The Dangers of Coveting

The Dangers of Coveting

The Bible has much more to say about coveting than can be covered in one sermon. Last week we looked at the signs of coveting. Let’s briefly review.

Exodus 20:17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

The dictionary definition of “covetousness” is “grasping for more.” We learned last week that coveting is more than that. It is “to fantasize a life other than what God has given me.”

In other words, covetousness is also the itch to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else. It is the opposite of contentment. It is an extremely selfish sin.

The other commandments deal with actions, but this one with attitude. The others are about behavior, but this one is about our mind, our soul. “Don’t Steal” says keep your hands off. “Don’t Covet” says don’t even think about it!

Why does God have a law against coveting? Basically, because it is very dangerous. If we don’t recognize and repent of this sin, we will lose everything.

1. God forbids coveting because it puts my focus in the wrong place.

All of the things mentioned in the commandment have at least one thing in common. Each and every one of them is a part of this life. They are temporary. They are a part of the world that we will leave behind when we die.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

As this verse plainly says, coveting takes our focus away from loving God.

Matthew 6:19-21 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

The question is not “What are we gathering here?”, but “What are we sending on ahead of us into eternity?” Coveting causes us to focus on the wrong things and corrupts our values about what is most important—our relationship with God.

2. God forbids coveting because it puts a barrier between us and our neighbor.

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," are summed up in this rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:39)

My attitude toward my neighbor is supposed to be love. Love is characterized by self-sacrifice not by self-gratification. Love rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep.

On the other hand, a covetous spirit causes me to envy when my neighbor gets a new car or new furniture or when he gets a raise at work. A covetous spirit causes me to secretly rejoice when that new car that he just bought gets banged up in a fender-bender. But a loving spirit allows me to be glad when someone else is able to purchase my dream car while I’m still driving a clunker.

3. God forbids coveting because it leads to breaking all of God’s commands.

God gives us the tenth commandment to prevent us from doing something more serious and harmful. Last week, we looked at what King Ahab did when he coveted his neighbor’s vineyard, but in 2 Samuel 11, we have the greatest example of coveting in the Bible—KING DAVID—a man after God’s own heart, a man who worshipped God with songs and dancing, a man who loved the Word, wrote Psalms, and considered the Law his pathway for life! David had riches, several wives, and concubines, but he forgot all that when he saw his neighbor’s wife bathing on her rooftop. Instead of walking away, he stayed and desired her for himself. As a result:
* David broke the tenth commandment by coveting his neighbor’s wife. (Uriah was one of David’s 30 mighty men—Special Forces—Secret Service type; Bathsheba was the daughter of another one of his mighty men—these were close, dedicated, trusting friends)
* His coveting led to adultery, which broke the seventh commandment.
* Bathsheba became pregnant with David’s child. When the initial cover up plan failed, he decided to steal Bathsheba to make her his wife (breaking the 8th commandment)
* To do that, David planned Uriah’s death and thus, committed murder, which broke the sixth commandment.
* Then, he broke the ninth commandment by lying about it.
* All this brought dishonor to his parents, breaking the 5th commandment.
* Obviously, David didn’t put God first, breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments.
* He dishonored God’s name and obeyed his idol of lust, breaking the 3rd and 4th commandments.

Every commandment was broken, but it began with breaking the tenth, “Do not covet.” Coveting is the mother of all sins! All 9 of the previous commandments are rooted in it.

4. God forbids coveting because it will destroy our spiritual life.

Mark 4:18-19 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Jesus says it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He has so much tying him to this world. He worked hard for it. He clings to it although he cannot take it with him. To keep from losing it, he must focus on his investments and his spiritual life suffers.

The same is true for those deeply in debt. They coveted and bought more than they could afford. Now, they must make those payments or they will lose their possessions. The focus becomes making money to stay afloat so they take a second job that requires work on Sunday. They can’t afford to tithe. They are too tired to read their Bible or pray, and their spiritual life suffers.

Luke 12:15 And he [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed, and be aware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Peace and joy do not come by getting what you want. They come by being thankful for what you’ve got. Money cannot buy the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Life is found in the Holy Spirit, who gives us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We must not deceive ourselves by thinking that because we are not covetous of money or worldly possessions, we are not covetous of anything. Some things we easily avoid, but the devil still tempts us to covet things that are good, pleasing to the eye, and beneficial to our life; such as a dream job, a church position, a romance, marriage, children, and grandchildren. We become impatient and discontented with the blessings we have.

Usually the covetous person doesn’t know they are covetous. It is so common, and we covet so often, we think it is normal. True, it is normal sinful behavior, but we must wake up to the seriousness of it and repent!

Romans 7:7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

Satan’s greatest weapon is man’s ignorance of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgement. Even though conviction is uncomfortable, the Holy Spirit’s purpose in bringing it to us is for our good. This is why we must read the Word and preach the Word—so we can be aware of our condition and repent. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse on judgement day.

The Holy Spirit makes us aware of what is hidden in our hearts and frees us from self-deception. When this happens, it brings sorrow, but it is God expressing His love for you, purifying you and preparing you to be the Bride of Christ.

Ephesians 5:5-6 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Colossians 3:5-6 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

Covetousness is called idolatry because every bit of spiritual life of a covetous man is drawn away from God toward the object he loves most. Anything or anyone you love more than God is an idol.

Covetousness and idolatry are dangerous and deceitful sins. We don’t consider them serious, but they are enough to damn our souls for eternity without the Atonement of Jesus Christ!

For example, people all over this town will not attend church because they have it in their head that all we want is their money. You have heard that excuse—I used it myself before Christ changed me. We know that’s not true, but even if it was true, it just goes to show that the thing standing between them and God is their idol, their money! I’m not saying attending church will save you, I’m saying the love of money is coveting an idol that can damn you.

1 Timothy 6:9-11 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

OK, that’s enough said about the dangers of coveting the things of this world. What should we desire instead? We need to covet God, His Kingdom, His Spirit, and His blessings.

Psalm 63:1-8 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Colossians 3:1-6 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit your one desire?

Jesus Christ has given us victory over coveting through His Atonement on the Cross. Confess your sin to the Father and desire Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Die to your selfish covetousness and all sin through baptism, and be raised to a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has provided grace for us to overcome covetousness and all temptation from the enemy.