What is really important? Does it have anything to do with the material things we seek and own? Discover the amazing truth.
Is it taking over your life? If you let it, it will take over. What is it? Stuff, things, material possessions! They’re out to take over your life! Have you gotten caught up in our buy-it, get-it, got-to-have-it-now society?
How much do we realize that our society sustains itself with an appetite for more and more? And we stuff ourselves with an immense banquet of materialism only to finish craving more. What can you do about it? After all, what is truly valuable to you?
Stay tuned to a special edition of Beyond Today as we explore “The Stuff of Dreams.”
On this special edition of Beyond Today, we’re going to join Gary Petty with his congregation in San Antonio, Texas, as he talks about “The Stuff of Dreams.”
We’ll join Gary in just a moment. For additional insight into today’s subject, we are offering you accompanying pieces of literature. One is our free booklet, “Making Life Work,” the second is a free subscription to The Good News magazine. You can call at any time during this message to request your booklet and magazine subscription, or go online to our Beyond Today website and read them there.
If “The Stuff of Dreams” has turned into a nightmare of materialism for you, there is a way to wake up. Here’s Gary in San Antonio to explain it…
There’s something wrong with our consumer society. I know I am on shaky ground already, right? It’s okay if our pastor tells us to have better marriages and tells us that God loves us, but don’t mess with my money and my stuff.
Have you ever heard the saying, “He who has the most in the end wins”? I really struggle with that because, I’ve wondered okay, I get to the end of my life and I have all these boats and houses–which I don’t have, but you know–cars and money and I win! And I die. What do I win? That really bothers me, okay. What is it we’re supposed to win at that point? As somebody else takes our cars and our boats and you know. Life is supposed to be more than that.
Now, God is not against us being successful, but I do have a question I want to ask today: How much is enough?
How much is enough? How many boats? How many cars? How many computers? How many toys? How many clothes? How many sets of shoes? How many earrings? When is it enough? That you can say, ahh, I have enough. When does that happen?
There is an interesting person in the Bible–in the Old Testament–that was at the time, probably, if not the richest person in the world, he was one of the wealthiest people in the world. He was the king over the nation of Israel, and he had everything you and I want. He had everything you and I dream about. And towards the end of his life, he wrote a book called “Ecclesiastes” where he was thinking back about his life and how things ended up and he came to some very startling conclusions for a man who had everything we think we want. Let’s go to Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes 2. So here you have a man that earlier in his life had become so wealthy he could decide, I’m going to go see what I can get out of wealth. Ecclesiastes 2:1 Ecclesiastes 2:1I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove you with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity.
American King James Version×, and “I said in my heart, ‘Come now, [and] I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure’; but surely, this also was [also] vanity…” Wait, wait a minute! How could this all be? Vanity means worthlessness. He said, I decided I finally have all the money I need. I’m just going to have a good time. And he said after having a good time, over and over and over again, with what money could buy, he said I came down to the conclusion, you know this doesn’t mean much.
Verse 2, and “I said of laughter—’Madness!’; and of mirth, ‘What does it accomplish?’” He even got to the place where laughing didn’t mean anything to him. Talk about a depressed man. In fact, if you ever are really depressed, do not read the book of Ecclesiastes…He says laugher means nothing! He says I’ve had it all.
Verse 3 says, “I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives.
In other words, God wasn’t enough in explaining what is good and evil. I’m going to go figure this out for myself and I have the money to do it. So I’m going to go out and even do even stupid things. I’m going to go out and do stupid things just so I can tell people; I know that doesn’t work, tried it. Now, you think wow. That’s a sure way to get hurt, right? I’m going to go try this. See what happens.
Verse 4 says, “I made my works great. I built myself houses and planted myself vineyards.” He had beautiful huge mansions that he built. He had things imported from all over the world; furniture, building materials. And he built himself these beautiful homes.
