Overcoming Sin through Christ: Covetousness or Greed

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Covetousness or Greed

Have you ever known a person who wanted more material goods, whether it be luxury automobiles, the finest house, or the highest-priced clothes?  Have you known those who insist on more and more “things” that are not really needed?  Several terms are used for covet but the primary one, and one that is always negative, would be the noun pleonexia, meaning “a desire to have more,” from pleon, “more,” and echo, “to have.”[1]  The term may be translated as either covetous or greedy.

Schlink comments on the sin of greed:

The desire to have can either be for “more” or for “much.” But it also can be a desire for the “best”; anything less is not good enough.  There are many children—and sometimes adults also—whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs.  They heap more upon their plates than they can eat; they always reach for the best piece.  This desire for more or for especially good food is often very strong.[2]

In the Old Testament, 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 belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17; cf. Deuteronomy 5:21).  In other words, God through Moses is saying that the Israelites should not desire the possessions of another person.  They should be content with what God has given to them (we’ll discuss discontent elsewhere in this listing of sins). 

Paul confessed, “I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’  But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Romans 7:7-8).

As we go to the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles condemn coveting or greed and say that we should be content.  Christ warned, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).  How many have discovered that even after a shopping trip, after a Caribbean cruise, or after buying a new car, their heart was till empty!  Money and possessions could not satisfy their deepest need.  Solomon observed, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

The rich, young ruler is an excellent example of one who was consumed with greed and materialism.  This young man approached the Lord and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He claimed that he had kept God’s commandments.  Jesus answered, “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  What was the response of the rich man?  “But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property” (Mark 10:17, 21, 22).  More than owning his property, the property owned him! 

Jesus then said something that many people today would wish He had not said: “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! . . . It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:23, 25).  The person consumed by greed and who revels in materialism, including all of the things that he possesses, should take warning from our Lord’s words!  Jesus said that “deeds of coveting” or “greed” come “from within, out of the heart of men” and they “defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23, NASB, NET Bible).

Paul said that “greed” is the way of the pagans and is a sin that is “worthy of death” (Romans 1:29, 32).  He said that “greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints,” for the greedy person is an “idolater” (Ephesians 5:3, 5).  So serious is this that the greedy person will have no “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” but will experience the “wrath of God” (vv. 5-6).  Paul warns the believers to not be “partakers” of greed and other sins (v. 7; cf. Colossians 3:5-6).  In writing to the Colossians, Paul acknowledged that these believers had once “walked” in and “lived” in greed and other sins of the flesh, but had put them aside to live a new life in Christ (vv. 7-10).

We have all been amazed at the false teachers in our day, teaching the so-called “prosperity gospel,” who live in regal splendor and bring disgrace to the cause of Christ because of their greed.  Peter says that this was a characteristic of false teachers of his day as well.  He says, “In their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3).  They would teach falsehood with ulterior motives—to gain riches at the expense of those they are teaching.  In another place, Paul says that certain men were “teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:11).  False teachers like this “suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5).  These popular “health and wealth” teachers and televangelists of our day are not only greedy and materialistic, but they stimulate the same covetous, greedy attitudes in their gullible followers.  It is true that we should give to the Lord and His work, but it is not “giving to get” or giving “just to do our duty.”  Paul says that we should give “a bountiful gift” that is “not affected by covetousness” (2 Corinthians 9:5).  Interestingly, the apostle also says that those who give themselves to sensuality practice “every kind of impurity with greediness (Ephesians 4:19).  Sexual sin and sins of greed are often combined.

We’ve already noticed that immorality, impurity, and greed “must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3).  The believing community must be a fellowship characterized by contentment and a lack of materialism, thus covetousness or greed has no place among Christians.   This is clearly brought out in 1 Corinthians.  Paul says that those who are “covetous” simply “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (6:9-10).  In the previous chapter, the apostle says that believers must not “associate” with the greedy and are “not even to eat” with one guilty of such a sin, along with other sins (5:9-11).  Let’s run from having a covetous, greedy attitude that seeks more material goods!

 



[1] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[2] You Will Never be the Same, p. 85.

 

 

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