Beware of Covetousness

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Matthew 26 & 27, Acts 5
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 9

Beware of Covetousness

(Matthew 26 & 27, Acts 5)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Most topics that we study involve goals on which the population generally agrees. Who thinks killing, stealing, lying, or adultery are good things? People get involved in these sins, but generally not because they thought it was the right thing to do. That is not the case with coveting. Powerful forces consider coveting an important tool to advance their interests. Consider three examples. Much of the advertising world promotes a spirit of covetousness. It is not that advertisers want you to steal their product, but rather that you need to buy it to be envied by others. Labor unions explicitly promote coveting. One major union publishes the salaries of top company executives. The union does not bargain for these executives. Rather, the purpose is to promote envy and covetousness among workers. Many politicians use coveting as a way to get re-elected. They promise that they will take money from rich successful people and give it to those who vote for them. Why is covetousness a problem since it has so many powerful proponents? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and find out!

  1. The Entry of Sin
    1. Read Isaiah 14:12-14. This is a description of how sin began in Satan. What did he covet? (He wanted to be like God. He was not satisfied with being an important angel.)
    2. Read Genesis 3:4-5. What approach did Satan make to Eve to get her to sin? (Coveting: she could be like God.)
      1. Was she not already like God? (Yes. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that Adam and Eve were made like God. There was some other aspect of God, one that Eve did not understand, that made it possible to tempt her to covet.)
      2. What do you say about the fact that both Satan and Eve were overcome by the temptation to covet? (This seems to be the worst sin since it brought evil into the universe and evil into our world.)
        1. Think about this a minute. Is coveting the sin? Or, does coveting lead us to other sins? (We have the best information about Eve’s situation. In her case coveting led to the sin of disobedience regarding the forbidden fruit. See Genesis 3:3.)
      3. What is the cure for coveting? (Being humble. If Satan and Eve were content with their lot in life, sin would still be an unknown thing.)
        1. Is it easy to be humble? (Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. The Holy Spirit can make it possible.)
      4. Now that we are up to our necks in sin, is coveting a problem of the past? Is it unimportant now? (Consider some other major sins: stealing, killing, adultery. Does coveting have anything to do with them? (This gets back to what we just discussed. Coveting is the trigger, the motivation for other sins.)
  2. Judas
    1. Read Matthew 26:14-16 and compare it to Acts 1:6. Does this “deal” that Judas makes with the religious leaders make any sense? If Jesus was going to set up His kingdom on earth(which the disciples still believed He would do even after His resurrection), why would Judas lose his position for thirty pieces of silver? Judas would likely be in charge of the treasury for this new administration. (It makes no financial sense. Thirty pieces of silver, according to commentators, is the price of a single slave! Judas would have access to much more money in the new administration.)
    2. Read Matthew 27:3-4. If Judas intended to betray Jesus, why would he change his mind about his deal when Jesus “was condemned?” (This shows that Judas did not believe that Jesus would be condemned. Think about all of the miracles that Judas saw Jesus perform. Judas thought that he was forcing the humble Jesus to claim His throne. Jesus would thank Judas for giving Jesus the courage to claim His throne.)
    3. Read Matthew 27:5. Why would Judas hang himself simply because he changed his mind about his deal with the Jewish leaders? (This extreme action shows that Judas believed that things had gone completely wrong. If Judas merely intended to betray Jesus, he could walk away from all of this. But, if you believe, as I do, that Judas never intended to truly betray Jesus, then Judas decision to hang himself makes sense.)
      1. What is the nature of Judas’ sin? (Judas coveted being a ruler. He thought that He was smarter (or at least more cunning) than Jesus, and he would make the arrangements that would force Jesus to assume His throne on earth. And he would make a little money on the side. When Judas saw that Jesus was going to die instead, he could not stand the guilt.)
  3. Keeping Up With Barnabas
    1. Read Acts 4:34-37. If you lived then and owned land would you feel pressure to sell your land and lay the money “at the apostles feet?”
    2. Read Acts 5:1-2. What action did this peer pressure cause Ananias and Sapphira to take? (They also sold land, but they kept some of the money.)
    3. Read Acts 5:3-4. What is being coveted here? Is it the land, the money, or being viewed as a generous person? (They could hardly covet the land or the money because, as Peter points out, it was their land and money and they had no obligation to give it away.)
      1. We previously discussed that coveting is a trigger for other sins. What is the main sin here? (Lying to God and humans.)
        1. Can you lie to God? Doesn’t He know everything?
    4. Read Acts 5:5-6. What is the penalty? (Death.)
    5. Read Acts 5:7-9. As you think about the Old Testament stories, there was plenty of lying going on among God’s people. Is lying an immediate death penalty sin?
    6. Look again at Acts 5:3 and Acts 5:9 to see how Peter characterizes this sin. In Acts 5:3 it is lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 5:9 it is testing the Holy Spirit. Is that so serious a sin that it deserves an immediate death sentence? (I don’t think that lying, coveting a better reputation than you deserve, or keeping back part of your own money is the main problem. Peter states that not giving any money would have been a choice they could have made. I see the main sin as doubting the power of the Holy Spirit. They think the Holy Spirit can be fooled? Peter’s statement about testing the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding this tragedy.)
    7. Read Acts 5:11. What kind of fear came upon the church and why was that good? (It should not have been a fear of keeping your property. Instead, the power of the Holy Spirit was essential to the success of the early church. God displayed Himself in powerful ways in the Old Testament. That is the issue here.)
    8. As I write this lesson a revival is taking place among the students at Asbury University in Kentucky. I’ve been reading that some members of my church suggest that this is a false revival. That it might be the work of Satan. Does the account of Ananias and Sapphira have anything to teach us in considering the Asbury revival? (This is very dangerous ground. If the Asbury revival is real, and I believe it is, then those suggesting it is demonic are attacking the Holy Spirit.)
    9. Read Mark 3:22-23 and Mark 3:28-30. What does Jesus say is the sin that cannot be forgiven? (Blaspheming the Holy Spirit by calling His work demonic.)
    10. Read Matthew 12:22-24 and Matthew 12:31-32. What does it mean to “speak against the Holy Spirit?”
    11. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. Against what are Christians warned? (Satanic activity that comes with “all power and false signs and wonders.”)
      1. What should we conclude from these two warnings? (We must understand “the truth.” Doubting the power of the Holy Spirit, failing to know the truth of the Bible, is a fatal problem.)
      2. Have we strayed from the issue of coveting? (Instead of coveting what others have, we need to covet a deeper understanding of the Bible.)
    12. Friend, consider whether your life is focused on coveting what others have or obtaining a better understanding of God’s Word. If you need to make a change, ask the Holy Spirit for help.
  1. Next week: Giving Back.