“I made myself gardens and orchards and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.” In an agricultural society he’s saying, I had it all! I can feed anybody. I can have the best food brought to me immediately…Whatever he wanted. Today I would like to have–this. And within a short period of time it would appear on his table, prepared for him by his cooks, brought to him by his own gardens, meat served from his own flocks.
He said, “I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all [those] who were in Jerusalem before me.” He says, I was the greatest man of my country. I was the greatest man in the history of my country! He said I had it all. And he had fame. He was a king. He had all power. He had power of life and death over people. He had everything.
“I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.” He said, you want to know about music? Think of your favorite singer. He said, if I wanted a concert, I had them come perform for me, directly. Just for him! Solomon could do that. He brought in the best; the best entertainment, the best performers. And they performed just for him and his guests. Money was no object.
He says, “So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me.”
Verse 10. Don’t you wish you could have this? He said, “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, For my heart rejoiced in all my labor; And this was my reward from all my labor. [And] Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done, And on the labor in which I had toiled; And indeed all was [worthlessness –vanity] and grasping for the wind. [And] There was no profit under the sun.”
Living the lifestyle that you and I think, if we could just have that. He had it! He had it all. And in the end his conclusion was, it’s like trying to grab hold of the wind. It’s like trying to grab hold of the wind. It left him empty. There was something missing in his life. Now, at the latter part of Ecclesiastes, he figures out what it is. He tells us what it is. But he first sets us up by telling us how much he had, and how little it eventually meant to him.
The lesson is you cannot solve your deep spiritual needs and longings, which all of us have. Every one of us is designed to have a need for God. And Solomon couldn’t fulfill that need with women. He couldn’t fulfill it with music. He couldn’t fulfill it with things. And you know, music isn’t bad. Food isn’t bad. Having money isn’t bad. That’s not the point. The point is he found out he couldn’t fulfill that need, through the things that he owned. All it made him do was covet more. He wanted more. He wanted more. So it’s not true: “He who at the end has the most wins.”
What is the problem, the internal human problem, that drives us to that belief? That if I could just get enough I’ll be happy? I can remember as a child at one point, we didn’t have a television set. I thought, if we could just get a television set, I would be happy. I would never be sad the rest of my life. Nothing bad would ever happen again. And oh if it could just be color…Some of you laugh. Some of you are saying, a non-color television set? What’s that? I would be happy.
Luke 12. Let’s go to Luke 12. Someone comes to Jesus and he wants Him to settle a matter, a financial matter, an inheritance matter in a family and Jesus refuses to do it. And after He refuses to do it, He then tells them a parable.
Verse 16, “He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’”
Now on the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this. On the surface, I mean, we should plan ahead. The Bible tells us, by the way, that we should work hard. The Bible has instructions about saving money. It has instructions about growing wealth. But there’s a point here He’s making about this person’s viewpoint of life. I get. I get. I build. I build. I have. I have. And I’m okay.
Verse 20. Jesus says, “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’”
Verse 21: “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
To live a life without God, to live a life without commitment to God, is simply a life of collecting stuff. Jesus told that man who had come to Him–that we just read there in Luke 12–He had told him, beware of covetousness and then gave him the parable.
Now the question is: what is covetousness? What does that mean? Oh that’s another one of those religious words that we probably shouldn’t say on television because oh, that’s a religious word. Let’s turn it off. What is covetousness? Because you and I suffer because of it. Our lives are messed up because of it, so we need to know what it means. It puts a barrier between us and God, so we need to know what it means.
What is covetousness? Really covetousness is just the emotional process we go through when we have an obsessive desire for something, until we get to where we must have it. I mean we must have it. We’re obsessed. I must have it. It can be a thing. It can be money itself. It can be a person. It can be a job. It can be popularity. It can be any number of things, but we get to the place we believe I must possess that and I will not be happy…I will not be fulfilled…I must have it. And we are driven to have it. And in fact we become so driven to have it that we’ll go against our own value system and destroy the most important relationships to us in order to get it.
