Sabbath School Lesson for January 6-12, 2018
As we now recognize the detrimental influence materialism has on our spiritual life, it is helpful to understand the steps one usually takes that leads to this harmful condition of the heart.
Are those who are attracted to what has been termed a prosperity gospel finding it a path to greater greed and less restraint when it comes to managing their possessions?
Also, are only rich people in jeopardy of becoming greedy and poor stewards of God’s blessings? We will explore more fully the deception that Satan has perpetrated on all classes of people that leads them to breaking the tenth commandment about not being covetous.
Some might assume that being the last of the Ten Commandments makes covetousness of least importance. However, much of the writing in the Bible follows a literary device called inclusio. This makes the first and last of a chapter or passage serve as what you might call “bookends”. They reflect the same thought, with the center of the passage highlighting the main message.
Might this be true in the case of God’s moral law? Is having only one God similar to our mandate not to be covetous? This week we will see that this indeed might be true, and it magnifies the importance of studying the topic of stewardship that we have undertaken.
Remember this: ” ‘Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.’ “ Matthew 13:22 NKJV
If you are a novice gardener, you may be timid about pulling weeds, because whether they have thorns or not, they often look deceitfully like the good plants you don’t want to pull. We must learn to recognize those things that are harmful in our life and those that are perfectly alright to enjoy.
Jesus leaves no doubt about the meaning of His parable about the sower. The seed that was sown among thorns gets our attention as we look at the effects of materialism. Does our materialism, being overly concerned about the cares of this world, indeed make us unfruitful when it comes to serving God?
Sunday: The Prosperity Gospel
What makes the theology of the prosperity gospel so dangerous is the fact that it has elements of truth interwoven throughout. There are many Bible verses to support it, but they are misapplied, taking us in all the wrong directions.
Certainly God is pleased to bless us, even with material things. But can we assume that ALL of us would benefit from having more possessions? Can there not also be a blessing for those having little of the world’s goods? Isn’t our being a blessing to others of more importance to God than how He has blessed our financial portfolio?
The faulty line of thinking encouraged by the prosperity gospel causes us to desire more and more, which puts our focus on the wealth, rather than on God. But even when we denounce the deceitfulness found in the prosperity gospel, we may find ourselves using it to justify our desire for always having the best of everything, despite the poverty that is all around us. After all, doesn’t God want to us to prosper and strive for the best in all things?
Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-7. Why are the poor often the ones who give the most? Does God’s grace consist in how much we have or don’t have?
Read 2 Corinthians 8:7 and 1 Corinthians 1:4-6. Besides the grace of giving, what other ways does God give us grace?
Read Mark 12:42-44. What is the real measure of how much we are giving to God?
Monday: Blurred Spiritual Eyesight
Some of us may not be totally blind when it comes to our spiritual eyesight, but certainly things tend to get out of focus, when Jesus isn’t the only thing we feast our eyes on.
Unfortunately, just as when we neglect our eye health by not visiting the optometrist or when we don’t wear our prescription glasses as we should, we may be in danger of being completely blinded by our materialistic lifestyle when we don’t take proper steps to control our cravings and desires.
One doesn’t have to be on either extreme of prosperity for this to happen either. It isn’t just the filthy rich or the poorest of the poor who find their eyesight failing. It can be just as dangerous for those in the middle classes of society. Perhaps more so, when you consider that they feel they are secure and in need of nothing. This feeling of financial satisfaction and security has the tendency to lull them into not feeling a need for God as well.
Read Matthew 13:3-7, 22 and 1 Timothy 2:9. Do we have to be rich to be deceived by wealth? How can a desire to be rich make us unfruitful, and how are even middle-income people in danger?
Read Matthew 13:23 and Galatians 5:22-24. How does God measure our fruitfulness? How do we crucify the flesh, and how important is crucifying the flesh to our being fruitful?
Read 2 Corinthians 4:18 and Hebrews 11:13. Is the temporary nature of wealth the only thing that makes it deceitful? What kinds of things should we focus on to counteract this harmful spiritual condition?
Tuesday: The Steps of Covetousness
Understanding the steps of covetousness is like knowing the symptoms of a disease. This must be done before a diagnosis can be made, and, perhaps more importantly, before treatment can be started. Catching it early, like with other disease processes of the body, can increase the chances of a cure.
We can go straight to the beginning to see how covetousness began. We know that Lucifer suffered from it, while still in heaven. And he spread its ugliness the instant Eve approached the wrong tree in the Garden of Eden.
- Eve looked at the attractive fruit presented to her, including the beautiful serpent holding it. (Cure: She should have turned away and left the tree.)
