Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3


Chapter 48—The Sin of Covetousness

Dear Brother P:

I would make one more effort to warn you to be in earnest to gain the kingdom. Warning after warning has been given you, which you have not heeded. But, oh, if you would even now repent of your past wrong course and turn to the Lord, it might not be too late for wrongs to be righted. All the powers of your mind have been devoted to money getting. You have worshiped money. It has been your god. The rod of God is hanging over you. His judgments may overtake you at any moment and you go down to the grave unready, your garments spotted and stained with the corruptions of the world. What is your record in heaven? Every dollar that you have accumulated has been like an extra link in the chain that fastens you to this poor world. Your passion to get gain has been continually strengthening. The burden of your thoughts has been how you could obtain more means. You have had a fearful experience, which should be a warning to those who allow the love of the world to take possession of their souls. You have become mammon's slave. What will you say when the Master shall demand of you an account of your stewardship? You have allowed the love of money getting to become the ruling passion of your life. You are as much intoxicated with the love of money as is the inebriate with his liquor. 3T 544.2

Jesus has pleaded that the unfruitful tree might be spared a little longer; and I make one more plea for you to put forth no faint effort, but a most earnest one, for the kingdom. Rescue yourself from the snare of Satan before the word, “He is joined to idols, let him alone,” shall be spoken in regard to you in heaven. All money lovers, like yourself, will one day cry in bitter anguish: “Oh, the deceitfulness of riches! I have sold my soul for money.” Your only hope now is to make no feeble move, but to turn square about. Resolutely call to your aid the will power that you have so long exercised in the wrong direction, and now work in the opposite direction. This is the only way for you to overcome covetousness. 3T 544.3

God has opened ways in which covetousness can be overcome—by performing benevolent deeds. By your life you are saying that you esteem the treasures of the world more highly than immortal riches. You are saying: “Farewell, heaven; farewell, immortal life; I have chosen this world.” You are bartering away the pearl of great price for present gain. While thus admonished of God, while in His providence He has, as it were, already placed your feet in the dark river, will you, dare you, cultivate your money-loving propensities? Will you, as the last act of a misspent life, overreach and retain that which is another's just due? Will you reason yourself into the belief that you are doing justice to your brother? Will you add another act of scheming and overreaching to those already written against you in the records above? Shall the blow of God's retributive judgment fall upon you and you be called without warning to pass through the dark waters? 3T 545.1

Our Saviour frequently and earnestly rebuked the sin of covetousness. “And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” 3T 545.2

God has made a law for His people that a tenth of all the increase shall be His. I have given you, says God, nine tenths; I ask one tenth of all the increase. That one tenth the rich man had withheld from God. If he had not done this, if he had loved God supremely instead of loving and serving himself, he would not have accumulated so great treasures that there would be lack of room to bestow them. Had he bestowed his goods upon his needy brethren to supply their necessities, there would have been no need of tearing down and building greater barns. But he had disregarded the principles of the law of God. He had not loved the Lord with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Had he used his wealth as a bounty lent him of God with which to do good he would have laid up treasure in heaven and been rich in good works. 3T 546.1

The length and usefulness of life do not consist in the amount of our earthly possessions. Those who use their wealth in doing good will see no necessity for large accumulations in this world; for the treasure which is used to advance the cause of God and which is given to the needy in Christ's name is given to Christ, and He lays it up for us in the bank of heaven in bags which wax not old. He who does this is rich toward God, and his heart will be where his treasures are secured. He who humbly uses what God has given for the honor of the Giver, freely giving as he has received, may feel the peace and assurance in all his business that God's hand is over him for good, and he himself will bear the impress of God, having the Father's smile. 3T 546.2

Many have pitied the lot of the Israel of God in being compelled to give systematically, besides making liberal offerings yearly. An all-wise God knew best what system of benevolence would be in accordance with His providence, and has given His people directions in regard to it. It has ever proved that nine tenths are worth more to them than ten tenths. Those who have thought to increase their gains by withholding from God, or by bringing Him an inferior offering,—the lame, the blind, or the diseased,—have been sure to suffer loss. 3T 546.3

Providence, though unseen, is ever at work in the affairs of men. God's hand can prosper or withhold, and He frequently withholds from one while He seems to prosper another. All this is to test and prove men and to reveal the heart. He lets misfortune overtake one brother while He prospers others to see if those whom He favors have His fear before their eyes and will perform the duty enjoined upon them in His word to love their neighbor as themselves and to help their poorer brother from a love to do good. Acts of generosity and benevolence were designed by God to keep the hearts of the children of men tender and sympathetic, and to encourage in them an interest and affection for one another in imitation of the Master, who for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. The law of tithing was founded upon an enduring principle and was designed to be a blessing to man. 3T 547.1

The system of benevolence was arranged to prevent that great evil, covetousness. Christ saw that in the prosecution of business the love of riches would be the greatest cause of rooting true godliness out of the heart. He saw that the love of money would freeze deep and hard into men's souls, stopping the flow of generous impulses and closing their senses to the wants of the suffering and the afflicted. “Take heed,” was His oft-repeated warning, “and beware of covetousness.” “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” The oft-repeated and striking warnings of our Redeemer are in marked contrast with the actions of His professed followers who evidence in their lives so great eagerness to be rich and who show that the words of Christ are lost upon them. Covetousness is one of the most common and popular sins of the last days, and has a paralyzing influence upon the soul. 3T 547.2

