What Is Covetousness?

  • Covetousness is a strong desire to have that which belongs to another
  • Covetousness disregards God’s law
  • Covetousness denies God
  • Covetousness demonstrates a lack of faith 
  • Covetousness may be the greatest among the sins
  • Covetousness has the power to lead men to break the other Commandments.

Like the picture above when the spirit of covetousness invades the person such person is alway under a dark cloud. Many times dealing with this secret wicked sin alone. The word “covet” is translated most frequently in the New Testament as James calls it, “LUST.” It means to desire inordinately or without due regard to the rights of others, to desire wrongfully. Covet is number ten of the 10th commandment of things that God tells us not to do. Covetousness reaches beneath the externals of our conduct to the hidden activities of the mind, heart and will, revealing the motives and intents of the heart. James 1:14-15 points this out: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

Let us go further! This 10th commandment embraces all the other commandments because the breach of each one grows out of the heart of covetousness that every man and woman possesses by nature. Our Lord knew what was in the heart of man. He knows what is in your heart and in mine as is recorded in Mark 7:21-23: “From within, out of the heart of men [that is, out of their moral being] proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” No wonder God has to give us a new heart when He saves us; and I praise God that He does just that! This truth is confirmed in Jeremiah 17:9 which tells us that man’s “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” And there are many other Scriptures which tell us that man is far from God, that he hates God, that he loves wickedness and unrighteousness, that he is displeasing to God, that in his natural state he runs away from God and loves darkness rather than light because his deeds are evil. This is the heart of every individual outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. “This is the heart of every man in Christendom whether in the pulpit or in the pew who does not like to bow the heart and will to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!” It takes the power of the 10th commandment in the hands of the Holy Spirit to reveal the sin of covetousness in the heart of every individual, because it is such a subtle sin.Now because covetousness is a heart sin, another aspect of this sin is that it deceives and slays us except for the convicting power and deliverance of God’s Holy Spirit. Our Lord warns us in Luke 12:15 of this heart sin of covetousness: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” He thereby tells us to be on our guard against covetousness or greed of every description. Therefore, let us take inventory to see if this sin of covetousness has crept into our hearts and lives!  

A Covetous Person Is A Greedy Person

Covetousness is closely related to greed, excessive desire for money, or the desire for another’s possessions.  I think one of the key words to remember here is the word “desire.”  To overcome covetousness one must control that desire.  Desire is a function of the mind, or heart.  What the heart dwells upon becomes desire and will lead to actions and emotions.  The tenth commandment forbids coveting anything that belongs to a neighbor, including his house, his wife, his servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to him (Exodus 20:17).  Jesus listed covetousness or greed along with many of the sins from within, including adultery, theft, and murder, which make a person unclean (Mark 7:22). Paul reminded the Ephesians that greed or covetousness is equated with immorality and impurity, so that these must be put away (Ephesians 5:3). A covetous or greedy person is an idolator (Ephesians 5:5) and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).  James warns that people kill and covet because they cannot have what they want (James 4:2) . Proverbs warns that a covetous person brings trouble to his family (Proverbs 15:27). Thus covetousness is the root of all kinds of sins, so that Jesus gave the warning, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed” (Luke 12:15). 

More On The Tenth Commandment

Indeed, God included as the Ten Commandments, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Ex 20:17). When we have a passionate desire for what others have, it is like telling God that you are not happy with what you have or telling Him, “God, why can’t I have what my neighbor’s got?” The truth is, if your neighbor is rich but lost, then all the wealth will be spent by someone else after he or she’s gone. They in turn, will spent all eternity separated from God. Why would you be jealous over what they have, knowing where they’re headed? God also warned Israel to not covet other nation’s gods and so warned, “The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Duet 7:25). Why would that be considered coveting by the Israelites? It’s because they would covet the freedom to sin that other nations had incorporated into their worship of pagan gods. 

What Did Jesus Say About Coveting

In the book of Luke When “Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you” (Luke 12:13-14) and then “said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). To explain the meaning more clearly, Jesus told them “a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:16-19). Isn’t that what our world is like? We want to gather up as much wealth as possible in this life “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21-22). What good will this man’s wealth do him on the Day of Judgement (Hebrews 9:27)? The point Jesus was making was “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds” (Luke 12:22-24). If a person is only interested in things, that is a life of covetousness. The goal for the believer is to seek the kingdom first and God will take care of all of their other needs (Matt 6:33) but this means seeking the King of that kingdom above all things, including possessions.

Covetousness had been a problem as long as man has been in this world. Even in these last days, men still want that which isn’t theirs. See 2 Timothy 3:1-2 and Luke 12:15. Let’s look a little more closely at this Commandment as we consider this thought, “The Sin Nobody Will Admit”. (1) Covetousness will make us greedy of gain. When we are possessed of a covetous heart, we are never satisfied with that which we have! There will always be a powerful urge for more. It is interesting to note that the word “covet” means “to desire greatly.” It usually has reference to an object. When we are guilty of covetousness, we are guilty of having a heart for things instead of a heart for the Lord. When we come to the place where we are never satisfied with God’s blessings and we are always looking for a way to increase our possessions, then we should face the fact that we are just plain greedy!

