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Covetousness: A Sin You Commit Against Yourself

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Covetousness

A Sin You Commit Against Yourself

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Covetousness: A Sin You Commit Against Yourself

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The 10th commandment gives us straight talk about how to love our own self... which is: don't be materialistic.

Transcript

Covetousness: A Sin Against Your Self

Acts 20:3 Acts 20:3And there stayed three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia.
American King James Version×
2-35 at the time this teaching of Jesus took conventional wisdom and turned it upside down. Today, after 2,000 years of hearing this idea promoted by various churches it doesn't sound as revolutionary as it once did.      

Our society may be familiar with the idea but that does not mean we actually live by it or practice it. For most part we still measure a person by how much were they able to sock away in the bank or how much authority, or social status they achieve. What they were able to get, or what flowed into their life.

To say giving is better than getting indicates the more important measure of a person is what flows out from them to others, Luke 12:15 Luke 12:15And he said to them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
American King James Version×
. Covetousness is about focusing on what flows in rather than what flows out.

But why give a commandment telling us not to covet stuff. How does me wishing I had my neighbors big fancy house harm anyone? If I were to murder my neighbor and take over his house I can see the harm  done. But we have commands covering murder and theft already... why prohibit coveting?

Answer: the one harmed by coveting is You... the one thinking the thoughts... even if you never act on them. And this is how I intend to approach the subject today: covetousness is a sin against yourself.

The first four of God's commandments breakdown what it means to love God and how to go about it. The Next five commandments describe what it means to show love towards other human beings [justice, respect]. The final commandment gives us straight talk about how to love our own self... which is: don't be materialistic. I hope to show you that covetousness is about more than simply greed or envy.

Defining Covetousness: Old Testament

Exodus 20:17 Exodus 20:17You shall not covet your neighbor's house, you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is your neighbor's.
American King James Version×
 [chamad H2530... to greatly delight in]. It is a value neutral verb. What makes desire good or bad depends upon what it is directed toward….A person can greatly delight in good things or bad things.

  1. Psalm 19 the Lord's judgments are to be desired/delighted in more than pure gold.
  2. Genesis 2:9 Genesis 2:9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    American King James Version×
    God caused every good tree that is desirable/delightful to the eye and good for food.
  3. Surprise: chamad is mostly used in scripture about desiring what is good or beautiful.

In older translations [kjv] other Hebrew words with different meanings are also translated covet/covetous which creates confusion.

Exodus 18:21 Exodus 18:21Moreover you shall 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:
American King James Version×
 [betsa H1215 ... gain/profit] It is a value neutral noun but almost always used in the context of gain which is the result of violence or deceit. NIV translates this "dishonest gain". These traditional translation practices have lead to considering covetousness as excessive greed, obsessive longing for some object, greed, or envy. These are examples of coveting... but what the commandment simply says is "do not desire/delight what others possess".   So, the commandment is addressing an even larger concept.

We see this in the Greek language of the new testament as well.

Defining Covetousness: New Testament

But the commandment is simply about desire Romans 7:7 Romans 7:7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, You shall not covet.
American King James Version×
, 13:9
 the word here is Epithumeo is a value neutral verb that can be directed towards both good and bad. For example;

1 Corinthians 12:31 1 Corinthians 12:31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I to you a more excellent way.
American King James Version×
 [refer to list showing how the word is used G1937]. When it comes to the 10th commandment "desire" is not what causes you harm. Directing that "desire" towards the wrong things is what causes you harm.  

A variety of  Greek words that indicate greedy desire, love of money, reaching our to grab something are translated as covetousness.  These are all forms of covetousness but the commandment itself is broader.  

What Not To Covet   

the examples used in the commandment are relevant to agricultural and village... but not so much the 21st century… you have probably never desired your neighbor's donkey. But if you consider the examples listed in the commandment as typifying categories of stuff they are very applicable:

House... that's property [homes, luxury goods, furnishings]

Wife... that covers sex life, family, and social status

Servants... that's economic status [high paying job, exciting career]

Donkey... tools of wealth [their education, business, tow truck]

These categories are as relevant today as ever... and these are the type of things the command tells you to not set your heart upon.  There isn’t much that is not covered by these categories!

What's Wrong With Desiring These?

1. They belong to another... as previously mentioned; acting upon the desire and taking them from the other person is already covered by the other commandments... don't steal, lie, commit adultery, etc.

