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Hebrews 13:5-6 - Don't Be Covetous But Be Content In The LORD

In Hebrews the author has spent 12 chapters giving them great doctrines concerning Christ which was able to build up the faith of these struggling Christians. As He nears the end of this letter he knows that they have responded to this message with faith. At this point the grace of God is strengthening their hearts and this grace is compelling them to express itself in appropriate ways in every area of their lives. The LORD is working in them to will and to do His good purposes (Philippians 2:13).

  • Three weeks ago we saw that faith and grace effects our worship.

  • Two weeks ago we saw that faith and grace effects how we display our love towards others.

  • One week ago we saw that faith and grace effects how we are to honor marriage and live a life of sanctification concerning sexual sins.

Our text this morning is in Hebrews 13:5-6 which states, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” From this text I will make two broad points and then end with looking at some specific things about the structure and message of this text.

The first broad point is that the sin of covetousness has plagued mankind since the fall and we must be delivered from it by the mighty hand of the LORD.

Last week we saw that since the Fall marriages have always been dishonored and sexual purity has always been under attack by three enemies: indwelling sin, the sin that is in the world, and the malice of Satan. Similarly, this morning as we consider the sin of covetousness, which is the love of money, we need to understand that this is a sin that has plagued mankind since the Fall. Ever since Adam transgressed God’s command mankind has tried to find pleasure and contentment apart from God in the things of this world. Because of sin we are driven by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and by the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). Because of Adam’s transgression we are now continually tempted by Satan, by our flesh, and by this sinful world to find our contentment in anything other than the LORD and His Word.

(An illustration from Proverbs 23:1-7)

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

These verses do not simply remind us of a wicked earthly ruler, but they speak of how Satan operates among us as well. Since the Fall we have found ourselves seated at the table of a ruthless ruler- Satan. Satan deceives us through the delicacies that are at the table that he has prepared for us. This table is full of deceitful foods. Satan is a stingy ruler who promises us many things but he is inwardly he is calculating what is now owed to him by all who partake. He says to us, like he once said to Adam, “Eat and drink!”, but he is not for us.

The good news is that God has stepped in to rescue us from all our enemies: indwelling sin, sin in the world and Satan. This is implicit in the opening words of Hebrews 13:5, “Keep yourselves free from covetousness”.

(An Illustration from Psalm 23)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In Psalm 23 (and Hebrews 13:20) we see that Jesus is now our great Shepherd. Therefore we lack no good thing. Our Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures and He leads us beside still waters. He alone can restore our souls.

Our Shepherd has removed us from Satan’s table and now our Shepherd has prepared a new table before us. The LORD is not stingy and calculating against us as He prepares this table; rather, he places us there in the presence of our enemies and our cup overflows. Oh what contentment we can now have in Christ as we sit at this table with our good and gracious LORD! (Psalm 23:1-3, 5)

Point #1- Christ has delivered us from our enemies, indwelling sin, sin and the world and Satan, and He has seated us at His table where we are content.

The second broad point that I would like you to see is that the love of money, or covetousness, is a sin of the heart that needs a spiritual cure. Story: Recently I talked to someone who is taking a class that is addressing the injustice of pay inequality. In that class there were many good ideas about how to solve this problem but none of them dealt with the sinful character of our hearts. None of these answers offered a spiritual cure that every heart so desperately needs.

  • Covetousness bends our character in a certain direction.

  • Covetousness turns our hearts and minds away from God towards idolatry.

  • We cannot free our hearts from this condition so we need the LORD to do it.

If covetousness is a spiritual problem of the heart what is the cure?

If we look carefully at Hebrews 13:5-6 we will notice that there is something associated with this exhortation that is not present in any of the other exhortations that are listed in Hebrews 13. This is the only admonition in this chapter which has Old Testament scriptures connected to it.

The author of Hebrews has often gone to the Old Testament Scriptures to make his biblical arguments. Let’s consider briefly a few of the things he has said in just the first five chapters of this letter.

