The Signs of the Times


November 25, 1886

The Sin of Covetousness


“And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's who shall give you that which is your own?” Luke 16:9-12. ST November 25, 1886, par. 1

The parable of the unjust steward was given to teach us a lesson in regard to our duty in temporal things. Every man is a steward of God. To each the Master has intrusted his means, and he says, “Occupy till I come.” A time is coming when he will require his own with usury. He will say to each of his stewards, “Give an account of thy stewardship.” But men often claim their means as their own. They seem to have no sense of the fact that the property they are using belongs to God, and that they must give him an account for the use they make of it. ST November 25, 1886, par. 2

Said the Saviour: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” By using our means to the glory of God here, we lay up a treasure in Heaven; and when earthly possessions are all gone, the faithful steward has Jesus and angels for his friends, to receive him home to everlasting habitations. ST November 25, 1886, par. 3

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” He that is faithful in his earthly possessions, which are least, making a judicious use of the means which God has intrusted to his care, will be faithful in every other respect. Every investment made in the cause of God will increase his love for it. He will not be the poorer in this world, and he will be “laying up in store” for himself “a good foundation against the time to come,” that he “may lay hold on eternal life.” ST November 25, 1886, par. 4

“He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” If he will not give of his means to support the warfare against the moral darkness that is flooding the world, he will be unfaithful in the things of God in every respect. He keeps his means from doing good in the cause of God, and often that which is committed to his trust is taken from him. ST November 25, 1886, par. 5

“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” The Christian church, as a general rule, are disowning the claims of God upon them to give alms of the things which they possess; and the work of God can never advance as it should until the followers of Christ realize their duty in this respect. If they prove unfaithful in the management of their temporal affairs, God will never give them the true riches, the immortal inheritance. ST November 25, 1886, par. 6

“If ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?” Jesus has purchased redemption for us. It is ours; but we are placed here on probation to see if we will prove worthy of eternal life. Our heavenly Father tests us by trusting us with earthly possessions. If we use these freely to advance his cause and to benefit our fellow-men, we shall prove good stewards, and shall gain the approbation of our Lord. But we “cannot serve God and mammon;” for “if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him.” ST November 25, 1886, par. 7

The idea of stewardship should have a practical bearing upon all the people of God. The parable of the talents has not been fully understood, or it would bar out covetousness, which God calls idolatry. The talents do not represent merely the ability to preach and to instruct from the word of God. The parable also applies to the temporal means which God has intrusted to his people. Those who received the five and the two talents traded, and doubled that which was committed to their trust. The servant who received the one talent, went and hid it in the earth; and that is what many of God's professed people are doing now. They claim that they have a right to do what they please with their possessions, and souls are not saved through the use they make of their Lord's money. Practical benevolence would give spiritual life to thousands of nominal professors of religion who now mourn over their darkness. It would transform them from selfish, covetous worshipers of mammon, to earnest, faithful co-workers with Christ in the salvation of sinners. ST November 25, 1886, par. 8

The foundation of the plan of salvation was laid in sacrifice. Jesus left the royal courts of Heaven, and became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. All who share the salvation purchased for them at such an infinite sacrifice by the Son of God, will follow the example of the True Pattern. Christ is the chief corner-stone, and we must build upon this foundation. Each must have a spirit of self-denial and self-sacrifice. ST November 25, 1886, par. 9

Says Christ: “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” The very vital principle, the sap which flows through the vine nourishes the branches, that they may flourish and bear fruit. The life of Christ upon earth was unselfish; it was marked with humiliation and sacrifice. Is the servant greater than his Lord? Shall the world's Redeemer practice self-denial and sacrifice on our account, and the members of Christ's body practice self-indulgence?—No; self-denial is an essential principle of discipleship. ST November 25, 1886, par. 10

The people of God should act from principle. They should always have a suitable object in view, and should give, not to be seen of men, and to be praised for their liberality, but to glorify God and help their fellow-men. Sometimes the motive in giving is selfish. There are persons who make large donations to public enterprises or charities, while a poor brother may be suffering close by them, and they do nothing to relieve him. Little acts of kindness performed in secret for this needy brother would bind their hearts together, and would be noticed and rewarded in Heaven; for the true spirit of sacrifice is acceptable to God. “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat; and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” ST November 25, 1886, par. 11

When Jesus was upon earth, he rebuked those who gave to be seen of men. He said to his disciples: “When thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you. They have their reward.” They received praise of men, and this was all the reward they would ever have. Their alms giving was done in a very public manner, and their generosity was proclaimed before the people. In this way they often gave large sums which had been extorted from the needy by oppressing the hireling in his wages and grinding the face of the poor. The case of the Pharisees is not unlike that of many at the present time, who suppose themselves in a state of spiritual prosperity, and flatter themselves that they are in favor with God, when he despises their selfishness. ST November 25, 1886, par. 12

The selfish, covetous heart will be tested. Every motive is known to God, and he suffers circumstances to arise that will develop character, and show them themselves. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” says the Saviour. The good deeds and generous works of the children of God are the most effectual preaching that the unbeliever has. He thinks that the Christian must have strong motives to lead him to deny self, and use his possessions for the good of others. ST November 25, 1886, par. 13

The principle of worldlings is to get all they can of the perishable things of this life. With them selfish love of gain is the ruling principle, and they cannot understand disinterested benevolence. There are thousands who are passing their lives in indulgence, and whose hearts are filled with repining. They are the victims of selfishness and discontent. Unhappiness is stamped upon their countenances, and behind them is a desert, because their lives are not fruitful in good works. For the purest joy is not found in riches, nor where covetousness is always craving, but where contentment reigns, and where self-sacrificing love is the ruling principle. ST November 25, 1886, par. 14

The principle of the cross of Christ places all who believe under heavy obligations to deny self, to impart light to others, and to give of their means to extend the light. In proportion as the love of Christ fills our hearts and controls our lives, covetousness, selfishness, and love of ease, will be overcome, and it will be our pleasure to do the will of Him whose servants we claim to be. And our happiness will be proportionate to our unselfish works, prompted by divine love; for in the plan of salvation God has appointed the law of action and reaction, making the work of beneficence, in all its branches, twice blessed. ST November 25, 1886, par. 15

Basel, Switzerland.