Tag Archives: Jeremiah Burroughs

The Root of All Sin

 

In Matthew 22:36-40, a Pharisee (or Sadducee) asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, to which our Lord replies,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

What if this religious leader had asked the negative of this question, i.e. what is the worst sin?  Or perhaps, what is the root of all sin?

What if you were asked this question, how would you answer?  Would you say pride?  Maybe it’s a lack of faith or a failure to believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ?  Perhaps idolatry?  Or Self-centeredness?  What about homosexuality, that always generates a lot of discusssion?  Perhaps it is just the inverse of the greatest commandment, that is a lack of love for God?  Perhaps, but is this the root?

When you get down to the root – not the cause, for it’s clear that is the total depravity that we are all born with – but the root, what is it?  Is there a single spring out of which all other sins flow from this depraved heart?  Can we put our finger on the pulse of sin and get down to the very bottom of the issue and say there it is….there’s our problem?

I think so.  And I think Scripture tells us both directly and indirectly.

Directly

Perhaps the most obvious place to turn first is a passage that is often misquoted, 1 Timothy 6:10,

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Frequently,  we hear this verse quoted as, “money is the root of all evil,” but that is not what the passage says.  It is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evils, plural.  This phrase, the love of money, is translated from the Greek word, philargyria, which is only used here in the entire New Testament.  It is related to the word translated as “covetous” in Luke 16:14 and 2 Timothy 3:2.  It would not be a stretch to see then that the Scriptures have covetousness in mind with the reference to the love of money.  From this verse, we can begin to see that this particular root for all sorts of evils is a desire for more, or we might say a dissatisfaction with a current situation leading to a sinful desire for increase, here applied to the case of money.  While greed could be on the right track for identifying this root sin, it’s too simplistic of an answer and I think it lends itself to being more of a fruit sin than a root sin.

Indirectly

Next, let’s turn our attention to the original sin and see if we can compliment our understanding of what we’ve seen thus far regarding this root of sin.  In Genesis 3:5-6 we read of the following account on the occasion of the original sin

 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Simply making some observations from the passage we may note some of the sinful rationale for making the choice to disobey God’s command.  First, we observe Satan’s temptation as he plants the seeds of doubt and discontent, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Then we see the divine commentary on the desires of Eve and the failure of Adam that may be summarized as the following:

  1. Good for food
  2. Delight to the eyes
  3. Tree to be desired, to make one wise.

Some have summarized these desires as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, perhaps an application of 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world.”

If this is a fair summation, then there are a few questions we need to ask in order to arrive at a potential root for sin.  First, why were Adam and Eve not satisfied with all of the other trees and sources for food that God had provided?  Second, why was it not enough to be made in the image of God, that they would desire to “be like God” through consumption of that which God had strictly forbidden?  Third, and finally, with the desire to be made wise, what was it that they felt they lacked?  What wisdom could the tree have possible provided that they had not either been born with or had access to through communion with God?

Summarizing this entire episode of the original sin, including Satan’s temptation and the questions we’ve asked, along with our brief look at the love of money (particularly its context, included below) and we are left with a firm conclusion regarding the root of this original sin, discontentment.

The Root

Discontentment is rooted in a dissatisfaction with who God is and what He has done in Christ.  It is a refusal to accept His providential rule.  It objects to Him as Creator, rebels against Him as Judge, and rejects Him as Lord and Savior.  Ultimately, Discontentment with God is the root of idolatry.

Sexual immorality is rooted in discontentment with sexual purity.

Adultery is rooted in discontentment with marriage.

Greed, and conversely theft, is rooted in discontentment with finances or material possessions.

Even murder, as the Apostle James states in James 4:1-3, is rooted in discontentment, What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

Discontentment is inherent in our natures from the time of Adam’s fall down to this very day and while it is a damning sin for unbelievers, those of us who have been born again wrestle mightily (and daily) against  discontentment of the flesh.  Clearly, with Adam and Eve, contentment is not natural.  How then does one gain contentment when everything pressing against us from within and without pushes us towards discontentment?