Covetousness is an interesting process in us human beings; because it is a process. We have a starting point where things are normal and are sort of a normal human process and then they turn bad. I’ll show you what I mean. Covetous begins with, you see the object. At that point there’s nothing wrong with that. You see an object. You see something. You walk in a store. Now, you desire the object. At that point it’s not necessarily wrong either. You desire the object. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that new living room suite? Wouldn’t it be nice to have that new, whatever it is? Well, I’ll never be able to afford that, because here is where we get off in real trouble.
We have to go then to a process of first, is it moral for me to have it? It is not moral to take your neighbor’s wife, or your neighbor’s dog, right? Or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Is it moral for me to do that? Well, that’s the first question we’re supposed to ask. Covetousness jumps over that and says that should be mine. In fact that person doesn’t deserve it. In fact that person is evil for having it. There’s something bad about that person. I know that person’s bad, or he wouldn’t have that new mustang. So we decide there’s something wrong with the person. We jump over the whole idea of is it moral? We jump over the whole idea of is it practical? Can I afford it?
When my grand-daughter was two, we were trying to teach her this concept because she would just walk up to something that wasn’t hers and take it. So we were trying to teach her, okay, you can’t take things that just don’t belong to you. And she just struggled with that idea; that belongs to that person. Now she understood you can’t come take mine, but taking somebody else’s–which is a hard concept to jump across there, to that gap. But, she finally started to get it!
And then we went into this store and there was a barrel of stuffed animals. And she looked at me, she got this big smile, she went and picked up the stuffed animals, walked through the store, and before I could get to her, and gave each child a stuffed animal. And then she runs over to grandpa and she’s just standing there smiling like, see I get it! Oh boy. Well, now you’re Robin Hood. You’re robbing from the store to give to the…little complicated for her at that point. But she was trying to get through this point. Okay, that might not be good for me to have it and I should give to other people, so look! I didn’t even take one and I gave it to others! So we had to back off of that a little bit and help her through that.
So at this point, we see something. We desire it. At that point we either say no, this desire is not good or this desire must be held off to the future, or we just give up the desire. But that’s not what happens. We decide somehow that we deserve it. We decide somehow that it’s already mine.
Here’s what happens. We actually decide it’s already mine. Once you decide something’s mine and you can’t get it, somebody has to be at fault! Somebody’s keeping me from what I should get. And now covetousness sets in. We become obsessed.
We devise a strategy. Well once again if your strategy is hey, I need to buy a new house, so we’re going to have to save money for two years and I’m going to have to work two jobs to get enough money to buy this house. There’s nothing wrong with that. If it’s a moral decision to buy the house, and it’s a good house, a good business deal for you and nice for your family, there’s nothing wrong with that. And you work for it and after two years you go make the down payment.
The problem with covetousness is nothing can satisfy you except getting the object. Everything else in life becomes secondary, so you find that you take action to get the object. And many times, you don’t care if the action is right or wrong. Ask a teenager that’s ever been arrested for shoplifting. Right or wrong didn’t matter anymore. Getting the object is all that mattered. That’s all that mattered, getting the object.
Now, the object is the focal point of your life. When you don’t have it, you’re depressed. When you do have it, you feel exhilarated. I got it! But here’s the problem with things. Okay, here’s the problem with things. Remember, I’ve never had a brand new car, but I’ve had used cars where they sprayed in the brand new car smell, okay? Remember that smell? And it feels, oh man it drives perfect. And the brakes work. And, you know, there’s not that clunking sound your last car had and it’s like wow…And then three months later, something breaks down and you hate that car…
When you covet something, you deny the reality of life and all physical things are temporary. All physical things are temporary. It’s just the nature of physical things. They’re not bad. It’s good to have them. It’s good to get them, as long as it’s moral, as long as it’s lawful. As long as you’re doing the right things to get them, it’s nice to have. But all physical things, are only temporary and they don’t satisfy our spiritual longing. All physical things are temporary, but they can never satisfy our spiritual longing. They can never satisfy the part of us that only can be fulfilled by our relationship with God. That’s it! Covetous has to do with saying: I get. I get. I get. And then I’ll be okay. But it’s never enough. That was Solomon’s message. It’s never enough, if that’s how you measure total fulfillment in life.
