DEFINING COVETOUNESS

The sin of covetousness involves much more than just an unrighteous desire for material wealth. We can covet any goal, object or position.

In Scripture, the root form of covet is “to desire or to take pleasure in”. Desire is not wrong in itself. And it is not wrong to receive pleasure from the good things that God provides.

But the sin of covetousness goes well beyond simple desires. In the New Testament, the words for covet and covetousness reveal the steady progression of a covetous attitude:

  • pleon – “to desire more, either in quantity, quality or number”
  • pleonekto – “to grasp for more, to overreach”
  • pleonexia – “avarice or greed”
  • pleonektes – “a desire so greedy for gain that it will use deception, extortion, manipulation or theft in order to gain the object of its lustful desire”

The tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17 clearly reveals that desiring the wrong things is sin. When we act upon our covetous desires, we are no longer submitted to God or the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives. Instead, we are led – even controlled – by our unrighteous desires. Eventually our covetous desires will begin to rule our behavior and entice us to sin.

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas 1:14,15).

The Bible describes what can occur when covetousness is pursued – “contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissentions, envy” (Gal 6:19-21). We also see the same characteristics of covetousness described when worldly human wisdom is contrasted with God’s wisdom (Jas 3:13-18). We are even warned by the Spirit of God that a heart set on selfish pursuits will ultimately become an enemy of God! (James 4:1-4).

Church leader, be warned! The bondage of covetousness can overtake anyone. It always begins gradually, with simple desires for what others have (Ex 20:17). But those desires can quickly become enticement to sin, which eventually leads to death.

BEWARE OF IDOLATRY

Church leaders can easily fall prey to a specific type of covetous behavior. This usually manifests in self-importance, or desiring position or the praise of men. Jesus strongly rebuked this attitude in the Pharisees (Matt 6:1-6, 16,17; 23:5-12; John 5:44; 12:42,43).

When we covet or lust for a position, a title, a larger ministry or undue notice from people or other leaders, these are sinful desires. We make them the goal that is placed before our eyes, instead of looking to the Lord and His desires for us. We begin to serve our own desires instead of God’s purposes.

Anything that we lift up and serve as more important than God or what He desires for us is a form of idolatry! God commanded us to put NO false image or idol before Him (Ex 20:3,4). Otherwise, it is compromise and sin. When our eyes are full of our own goals and “idols”, how can we possibly look to God and see what He desires for us? How can we fully serve God, when we are actually serving our own desires or lusts? Can we truly please God when we are more concerned with pleasing or impressing other people?