Be Content with what You Have
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
If they are asked to name some of the Ten Commandments, many people will say, “You shall not steal; you shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery.” But few will mention number ten, which is, in its shortest version, is “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). Here are four reasons to watch out for covetousness:
It’s as bad as any other sin
When the Apostle Paul describes the relationship between sin and the law in his great epistle to the Romans, does he mention sexual sin or murder? No, he mentions covetousness!
“. . . for I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead” (Romans 7:7-8).
Covetousness is so significant that Paul uses it here as representative of ALL sin.
Covetousness is Idolatry
Would you build an altar in your home so you could worship a statue? Of course not! So why would you habitually practice covetousness, which amounts to the same thing? “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Colossians 3:5-6).
God sees our heart
Why are the commandments about stealing, killing, and adultery so well-known, but covetousness is not? Perhaps because the others are outward and visible, while covetousness is an inward sin, an attitude rather than an action.
But God is as concerned with our heart – our inner being – as our outward behavior. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for the religious leaders, who maintained the appearance of holiness, but were sinful in their hearts: “And the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed (a form of covetousness) and wickedness’” (Luke 11:39).
Covetousness leads to other sins
We may try to appear good, but eventually, what’s in our hearts always shows up in our outward actions. Luke 6:45 puts it this way: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The inward sin of covetousness often leads to the outward sins of stealing, killing and adultery – and more. John Piper, in his book, Future Grace, puts it this way: “Covetousness is a breeding ground for a thousand other sins.”
What’s the opposite of covetousness? Contentment. If covetousness means wanting things we don’t have, contentment means being satisfied with what we DO have. We do this by reminding ourselves that the Lord has promised to meet ALL our needs: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
Remember that NEEDS and WANTS are not the same. You will always see people who have more than you. If not your neighbors, then people on TV – celebrities with sports cars, big houses and servants, beautiful clothing and dazzling jewelry, and all the latest technology gadgets.
As Jesus spent His earthly days in humble circumstances, we can learn to be content if we have a home to live in and food to eat. In the same letter to the Philippians, Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
As we grow in contentment, trusting God to meet our needs, we will find ourselves desiring the things of this world less and less. The Holy Spirit will free us from the idolatry of covetousness, and we will find our ultimate satisfaction in our Lord Jesus, bringing much glory to God.
Pray this week:
Lord, I confess I am often guilty of covetousness — wanting things that others have. I admit that this is idolatry. By Your Holy Spirit’s power in me, I ask You to fill my heart with godly contentment. Help me to fix my eyes on invisible, eternal things rather than visible, temporary things. Help me to learn that my ultimate satisfaction is found in You alone. Amen.
Do you struggle with covetousness? Do you have a hard time being satisfied with the basic needs of life? We’re here to talk about it with you.