Healthy Faith
February 7, 2024

The Parable Of The Rich Man & The Poor Man: The Hidden Dangers Of Coveting

Nobody thinks they are covetous. That's what makes it so dangerous...

The Parable Of The Rich Man & The Poor Man: The Hidden Dangers Of Coveting

There's a parable about a rich man and a poor man. It goes like this:

There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

Most people who see the rich man here think he is very generous. But secretly, the rich man is covetous and selfish.

This parable is actually found in the Bible. The wise prophet, Nathan, told this parable to King David in 2 Samuel chapter 12.

The scary thing is, King David was known as a man after God's own heart. He was a righteous and just king. Loving and compassionate. He really cared for all of the people he led. What's so scary are the words of Nathan after David heard and understood the parable:

Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

How was such a good man with such a good heart persuaded to do such an evil thing?

This is what's so scary about coveting. Many of us know when we are sinning, but so often we seem to be blind to covetousness. We can be so content sometimes until we see what someone else has that we don't. Why do we continue to want what someone else has?

I love watching my children play. And God knows they have way more toys than they even play with. But out of all the toys they each have, it seems to be a daily trend that when one child has a toy, the other one wants that very same toy. Why is that? I thought I'd be smart to remedy this situation easily by getting some of the same exact toys. But guess what, when one child has that toy, the other one doesn't want the replica, they want the very one that their sibling is playing with.

This seems so absurd, and even humorous at times to us as parents. But really, aren't we the same way? I realize many times I am completely content. But then when I see someone else with something I don't have, I want THAT. It's like that scene in the movie "Fun With Dick & Jane" starring Jim Carrey.

Jim Carrey was fine with his BMW until he saw his neighbor with a new Mercedes. I mean, come on... it's a BMW!

How do we let this evil rise up in our hearts? Is it because we know we can't have it? Do we hate the fact that someone else could be enjoying something? Is it actually their joy we are upset about or jealous of?

Back to our children fighting over toys. How many times do they both want the same toy, but then when one is done playing with it, the other child doesn't have any interest in it anymore? This happens frequently. We don't want it until we see someone else have it.

So how do we guard against covetousness in our hearts? I think one way is to be grateful for all we do have. To keep our eyes fixed on our Heavenly Father, the good giver.

There's a story in Numbers 21 about the Israelites complaining against God:

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.”

It's funny... The Israelites are complaining irrationally. They are being dramatic. They said, 'there's no food or water' and then they say they 'loathe the food.' Which is it? Is there no food, or do they loathe it? God continually provided food and water for them. Not only continually but MIRACULOUSLY. And they started getting used to and even despising the miracles of God. What sad state to be in. So what did God do?

6 The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

The Israelites changed their tune pretty quickly, didn't they? Once they realized their very lives were being lost, what type of food they had to eat didn't seem so important all of a sudden. Sometimes it takes catastrophe to strike to make us realize how selfish and covetous we are being. I think I was becoming a little ungrateful recently. With things around the house not working or breaking down. The messes left around the house. Upset at my kids for making things messier than they need to be. But guess what? I then had a bit of a health scare. Something hit me hard and quick, and I thought I may have to go to the ER with as quickly and harshly my body was being affected. I was standing in my bathroom in my boxers about ready to pass out. I was looking in the mirror at the almost naked man who stood before me. And the scripture came to my mind:

"As he came naked from his mother’s womb, so he will return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand." Ecclesiastes 5:15

Also it's said in Job 1:21 - He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

As quickly as we can get something, it can be lost just as quickly. We brought nothing into this world; we'll take nothing out with us.

The next morning, after I was feeling a bit better, but very weak. I remember sitting on the couch watching my children play. Suddenly I didn't care so much about the messes they were making. Instead, I found myself smiling at the joy and laughter they were partaking in. I think I was beginning to miss some of that. I didn't care about the broken stuff, instead, I thanked God for the wonderful house he blessed me with. All of the things I was focused on not having, I suddenly didn't care about because I was grateful to have another day to live. Another day to cherish my wife and children. Another day to walk in health. These are the things we take for granted.

I'm not saying there aren't times to be frustrated about things breaking or messes made. Because we do have to deal with the things in life. But when we take our eyes of of Christ, that's when the danger comes. Just like the fiery venomous snakes came and started biting the Israelites. But what was the cure so that the venom of the snakes wouldn't kill them? All they had to do was look back to the curse lifted up on the cross. That bronze serpent represented Christ taking our curse from us and bearing it on Himself. When they looked to that in faith, they were healed. When we look to Jesus, we find healing as well. Sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally or spiritually. But in every case, we need to look to him.