What Is Covetousness?
We live in a society that is driven by covetousness. Television and magazines portray the wealthy
as those who "have made it." Many people have come to believe that their importance and self worth
are determined by how much money they have. Trapped with these materialistic values, they are
obsessed with a never-ending pursuit of money and things.
Billions of advertisement dollars are spent each year getting our attention, appealing to us to spend
money that we don't really have to buy products that we don't really need. Because of the availability
of credit, we believe that there is no need to deprive ourselves of a lifestyle that we want. However,
the bills eventually come due, and many people (including some Christians) soon find themselves
under a mountain of debt.
Why do casino profits run in the billions of dollars every year? Why do lottery jackpots reach well
into the hundreds of millions of dollars? Why are so many Americans addicted to gambling? What
makes pyramid marketing and "get rich quick" schemes so attractive?
The answer to all of these things is “covetousness.” Covetousness is an unhealthy desire to have
more than one possesses. We may not hear the word “covetousness” used very often today, but the
Bible has a lot to say about this sin and the trouble it can get us into.
1. It is forbidden in the Ten Commandments. “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you
shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his
donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's” (Exodus 20:17).
2. It defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,
fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy,
pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).
3. It is idolatry. “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication,
uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Idolatry is not
just bowing down before a graven image. Idolatry can be worship of many things. Anything that has
become our primary focus in life has replaced God and thus has become our idol. For a covetous man,
his money has become his god. He seeks happiness in money, he devotes himself to accumulating
things, he trusts in his wealth. He gives it his affection, love and respect. It is his god. As such, we can
understand God's abhorrence of this sin.
4. It provokes the wrath of God. “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the
sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6). Covetousness is listed among those sins (see verse five) that
will bring the wrath of God upon mankind.
5. It will exclude one from the kingdom of God. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not
inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor
homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners
will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
6. It is the root of many other sins. Consider some of the sins recorded in the Bible that were
caused by covetousness: lying (2 Kings 5:20-27), theft (Joshua 7:20-21), betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16),
murder and extortion (Ezekiel 22:12), departing from the faith (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and causing loved
ones to suffer (Proverbs 15:27).
Covetousness is not a harmless habit or attitude. It is a sin against both God and man. Next week,
we will consider what the Bible says we can do to overcome the sin of covetousness.
- appeared 2/2/05