You Shall Not Covet... But Why?

“To covet is to seek for something, someone, some position, some recognition, or some pleasure not in the will of God. Notice that I used the word seek rather than desire. To covet is not merely wishing for more, but going after it, lusting for it, working to hold onto it” (Biblical Ethics, McQuilkin, p. 100).

While we may want many things that do not harm us spiritually or distract us from serving God, there is a point at which our motives must be checked and the desire stemmed. Even two thousand years later, Jesus’ description is apt when He says, “For what will a man be profited if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) What desires have we embraced that cost us time with our families, our integrity, or our relationship to God? There is a reason that covetousness is such a terrible sin in the Bible:

It separates a person from God (Romans 1:29,32);

It destroys community (James 4:1-4);

Breaks fellowship (2 Peter 2:14ff);

Is the object of church discipline (1 Corinthians 5:10-11);

Brings the wrath of God (Colossians 3:5-6);

It is seen as a special temptation for ministers (2 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:5, 1 Timothy 3:3);

It is a form of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5).

Desire is not evil in itself. It is the distortion of a God-given desire that is so terrible and destructive. We are designed to desire the opposite sex, to desire a good job to take care of our families, to desire money so that we can have it to share, to desire food and clothing for the protection of our bodies, to desire safety.

Covetousness is a root sin that leads to many others – adultery, stealing, murder. Paul tells Timothy that it is not money itself, but the desire of it that has led to the destruction of so many people (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

Covetousness Stands Opposite Love

If the first and greatest commandment is to love (God first, and then all people) according to Mark 12:28-31, covetousness stands opposite that ideal. Love is interested in giving, while covetousness is interested in getting. The problem with this is that materialism is a lifestyle that can never truly satisfy a person. The paradox of the eternally satisfying life is that we can only fill our souls by emptying them (Matthew 16:25, Matthew 19:29-30).

John D. Rockefeller was once asked how much money it would take to satisfy a man. He replied, “A little more!”