- Eve wanted the things that eating the fruit would provide. (Cure: She should have wanted more of God and drawn close to Him.)
- Eve took the fruit and ate of it. (Cure: She should have refused the fruit with the strength God wanted to give her.)
As you can see, at each step, there was an opportunity for Eve to turn back. We too can choose God at any point in a temptation to covet…
- I see. (seeing God instead)
- I want. (wanting God instead)
- I take. (partaking of God instead)
Read Genesis 3:1-6 and James 1:14, 15. When does selfishness become covetousness? How can we break the cycle before temptation becomes a sin?
Read Genesis 39:7 and James 4:7, 8. How did Potiphar’s wife take steps that almost led to adultery? How did Joseph keep from having an adulterous relationship with Potiphar’s wife?
Read 1 John 3:16, 17 and Philippians 4:13. How can giving sacrificially, as Christ did for us, give us strength to overcome the temptation of covetousness?
Wednesday: Greed–Having Things Your Way
“Having things our own way” doesn’t seem like such a dangerous mindset. After all, the great singer Frank Sinatra sang about it. And thousands of hamburgers were sold with the promise that we could “Have it your way” (as their ad song testified).
An independent lifestyle, “standing on our own two feet”, is not necessarily a bad thing, since we are, in a spiritual sense, responsible only for ourselves. There is a grain of truth in this attitude. But if we are to grow as stewards of God’s blessings, we must put ourselves last in line and do all we can to promote the well-being of others.
Just as Jesus gave up riches in heaven to come to this earth to redeem us from Satan’s captivity, we must imitate His unselfish sacrifice and help those around us. While not called on to “do it THEIR way”, meaning the way of the world, we are called on to do it God’s way. “My way” or “their way” has no place in the life of a follower of God’s way.
Read 2 Corinthians 8:9 and Philippians 2:5-7. How does the grace of Christ prevent us from having greed?
Read Isaiah 56:11 and Micah 3:5, 11. What kind of shepherds proved to be greedy in the time of the Old Testament prophets? Do we see greed in today’s church, even among pastors? How are they especially at risk?
Read John 12:4-6 and Matthew 26:14-16. What part did greed and wanting things his own way have to do with the final betrayal of Christ by Judas?
Most of us would like to have more self-control, when it comes to our thoughtless spending and selfish consumer habits. At whatever level of covetousness you find yourself, there comes an awareness that self-control is a valuable trait to have.
Recognizing it as a spiritual gift, and one that grows as we mature spiritually, helps alleviate much of the guilt we may harbor about not having enough self-control. Also, as a help for us not to judge others about this trait, we must realize that some are more genetically blessed with it than others to begin with. And others have, through past lifestyle choices, made it more difficult to put into practice.
Truly though, self-control is a God-given blessing that He has promised to supply us. Whatever self-restraint we are able to muster comes from Him. And He is anxious to share this powerful tool with His children, when we ask Him for it. So long as we are abiding in Christ, the spiritual fruit of self-control will manifest itself in larger and larger ways as time goes on.
Read Acts 24:24-26. What part might greed have played in Felix’s attempt to engage Paul in a spiritual conversation, and his later refusal to accept the gospel?
Read Galatians 5:22-25 and 1 Timothy 1:9. What is meant by the phrase “against such there is no law” (v. 23), according to Timothy’s epistle?
Read 2 Peter 1:5-9 and 1 John 2:9-11. How does a lack of self-control affect our ability to love, and how does a lack of love affect our spiritual eyesight?
Many lessons about stewardship were explored this week by looking at…
- the prosperity gospel (Sun.)
- how covetousness blinds us spiritually (Mon.)
- how selfishness (I see), greed (I want), finally lead to acts of covetousness (I take) (Tue.)
- why having it our way isn’t God’s way (Wed.)
- what the spiritual fruit of self-control can do to help us fight materialism (Thu.)
Self-control comes only after we have totally surrendered our will to God. When self-control is replaced with God-control, our selfish nature is gradually diminished and we are able to conquer our insatiable appetite for things of the world.
The steps of covetousness, including I see, I want, and I take, can be overcome at any point in the process by focusing on God and His desire for our life. Having it our way is never the best way, when we choose to make God the King of our heart.
This may, at times, lead us into uncomfortable and unwanted circumstances, but with God at our side, we can bear whatever Satan throws at us. God made us with a void that needs to be filled. But only when we fill that void with Him will we ever know true contentment and peace of mind.
Next Week’s Lesson: God or Mammon?
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/