“ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)
What are some ways coveting spiritually damages the coveter? Covetousness leads to all kinds of evil and is self-destructive. Here’s the way it might work:
- To desire something that is not in the will of God for me is to put that object ahead of God, to make an idol of Paul called covetousness idolatry in Colossians 3:5: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
- To covet is to profane God’s name—giving a false image of Him by telling others His will for me is not adequate and He lacks wisdom, power, or love to provide what I need.
- Dishonoring parents begins with desiring for myself something that might benefit them.
- I kill with a gun, a word, or an attitude because someone stands in the way of what I covet.
- The tenth commandment says not to covet my neighbor’s wife. What is adultery or lust but a synonym for sexual covetousness? In fact, the New Testament uses the same Greek term for both lustand
- Stealing is the direct outcome of coveting.
- I lie to or deceive others to gain something I covet.
Why don’t you ponder before God which commands covetousness has led you to violate in the past six months. This root sin stands opposite Jesus’ commandments to love God and others (see Matt. 22:37-39). Covetousness is interested in getting; love is interested in giving. Covetousness is also a sin against the person who covets. Contentment is great gain (see 1 Tim. 6:6); discontent is great impoverishment.
Think of a time when you felt that you had to have a particular material object, but after a while the satisfaction faded. Why did the satisfaction go away?
Covetousness illustrates the basic principle that God’s laws are for our good. A covetous person stays in inner turmoil. In fact, covetousness often leads to emotional illness. Materialism is a very frustrating way of life because you can never be satisfied. The more you get, the more you want. Of all foolish and frustrating activities, seeking to fill the void in one’s spirit with material things must rank near the top. As followers of Christ, we must give priority to spiritual realities and combat the inner drive for material things. How far does God expect us to go in denying our desire for possessions?
But tangible objects aren’t the only things we are tempted to covet. A covetous spirit is visible in those who steal, to be sure, but the Bible also identifies other violations of the tenth commandment. Examples are demeaning others, lusting sexually, fighting with a Christian brother to recover material losses, scheming and plotting to make unjust gain, pursuing recognition, being discontented, and giving sparingly or grudgingly. You can see why covetousness serves as the root to feed all other disobedience to God.
Perhaps envy is the most virulent form of covetousness found among believers. We may not covet our neighbor’s wife, but how about those wonderful children who turned out so well? Maybe we don’t covet her car or house, but what about her success in life? Envy is a deadly cancer of the spirit. That’s why God carved in stone, “Do not covet” (Ex. 20:17). To help you apply this command, why don’t you list the things you most envy. Then number them in order of the power they hold over you. Pray for God to free you from this destructive mindset.