Solution

God provides for us a divine remedy through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul.  Writing in Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle tell us the secret to contentment

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

How does one become content?  We’re not born with it.  Not reborn with it.  We cannot purchase it.  It is learned.

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is learned from our experiences through which God works and whittles to mold and conform us more each day to the image of His Son.  He teaches us contentment in abundance and contentment in poverty.  Contentment can only be learned by those who have been born again and even then the learning curve is steep.  It requires a submission to the providence of God in all circumstances and a trust in the faithfulness of God to His promises.

To aid in this lifelong process of learning contentment, God in His providence has gifted us with some helpful resources.  Internally of course, we have His indwelling Spirit.  Externally, second to none is God’s Word, through which we have the experiences of saints who learned contentment as well as verses exhorting us to contentment.

Additionally, there are two great books which will aid the believer in their pursuit of contentment.  The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson.

May God’s Spirit and God’s grace aid us in our pursuit of contentment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10

 

The Cure for Discontentment

 

As I continue to be laid open and bare by conviction of the Spirit through the pastoral pen of Jeremiah Burroughs, I was reminded of the grace-filled medicine for the believer against the malady of murmuring and discontentment, namely thankfulness.

If discontentment is expressing dissatisfaction with the providential lot that the Lord has ordained through various circumstances, be they financial, marital, physical, and vocational, etc., then thankfulness would be the opposite expression, i.e. satisfaction and acceptance through the embrace of the providential lot that the Lord has laid upon us.

The Word of God expresses this most clearly in the primary thesis passage of Burroughs’s work, Philippians 4:11. Expanding our view of this passage to include the surrounding verses of the chapter, we find the following commendation from the Apostle Paul,

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It would appear that these verses provide the backdrop for Paul’s statement in verse 11 concerning his own expression of contentment in every situation. Working briefly through the passage, we note first that joy, a believer’s joy in Christ, is the first exhortation. In whatever situation or lot that may come our way, we are to be joyful. We simply cannot let our external situations determine our joy. How often are we guilty of allowing our moods or attitudes to be so swiftly turned like the tide of the sea when a particular circumstance comes our way? Here the frame of contentment is marked by the joyful fruit of the Spirit. Summarily, rejoicing in the Lord is to be a continual, external expression brought about by the internal reality of joy in Christ.

Next, we read in verse 5 of letting our “reasonableness be known to everyone.” This actually seems to be a poor translation choice by the ESV. The NASB translates this phrase, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” Here, the Apostle is calling us to a public display of the joyful condition of our hearts. This comes from the overflow of a joyful heart. Gentleness is a mark of a settled spirit that has its focus set on things above such that it is not easily rattled nor shaken by the things of this world.

In verse 6 we read of the third exhortation, though from the negative side, one against a believer’s anxiety. As the flow of this argument develops, it would appear that anxiety occurs from a failure to maintain a joyful disposition and to rejoice in the Lord. Because anxiety most often presents itself as an outward display of internal turbulence (the opposite of rejoicing), it follows that the gentleness of spirit the Apostle discussed in the previous verse is also not visible for all to see. At its root, anxiety is discontentedness.

Progressing out of the negative side of this exhortation, we enter once again into the positive side with the charge “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. It’s evident that this imperative is meant to be the elixir for anxiety, “prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving” and it seems reasonable that it likewise forms the backbone for the Apostle’s contentment in every situation. Bitter and sweet water cannot flow from the same stream; thankfulness and anxiety, or discontentedness, cannot simultaneously exist. A prayerful heart is a thankful heart and a thankful heart prevents any notion of discontentment and its rotten fruits, anxiety, joylessness, murmuring, covetousness, etc. This brings us to our focus from the passage, namely that thankfulness to God undermines anxiety and is the bedrock out of which contentment flows, the direction toward which the Apostles turns his attention in verse 11.

