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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Covet

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The sin of covetousness covers a wide range of unlawful and self-centred desires. Selfish ambition, sexual lusts and common greed are all forms of covetousness (Deuteronomy 5:21; Psalms 78:18; Proverbs 6:25; Matthew 5:28; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; James 4:2-3; 1 John 2:16). Because covetousness drives people to get what they want, it produces all kinds of immoral and unlawful behaviour, such as stealing, oppression, deceit and violence (Exodus 20:17; Joshua 7:21; Micah 2:2; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

Among the Ten Commandments is one that forbids covetousness. This command differs from some others in that it deals with attitudes, whereas others deal with actions. Sins such as murder, adultery, stealing and lying are outward, but covetousness is inward. A person may not be guilty of sinful actions that are obvious to all, but still be guilty of the hidden sin of covetousness (Matthew 5:21-30).

Paul’s realization of this in his own experience helped him see the incurable sinfulness of human nature (Romans 7:7-11; cf. Mark 7:22-23). He saw, in addition, that covetousness is a form of idolatry. Selfish desires may be so strong that the coveted thing takes the place of God in a person’s life (Colossians 3:5; cf. Psalms 10:3).

One reason why covetousness is so dangerous is that good living, hard working, highly respected people can be guilty of it, yet not be aware of it. They may even mistake it for a virtue (Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 12:15; see also WEALTH). God, however, puts it in the same group as some of the most horrible sins (Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:3).

Christians can resist the temptation to covetousness through exercising sacrificial love. They will then be devoted to God rather than idolatrous, and generous to others rather than selfish (Matthew 22:36-39; cf. Matthew 6:24; cf. Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 4:28; see also GIVING).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Covet'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/c/covet.html. 2004.

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