To covet is to have a strong desire to have something. It is covered by the tenth of the Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” You might think that a poor person would be covetousness and a rich person not. But as we see from the tenth commandment, anyone can covet what belongs to someone else.
Covetousness is a sin that can be hidden. Mark 7:20-23 “And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.’” Somehow we might not think that to have a strong desire for something is a sin that belongs with all these other evil deeds. But covetousness is right there. Since it starts in the heart, I may be covetous and you might not know it.
1 Corinthians 5 tells us to not keep company or eat with a wicked brother; one of the sins listed there is covetousness. In 1 Corinthians 6:10 there is a list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God; the covetous individual is included in the list. A covetous person is included in a similar list in Ephesians 5:5. Remember that covetousness was one of the Ten Commandments. The point is that covetousness can be a very evil deed of the heart.
What is so wrong about covetousness? Colossians 3:5-6 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” Here, covetousness is called idolatry. It is also called idolatry in Ephesians 5:5. No wonder God hates it. When we have such a strong desire to have something, that something becomes a god to us; our love and affection and even worship are on what we covet. But our Father in heaven does not want us to have any other gods before him. That is why covetousness is so wrong.
If what a man covets is a woman, then that covetousness is called “lust” and Jesus said it is adultery (Matthew 5:28). If what we covert belongs to someone else, we call it “envy”. If one covets something bad enough, he may steal to obtain it. It therefore seems to me that covetousness leads to other sins. I believe that covetousness fits under both the categories of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16).
The answer to covetousness is contentment. Hebrews 13:5-6 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Our satisfaction in life needs to be centered on the Lord and all that He means to us, not on having things. Luke 12:15 “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” We need this verse to remind us that what is important in life is not our possessions. God wants us to be content and thankful for what we have and not covet what someone else has.