“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). In a previous article I pointed out the power and danger of materialism. Closely allied to materialism is covetousness. Covetousness is a tap root of many sins. The world was plunged into sin through covetousness (Gen. 3:6). Paul recognized its power. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7). Consider some of the fruits of this evil.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat. 6:24). The desire for things that satisfy the physical may become so intense that one tries to serve God while trying to hold on to the world. The physical and the material take the place of God in one’s life. This is the reason that it is called idolatry. We think if idols as being images made by people that know not God. But many idolatrous people sit on pews. The physical and the temporal are first in their lives.
It is interesting that the commandment forbidding covetousness is the last one and that it does not simply say thou shalt not covet. The four commandments that precede it just say, thou shalt not, with nothing added. The commandment concerning covetousness specifies some things to call attention to the wide appeal of this sin. It is of further interest to notice that it warns of coveting another’s wife. Consider the break-up of marriages today and the havoc that it brings about in the lives of children. Homes are tumbling like hail in a hail storm. Why? Here’s the answer. The church is not exempt from this malady. Divorces are rampant in the church. Many professed Christians seem to be bothered little about wrecking homes. But back of all of this is the sin of covetousness.
Covetousness robs the church of contributions. The reason for low budgets and budgets that are not met is covetousness. Stinginess in giving is just plain covetousness. The person that is not covetousness gives liberally. Covetousness shuts up compassion. The rich man of Luke twelve knew nothing of compassion. His barns overflowed. He needed bigger and better barns. Were there none who needed his help? He had more than he could use. Why be concerned about others? The real thrust of this story is the sin of covetousness.
Covetousness robs the lost of the chance to hear the gospel. Why do we not carry the gospel around the world to this generation? The answer is covetousness. We may refuse to admit that this is the problem but it will not change it. When missionaries have to beg and beg and beg to get support to carry the gospel to the world we need to look into our hearts and to realize that the problem in not providing the means for them to go is the sin of covetousness. Cure covetousness among God’s people and the gospel will go around the world in this generation.
Covetousness quietens pulpits against sin. “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Pet. 2:3). Some elders do not want the gospel preached lest it drive away ungodly members and the contribution may drop. The desire for prestige can also effect the pulpit. But the desire for prestige and preeminence is just plain covetousness. The pulpit is the place to preach the gospel and serve God and man, not a place to make a name.
The sin of covetousness has been the root of every war. The unrest and the brink of war facing the world today is rooted in this sin. The lust for power is but another name for covetousness.
“And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous” (Exo. 23:8). This passage is repeated in Deuteronomy 16:19. The ABSCAM scandal in congress is but an example of how covetousness effects legislative laws. Covetousness leads to bribes that hinder faithful law enforcement. The guilty may go free because of power of money and the covetous who are willing to accept it.
The sin of covetousness invented the gambling table and the liquor business. Covetousness keeps liquor advertised on TV and closes the mouths of legislators from trying to do anything about it even though liquor it destroying lives and homes. Legalized gambling is legalized covetousness. Man only thinks he can legalize away what God condemns. Legalized liquor is legalized covetousness and man-made laws do not change it. Think of the lives and the havoc that is wrought from this sin. It is not any wonder that Paul said it leads people away from the faith and pierces one through with many sorrows. The wreck to the lives of people in the world and in the church is but a living testimony to this inspired statement (1 Tim. 6:10).