Series: Wisdom That Works
Preacher: J. Murdock
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Proverbs 1:8-19 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it” (Proverbs 1:19).
When I was 13 years old, if you had asked me what kind of food grew on the Tree of Life I would have told you with theological certainty that it was tuna casserole. More specifically, my mom’s tuna casserole. If it were a person, I would have married it. If it were water, I’d have bathed in it. I loved my mom’s tuna casserole. There was only one problem with my love—I had a sister who also loved my mom’s tuna casserole. Sharing was not a strong suit of mine. Especially sharing the yummy cheesy perfection that was my mom’s tuna casserole.
One weekend, my mom was going to be visiting some relatives about five hours away and decided to leave my sister and I home alone. I was delighted to discover that she had left a whole uncooked tuna casserole in the refrigerator, with instructions on how to cook it, for me and, sigh, my sister. So I connived a plan to have the delight to myself.
Not long after my mom left, I ran down to Krissy Cook’s house. Krissy was a friend of my sister’s. I gave Krissy Cook 50 cents to call our house and invite my sister over to play with her. I told her how long my sis needed to be occupied and that she could spend the 50 cents in any way she pleased.
I ran home, and sure enough, the phone rang. My sister ran out the door to play with her friend, and I set the preheat option on the oven to 350 degrees. Forty-five minutes later I had a full casserole dish of gooey heaven sitting in front of me and only me. I gave it some time to cool and then I started in. Never has a fork worked with such speed and precision. Each bite was better than the last until, yes, I finished the whole dish off by myself. I was in heaven. And then I was in hell.
The sheer amount of food might have been the problem. It might have been the five pounds of cheese in the casserole. It could have been the grease. Or it could have been the speed at which I filled my gullet that afternoon. All I know is that everything that went in came back out. I didn’t even make it to the bathroom. I was like a gushing fire hose with no one to hold it. Every ounce of my treasured tuna casserole came boiling out of me like angry lava erupting from Mount St. Helens.
I haven’t taken one bite of tuna casserole since. Somehow it’s lost its allure.
Ill-gotten gain creates an emptiness that can never be filled. It doesn’t carry with it the nobility of righteous hard work. It doesn’t give the satisfaction of a clean conscience. It’s fool’s gold.
Recalibrate: Have you ever been stolen from? How did it make you feel? Have you ever stolen from someone? Did it make you feel as bad? Why or why not?
Respond: Pray these words: “Father, help me to be content with what I have. Keep my eyes from coveting that which is not mine. Keep my heart from plans to get things in dubious ways.”
Research: Read 2 Reasons Why Coveting Is a Serious Sin by Tim Challies.
Remember: “My child, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them” (Proverbs 1:10, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.
Have you noticed the word “mine” is so often expressed aggressively as we clutch whatever it is we are claiming to ourselves? Does your sweet little one do this too? Love shares. Greed does not. Greed gathers and claims mine. Love shares and says yours. Show what it is to share. Know that our Heavenly Father loves us and He asks us to share that love in everything we do. Share well today and live love.
There are some things in life that I don’t like to share, one of those being my toothbrush. I bet there’s a thing or two you don’t like to share either. It could be a favorite toy, candy, or maybe even your best friend. In Proverbs, the Bible tells us about people who do the opposite of sharing; they are called greedy people. Greedy people not only hate sharing, but they constantly want more, more, more! Can you think of someone who isn’t always looking to get more but wants to share more? When I think of someone who is always wanting to give more, I think of Jesus. There is no good thing that He doesn’t want to give to you! Jesus wants you to be full with all of the good things He has! How much good stuff do you think Jesus has? Infinite! The good stuff He has never runs out. Now, if we know that Jesus will never run out of good stuff to give us, do we have enough good stuff to give to other people?
There was a time when I thought everything was centered around money. I had to make sure I collected my allowance each week and added the new quarters I earned to the stash of quarters I’d collected in the past. Every night, before I went to sleep, I counted my money to make sure it was all still there. My plan was to save up money to buy more things from Toys-R-Us so I could play with cool new toys. Every day I would come home and look through the ads that came in the mail, and I would make a list of the games I wanted to buy, how much they cost, and how many more chores I had to do before I could make a purchase. There in my room, surrounded by the toys I already owned and the games I could already play, I spent all my time, money, and emotions getting excited about having more.
In Proverbs 1:19 (MSG), Solomon warns against this same sentiment when he says, “When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens: the more you get, the less you are.”
What are some things that you have your eyes on that you think you need? When you really think about it, what are the things in your life that are absolutely essential? Is that thing on your list still as important? Why or why not? Where else might you be living in a way that is helping you have more but making you become less?
In high school, my chaplain would always say these words: “By beholding we become changed.” The older I get, the more I find this to be true. Whatever you say or do, you become. The more I watch certain TV shows I know aren’t uplifting the more I start to become like those characters. When I listen to certain types of music, my mood will change to fit that music. You are the sum of what you choose to behold, because slowly, over time, you will become changed into that image. I find this quite empowering, because if I choose to spend time with things that have a positive influence in my life, I will become a better version of myself. But the same is true for the flipside. Proverbs 1:19 says, “Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” Life is about who you are connected to and what you are beholding. If I am ultimately connected to God and regularly spend time with Him, I will become changed into His image. I challenge you this weekend to spend extra time with God and examine the things in your life that you might be beholding.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Emily Ellis is a senior studying theology at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.