Beware of Covetousness

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house . . . your neighbor’s wife . . . nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

— Exodus 20:17

We’ve all done it, and yet it has been called the sin no one commits. One priest declared that in fifty years of hearing confessions, not one person had ever confessed to committing this sin. Another minister declared that in decades of leading prayer meetings, no one ever mentioned it.

What is this sin? It’s covetousness: desiring another’s possessions, eagerly wishing for what we don’t have. Covetousness is a root sin, a sin committed in the heart that can lead to sins committed outwardly, such as stealing. Covetousness is linked to greed, and the apostle Paul said greed was idolatry.

You can see covetousness everywhere in our culture, including messages that pour out of Madison Avenue. Advertisers prey on our lack for their financial gain. Even bumper stickers often appeal to covetousness, such as the ones that say “Born to shop” or “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” (I prefer the bumper sticker that says, “He that dies with the most toys wins—nothing.”)

One day Abraham Lincoln was walking down the street in Springfield, Illinois, holding the hands of his two little boys who were wailing and crying. A neighbor stepped out of his doorway and said, “Mr. Lincoln, what’s the matter with the boys?” Answered Lincoln, “Just the same things that’s the matter with the whole world: I have three walnuts and each boy wants two!”

So what’s the cure for covetousness? The Bible has the answer. Covetousness, essentially, is fixing our hearts and desires upon the things of this world. But the Bible says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). We need to replace covetousness with contentment, our greed with gratitude.

Today ask God to show you whether covetousness is an unconfessed sin in your heart. Then ask for His grace to give you contentment with, and gratitude for, the gifts He has given you.

“Greed has poisoned men’s souls.”
Charlie Chaplin
(On The Eve Of World War II)