“Many are like the man who was tired of his friends owning nicer homes than his. He always felt inferior to them and decided to even things out a bit. He went to see a real estate agent and put his home on the market and began to search for a new one. One day as he was reading the paper, he came across a listing for a home that seemed to be just what he was looking for. So, he called the real estate agent and said that he would like to see this home, that he was interested in purchasing it. The real estate agent replied, “Sir, that is your house! That is the house we are trying to sell for you.” Sounds like us doesn’t it? We always think the grass is a little greener just down the road. If I can get this thing, or that job, or this much money in the bank, then I will be happy. It will never happen! The more we have, the more we want! Humans by nature are greedy and self-centred, always trying to grab more than they can hold. This attitude poisons life and creates a sourness of heart and a bitterness of disposition. The covetous person is never contented, but they are always reaching out for more.”

The Following Things We Covet Yet God Told Us Not To Covet Them:

  •  “Property – This verse refers to a neighbour’s house. In oriental cultures, it is not considered wrong to take things that are found to be abandoned. However, if we know that something belongs to another person, we are to leave it alone. In fact, we are to protect their interest in it as if it were ours. It isn’t wrong for me to like my neighbour’s home and to use legal means to purchase it from him, but when I resort to illegal, unethical tactics to obtain his property then I am guilty of covetousness and theft.
  • People – This verse mentions my neighbour’s wife. To desire another man’s wife, our another woman’s husband, is sinful in many ways. If I think another man’s wife is pretty, I have committed no sin, but when I begin to have a lustful desire to possess her, then I am guilty of adultery and of covetousness. E.g. David resorted to lying and murder to possess Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 11.
  • Possessions – Among the items listed here are servants, animals and anything that belongs to my neighbour. When you possess something that I am determined to possess at any cost, then I am guilty of covetousness. It is alright to like the same things, to possess the same things, but when we want that which is the property of another, then we have crossed the line and are guilty of a covetous heart before the Lord.
  • When we are possessed of a covetous heart, we have ceased to trust the Lord to meet our needs and instead are looking to acquire that which belongs to another. This kind of attitude will ruin our life.
  • When archeologists were unearthing the ancient city of Pompeii, where 20,000 died during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, they uncovered the bodies of many of the dead. Among them, they found the well preserved bodies of people who were caught totally off guard by the explosion of this powerful volcano. People were found sitting at their dinner tables, their food still on their plates. Others were found in their beds sleeping. One woman, however, stands out from among all the victims of Pompeii. When the scientists uncovered her body, they found clutched in her hands 10’s of thousands of dollars worth of precious stones. It seems that as death rained down from the mountain above, she risked her life trying to save a couple of handfuls of her wealth. Now, 2,000 years later, those things she tried so vainly to hold onto, are the property of another! So it is with the covetous person in our day! In the end, those things we deemed so valuable, will be absolutely worthless. Don’t allow a covetous spirit to dominate your life.
  • We see then, that COVETOUSNESS IS THE WORSHIP OF SELF WHICH IS THE EMBODIMENT OF ALL EVIL. Because self is upon the throne of the heart, everything of this life becomes servant to the gratification of all fleshly and selfish desires. Selfishness is essentially—“my right to my own self and all that I touch for my pleasure and for my glory: me, my, and mine; and that’s covetousness! It says in essence, “I’m concerned only for myself, so I will get what I want no matter how I get it, or who I hurt, rob or kill, and no matter how I lie or how many lives I wreck; I’m going to do just what I want to do!” But that’s the heart of rebellion against God; and young man, if that spirit is not broken, you’re going to wind up in hell without hope and without God! Young lady, you might be sitting there today saying to yourself, “Well, I’m still young!” But how do you know you’re going to live until tomorrow? How do you know that God is not going to tell you this very day what He told that rich fool in Luke 12: “Thou fool, this day thy soul shall be required of thee, and then whose shall those things be?” You can’t take anything with you, for “we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:7).
  • So covetousness is a subtle sin! It wears many a covering; in fact, it is called the “cloak of covetousness” in I Thess. 2:5. Why? because it hides under a cloak of subtlety, even using the Word of God deceitfully, as one will say, “Don’t you know God has said in John 10:10 that He gives the more abundant life? And in I Tim. 6:17 that He has given me all things richly to enjoy? He wants us to have the best; therefore it’s right for me to allow myself this luxury or that entertainment.” Oh dear friend, is this your heart? If so, you are deceived by covetousness, and by your own lustful desire for things and pleasures! Do you say, “My needs are just too great; I can’t give to the Lord’s work; I cannot give to help needy individuals! No, I must provide for myself!” But oh, my friend, you have a false security and miss the blessedness of giving! He did not give you what you have to spend only upon yourself and all the pleasures and things of this life, while the need for getting out the gospel of the grace of God goes begging!”

The Hidden Sin

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