“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13: 5-6)
We are living in a materialistic world where the focus is on gaining and accumulating wealth. To many, money is power and can “buy” one a comfortable life and meet life’s varied needs. As such, they spend their lives in the pursuit of material wealth. The Bible warns us that he who seeks the world’s riches will be ensnared and enslaved by it: “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6: 9-10).
With this concern in mind, the apostle Paul counselled the believers to overcome this worldly mindset and to cultivate a spirit of contentment: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have”. The words “conversation” and “covetousness” in the original Greek mean “conduct” or “manner of life” and “love of silver” respectively. A covetous spirit is “an eager and unsatiable desire after, accompanied with restless and unwearied endeavours for the things of this life, proceeding from an undue valuation of them, and an inordinate love unto them” (William Burkitt’s Expository Notes). Contentment, on the other hand, is a calm disposition that rests satisfied with the providences of God without murmuring against Him or envying others.
Note that the apostle’s exhortation was followed by a divine promise: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Paul was quoting from Joshua 1: 5 when the Lord spoke these encouraging words to Joshua, the newly-appointed leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
Moses, Joshua’s predecessor, had assured him of God’s continual presence: “And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deut. 31: 7-8). Here, the Lord confirmed the word of His faithful servant and promised never to leave Israel’s new commander. God assured Joshua of His presence in this great work entrusted to him – of leading His people into the Promised Land. Just as the Lord was with Moses to strengthen and prosper him, so would He also be with Joshua to bless him with victory and success. The Lord would not leave him destitute but would fulfil His promises to enable the Israelites to conquer and occupy the land of Canaan.
God’s promise of His presence to Joshua may be applied to all believers. In our Hebrews reading, it is set as a guard against covetousness and discontentment. Because the Lord is our Helper, we as God’s children need not be anxious about our daily needs nor should we fear in times of affliction or persecution. The Lord will never forsake us in our distress nor withhold any good thing from us. He will grant us grace to help in time of need.
As God’s people, let us be thankful for His daily presence and providential care. Let our lives reflect our satisfaction with the Lord and our contentment with our possessions, whether they be much or little. May we also “take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12: 15).