Why Is the Sin of Covetousness So Dangerous?
- Clarence L. Haynes Jr. Contributing Writer
- 2021 9 Sep
My wife and I have an 8-year-old daughter and like most kids her age, she enjoys watching shows that are appropriate for her age. One of the shows she likes is about a child and his family and their adventures as they try out the latest toys, play the latest video games, and even travel to places that every kid dreams of visiting. As my daughter watches this at some point inevitably she will say, “Daddy, I want that” or “Daddy, can we go there?” In her innocence, she was desiring what she saw someone else had. While this may be cute and understandable in an 8-year-old child, what happens when this same mindset seeps into the heart of an adult? What happens when we the adults in the room fall victim to what is known as covetousness? I cannot tell you the last time I even heard this word mentioned in a church service let alone a sermon. However, in the day and age we live in it is necessary for us to know why the sin of covetousness is so dangerous.
What Is Covetousness in the Bible?
According to Merriam-Webster, a person who is covetous is “marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another's possessions.” This definition alone tells you why the sin of covetousness is so dangerous. When this sin grabs hold of you it can create in you an insatiable desire to get stuff or to have the things that other people have.
If you go back to the Old Testament this was addressed in the ten commandments.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. – Exodus 20:17
If God made it a commandment and addressed the issue, then it should be a reminder that we have this potential living inside of us to fall victim to this sin. I would even go so far as to say in the social media-driven world we live in today, covetousness is even easier to indulge in and more prevalent than ever before.
What Are the Characteristics of Covetousness in the Bible?
Covetousness is sneaky. This sin can catch you, grip you, and many times overtake you without you being aware. If you think about it, what was the thing that gripped Satan’s heart before he fell? It was covetousness. He wanted to sit on God’s throne and be worshipped in the same way that God was. You must recognize that covetousness is the type of sin that hides in your heart and no one else can see. That is why this sin is so sneaky and requires us to always search our hearts to make sure we are not falling victim to it. Let me take it a step further. We can even take our covetousness and wrap it in spiritual language. Let me give you an example.
Do you remember the testimony service? I know churches don’t do this much anymore, but during this time someone would get up and share about something God did in their life. Maybe it was a healing, a new job, a restored relationship, or a financial blessing. Whatever it was they were giving God praise for what he had done in their life. For those listening this was supposed to be a time of encouragement giving you hope to believe if he did it for them he can do it for me. Sometimes we would even say this with our mouths or think it in our hearts. While it is true that if he did it for them, he can do it for you, that doesn’t mean he will. Here is where the danger comes in. If we are not careful this statement can be one that is laced with a heart full of covetousness. While the words, “he can do it for me” are coming out of our mouth, what could be in our hearts is, “they got theirs, I’m going to get mine just wait and see.” When this happens then covetousness has just taken over. This is why the sin of covetousness is so dangerous because it is sneaky, and it can happen without your awareness. That’s why checking your heart is so important and please don’t make the mistake of believing you could never fall victim to this. We all have this potential.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
4 Reasons Why the Sin of Covetousness Is So Dangerous
1. You can begin to despise God’s blessings in your own life. When you become so consumed with what you don’t have then you can begin to miss what you do have. You can despise God’s blessings because you are only interested in the next set of blessings and not thankful for the ones you already have. I know someone who is a pastor looking to grow his church. He is so consumed with getting his church to grow and move to the “next level” that he has missed and has no appreciation for where he is now. In effect, he has despised God’s current blessing, because he is only concerned about God’s future blessing. Let’s learn to thank God in every situation and in every circumstance. As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
2. You can end up never satisfied. If you remember one of the definitions of covetous is an inordinate desire to get wealth. One of the problems with that is you can end up never satisfied with how much you have. Consider this verse.
Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless. – Ecclesiastes 5:10
Here is a simple question. When is enough, enough? This does not mean you don’t strive for more or to do better but don’t let your motivation be that I am doing this because I want to get more. When that sets in regardless of how much you get it will never be enough. You will become a victim of covetousness.
3. You can end up in financial ruin. Let’s get practical for a moment. One of the problems with always running after what other people have, the proverbial keeping up with the Jones’, is it can become very expensive. By the way, who are the Jones’ anyway, where do they live, and why did we try to keep up with them in the first place? (Sorry I digressed for a moment, let’s get back on track.) Chasing after what other people have can end up costing you lots of money in the long run. Also, you don’t know what they had to go through to get what they got or how they acquired it in the first place. When I was younger, (I sound like an old man but I’m not) I used to drive a brand-new car every day and change it out every few days. If you looked at me, you would think I was living the good life. However, that wasn’t the case. I was a manager at the airport rental car company and one of the perks was a company car. I didn’t own the car, but I could drive it like I did and get a new one every few days. When you chase what other people have you can end up in financial ruin. That’s why we must be careful not to let covetousness sink into our hearts.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. – 1 Timothy 6:9
4. You will never enjoy life. Here is a simple truth about life. The more you recognize, enjoy, and are thankful for what God has blessed you with, the more you will enjoy life. There is this old quote which I am not sure who the author is but here is the quote.
I asked God to give me all things so I can enjoy life. God said I will give you life so you can enjoy all things.
When you are covetous you are not enjoying the life God has given and if you cannot enjoy the life he has given you then you cannot enjoy anything else he has given you either.
I have spoken primarily about things and possessions, but God also mentions being covetous of other people’s spouses. Doing that can have the same devastating consequences where you can begin to despise your own spouse, you are never satisfied with them, and you make your life and theirs miserable. Learn to appreciate the one God has given you because you will enjoy life a whole lot more.
How Do You Overcome Covetousness?
The way you overcome covetousness is with contentment. Let me share these two scriptures with you.
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. – Philippians 4:11-12
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Timothy 6:6-8
When you appreciate what you have, regardless of how much it is, and you find satisfaction in those things, this will help squash the covetous desire in your heart. When you can be content with little or content with a lot, there is no room for covetousness because your heart is filled with thanksgiving and appreciation for what you do have.
God’s desire is that you would be content and walk securely in the life he has given you. When you do, you will be able to avoid this sin of covetousness which can be so dangerous. Once you get past that, then you will be able to enjoy all the blessings that God has given you. Not only will your anxiety and level of worry go down, but your enjoyment of life will increase. I encourage you today to be thankful for everything God has blessed you with and stop looking over the fence at what someone else has. Trust me that grass is not as green as you think.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/YakobchukOlena
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.