From Sermon 5, “Beware of Coveting,” Apospasmatia Sacra (ca. 1600)
It is a good way for the avoiding of covetousness, to trust in God; for that is a thing that the heart of a covetous man will not set himself against. He will never follow the counsel of the philosopher which teaches that to avoid covetousness, a man must give himself to the actions of extravagance; he would rather hear how he might get money, than how to spend that he has. But if he be advised to put his trust in God, he will not be against that, as a thing which is not so contrary to his sin as extravagance…
There is cause to persuade him; for the Apostle Paul gives two commands, in the First Epistle to Timothy, the sixth chapter and the seventeenth verse, “Charge the rich of this world, not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God;” “and to distribute.” [This was] to teach them, that the cause why men do not distribute, is for want of trust in God. They could be content to sow good works; but they look up and fear a cloud of poverty will come upon them, and they shall want for themselves; which would not be the case if they trusted in God. But men give more trust to the uncertainty of riches, than to the certainty of God’s promise. To help this error, our Savior says, “Care not; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things,” (Matt. 6:32); and in Hebrews, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; for God has said, ‘I will not leave you, nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).
Every covetous man has these flashing desires in his heart… That he may consider of the means of getting rich as he ought, he must think first, to how many cares he is brought with the desire of being rich, how infinite and intricate his cares are, that they are like thorns. He has no sooner rid himself of one care, but another arises in his heart. For when a man has enough, yet still he has his cares… How many sins the covetous man endangers in his soul: while gathering riches, his sins include oppression, deceit, perjury, swearing, and unrighteous dealing… Consider how many judgments and plagues of God he is subject because of these sins, even while he is in this life… Our Savior calls riches deceitful (Matt. 13:22), and the Apostle Paul says they are uncertain vanity (1 Tim. 6:17). The reason is because he that has them today may lose them tomorrow.
Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was Bishop of Chichester and Winchester, one of the most influential scholars and church leaders of his day. He was one of the principal translators of the Authorized “King James” Version of the Bible, and a widely admired preacher. The sermon “Beware of Coveting” is part of a collection of charity sermons Andrewes preached while serving as rector of St. Giles, Cripplegate in London. He is commemorated on September 26 on the calendar of several Anglican churches.