Definition: Being excessively desirous of the possessions of another; an extreme desire to acquire or possess. Possessiveness, which is quite similar, is an attitude toward ownership or possession which is overprotective, selfish or hoarding. The word "covetousness" is used in this study.
1. Covetousness is directly contrary to Jesus' law of love, which is based on sharing and unselfishness.
Matthew 10:8b Freely ye have received, freely give.
Acts 20:33-35 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the Words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Romans 13:8,9 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this ... Thou shalt not steal, ... Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended [summed up] in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
1 Corinthians 10:24,33 Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth. 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 13:5 [Love] seeketh not her own.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
1 John 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
2. Being thankful for what God does give helps us avoid covetousness.
1 Chronicles 29:12 Both riches and honour come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all; and in Thine hand is power and might; and in Thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. [See also Deuteronomy 8:18 ]
Psalm 128:1,2 Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways. 2 For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.
Proverbs 10:22 The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.
Proverbs 22:4 By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.
Ecclesiastes 5:19 Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. [See also Ecclesiastes 3:13 .]
1 Timothy 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this World, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from Above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
3. Covetousness is a lack of faith in God's loving provision of our physical needs.
Matthew 6:25-33 [Jesus said:] 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 than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is
cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. [See also Psalm 84:11b .]
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
4. God forbade covetousness in one of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
[See also Romans 7:7 .]
5. Covetousness hinders our relationship with the Lord and our spiritual growth.
Matthew 13:22 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 becometh unfruitful.
Mark 8:36,37 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Luke 12:15 And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
1 Timothy 6:6-10 But Godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
2 Timothy 2:4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him Who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
6. Examples of how covetousness opens the door to other sins, as well:
Psalm 10:3 [Pride:] For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.
Isaiah 56:11b [Selfishness and self-centeredness:] They all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.
Ezekiel 33:31 [Compromise and disobedience:] And they come unto thee [the prophet] as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
Micah 2:2 [Stealing and violence:] And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
Micah 3:11 [Hypocrisy and deceit:] The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? None evil can come upon us.
7. Here are a few examples of how God dealt very sternly with the sin of covetousness:
Joshua 7:20-21,24-26 [Covetousness on the part of one man, Achan, was responsible for Israel losing a vital battle. Achan and his family paid for this with their lives:] And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. ... 24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep,
and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger [against Israel]. [See Joshua 7:10-26 ]
1 Samuel 15:9,26 [Covetousness had a part in King Saul's disobedience which eventually lost him his kingdom:] But Saul and the people spared [wicked King] Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them [which the Lord had explicitly commanded them to do]: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly. 26 And Samuel said unto Saul, ... for thou hast rejected the Word of the Lord, and the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel. [See verses 1-28 .]
2 Kings 5:20,26,27 [As a result of his covetousness, Gehazi was smitten with leprosy:] But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. ... 26 And [Elisha] said unto him, ... Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? 27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. [See verses 15-27 .]
8. Overcome covetousness by making a conscious effort to help others with their needs.
Psalm 37:26 [A godly man] is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.
Psalm 112:5a,9 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth. ... 9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.
Proverbs 3:27,28 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. 28 Say not to thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
Proverbs 11:24,25 There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. 25 The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.
Proverbs 13:7 There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.
Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Luke 6:38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
1 Corinthians 10:33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the Words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
9. Overcome covetousness by keeping your heart and mind fixed on spiritual values.
Psalm 119:14,36 [Covet the treasures of God's Word:] I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. 36 Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Psalm 119:162 I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.
Jeremiah 9:23,24 [Strive for a closer relationship with the Lord:] Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.
1 Corinthians 12:31 But covet earnestly the best [spiritual] gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. [After this verse Paul continues with 1 Corinthians 13 , the "Love Chapter"; see also 1 Corinthians 14:39 .]
Colossians 3:2 [Ask the Lord to help you to be Heavenly minded:] Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
10. Leaders cannot afford to be covetous. Covetousness and materialism have been the downfall of the Church System.
Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
Proverbs 28:16 The prince that wanteth [lacks] understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.
Isaiah 1:23-26 Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.... 25 And I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26 And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
Isaiah 56:11,12 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter. 12 Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.
Jeremiah 6:13,15 For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. 15 Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.
Matthew 6:24 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 [wealth].
1 Timothy 3:2,3 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous.
1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind. [See also Titus 1:11 .]
2 Peter 2:1-3 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned [deceptive] words make merchandise of you.
Copyright (c) 1998 by Aurora Productions
James and Tess Arendt
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