  • He started the book of Hebrews off with these amazing words in Hebrews 1:1, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son…”. Then the author of Hebrews quotes seven different Old Testament passages in Hebrews 1.

  • In Hebrews 2:1-3 the author of Hebrews declares, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” He then goes on to quote the Old Testament scriptures 4 times.

  • In Hebrews 3 & 4 the author of Hebrews quotes 5 Old Testament passages and warns us that when we hear the Word of the LORD we are not to harden our hearts as those did in the day of rebellion against God in the wilderness. He says in Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper that any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.”

  • In Hebrews 5 the author of Hebrews uses 2 Old Testament quotes and reproves them for being slow to grow in the Word of God and to mature in the doctrine regarding righteousness. He wants them to grow up in these things so that they can distinguish between good and evil.

The quotes that are used in Hebrews 13:5-6 are used in connection to the sin of covetousness and the command to be content. Because of this we can make several observations.

  1. It implies that we can only see the sin of covetousness (or any other sin) that is in our heart through the conviction that comes by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word.

  2. It implies that we cannot be set free from the sins which enslave our hearts unless this is accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the working of the Word of God.

  3. It implies that we cannot boast because these things only happen after the LORD regenerates our hearts. The Holy Spirit regenerates the heart even while it is dead and utterly enslaved to many sins. The LORD saves us even while we despise Him! Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

  4. This implies that our covetous natures are not only freed when we are regenerated but that we continue to be sanctified by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit through the application of the Word of God. It is only by the Holy Spirit through the means of the Word of God that we can ‘keep our lives free from the love of money’. The Holy Spirit changes our character, the bent of our heart, and the inclination of our soul which is enslaved to covetousness.

  5. This implies that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word that we can be content with the better realities that we now have in Christ. Apart from this work of the Spirit and the Word we would not even be aware of the blessings that God gives to us. The puritan Jeremiah Burrough’s speaks of this when he addresses our inability to be content apart from Christ when he says, “If God leaves us one moment after he has bestowed upon us the greatest gifts, and whatever abilities we can desire, if God should say, ‘I will give you them, now go and trade’, we cannot progress one foot further if God leaves us. Does God give us gifts and abilities? Then let us fear and tremble lest God should leave us to ourselves, for then how foul should we abuse those gifts and abilities.

Point #1- Christ has delivered us from our enemies (indwelling sin, sin and the world and Satan) and He has seated us at His table where we are content.

Point#2- Sin is a spiritual problem in the heart that must be addressed by God and the Holy Spirit uses the scriptures powerfully in the life of all believers to work sanctification in them.

(Structure and the meaning of our text)

Our text can be divided into two parts.

  • First, Hebrews 13:5 is the exhortation, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have”.

  • Secondly, Hebrews 13:6 is the reason for the exhortation, “...for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

Next we can see that each of these two bigger parts can be divided into two smaller sections.

  • Hebrews 13:5a gives a negative exhortation, “Keep your life free from love of money” (ESV) or “Let your conversation (manner of life) be without covetousness” (KJV) or “Don’t love money” (NLT)

  • Hebrews 13:5b gives us a positive exhortation, “ content with what you have” or “ satisfied with what you have”.

The words, “keep your life” refer to a condition of the heart. It speaks of the bent of the heart towards the love of money. It speaks of the inclination of the heart to love money and despise the LORD. It speaks of the character of the heart which loves money and turns away from the LORD.

The exhortation to ‘keep ourselves free from the love of money’ implies that Christ has freed the heart from this inclination and He gives us the grace to obey. A believer has had the bondage of sin broken from their heart and they are now free to serve God faithfully by the ennoblement of His grace. The Christian is admonished to keep free from this sin and not allow it to easily entangle them again. They are to ‘lay aside this sin’ and run the race which has been marked out for us. The New American Standard Version says, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have…”.