Luke 12. Remember the rich man said, “I will pull down my barns…” I “will build greater…I will store…” and I want you to notice, everything is I. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. I’m going to go someplace. I’m going to build my life. I’m going to set my priorities. I’m going to take care of everything. He never mentions God. He never is thankful. He never understands the temporariness of it. He’s just caught up in, I am going to live my life this way and I am going to get things. And I’m going to gather more things. And the more I gather, the happier I will be.
And when Jesus says, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God,” doesn’t mean that God’s saying pay me off and everything will be okay. God owns everything. The whole point here is that God is saying if you’re not right with me, it won’t work. I, I, I won’t work. But see that’s not how we think. If I can get what I want, it’ll all be okay.
Now God doesn’t say you shouldn’t get some of the things you want. God is not, doesn’t want us to live in poverty by the way. That’s not the point. God doesn’t say you’re a better Christian if you live in poverty. You know if you look through this book which you will find, there were many follows of God that were rich. And there were many followers of God who were poor.
The health and wealth gospel isn’t the gospel. The gospel is about how God, through Jesus Christ, saves us and brings us in relationship with Him! And in that relationship, physical things take on their right priority. Their right place in our lives. We can give up covetousness because covetousness is a great deceiver. We covet because we think those things will make us happy. And the truth is, covetousness destroys any happiness we can have. Absolutely destroys it. You’re never happy. You’re never fulfilled. It’s never enough. And that’s the message from Solomon.
Let’s go to Ecclesiastes 12, at the very end of Ecclesiastes. And here Solomon says, in verse 13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”
At the end of all this, he says you know what this is really all about? Just living life the way God says to. He let his covetousness run free, and in the end he said it’s like grabbing the wind. It’s just like grabbing the wind.
Loving God and loving my neighbor, that’s what this was all about. Obeying God and simply living life the way He says it’s supposed to be lived, that’s what this was all about. And all these other things, they were just grabbing the wind.
When you find yourself absolutely overwhelmed with unhappiness, because you and I live in a consumer society in which we are constantly told there is something wrong with you. You don’t have enough. You don’t have enough. When you find yourself being driven by that, remember. Remember the lessons taught my Jesus Christ.
To have everything and not be rich towards God is in the end to have nothing; because ultimately, it isn’t the car. It isn’t the money. It isn’t the job. Those are important and I’m not putting those things down but ultimately, for each of us, that’s not what gives you value as a person. What gives you value as a person…is your Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.
If life just isn’t working for you, as Gary said, you must seek God’s priority in your life. God wants to bless you. He wants you to turn your life around.
Now if you need help with the problems, the challenges, the stresses of everyday life; and if you’re not sure where to turn; we have a free booklet to help: “Making Life Work” is designed as a guide to assist you. We’ve gathered and summarized the Bible’s best advice on many crucial topics to make it easier to understand what the Bible should mean to you. It’s a timeless book, filled with practical, down-to-earth advice from your Creator.
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Remember, God wants you to break the destructive cycle of covetousness that controls your life. You don’t need material things to give you value as a person. God wants to show you the way to overcome obsession so you can truly make life work.
Thanks for joining us today. We hope you’ve enjoyed Gary Petty’s presentation from San Antonio. Now if you missed some of the program, go online to BeyondToday.tv where you can view it in its entirety. Don’t forget our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends about us. Tune in again next week, the same time, for another edition of Beyond Today . I’m Steve Myers. Thanks for watching.