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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

Covetousness

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Strong desire to have that which belongs to another. It is considered to be a very grievous offense in Scripture. The tenth commandment forbids coveting anything that belongs to a neighbor, including his house, his wife, his servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to him (Exodus 20:17 ). Jesus listed covetousness or greed along with many of the sins from within, including adultery, theft, and murder, which make a person unclean (Mark 7:22 ). Paul reminded the Ephesians that greed or covetousness is equated with immorality and impurity, so that these must be put away (5:3). A covetous or greedy person is an idolator (5:5) and covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5 ). James warns that people kill and covet because they cannot have what they want (4:2).

Covetousness, therefore, is basic to the commandments against murder, adultery, stealing, and lying. Those who accept bribes are coveting, leading to murder (Ezekiel 22:12 ). Coveting a neighbor's wife is a form of adultery (Exodus 20:17 ). Achan admitted to coveting a robe and silver and gold, so he stole them, which was a sin against the Lord (Joshua 7:20-22 ). Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, coveted the property of Naaman so much that he lied to get what he wanted from Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5:19-25 ) and was struck with leprosy. Proverbs warns that a covetous person brings trouble to his family (15:27). Thus covetousness is the root of all kinds of sins, so that Jesus gave the warning, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed" (Luke 12:15 ).

William J. Woodruff

See also Envy


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Covetousness'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed/c/covetousness.html. 1996.

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