The Root of Covetousness & 3 Reasons We Do It

Some wish they had their friend’s friends – or their friend’s job. Some want their friend’s parents as their parents. Some wish they had a specific different spouse. Where does it all end?!  Better yet – where does it all begin?!

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.” — Exodus 20:17

To covet is to rehearse the greedy desire of that which is another’s property. This can be through deceitful and even violent means.

Consider the pathway of the 10 commandments that brought us to this command. Commandments six, seven, and eight forbid us to injure others with our actions. Commandment nine forbids us to injure another with our words. Then, at the conclusion of this historic, well-known passage, we are commanded not to injure another in our thoughts!

Wow. A high calling indeed…but there is a catch. To covet is to sin in one’s heart. No one else sees that sin — except, of course, the Lord. In fact, all things are open and naked before the Lord…there is no hiding the truth from Him! Luke 12:15-21. ..and then there’s one more catch — covetousness is the root of all sin in word or deed (James 1:13-15).

This command is crucial. Covetousness is a root sin problem. So, the ten commandments end with this strong imperative — Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor! Here’s the problem: we covet many things that belong to our neighbors!


Why do I do this?

Over 15 years ago, my family & I served as the pastor of a church plant in CO, almost everyone referred to directions with the terms: North, South, East, and West.  It was a little adjustment, but once you realized that the mountains were in the WEST – you were fine.  However, on a cloud covered day the mountains would be covered as well.  It was surprising how fast you could get turned around in a new area when you lost sight of the mountain range!


When we lose sight of the Word of God…when we lose sight of God’s standard – thus, loosing sight of the reasons why we do what we do…we will get quickly get turned around and not realize why or how we got to where we are in our walk with God!


I don’t know why I covet…I just do it! Sound familiar?

Here’s some help…the Bible tells us why! Slow down and study these 3 REASONS FOR COVETOUS CHOICES. Since this sin is connected at the root to other sin in our lives, we need to understand where we are before we are able to understand how to get to a new and better location in life!

1.      It is a struggle of my own heart – Mark 7:20-22 – Have you ever said, “I don’t know where that came from” when referring to sinful choices? It came from your heart. Covetousness proceeds from within. It comes from the heart of man.  Guard your heart from wrong thinking. Clean up your heart from wrong choices of the past. Nurture/grow your heart for a more peaceful, encouraging tomorrow!


2.      It is a part of my flesh nature – Romans 1:28-29 – covetousness is part of our flesh nature.  Covetousness is NOT of God!  It is part of my old sin nature and I need to make the consistent choice to step away from this sin. Do you feel like, “that’s too hard?!” You are right. We are weak. It is, however, in our own weakness that God’s strength is made perfect. II Corinthians 12:9. So, access that marvelous, matchless grace of God by faith and pursue the victory He gave you at the time of salvation! Romans 5:2. I Corinthians 15:57.


3.      A Predicted Outcome – II Timothy 3:1-2 – this sin (along with others) is descriptive of the last days – men will be covetous.  This sin will become more dominant the closer we come to the Lord’s return. The church must stand up, stand firm, and stand by God’s grace!

Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

— William Pierson Merrill (1911)

What other sin is this linked to?

I recently took our Honda mini-van to an auto-body shop for an estimate to take care of what I believed to be a small spot of rust over the wheel.  The owner came out and took one look at the rust and shook his head (not a good sign). He looked under the wheel well, and then said the estimate would be too high to even consider for a vehicle with this many miles.  What I thought…hoped…would be a couple hundred – would actually cost 1,000’s!


What is the estimate for the sin of covetousness?  We have a tendency to estimate the cost of covetousness to be low or non-consequential.    It’s not that bad…is it?  It is!


Colossians 3:5 – covetousness is linked to idolatry, which links the 10th command to the first command.  The Lord goes full circle!  He starts with idolatry and connects the last command to idolatry.  No matter what shape or size it comes in…the Lord is NOT okay with idolatry! Perhaps some might think, “I am only coveting something. It isn’t that big of a sin.” Would we embrace the same philosophy with idolatry (rethink the book of Judges and the cost of idolatry for the children of Israel)?