For the Apostle Paul, thankfulness is a great theme in his writing. It is not limited to the Church at Philippi, but is expressed in his letters to Ephesus (5:20), Corinth (1 Co. 10:30), Colossae (3:15-16), and most notably Rome (1:8; 1:21; 14:6). In fact, he mentions thankfulness or its derivatives some 57 times in his epistles and in all except Galatians and Titus. Is it then any wonder how he can state the possession of contentment in every situation? He is governed by a thank-filled heart. What ought we to be thankful for? Believer in Christ, there are endless mercies of God for which to be thankful. Turning to Burroughs again we read “There is not one of you in the lowest condition but you have an abundance of mercies to bless God for, but discontentedness makes them nothing.”[1]

In the face of our discontentment, which lurks around every corner with a net to ensnare us, let us remember to be thankful and give ourselves unto prayer with thanksgiving in an expression of our gratitude to the Almighty God.

 

 

 

[1] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Banner of Truth, 2013. P. 155.

Forgetting The Paternoster

 

In his classic Puritan work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs devotes several chapters to the evils of a murmuring spirit. In speaking of this, he references the Apostle Peter’s denial of Christ and states that he had forgotten the Paternoster. The Paternoster is the Latin name given to the Lord’s Prayer (it begins “Our Father”), in citing Peter’s forgetfulness in this matter, namely the portion of the prayer “Hallowed be your name….Your Kingdom come”, Burroughs relates this to our own forgetfulness of the Paternoster when we murmur. He writes,

“When you have a murmuring and discontented hearts, you forget your prayers, you forget what you have prayed for. What do you pray, but, Give us this day our daily bread?” Now God does not teach any of you to pray, Lord, give me so much a year, or let me have this kind of cloth, and so many dishes at my table. Christ does not teach you to pray so, but he teaches us to pray, ‘Lord, give us our bread,’ showing that you should be content with a little.”[1]

In reading through Burroughs’s example and application to our own condition, the thought occurred to me, how often are we likened to Peter and forget The Paternoster? It would seem this most often occurs as a failure to recognize the attributes of God’s character that are revealed in our model prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. Though many more could be added, below are some practical examples of forgetting The Paternoster:

  • When we forget Fatherhood of God
  • When we forget the holiness of God
  • When we forget the providence of God
  • When we forget the sovereignty of God
  • When we forget the mercy of God
  • When we forget the grace of God
  • When we forget the justice of God
  • When we forget the authority of God

Each of these have a practical outworking in our daily lives and are most reflected in our attitudes such as

  • When we murmur and complain
  • When we are anxious
  • When we are discontent
  • When we are jealous or covetous
  • When we think too highly of ourselves
  • When we think too lowly of ourselves
  • When we are quicker to condemn than to forgive
  • When we are self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-exalting
  • When we succumb to our temptations

The Lord’s Prayer, as it is so called, was Christ’s response to the disciples petition to teach them to pray. In His instructive model, He has taught us, among other things, a remedy against murmuring, namely that from Him and to Him and through Him are all things; said succinctly that God is a sovereign God. However, we far too easily forget the one to Whom we’ve prayed, because our hearts become so quickly disoriented by our selfish desires. As Burroughs adds,

“Where did Christ teach us provision for so long a time? No, but if we have bread for this day, Christ would have us content. Therefore when we murmur because we have no so much variety as others have, we do, as it were, forget our Paternoster. It is against our prayers; we do not in our lives hold forth the acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God over us as we seem to acknowledge in our prayers. Therefore when at any time you find your hearts murmuring, then do but reflect upon yourselves and think thus: Is this according to my prayers, in which I held forth the sovereign power and authority that God has over me?”[2]

Christian, let us be vigilant to set our minds on the sovereign, providential God Who deserves our gratitude and praise, not our murmuring and discontentment, lest we find ourselves alongside Peter in forgetting the Paternoster.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever.

[1] Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentenment. Banner of Truth, pp. 152-153.

[2] Pg. 153