for Life is entirely listener funded. In fact, it's donations from listeners like you that make this daily program possible. And your giving does even more than that.

All of Alistair's online teaching is entirely free, thanks to your generous support. If you've ever purchased anything from us, you know we sell our books, our study guides, our sermon series, and more, at cost, so that high quality Bible teaching is available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation. On a day like today, I wish I could share with you all the letters we receive from people who write to us to say how grateful they are for your generosity. Your giving today will benefit many. So on this Giving Tuesday, please support Truth for Life by making a generous donation at slash donate.

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You'll find them online at slash features. And then don't forget about Alistair's brand new devotional. Today's the last day I'll be mentioning the book Truth for Life, 365 daily devotions. If you've not already requested your copy, you want to make sure you do so today. This beautiful hardcover book makes an excellent gift for both new and established believers.

What a wonderful way to kick off 2022 together in God's word. Request your copy of Truth for Life, 365 daily devotions with a donation of any amount. Tap the image on the app or visit our website at slash donate. Or you can call us at 888-588-7884.

I'm Bob Lapine. We wrapped up the last of the Ten Commandments today, but our Pathway to Freedom series is not over yet. Join us tomorrow when we'll find out why God's law is reassuring to some, but a source of fear for others. Find out where you fit tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life. Where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-16 03:40:18 / 2023-07-16 03:50:05 / 10

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