Covetousness: No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 September 1, 2010
If you had to list the above 7 sins in order from the worst to the "not quite so bad", which sin would be at the bottom of your list?
Personally, I'd put covetousness at the bottom. I mean, it certainly doesn't seem as bad at killing someone, worshipping idols, or stealing some thing or some one (else's spouse), does it? We don't hear much preaching against covetousness and I certainly don't hear the word used very much, do you? In fact, it may even cross my mind to wonder why covetousness made it to God's Top Ten List in the first place!
But stop I must. There seems to be something in us that always wants to "rank" sins. Lying is not as bad as murder; adultery is certainly worse than swearing, and so on.
But what is covetousness?
The longing to have what rightfully belongs to others.
A strong desire for and a seeking after material things.
An unhealthy yearning to have more than I possess.
And the bottom line is, covetousness is sin.
We need to name it as such and realize how serious it is in God's eyes. Just to cover a few things...
• Covetousness is Idolatry
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. Colossians 3:5-6
Covetousness is idolatry? This sounds pretty extreme, doesn't it? But just what is idolatry?
The worship of idols, images or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.
Excessive attachment or regard for any thing.
Idolatry puts something else in the place where God alone belongs, removing our focus from Him and placing it on things. An excessive attachment to anything is a form of idolatry*. Covetousness dwells on what we want making our want as more important than God.
• Covetousness Breaks God's Commandments
It is very clear that covetousness breaks Commandment #10...
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's. Exodus 20:17
Since coveting is idolatry, it also breaks Commandment #2 ...
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image ... Exodus 20:4
And, since idolatry is putting something in the place of God, it also breaks Commandment #1 ...
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3
Coveting also has in it the potential to break the remaining commandments.
• Covetousness is an Ungodly Trait
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers. Romans 1:28-29
• Covetousness Brings Trouble and Sorrow
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:10
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house. Proverbs 15:27
• Covetousness is Never Satisfied
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase... Ecclesiastes 5:10
• Covetousness Defiles the Person
For from within, out of the heart of men, 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. Mark 7:21-23
• Covetousness is God's #1 Competitor
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13
(mammon = wealth or riches, a fixing of your heart on this world).
• Covetousness is Abhorred in God's Eyes
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth. Psalm 10:3
• Covetousness Brings God's Anger
For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. Isaiah 57:17
Is it any wonder Ephesians 5:3 says, But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. No wonder we are told to put covetousness to death! God hates it!
However, we live in a society that thrives on covetousness. Billions of dollars are spent on advertising, causing people to spend money they don't have on things they don't really need! Advertising feeds the covetous heart found in each one of us, and having what we want when we want it is no problem at all since credit is so easily available. Personally, I only need to stroll through the store, or glance through the flyers delivered to my mailbox, to see this sin arise in my own heart. Covetousness is all around us. Are we affected? Of course we are.
When I desire something that I do not have and do not need ... I am coveting.
When I desire someone else's position... I am coveting.
When I see something that someone else has and I wish I had it too ... I am coveting.
When I am overly attached to anything* ... I am coveting.
Jesus, himself, gave a real caution in Luke 12:15...
Take heed, and beware of covetousness:
for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
So, how do we put covetousness to death and get rid of it in our lives? Colossians 3:2 tells us to set [our] affection on things above, not on things on the earth and Matthew 6:20 says to lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. A regular examination of our focus and priorities is needed to make sure we are living with eternity in mind. We must remember God's words to the rich farmer in Luke 12:20-22 and take them to heart ...Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Not one of us would like those words to describe us! So what do we do? Hebrews 13:5 instructs us to... Let your conversation (conduct) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have, and Timothy repeats similar words in 1 Timothy 6:6 ... But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. Being content is the anecdote to covetousness as the two are total opposites. Contentment comes from being truly thankful for everything we have knowing that all of it comes from God's gracious hand. Contentment is certainly not something the world values, but God does.
I trust this will encourage each of us to take a good, honest look at our lives and seek to rid ourselves of any covetous spirit. May this verse be the prayer of our heart...
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies and not unto covetousness. Psalm 119:36
*Just for a personal example, about 7 years ago I made the decision to stop scrapbooking – something I loved to do. This decision didn’t happen overnight but it wasn’t until I finally put everything away that I recognized just how attached I had become to the hobby. It was then that I realized, aside from my original reasons, that I had to stop if for no other reason than the fact that it had become an idol in my life. Scrapbooking… an idol? Well, not for everyone, but based on how hard it was for me to give it up, I knew it was in my life. And the thing is, I didn’t realize what it was until I decided to quit.