Thou Shalt Not Covet

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Of all the commandments God gave us. I believe the 10th is the one we most easily rationalize our way around. If you’re admiring a certain sleek looking automobile or beautiful house for example, and some­one says, “You mustn’t covet.” What’s the first thing we say; “I don’t want his car, I just want one like it.” If your idea of covetousness is restricted to wanting to get, by whatever means necessary, something that someone else owns, then there are probably very few of us who have ever coveted, much less every day. However, if we look at the Biblical definition of cov­etousness, we will soon see that we easily commit this sin and often. I looked in a secular dictionary and their definition of covet was “to want greedily some­thing belonging to another.” This is a very comfortable definition for most of us. However, my Bible dictionary defined covetousness simply as a “Desire to have something.” That hits a little closer to home. “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous”. (II Timo­thy 3:2) This obviously states that coveting is the same as wanting any material thing for yourself. Hebrews 13:5 also makes this clear by saying, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have.” So, covetousness is the opposite of contentedness, and if your conversa­tion is covetous then your heart must also be for Matthew 15:18 says “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man.”

Did you note that? “They defile the man.” The sin of covetousness is all consuming. I am assuming that this will be read by mostly confirmed Christians, peo­ple that go to church regularly. Listen to what Jesus says in the parable of the sower and his seeds about the covetous churchgoer; “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he become unfruitful.” (Mark 4:19) If you need to be told what God does to those that are unfruitful, read Luke 13:6-7 and John 15:1-8.

Further, to those who say, “Yes, but it’s so nice to be rich”, you needn’t be concerned about this any longer. The Bible says again and again that riches don’t give happiness, not even in this life. Can you believe that? The whole world, including God’s church, is working and slaving every single day to “get ahead”, to make just a little more so we can get one more little thing, and the Bible, the book that we hold so dear, has been telling us for thousands of years that we’re not going to find the happiness that we’re looking for. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase;” Haggai 1:6 states very plainly “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages, earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” In other words, “Give it up!!” If you want to be truly happy, quit the overtime and the second job and the hours spent worrying about how the next big bill will get paid and spend that time in getting to know your God! “Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” (John 6:27)

This brings me to the final point which the Bible makes so emphatically. Not only are riches worthless in this life, they are even more worthless in the life to come, which will last an eternity instead of 80 years or so. “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” You have all heard the saying, “You can’t take it with you, you know.” Did you know that that is exactly what the Bible says in I Timothy 6:6-8? “But godliness is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” Isn’t that beautiful, and a little scary too? That’s God’s definition of our needs, food and raiment.

This isn’t just good advice either. This is the holy commandment of God with the penalty of eternal death, let’s not forget that. “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. (What does this mean for our everyday lives?) Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment. . . your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (Now listen; here’s the key) But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righ­teousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:24, 25, 32, 33) That is a promise. Riches are never a promise. They are always illusive, never enduring. “Labour not to be rich; Wilt thou set thine eye upon that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4, 5) Let me assure you, God will never fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

So, let us make Proverbs 30:8 our prayer; “Give me neither poverty or riches; feed me with food convenient for me; Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say Who is the Lord?” But let us then live by that prayer. Don’t cling to your riches if God has thus blessed you. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” Really hasn’t God blessed us all with more than we need. How many of us don’t have “common” luxuries such as a radio, or even running water because we couldn’t afford it? “. . .be content with such things as ye have.”