2. They are not valid measurements of self worth... it is harmful to measure our success in life by comparing ourselves to others... especially in regard to material wealth and status. Its a false measure and God says in no uncertain terms don't do it. Its harmful to your mental, emotional, and spiritual health!

Things are appealing; they satisfy the senses, they give a feeling of fulfillment, they build up our feelings of self worth. But the satisfaction, fulfillment, and self esteem they offer are not lasting. The initial glow of happiness soon wears off… and we set out in search of more… to get the buzz back… like an addict.

The biblical perspective is: things are only tools used along the way to build [or not build] Godly character... which is all we get to take with us in the resurrection.

 

Establishing your ideas of worthy, or happiness on material objects is short sighted. All your stuff will disappear when you enter the grave, given to another, and will not be returned to you when resurrected. Whereas, the fruits of the spirit... righteous character... Will pass through death and resurrection with you and be yours forever... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

That is why these are the possessions to set your heart upon.

Contentment: The Antidote to Covetousness

Philippians 4:11-13Paul wrote this while in prison for preaching the truth and causing uproar in the cities of the empire. Paul had his down days... but he was content. What did Paul have to be happy about?

  1. the glory of a life well lived
  2. he had always given glory to God and done His will
  3. he had lived with great zeal for preaching the truth
  4. at the end he was able to honestly say "I have fought the good fight"

Paul had invested heavily in eternity {Google, Apple}

Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×
 the Creator will see that you have what you need. It may not be all that you want… but you’ll get what you need… usually with a little extra on top

3 Steps To Overcoming Covetousness

Love & Obey God - love of money can push out God out of your thoughts and out of your actions [which is why it is elsewhere equated with idolatry]. 1 Timothy 6:6-11 1 Timothy 6:6-11 [6] 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. [11] But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
American King James Version×
 your stuff won't be waiting for you when you are resurrected. But your Father creator will be, filled with love and gladness to see you there.

Have faith and confidence in God-  Hebrews 11:26 Hebrews 11:26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect to the recompense of the reward.
American King James Version×
, 6
... Psalms 16:11 Psalms 16:11You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more.
American King James Version×
. Think ahead... wrap your mind around all the experiences and joys that will be available to you if you possess eternal life... all you will see and do with an active role in the universe ruling family of God... leading, teaching, expanding the boundaries of the universe itself.

Practise Generosity - get engaged with your time, money, and attention. James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
American King James Version×
 spending time with people how don't have much. It will change you... for the better.

People who practise Godly virtues tend to get ahead in life. Sometimes that's because God Himself supernaturally intervenes and materially blesses a person [but I think that is extremely rare]. Followers of Godly virtues do well mostly because the laws of God are in sync with reality and they work.

God's people are not usually fabulously wealthy, but neither are they destitute. They usually have what they need with a little left over to spare. This is what God wants... because it puts you in the position to use that extra you have... and in the process develop the Godly mindset of generosity... love, faith,and generosity are the antidote to the spirit of covetousness.

The Covetous Spirit

Ecclesiastes 5:10 Ecclesiastes 5:10He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
American King James Version×
 covetousness, and desire to acquire covetousness possessions is never satisfied, never content, never happy. The commandment is for you own good.

The covetous spirit will always want just one more thing... and when they have it then just one MORE thing... and then just a little bit more... until all that is left to desire is the throne of God.

If we allow ourselves to measure our self worth by comparing our self with others, there will always be someone with slightly more than us. There is only room enough at the top for one… and when we get right up next to whoever is on top the covetous spirit will want to top that. Until all that is left is to be greater than God.

The Creator of humanity wants to give you everlasting life, but He does not want you to bring the spirit of covetousness into eternity [unlike your stuff and possessions which do not come with you, your spiritual makeup does come with you].

The plan for eternity is joy, justice, and peace. Desire for what others have is not compatible with the future God has mapped out James 4:1-2 James 4:1-2 [1] From where come wars and fights among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? [2] You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not.
American King James Version×
. God will not allow it in.

Conclusion:

Those who will reign with Christ at His return will have done battle with with ALL forms of sin. In so doing they learn the basics of eternal life. This will include: learning to exercise control over what they desire and what they set their hearts upon.

The inheritance prepared for us is: that together with Christ we will posses all things... not in a spirit of covetousness but a spirit of out flowing generosity, concern for others, and joy.