The most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin

(Letters of John Newton)

"For of this you can be sure: that no sexually immoral or impure nor covetousness person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5

What is covetousness?

Covetousness is a sin from which few people are entirely free. It is eminently a deceitful sin! It is decried and condemned in others--by multitudes who live in the habit of it themselves! It is very difficult to fix a conviction of this sin--upon those who are guilty of it!

Whether drunkards or profligates regard the warnings of the preacher or not, when he declares that those who persist in those evil practices, shall not inherit the kingdom of God--they at least know their own characters, and are sensible that they are the people intended.

But if the preacher adds, "nor the covetousness person--such a man is an idolater" --the covetous man usually sits unmoved, and is more ready to apply the threatening to his neighbor--than to himself! If he now and then gives a few dollars to some charity--he does not suspect that he is liable to the charge of covetousness!

I consider covetousness as the most generally prevailing and ensnaring sin, by which professors of the gospel, in our materialistic society, are hindered in their spiritual progress. A disposition deeply rooted in our fallen nature, strengthened by the custom of all around us, the power of habit, and the fascinating charm of wealth--is not easily counteracted.

If we are, indeed, genuine believers in Christ--we are bound by obligation, and required by our Scriptural rule--to set our affections on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. Christ has called us out of the world, and cautioned us against conformity to its spirit. While we are in the world--it is our duty, privilege, and honor--to manifest that grace which has delivered us from the love of the world. Christians must indeed eat and drink, and may buy and sell, as other people do. But the principles, motives, and ends of their conduct, are entirely different--they are to adorn the doctrine of God their Savior, and to do all for His glory!

The Christian knows that it is not necessary to be rich, or to be admired or envied by the vain unthinking world--and that it is absolutely necessary for him to maintain peace of conscience, and communion with God. In these respects, all God's people, however differently situated--are exactly upon a par.

But, alas! how many who profess to know and value the gospel--are far otherwise minded! The chief mark of their profession, is their attendance on Sunday services! At other times, and in other respects--they are not easily distinguished from the ungodly world! Their houses, furniture, tables, and other belongings; and the manner in which they seek worldly things--sufficiently proves them to be covetous! Their love of money, and the desire of more--are always in exercise. They attempt to look two ways at once--and to reconcile the incompatible claims of God--and mammon! They rise early, go to bed late, and eat the bread of worry--that they may be able to vie with the world in their possessions; and to lay up snares, and thorns, and encumbrances for their children!

Often, they already have a lawful employment, which affords a competence for a comfortable support. But if opportunity offers, they eagerly catch at some other prospect of gain, though they thereby double their anxieties, and encroach still more upon that time (too little before) which they should allot to the concerns of their souls!

Such opportunities they call providential openings, and perhaps say they are thankful for them; not considering that such openings of Providence are frequently temptations or tests, which the Lord permits a man to meet with--to prove what is in his heart, and to try him, whether his affections are indeed set on the things above--or still cleave to the earth!

For those who, as the apostle expresses it, "long to be rich," who will strain every nerve to be found in the list of the wealthy--may, and often do, obtain the poor reward they seek. As in the case of Israel, when, not satisfied with bread from heaven, they clamored for meat. God gives them their desire--but with it, sends leanness into their souls. They expose themselves to temptations and snares, to foolish passions and pursuits; and thus too many, who promised fair at the first setting out, are drowned in destruction and perdition! For it is written in the Scripture, "For of this you can be sure: that no covetousness person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5 And the Scriptures cannot be broken!

"For the love of money is the root of all evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows!" 1 Timothy 6:10. Who can enumerate the many sorrows with which the covetous and worldly-minded professor is pierced! Sooner or later, his schemes are broken; losses and crosses, disappointments and and anxieties, wear down his spirit. Improper connections, which he formed, because he longed to be rich, become thorns in his sides and in his eyes! He trusted in men--and men deceive him! He leaned upon a weak reed--which breaks, and he falls! Thus he finds that the way of transgressors and backsliders is hard!

If therefore, my dear reader, you wish to avoid trouble, and to pass through life as smoothly as possible, take heed and beware of covetousness!