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Institute in Basic Life Principles

Command 31 : Beware of Covetousness | Day 211

Beware of Covetousness!

In the Book of I Kings, the account is given of a man named Naboth, who owned a vineyard next to the palace of King Ahab. The King desperately wanted the vineyard for himself and offered to buy it from Naboth or trade a better piece of property for it. Naboth, however, recognized that God had entrusted this property to him and his descendants, and it was not something that he could sell or trade. (See I Kings 21:3.) In the end, Ahab had Naboth killed so that he could possess the land. This story provides a prime example of covetousness and illustrates the importance of Jesus' command:

Command Thirty-One: "… Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul equated covetousness with idolatry. “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). Paul gives a similar warning in Colossians 3:5: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

There is often a fine line between desiring and acquiring something that is needed in a proper way and coveting something that belongs to someone else and which God does not want us to have. For example, God does not want us to have another man's wife, and to lust after her would be coveting. (See Deuteronomy 5:21.)

When we covet something that God has not given to us, we will begin to look for devious means to obtain it. This is true in the account of Achan, which Scripture identifies as a clear case of covetousness. God sent Israel to conquer the city of Jericho and told Joshua that they were not to take any of the spoils. The vessels of silver, gold, brass, and iron were to be put into the Lord's treasury, and everything else was to be destroyed in obedience to the Lord. However, Achan caused the whole nation to be condemned when he fell into covetousness through the lust of his eyes and disobeyed God's instruction. “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them …” (Joshua 7:21).

Covetousness is longing for that which is forbidden by God or that which God has not intended for us to have.

We must be vigilant and careful to keep our hearts from coveting so that nothing consumes our attention more than God does. By keeping God as the focus of our lives, we can avoid covetousness.

“… Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

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Contributing writer: Bill Gothard