The Tenth Commandment says:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Ex. 20:17)
God forbids us not only from stealing from our neighbor with our hands, but also in selfishly longing for what they have (and we don’t) in our hearts. This sin may seem so common and hidden as to be harmless, but nothing could be further from the truth. To put it frankly: covetousness made the top ten list of things to not do!
Jesus also warns us firmly about it in Luke 12:15: “Be watchful and be on guard against all greed/covetousness. For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
So what is so bad about covetousness? Why can’t we harbor envy in our hearts? Here are some reasons to be on guard against this insidious sin.
It sins against God by despising his sovereignty and providence for you.
Christians understand that everything we have is from God to be received as a gift. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights (Jas. 1:17). We also believe that God is sovereign and in his power and will he has give to each just as he decided is best. He has given you your current level of wealth, for instance, according to his plan. You have freedom and even the responsibility to grow, steward, and utilize that wealth for God’s glory. But you do not have the freedom to complain that God has wronged you, that his grace is insufficient, that his gifts aren’t good enough for your tastes. Covetousness accuses God of doing wrong. This reason alone is enough motivation to keep us on guard against covetousness.
It kills gratitude.
If you’ve ever carefully planned a surprise or gift for a friend or family member only to have them respond with indifference, you know that ingratitude is ugly. It is an affront to the giver – God himself! Complaining is always a flaw and never a virtue. Covetous people are never thankful; they are always desiring more and better. This also harms the complainer. Gratitude is part of the enjoyment of receiving a gift – it sweetens everything. Gratitude towards God is a form of worship due him. When we covet, we aren’t coming to God with thankful hearts.
It makes contentment impossible.
Covetousness creates a restless heart; it keeps you from contentment. If you always want something more, you’ll never enjoy what you have. God’s will for your joy is that you would enjoy what you have, not that you would hunger for more. Covetousness steals joy. It gains nothing.
It fails to produce good stewardship.
God gives you gifts to wisely use and grow for his glory, your own good, and the good of others. This is stewardship. Those who are always looking for more are bad stewards of what is already at hand. Covetousness tends to bypass God’s gifts completely, so that they are ignored, despised, and stagnant. God’s gifts are left on the shelf, undeveloped. No one benefits from them, and we miss the chance to glorify the God who gave them to us.
Coveting is a dangerous sin. Instead, learn the virtues of gratitude and contentment with what God has given you. Seek to be a faithful and joyful steward of his many good gifts.