{Observation: As a pastor it has been my observation that this exhortation is very important for every believer. Often I have seen a person become excited about the spiritual growth that they are experiencing and almost immediately they are offered a job that will keep them away from church. Almost immediately they are tempted away from serving the LORD through the riches and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14).}

At salvation our hearts are made new.

  • The inclinations of our hearts are miraculously changed.

  • The covetous nature of our hearts are and we transformed.

  • The bent of our hearts towards the earthly treasures is removed and our new hearts look towards the heavenly kingdom and the inheritance that we have there (Hebrews 12:22-24).

  • The disposition of the heart to be drawn away from God toward worldly things is overcome and we can now learn to be content in Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:11).

  • Because of what God has done we are given the positive exhortation in Hebrews 13:5b, “be content with what you have”.

And what do we have? We have the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit! (13:6) We have all of the Promises in Christ so we cannot be like faithless Esau who gave it all away for such a small thing!

Everyone can be content. As James says, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation…”. (James 1:9) Part of learning to be content is for the poor to consider their great inheritance in Christ through whom they have become rich in faith (James 2:5). Those who are rich should be humble because all their wealth will rot, and their goods will be eaten by moths, and their gold and silver will corrode over time. The rich, like the poor, have both been saved by grace.

Hebrews 13:6 can be divided into two sections as well in which each OT passage provides the argument for obeying the exhortations in Hebrews 13:5.

The first thing that I want to point out about the two OT texts used in Hebrews 6 is that in the first section God says something. We read in Hebrews 13:6a, “...for he (God) has said, ‘I will never leave (desert) you nor forsake (abandon) you.’”

Because God’s word has said something, because God has made a promise, because God cannot lie and if faithful, we can then confidently believe and say what is found in Hebrews 13:6b, “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Let us remember that “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4) If I say something you may not be confident; however, if God says something you can be very confident! (Hebrews 13:7- Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you...)

Hebrews 13:6a argues that God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” It is unclear which particular Old Testament passage the author of Hebrews is quoting because this promise is given to God’s people throughout the Scriptures. For example,

  • Genesis 28:15 “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to the land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I promised to you.”

  • Deuteronomy 31:6- “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

  • Many people believe that Joshua 1:5 is the verse that the author of Hebrews had in mind when he used this verse. Joshua 1:5 says, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”

  • 1 Chronicles 28:20- “Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…”.

Can money ever provide us with the assurances, the benefits, and the promises that God’s presence can give to us? No!

  • Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings flying like an eagle towards heaven.” Money is a fair weather friend.

  • James 1:9-11 says, “Let boast in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”

Paul understood the importance of the presence of God in his life when he says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content...In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

King David understood the importance of knowing the LORD was with Him. He had no good apart from the LORD. In Psalm 16:2 he confessed, “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold fast my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance.”

The second section in Hebrews 13:6b is from Psalm 118:6, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Or the NASB says, “The LORD is for me; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Again, Paul knew how important it was to know that God was on our side. He says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

David also knew what this meant for him. He speaks with great confidence in Psalm 16:9&11 when he says, “Because the LORD is my chosen heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure...You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Closing: As we close I would like to consider what is happening to the Psalmist when he declares, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

In short, as you read this psalm you discover that there are many parallel themes between it and what we have learned in the book of Hebrews. Jesus Christ came and was rejected by the people and He suffered and died. His death has brought salvation to all who place their faith in Him. His disciples will run their race and face difficult providences. In this race the LORD will prove to be our faithful deliverer. He will bring us to the eternal kingdom which Christ has granted to all who believe upon Him.

My friends, we are not to covet the things in this world because we are heading to Zion, the city of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem. On our journey we will fight many battles with our enemies but the LORD will never leave us or forsake us. Therefore we can confidently say, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

When our race is over, when the last battle has been fought, we will enter through the gates of righteousness with shouts of thanksgiving on our lips as we sing, “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”


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