Luke 12:15 -- USER BEWARE! The gospel of Luke gives a warning label for covetousness.

 Don’t you love the user beware warnings on labels?  I found these particularly interesting. I always enjoy something that will put a smile on my face…

  • Can of air freshener: use by trained personnel only

  • On children’s cough medicine: do not drive a car or operate heavy machinery after taking this med (what child is driving heavy machinery??)

  • On a hair dryer: do not use while sleeping

  • On a clothes iron: do not iron clothes on body

  • On a “Fire Log:” risk of fire


When we ignore the warnings of God, we place ourselves in the very danger God knows is in that path. We think we are running to fun, but we are really running from satisfaction in God.  Luke 12:15.  User beware!!  God’s warning label declares there is much more to life than the accumulation of things!!


 Where did this all begin?

The “locating satellite” sign on a GPS can be a huge problem for the traveler.  If your GPS cannot find a satellite, and you don’t have a handheld map in your hands, you won’t know how to get to point B until your GPS finds your current location -- “point A.” 

My wife and I stopped at a gas station on the way home from Eau Claire, WI last week. There was an older man with a map in his hand, approaching different people at the gas pumps, asking if they knew the layout of the area.  I thought to myself…that’s something I haven’t seen in a long time…a person looking at a handheld map!  That older man didn’t have any problems with his GPS trying to find a satellite! 


How are we going to find victory over covetousness and move on to “point B” …unless we know where we currently stand – “point A.”  We cannot move on from the sin of covetousness until we understand where we truly stand and how we got there!


Where’s the root of covetousness?

When you look down at the bottom of the root of covetousness you will find dissatisfaction. Hebrews 13:5. The struggle of covetousness is directly connected to dissatisfaction over the presence of God in your life.  It is as though, God is not enough — as though I need something more! It sounds outrageous to say the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, unchanging, one true holy God isn’t enough for me…and that I would prefer something limited, changing, imperfect, and inconsistent to meet my longings. We may not phrase it that way, but that is the exchange we chose to make with covetousness.


I Timothy 6:7-8 – Did you read that? I am talking about the I Timothy 6 passage. It is obvious to most (if not all of us), yet we often struggle with practicing this truth. We ought not live (in life OR in our mind) as though the things of this life will go into eternity with us…we cannot lose sight of what we do have in exchange for what we wish we had.  This doesn’t mean we ought not have nice things. or that it is sinful to have nice things. It means we ought not live for nice things!


Discontentment is at the root of covetousness…unbelief will drive you to discontentment!

So, reconsider your thinking….

  • I know the Bible says, “God is love,” but I don’t think anyone loves me.

  •  I know the Bible says to tithe, but that’s not how I want to use my money.

  •  I know the Bible says to memorize scripture and pray, but I don’t think that really makes a big difference – and I really don’t have time or I really can’t do it very well.

  •  I know the Bible says not to lie, but if I don’t lie I’ll be in big trouble.

  •  I know the Bible says to have no other gods before Him, but I really prefer to spend time with my friends, or family, or hunting, or playing sports, or working than to go to church on Sunday or to serve Him.


Proverbs 29:25; Psalm 125:1 trusting the Lord is a safe and happy place to rest!

  1. Trusting God guards against discontent

  2. Trusting God nurtures satisfaction in God

  3. Satisfaction in God guards against covetousness

A few years ago, a man in Detroit stepped out into his back yard, and looking up saw a speck in the sky. It grew larger and larger. Then he discovered it was something alive. A struggling, living mass of something slowly descending to earth. What he had first seen as a speck, had now revealed itself to be two large bald eagles in deadly combat. The huge birds were fighting in the sky over a fish. The fish had already dropped to the ground, but the birds had continued their struggle until they were bloody and exhausted. With a last wild scream, each made a fatal plunge at the other, and both birds came tumbling down to earth —dead, falling side by side, within a few feet of the man who had been witnessing the fierce battle of the sky.

 Covetousness…had destroyed both of them. Trust God and enjoy what He has given YOU.