By Wayne S. Walker
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous…[will inherit the kingdom of God]” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). The word translated “covetous” literally means eager to have more. It is often understood to identify being desirous of what belongs to others but is usually explained generally as greedy of gain. The noun form is defined as avarice. About the best Biblical description of covetousness is found in Luke 12:15, where we read of Jesus, “And He said to them, “‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” When one comes to view the quality of his life solely in terms of the abundance of his possessions, whether he has much or little, that person is covetous.
There are actually two main words in the original language of the New Testament which are translated “covet.” The one used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9 is always found in a bad sense. It describes an attitude with its resultant actions which were judged to be extremely sinful by first century Christians. “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11). If a brother were found to be guilty of covetousness and refused to repent, he was to be withdrawn from just like what should be done with a fornicator, an idolater, or a drunkard. That is how serious the sin is in the sight of God.
Covetousness was condemned in the Old Testament. The last, but certainly not the least, of the Ten Commandments said, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). We see how covetousness leads to other sin in the example of Achan, who confessed, “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it” (Joshua 7:21).
Covetousness is also condemned in the New Testament. “And He said, ‘What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man’” (Mark 7:20-23). Jesus said that covetousness comes from the heart and defiles. God’s antidote to covetousness and the other sins it produces is to learn contentment.
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness [KJV–which while some coveted after], and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Very simply, the covetous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
—in Search for Truth, 6/21/2015 (Vol. VI, No. 46)