Brother P, the desire for wealth has been the central idea of your mind. This one passion for money getting has deadened every high and noble consideration, and has made you indifferent to the needs and interests of others. You have made yourself nearly as unimpressible as a piece of iron. Your gold and your silver are cankered, and have become an eating canker to the soul. Had your benevolence grown with your riches, you would have regarded money as a means by which you could do good. Our Redeemer, who knew man's danger in regard to covetousness, has provided a safeguard against this dreadful evil. He has arranged the plan of salvation so that it begins and ends in benevolence. Christ offered Himself, an infinite sacrifice. This, in and of itself, bears directly against covetousness and exalts benevolence. 3T 547.3

Constant, self-denying benevolence is God's remedy for the cankering sins of selfishness and covetousness. God has arranged systematic benevolence to sustain His cause and relieve the necessities of the suffering and needy. He has ordained that giving should become a habit, that it may counteract the dangerous and deceitful sin of covetousness. Continual giving starves covetousness to death. Systematic benevolence is designed in the order of God to tear away treasures from the covetous as fast as they are gained and to consecrate them to the Lord, to whom they belong. 3T 548.1

This system is so arranged that men may give something from their wages every day and lay by for their Lord a portion of the profits of every investment. The constant practice of God's plan of systematic benevolence weakens covetousness and strengthens benevolence. If riches increase, men, even those professing godliness, set their hearts upon them; and the more they have, the less they give to the treasury of the Lord. Thus riches make men selfish, and hoarding feeds covetousness; and these evils strengthen by active exercise. God knows our danger and has hedged us about with means to prevent our own ruin. He requires the constant exercise of benevolence, that the force of habit in good works may break the force of habit in an opposite direction. 3T 548.2

God requires an appropriation of means for benevolent objects every week, that in the frequent exercise of this good quality the heart may be kept open like a flowing stream and not allowed to close up. By exercise, benevolence constantly enlarges and strengthens, until it becomes a principle and reigns in the soul. It is highly dangerous to spirituality to allow selfishness and covetousness the least room in the heart. 3T 548.3

The word of God has much to say in regard to sacrificing. Riches are from the Lord and belong to Him. “Both riches and honor come of Thee.” “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts.” “For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” “The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” It is the Lord thy God that giveth thee power to get wealth. 3T 549.1

Riches are in themselves transient and unsatisfying. We are warned not to trust in uncertain riches. “Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away.” “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” 3T 549.2

Riches bring no relief in man's greatest distress. “Riches profit not in the day of wrath.” “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord's wrath.” “Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.” This warning, my brother, is appropriate in your case. 3T 549.3

What provision, Brother P, have you made for eternal life? Have you a good foundation against the time to come, that will secure to yourself eternal joys? Oh, may God arouse you! May you, my dear brother, now, just now, commence to work in earnest to get some of your gain and riches into the treasury of God. Not a dollar of it is yours. All is God's, and you have claimed for your own that which God has lent you to devote to good works. Your time is very short. Work with all your might. By repentance you may now find pardon. You must loosen your grasp of earthly possessions and fasten your affections upon God. You must be a converted man. Agonize with God. Do not be content to perish forever, but make an effort for salvation before it shall be everlastingly too late. 3T 549.4

It is not now too late for wrongs to be righted. Show your repentance for past wrongs by redeeming the time. Where you have wronged anyone, make restitution as it comes to your mind. This is your only hope of the pardoning love of God. It will be like taking out the right eye or cutting off the right arm, but there is no other way for you. You have made efforts repeatedly, but have failed because you have loved money, some of which has not been very honestly gained. You would not try to redeem the past by restitution. When you begin to do this, there will be hope for you. If during the few remaining days of your life you choose to go on as you have done, your case will be hopeless; you will lose both worlds; you will see the saints of God glorified in the heavenly city and yourself thrust out; you will have no part in that precious life which was purchased for you at an infinite cost, but which you valued so little as to sell it for earthly riches. 3T 549.5

Now there is a little time left you. Will you work? Will you repent? Or will you die all unready, worshiping money, glorying in your riches, and forgetting God and heaven? No faint struggle or feeble efforts will wean your affections from the world. Jesus will help you. In every earnest effort you make, He will be near you and bless your endeavors. You must make earnest efforts or you will be lost. I warn you not to delay one moment, but commence just now. You have long disgraced the Christian name by your covetousness and small dealing. Now you may honor it by working in an opposite direction and by letting all see that there is a power in the truth of God to transform human nature. You may, in the strength of God, save your soul if you will. 3T 550.1

You have a work to do which you should begin at once. Satan will stand by your side, as he did by the side of Christ in the wilderness of temptation, to overcome you with reasonings, to pervert your judgment, and to paralyze your sense of right and equity. If you do justice in one instance, you must not wait for Satan to overpower your good impulses by his reasoning. You have so long been controlled by selfishness and covetousness that you cannot trust yourself. I do not want you to lose heaven. I have been shown the selfish acts of your life, your close scheming and figuring, your bartering, and the advantage which you have taken of your brethren and fellow men. God has every instance written in the book. Will you pray to Him to enlighten your mind to see where you have overreached, and then will you repent and redeem the past? 3T 550.2

Brother P, may God help you before it is too late. 3T 551.1